By Tony Onyima –
It’s official. Chief Victor Umeh, OFR, former National Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) is now a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Anambra Central Senatorial District. He was sworn in today, Thursday, January 18, 2018 at exactly 10:57am. At 10:53am, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki led other principal officers into the upper chamber. Prayers were said and minutes of the previous day’s sitting read, amended and adopted. At 10:54am the Chief Whip took the floor and announced that there’s a swearing in ceremony and subsequently moved a motion to set aside the rules of the Senate to enable His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano, the Governor of Anambra State, his Deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke, some members of the House of Representatives from Anambra State, some members of the Anambra State House of Assembly who had accompanied Umeh and his wife, Prisca Umeh, to enter the hollowed chamber. The motion was supported and approved. Then the governor led a team including Umeh into the red chamber. In conformity with the legislative tradition, they took a bow and sat in the front right row to be prime witnesses to history. Then at 10:55am Victor Umeh took the Bible in his right hand and took the official oath of allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and oath of a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as prescribed by Oaths Act 1990. At 10:57am it was over.
For more than two years, Umeh had fought doggedly for the two-minute swearing in.
The intrigues, conspiracy, fabrications and treachery that marked Umeh’s travails since March 28, 2015 when he first contested election to represent Anambra Central at the nation’s Senate can be likened to late Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom after spending 27 years in prison. Like an Ijele masquerade, he stands out in the Anambra State’s political landscape. What you see of him depends on what you are looking out for and where you are standing at the time. Many love him with their hearts. Some hate him with venom. But love or hate him, Chief Victor Umeh, OFR, Ohamdike Ndigbo is a passionate patriot, consummate democrat, formidable and intrepid politician with resilient and unwavering sense of justice and equity. His political sagacity is peerless. He is easily the generalissimo of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). With his towering red cap, he has created a unique physical identity for the party.
Born on July 19, 1962, Umeh was providentially brought to national limelight on December 15, 2004 when the National Working Committee (NWC) of APGA elected him as acting national chairman of the party following the suspension of the then party’s leader, Chief Chekwas Okorie. The suspension and later expulsion of Okorie resulted into the longest and most protracted crisis in the party. Between January 31, 2005 and March 25, 2011 when the Supreme Court upheld the suspension and expulsion of Okorie, a record number of no fewer than 23 lawsuits were instituted in various courts across the country. It is remarkable to state that all the cases were decided in favor of Umeh. His legal victories were manifestations of his deep knowledge of the political process, sound insight into the labyrinth of law and respect for rule of law. His resistance against reactionary forces has ensured that today his name is permanently etched in the nation’s jurisprudence. Okorie’s challenge was resolved on March 7, 2012 when he returned the certificate of registration of APGA in his custody to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). By April 2013, another crisis spearheaded by Hon. Sylvester Nwobu-Alor erupted. Encouraged by state power, Nwobu-Alor created factions in APGA with the election of Chief Maxi Okwu as national chairman. The Okwu faction instituted no fewer than 20 lawsuits across the country with most of the suits resolved in favor of Umeh. On January 15, 2016, the Supreme Court upheld Umeh’s leadership of APGA despite the fact his tenure as national chairman had ended six months earlier. Under his watch, APGA soared; winning many positions – three Federal constituencies; Chief Peter Obi’s re-election in 2010; in 2011 general elections APGA won Imo governorship, one senatorial seat, seven seats of House Of Representatives, a good number of State House of Assembly members, produced two Speakers, and three ambassadorial appointees. In 2013 APGA also won Anambra State with Chief Willie Obiano emerging as governor. Umeh was also the chairman of the Obiano Re-election Campaign Organization, which ensured that the governor was re-elected with a historic mandate on November 26, 2017.
The Anambra Central Senatorial seat, which Umeh is now occupying, is perhaps the most contentious election in Nigeria. Since March 28, 2015 when the election was first held, litigations arising from the outcome of the election moved from the election tribunal to Appeal Court and Supreme Court. Today there are tribunal judgment, three Appeal Court judgments, two Supreme Court pronouncements and no fewer than four Federal High Court judgments. Majority of these judgments particularly the ones at the appellate courts were again in favor of Umeh. The November 20, 2017 Appeal Court judgment which ordered INEC to conduct a re-run election within 90 days, in the view of many legal analysts, was final. This led INEC to fix Saturday, January 13, 2018 as the date for the re-run. These legal twists came as a result of the brazen impunity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State. It is pertinent to point out that since 1999 PDP in Anambra State has remained problematic so much so that today while PDP at the national level is making strenuous efforts to reposition the party, the Anambra State chapter is retrogressing. The chapter couldn’t organize a credible state congress to enable it participate at the concluded national convention of the party. But in Victor Umeh they found a formidable match.
With the reassurance of INEC, a re-run was held on January 13, 2018. Umeh overwhelmingly won with 64,000 out of the 67,000 votes cast in the seven local governments areas that make up of Anambra Central Senatorial district thus ending his tortuous and long walk to the Senate.
Onyima, a former Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, was at the swearing in ceremony.