As treasured as the Nigerian presidency is, it helps to remember that in most parties outside of the big two, the presidential ticket is easier to get than the likes of the governorship and legislative positions. An example is how in a party like the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) that has won governorship elections in the South-East, has federal legislators, and is in control of Anambra State, the presidential ticket holder is a person with 138 Twitter followers. Professor Peter Umeadi might be a former Chief Justice of Anambra State and an accomplished individual in his own right, but it is awkward for a serious regional political player like APGA to have a presidential candidate that could stand in The Palms Shopping Mall, Lekki for two straight weeks with a hen on his head and stand a chance of not getting recognised.
Peter Umeadi emerged unopposed in the APGA primary which was peaceful because it was inconsequential, and this says a lot about how APGA has handled itself over the past two decades since it was founded in the run-up to the 2003 presidential election. APGA was supposed to be the South-East’s answer to the South-West’s Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the North’s CPC which were regional powerhouses. It had the legendary Igbo figure, Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu, as its frontline figure and presidential candidate. Mr Ojukwu won 3.3% of the national presidential votes and the party won two federal legislative seats and added two governorship positions in Imo and Anambra later with the candidatures of Rochas Okorocha and Peter Obi who is the current Labour Party presidential candidate.
It was hoped that APGA would be able to provide regional leadership and create a vision for the South-East while building up the political capacity to get the power to effectively actualise the vision. No such thing has happened. Mr Okorocha was a terrible governor who eventually took a faction of APGA into the APC while Peter Obi had a good couple of terms and walked away from the party to the PDP which he later abandoned for the Labour Party. This failure to generate an institutional build up of leadership and vision in an increasingly frustrated South-East with open emotional wounds from the Civil War eventually created yawning gaps that ethnic conflict entrepreneurs like Nnamdi Kanu and his protege Simon Ekpa stepped into.
Will the Labour Party replace the APGA as the regional powerhouse in the South-East after the 2023 elections?
Quite possibly. If this happens, will the Labour Party do a better job of regional development in the South-East? But we do not think this is likely.
Despite the energy around the candidature of Peter Obi, the Labour Party increasingly looks like a Special Purpose Vehicle that would be soberly dismembered if Peter Obi does not win the presidential election. And if it does win the presidential election, its South-East component is made up of former PDP, APGA, and APC members who conveniently wore a different toga but have not changed on the inside, so it would be unrealistic to expect them to be better simply because they are under a different set of alphabets.
Ultimately, and with the increasing unpopularity of Chukwuma Soludo in Anambra, APGA’s future increasingly looks like that of the ANPP. A future where the only governor it has left joins another party while the vehicle he used to come into office fades into oblivion.