The Action Alliance (AA), a party formed by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State 14 years ago, has adopted Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party as its presidential candidate in the February 16 election.
The national chairman of the party, Kenneth Udeze, disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja on Monday.
“We are for Atiku/Obi leadership and we are glad to work with all believers of true federalism and efficient administration of governance at all levels to accomplish this as we approach the forthcoming elections,” Mr Udeze said.
“The National Executives Committee (NEC) of our party are on the same page concerning our support for Atiku, same with all our state chapters in this matter.
“We hereby restate out position through this medium that AA as a certified and active member of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) have not for a moment reconsidered or wished to alter that position.
“For your information, AA moved the motion for the adoption of Atiku as the Presidential Candidate of CUPP, and we are on it to the end,” he said.
The national chairman said the support for Mr Abubakar and his running mate, Peter Obi, was a support for the growth of the country’s democracy and the required restructuring of the country.
Mr Okorocha formed the AA in 2005 and planned to run for president on its platform in the 2007 elections.
He was a founding member of the PDP on whose platform he ran for the governorship primary in Imo State in 1999 but lost to Achike Udenwa who flew the flag of the party.
He later dumped the PDP for the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) where he was a presidential aspirant in 2003.
After a few years in ANPP, Mr Okorocha floated the AA where he hoped to actualise his presidential ambition, but in a dramatic move abandoned the new party to return to the PDP.
While in PDP, he showed interest in the 2007 presidential race and ran for the primary. He emerged runner up to the winner, former President Umaru Yar’Adua.
In September 2007, Mr Okorocha unsuccessfully aspired to become the national chairman of the then ruling party.
He later defected to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) on whose platform he ran for governor in Imo State in 2011 and won, beating the incumbent, Ikedi Ohakim of the PDP.
Ahead of the 2015 election, the governor again dumped APGA for the newly-formed All Progressives Congress (APC) following the successful merger of three other opposition parties and a section of APGA which he led.
In APC, he also attempted to become its presidential candidate but was beaten alongside others by President Muhamadu Buhari at the party’s primary in Lagos in 2014. Mr Okorocha came a distant fourth having mustered only 624 votes.
While Mr Okorocha sojourned in PDP and APGA he managed to keep AA afloat and the party became handy.
When APC refused to name his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, its governorship candidate for the March 2 election, Mr Nwosu moved to AA where, without contest, he was accepted and adopted as its flag bearer in the March 2 election.
The APC snub has pitted the governor against the national leadership of the ruling party with both sides often exchanging verbal punches in the past months.
Mr Okorocha, who is the candidate of the APC for the Imo West senatorial District, is believed to have facilitated Mr Nwosu’s defection to AA.
While the spat with the leadership of APC lasted, the governor repeatedly said Mr Nwosu would run on the platform of another party if he was not offered the APC ticket.
On Saturday, Mr Okorocha, at the APC’s South East women and youth rally in Owerri, the state capital, clashed with the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, as both canvassed votes for different governorship candidates.
While the governor rooted for his son-in-law, Mrs Buhari, represented by Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, canvassed support for the APC candidate, Hope Uzodinma, and other candidates of the party in the general elections.
“A vote for Buhari is a vote for progress. APC has done well and we must all support all APC candidates,” the first lady said.
“I am happy with the crowd we saw today. It shows that Imo is APC and I want to urge all youth not to fight, avoid any form of crisis because President Buhari is a peaceful man. From what we have seen today President Buhari has won the South East the same way all our APC candidates have won.”
But when he rose to speak at the rally, which had Mr Uzodinma in attendance, Mr Okorocha vowed that nothing would stop Mr Nwosu from succeeding him as governor, come May 29.
He said, “Let me say this Madam First Lady, this time around we are not here to ask you to campaign for Buhari. What my wife has done is to tell you that Buhari is on ground.
“Imo victory for Buhari is designed, sealed. In Imo State, we have 47 political parties and one of the perfect alliances is Action Alliance led by Uche Nwosu.
“Nwosu is APC in spirit. APC owes Imo an apology because of the injustice meted to Imo people. In Imo State, Nwosu will win Imo State. It is not anti-party. We refused imposition in Imo State,” he said.
At Monday’s press conference, Mr Udeze said Mr Nwosu still remained the governorship candidate of AA in lmo State, adding that he (Nwosu) was the one running for the election under the party, not Mr Okorocha.
“We shall do our best to deliver him, as he still remains the candidate to beat among all the gubernatorial candidates,” he said.
“On this note, let me warn all our members in Nigeria, and the lmo State Chapter, in particular that we don’t need any infraction in our party (and) in fact there is no room for that.
“It is our unshakable/unfailing resolve to work for the emergence of Atiku/Obi, in the presidential election, and that we must not only be seen to be doing, but to truly do.
“I will not hesitate to invoke from relevant sections of our Party Constitution to deal with erring members no matter how highly placed, as AA constitution which I swore to protect remains supremely sacrosanct. Please be warned,” he said.
It is not however clear if it was Mr Okorocha and his supporters, who are backing Mr Buhari for the February election Mr Udeze referred to as “erring members.”
Mr Udeze could not be reached for comments as he did not respond to repeated calls from this reporter on Tuesday morning.
When contacted, Sam Onwuemedo, media aide to Mr Okorocha, said his principal was now a member of the APC and would not comment on the adoption of Mr Abubakar.
When reminded that Mr Okorocha floated the AA in 2005, Mr Onwuemedo said the only link currently between the governor and AA was that his son-in-law was running for governor on the party’s platform.