Oyegun: Anambra Election Will Test APC’s Acceptance in South-east

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  Says ‘we have Abia, Ebonyi in the kitty’  Party seeks N700m for congresses, convention Plans NEC meeting before Ramadan

Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The national chairman of All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said saturday that the party was now the choice political platform in the South-east that the people were willing to identify with and vote. He stressed that the November governorship election in Anambra State would prove this. Odigie-Oyegun spoke in Udi, headquarters of Udi Local Government Area, during a ceremony to formally receive the former governor of the state, Sullivan Chime, who recently announced his defection to APC.

In a related development, THISDAY learnt that APC was in desperate need of money to hold its state congresses and midterm convention. The two critical political events are estimated to cost more than N700 million, and it has been hard for the party to raise the money. The funding difficulties are fuelling doubts as to whether all is well with the ruling party.

The reception for Chime was well attended by APC leaders from across the country, including Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, APC National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, and Chief George Moghalu, among other members of the party’s National Working Committee. Also at the event were APC’s national vice chairman for South-east, Chief Emma Eneukwu, Chime’s opponent at the 2011 governorship election, Okey Ezea, and Director General, Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu.

Speaking after receiving Chime into the party, Odigie-Oyegun said, “I have been to the East several times but this is the greatest visit. Change has finally come to Enugu State. South-east is special because for too long you have been yearning for change.”

He said APC will have a sweeping victory in future elections in the South-east, declaring, “The coming Anambra State governorship election will be a test of what I am saying. We have Anambra in our pocket. Abia is in our kitty. Or is it Ebonyi?”

The APC national chairman extolled the leadership qualities of Chime, describing the immediate past governor of Enugu State as the best performing governor during his tenure. Odigie-Oyegun said Chime had made the right decision by joining the progressives.

“I hope to return to the East very soon. This is more like a semi-final. We are coming back here for the finals very soon,” the APC chairman said.

In his remarks, Eneukwu said, “Chime left PDP on his own volition. He did not leave because of any threat or intimidation. It is because of the calibre of Chime that the national officers led by the national chairman stormed Enugu to receive him into the party.”

Responding, Chime said, “I believe that the APC is the only party that will lead our people to their aspirations.” He told the cheering crowds of supporters at the event to go home and spread the APC message.

Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered from multiple sources within the APC that the party’s financial situation was desperate, as it had no money to fund its activities, very few governors willing to help, and virtually no support from the Presidency. The sources said the party had for some time been shopping around for funds and had of late extended its search to many stakeholders, including governors, lawmakers, and even external voluntary donors willing to support it.

A source said APC planned to hold its National Executive Committee meeting before the Muslim Ramadan fast, which is expected to commence any time between May 24 and May 27. “The cost of the midterm convention has been estimated at N700 million and this includes all the activities, like state and local government congresses, which have to be conducted before the convention,” the source said. He explained that the budget included all expenditure to be made in organising state, local government and ward congresses in the 36 states and Abuja.

A highly reliable source in the top leadership of APC told THISDAY yesterday that that party had abandoned its earlier plan to hold the convention on April 29 because of shortage of funds.

When contacted for his comments on the budget for the national convention, the APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said he could not confirm the exact amount.

Abdullahi said, “Yes, there is a budget but I cannot tell how much it is and I don’t want to speculate.”

On suggestions that the party may depend on the collection of membership dues to raise funds for the convention, Abdullahi doubted the possibility because of the huge expenditure involved.

Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s advice to the NWC to explore means of raising funds internally to run the party’s affairs, the APC leadership had proposed an initiative to charge every card-carrying member a minimum of N100 per month. In this regard, a software was designed to facilitate the automatic deduction of the N100 from the airtime on each member’s mobile phone on a monthly basis.

The sum of N1.2 billion is projected to accrue from the membership dues every month. However, the party leadership sees that option of monthly fees as a long term proposal, which cannot be relied on to bankroll the convention.

One of the immediate options being explored by the national leadership of APC is to raise the needed funds from governors elected on the party’s platform. THISDAY gathered that a meeting was held recently at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja between the NWC and the APC governors to specifically solicit for assistance. It was learnt that the national chairman and his NWC members had to run to the governors after efforts to secure assistance from the Presidency failed. The leadership also made attempts to generate funds from serving ministers and legislators but only got minimal response them.

The governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, while speaking on the outcome of the meeting, said the “24 APC governors have resolved to give the national leadership all the support it needs.

“We will also engage in fund raising from our donors, sympathisers of the APC, to ensure that the national headquarters and, indeed, all organs of the party have the wherewithal to continue the difficult work of rebuilding the party.”

However, a top APC source that is close to the leadership of the party said Buhari had become inaccessible and barricaded himself with a cabal who did not care about the party or its needs. Although the source did not name those in the alleged cabal, he said they were mainly non-politicians holding sensitive positions in the Buhari administration.

The source, however, said Buhari’s current health challenge did not have anything to do with the delay in the convention.

He said, “The president’s attendance is not a problem, that issue has been sorted out and the party has gotten a go-ahead to fix dates for the National Executive Committee and convention with or without President Buhari’s attendance.”

In the meantime, APC said it had shelved the plan to levy every member N100 because of widespread disenchantment among stakeholders over alleged absence of proper reward system that guaranteed them federal government appointments.