APC Ward Congresses Leave S’East on the Edge

0

The APC ward congresses held last weekend have further deepened the crisis rocking the party in the south-east, writes Christopher Isiguzo

The All Progressives Congress’ ward congresses across the country may have come and gone, but the exercise has clearly unmasked the deep-rooted acrimony existing within the party especially in the south-east.

Though leaders and stakeholders of the party have continued to play down the obvious crisis rocking the party, the outcome of the congresses exposed in greater measure the battle within.

The leaders were sharply divided along individual interests. A pointer to what would happen manifested few days to the congress when some party leaders held a zonal stakeholders’ meeting in Enugu and passed a vote of confidence on members of the National Working Committee led by the embattled National chairman, Chief John Oyegun as well as the party’s chairmen in the five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.

Though, the vote of confidence did not come easily as several party leaders clearly expressed their opposition, the outcome of the meeting sent direct signal to anti-Oyegun forces that removing him will be a hard nut to crack.

Despite the controversy that trailed the confidence vote, the pro-Oyegun group further took effective control of the party as they installed their loyalists at the ward level leaving other party leaders literally gasping for breath.

From Abia to Enugu to Anambra, Imo and Ebonyi, the story was the same; hijack of materials, parallel congresses and violence. But in all, it was crystal clear that Oyegun’s men did not leave anything to chance.

In Enugu, the ward congress went on smoothly with Oyegun’s men having the upper hand. Some of these are the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, National Vice Chairman, South East, Emma Eneukwu, member of the Congress Planning Committee, Chief Baywood Ibe, State Chairman, Ben Nwoye, Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, former governor, Senator Jim Nwobodo, among others.

However, the other group said to be loyal to former governor Adams Oshiomhole did not also give up as they hurriedly organised a parallel congress where they elected ward officials. Those in this camp in Enugu include, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeamah, Special Adviser to the President on Justice Reform, Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former Secretary to Enugu State Government, Chief Onyemuche Nnamani, among others.

While dismissing the entire exercise as totally flawed in view of the alleged exclusion of a significant part of party faithfuls in the state, the minister told newsmen that some persons for their selfish interest executed their plot without regards to the provisions of the party constitution.

He said that nomination forms were not made available to a good number of contestants, adding that there was a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise many.

“Our problem is that we were excluded from the process. I spoke to all the party leaders that this is what is happening. I do not want to accuse people in front of the media but I am just telling you what the situation was and what I did to contain it. When I noticed the flawed process and an attempt to disenfranchise many stakeholders, I immediately called a meeting as the leader of the party in the state.

“There were a lot of complaints that forms were not made available to all the intending contestants and this was a major problem. So when I called this meeting there was a large turnout and this point about lack of inclusion in the process was made by so many people. The understanding was that these forms had been given to only one or two people to distribute.

“There was a lot of agitation and I had a real fear that this election will be marred by violence. So I was very keen to avoid that at all costs,” he said.
Onyeama said that members of the party present at the meeting then decided to set up a monitoring mechanism in order not to disenfranchise a significant part of the party followership.

“I personally went to a number of wards to ensure there was a transparent process. So we carried out those elections and they were peaceful and transparent,” he said, adding however that the committee sent from the party headquarters to monitor the congresses never contacted any of the eminent members of the party in the state.

“None of us met with that committee. So we were totally excluded from the process. But we thank God that at the end of the day we managed to ensure that there was peace and we went ahead to have our election processes. I do not know whether the other people had theirs. We collated the results and will submit those results. I called all the major national party personalities and advised them that to avoid violence that the process should be cancelled and redone because it was flawed” he said.

Onyeama, however, said that since there was no formal announcement on the cancellation of the process, “ we decided as to contain the situation to go ahead and conduct the election.

“The processes were totally flawed. We were forced to carry out those congresses under those circumstances merely to avoid violence and our own congress was transparent,” Onyeama said.

But, the party chairman in the state, Dr Ben Nwoye accused the minister of been ignorant of the process of organising a congress, and therefore dismissed claims that there was parallel congress in the state.

“From reports available to us, Enugu organised the most peaceful congress in the country and anybody claiming that there was a parallel congress is engaging in wishful thinking. The minister should stop instigating crisis in the state that made him. We worked for the president; the minister did not even vote for the president, he’s there at the pleasure of the president but we will not allow him to create problems for us, ” he said.

The story was largely the same in Anambra state where a group loyal to Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige and Chief George Muoghalu had a field day dictating the pace. The group reportedly shut the door against the group controlled by the party’s governorship candidate in last year’s election in the state, Dr Tony Nwoye.

A last minute attempt to possibly harmonise the process ended in a fiasco as Nwoye’s group vowed not to accept moves by Ngige and his team to hijack the entire exercise.

Nwoye reportedly told Ngige that he was usurping the functions of the congress committee by stating that ward congreses held on Saturday when they did not. “We have failed as a party because we do not have any position in Anambra, but It will not work for people to put this party in their pocket so that they can write election results in their houses. I will not let Ngige take the function of the panel. We have a panel that is supposed to conduct that congress, and they just came here today (Sunday), whereas you are trying to tell us that elections have been held yesterday. How can Ngige be the one to conduct the congress when there is a committee.

“As at 7pm on Saturday, people were being denied the forms because thy want to contest for positions, and what that means is that the forms have been given out to those they like. We will not let that happen.”

In Ebonyi state, the crisis rocking the party deepened further following accusations and counter-accusations that trailed the ward congress.

The two factions held parallel ward congresses in all the 171 electoral wards across the state with the two factional chairmen Hon. Ben Nwaobasi and Pastor Eze Nwachukwu Eze holding sway

One faction was loyal to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and governorship while the other was loyal to the party’s candidate in 2015 general election, Senator Julius Ucha.

Nwachukwu faction has the support of Onu while the Nwaobasi faction enjoys the support of Ucha.

While Nwaobasi faction reportedly conducted its congresses in all the wards, the Nwachukwu faction was at the factional party secretariat along Abalaiki/Afikpo road waiting for the distribution of congress materials.

Nwaobasi however alleged that the seven-man committee led by Mr Ajayi Nicholas was hijacked by the group loyal to Onu.

In Abia State, the exercise was inconclusive on Saturday as the two groups refused to cave in. While the state chairman, Donatus Nwamkpa with the backing of notable party leaders including former governor Orji Kalu, Dr Uche Ogah, Senator Chris Adighije and Stanley Ohajuruka, former Speaker of the House of Assembly among others united to take full control of party structure, the other group with Mr. Emma Ndukwe as chairman with the backing of Chief Ikechi Emenike offered stiff resistance. This culminated in a truce meeting where it was resolved that the two groups must unite for the ward congress to hold.

The exercise eventually held on Sunday but not without the expected disagreements.
In Imo State, the only state under the control of the party in the South-east, the story is entirely different as some party leaders left nothing to imagination as to their determination to wrestle party structures from Governor Rochas Okorocha.

The move may not be unconnected with the governor’s endorsement of his son in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu to take over from him in 2019.
That decision has somewhat united known political opponents ahead of next year’s general election.

Among those who have come together to fight the governor include Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, Senator Ben Uwajimogu, party’s National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, Chief Jude Ejiogu and Prince Eze Madumere, the Deputy Governor.

Perhaps, the ward congress may have given an idea as to what to expect in the weeks ahead in the state as an attempt by the anti-Okorocha’s group said to be working for Oyegun to effectively cripple the governor met stiff resistance and this made it impossible for the congress to take place if reports from the governor’s camp is anything to go by.

The governor reportedly went out full blast to checkmate the well packaged onslaught put together by his political enemies. But, the other group still claims to have held the congresses and would not accept anything less.

A statement by Media Adviser to the Deputy Governor, Mr. Uche Onwuchekwa quoted PrMadumere as commending party members for successfully taking part in the congress despite efforts by agents of the state government to frustrate the exercise.

But, the governor ‘s Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo said the governor had ordered the immediate arraignment of Mr. Ini Okori, who was supposed to supervise the congress but instead allegedly absconded on the orders of Izunaso. In a statement, Onwuemeodo accused Okori of sabotaging the exercise in the state and as such must be made to face the full weight of the law. The summary from the statement was that the congress did not take place in the state.
Except urgent effort is made by the party’s leadership, the local government congress might be worse and if care is not taken may lead to avoidable bloodshed.

But for now, it does appear that Oyegun’s men are firmly in control of affairs.

Quote
Except urgent effort is made by the party’s leadership, the local government congress might be worse and if care is not taken may lead to avoidable bloodshed.