- Ndoma-Egba replaces Uwajimogu Dogara to lead nPDP delegation to presidency meeting
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) continued to stew in crisis as the secretary of its National Convention Organising Committee, Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu, resigned saturday morning, following deepening intrigues occasioned by the battle for the soul of the ruling party. The resignation comes barely three weeks to the convention, where new leaders of the party would be elected, and two days to the repeat fire-fighting meeting between the Presidency and the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), one of the legacy groups that formed the APC in 2013.
The party, which had been trying to settle quarrels among members arising from the recently held congresses in the states, has, however, appointed former Senate Leader and Chairman of the Board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, as the new secretary of the committee.
THISDAY gathered yesterday that the National Working Committee of APC had approved the results of congresses in all the states and the Federal Capital Territory, with the exception of Lagos and Bayelsa states. The NWC set up a three-member committee to look into the issues raised on the duo.
A member of the NWC who spoke to THISDAY on conditions of anonymity said the meeting of the body held last Friday faulted the results from Lagos on grounds that the report contained results from 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) instead of the 20 Local Government Areas. But the source said instead of the outright cancellation of the Lagos State congress that the National Legal Adviser of the party, Mr. Muiz Banire, SAN, who is also from Lagos, wanted, the NWC referred the matter to the committee that has the Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawan Shuaibu, as chairman, and Vice Chairman, North West, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir; and National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, as members, for resolution.
According to the source, “The NWC refused to give its approval to the results of congresses in Lagos until certain issues were clarified. Specifically, the NWC voted to refer it back to the congress committee and the Lagos State chapter to ensure that only results from 20 local government areas recognized by the constitution are compiled and submitted for approval.”
The report of the committee, said the source, would determine the faith of the Lagos State congress.
The source also said the NWC after receiving reports of parallel congresses held in Bayelsa State, in which the chairman and secretary of the congress committee conducted congresses for the mainstream party and a splinter group, respectively, decided to cancel the exercise.
Confirming the appointment of Ndoma-Egba, in a telephone conversation, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the party hierarchy had since accepted the resignation of Uwajimogu. Abdullahi dismissed reports that the former secretary was forced to resign as a way of acquiescing to the demands of his state governor, Rochas Okorocha, who had threatened to dump the ruling party should his request for a new scribe be turned down.
“It is not a trade-off. To the best of my knowledge, the reasons he gave were personal and the National Working Committee has appointed somebody else, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba. I do not know how that can be a trade-off because if it is so, I think his replacement should have been another person from Imo State. But the new appointee is from Cross River State,” said Abdullahi.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday in Abuja, Uwajimogu said he was quitting his job because of family commitments, which may clash with the business of the convention.
However, in another breadth, Uwajimogu, who along with other party stakeholders from Imo State, has been having a running battle with Okorocha, said he had to resign in order to clear the suspicion of the governor that he might work against his interest at the convention.
Uwajimogu claimed the Imo Sate governor had been stuck in Abuja in a bid to influence members of the convention committee. He dismissed reports in the social media that he was forced to resign over financial misappropriation, insisting that his resignation was to disabuse the minds of the governor and his agents on the neutrality of the convention committee.
Dogara Leads nPDP to Meeting with Presidency
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, will tomorrow lead the delegation of nPDP to another meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the leadership of APC, in what other stakeholders have described as a defining engagement for the party. The meeting, which is designed as a smaller version of the two previous ones held, first with Deputy National Chairman of the APC, Shuaibu, and lately, Osinbajo, is also being described as a “technical committee” with the sole aim of pointedly addressing some of the concerns of the group.
While the nPDP side is to be made up of five members, namely Dogara, its former national chairman, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, and three others, the side of the Presidency/APC is expected to be made up of just three people, THISDAY gathered.
Baraje, who in an interview with THISDAY yesterday hinted at some of the details of the meeting, however, said nPDP would be attending basically to listen to what the APC and the President Muhammadu Buhari government intends to do for them, based on their requests and concerns, which necessitated the series of meetings in the first place.
“The Monday meeting is a small group. It is small because it is five from our side and three from them. It is a kind of technical committee meant to look at the concerns of the nPDP,” Baraje said, noting, “We are going to the Monday meeting just to listen to what they have to say to us. Our expectation is that they would look at the concerns and address them fairly.”
According to Baraje, his group was able to see ahead of time some of the things happening now in the party. “Our letter came before the congresses. We saw it coming and now, it has opened up a can of worms,” he stated.
Asked why it took his group so long to come out, Baraje explained, “When you are from a house and some people form a clique and exempt you from decision-making, what do you do? We were waiting, waiting and waiting, hoping things would change, but they never did.”
He believed that if the nPDP had been carried along, the situation would have been different, noting that it is unfair for anyone to say that they are raising the objections for personal reasons.
“We are here today because ahead of 2015, we fought injustice, impunity, lack of respect for the rule of law and demanded good governance. But we cannot be here and suffer same fate or even worse,” he said.
Concerns over Possible Defection by nPDP
THISDAY learnt at the weekend that there were growing concerns in APC about the implications of the ill-treatment nPDP members because, according to some worried members, similar developments had unsettled the Peoples Democratic Party ahead of the 2015 elections and paved the way for the APC victory. For example, APC sources noted with tepid reservation the fact that in spite of Buhari’s popularity and the staggering unity in the party in the countdown to 2015, he was only able to defeat former President Goodluck Jonathan with a paltry two million votes.
This fear, they reckon, is further compounded by the fact that the nPDP members are effectively in control of their respective states, mainly Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Adamawa, Benue, Kwara, Kogi and Gombe; 10 states in all. They are, therefore, worried that the APC leadership is approaching the development the same way Jonathan did before he realised the danger too late, concluding that an unpleasant history might be on the verge of repeating itself in the countdown to the 2019 polls.
The raging question, concerned APC members contend, is, how does the party or president make up for the two million votes, with a waning popularity and dwindling fortune of the party, citing the fact that states like Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba might be completely out of the APC kitty as a reality that currently stares the party in the face.
In addition, they hold the view that the North-west is presently shaky for the APC, as states like Kano, Kaduna, and Zamfara are in serious crises, not leaving out the fact that the South-east and South-south are naturally unfriendly to the party.
It is for these reasons and more that concerned members hold the view that the APC leadership and government must take their discussions with nPDP seriously, because, according to them, while in the time of Jonathan, only the Speaker, Tambuwal, was in the opposition; today, both the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker, Dogara, are not happy with the party’s leadership.
Even more disturbing, APC sources say, is the fact that unlike Buhari’s rating at inception in 2015, his popularity has not only dropped, performance has remained a serious subject of debate. They note that he urgently needs to engage the nPDP and address their concerns.
APC sources maintained that they were not oblivious of the fact that even if the party relied on the weight of incumbency, a party or candidate can only manipulate the electoral process where he or she is popular since every politics is local. This is more so as the international community is not only watching but also interested in what goes on in the country before, during and after the polls.