Benjamin Nworie reports that there’s a renewed rivalry between former Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and the 2015 Governorship candidate of APC in the state, Senator Julius Ucha over control of party structure in Ebonyi State
This is not the best of time for the Ebonyi born politician and former Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. A new twist of the crisis in Ebonyi APC centers on political relevance and popularity in the state between him and Senator Julius Ucha in the state. Onu and Ucha are the protagonists in the raging media war over the control of APC in the state. Both leaders have taken to the media to x-ray their political profiles and relevance in the politics of the state.
In June 2015, the media were awash with the news that Onu had been tipped as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The purveyors of the fake news went further to give time and date Onu would be announced as the SGF. It was agitated then, for equity and fairness that the position of the SGF should come to the South East zone.
The rumour has resurrected again. The appointment of Onu as SGF hit the social media wave about one week ago. Onu’s home state was thrown into utter bewilderment on the veracity of the rumour.
Many thought that with the current political development in the nation, where the Igbo race has been tactically schemed out of equation due to poor performance in the 2019 presidential election, that President Muhammadu Buhari might have finally yielded to the agitations for the appointment of an Igbo man or woman to the position of SGF.
But to further compound the travails of the former minister, some people complained that he was not pushy to avoid denting his integrity. Others also argued that he was incompetent to manage, control and lead the structure of APC in Ebonyi.
Obviously piqued on what he described as misrepresentation of fact by Onu’s loyalist, Peter Elebe against the political profile of Senator Ucha as published in a national daily, Ucha’s media aide, Frank Ngwu noted that Onu has never stood and won any keenly contested election.
Ngwu also noted that though Onu had been Governor of the old Abia State and National chairman of the defunct ANPP, it was not through electoral victory but foisted on the people by unseen political hands. He further added that it was not Onu’s participation in the merger arrangement that gave birth to APC or through any other hard work either in his Ebonyi or Nigeria, that he was appointed a Minister.
He contended that Onu’s appointment came as a result of a meeting of prominent Igbo APC leaders convened in Abuja Imo Lodge by former Governor Rochas Okorocha, where Onu, Senator Chris Ngige and Prof. Anwuka were nominated for any of them to be picked for SGF by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
He said: “A formal letter to that effect was written and endorsed by the five APC state chairmen from the South East and Okorocha, who eventually booked an appointment with Mr. President, and there was an Igbo delegation where Okorocha presented a letter containing the list of Onu, Ngige and Anwuka and further pleaded with the President to do anything he chooses with the content of the letter”.
Ngwu called on the National leadership of APC to set up a fact-finding committee to visit Ebonyi State and conduct popularity test between Ucha and Onu as to their electoral value to the APC presidential election in 2015 and 2019, including other developmental strides in Ebonyi State, South East and Nigeria.
By political realignment, the “union” that brought Onu and Ucha together in 2011, when Ucha flew the governorship flag of the defucnt All Nigerians People’s Party under Onu’s national chairmanship had been unfertile and unproductive.
The “union” has pitted the two leaders against themselves, with claims and counter-claims of sabotage on Ucha’s governorship ambition. It was gathered that Onu wanted to foist his “weak” crony on Ucha as his running mate in 2011 against the choice of the party leaders in the state.
The disagreement that ensued over Onu’s preferred deputy governorship candidate threw ANPP in jeopardy and serious confusion, to the extent that Ucha ran and campaigned vigorously without known a running mate.
Worst still, Ucha’s posters had no pictures of his running mate. However, the contest was a battle of Titans against the then incumbent, Governor Martin Elechi.
Adjudged as the most keenly contested election in the history of the state, Ucha as observers rated him, still ranks highest as one of the most active party men since he left the Peoples Democratic Party in 2010.
Thus, Elebe’s outburst that Ucha had no political relevance in the state, further exacerbated the battle for supremacy between Onu and Ucha in the state.
But Ucha’s aide noted that Elebe’s claim of Onu’s numerous achievements in Ebonyi State was neither here nor there as no Ebonyi indigene could lay credence to that claim, as it was a mere media hype and cheap propaganda.
Ngwu insisted that an ordinary newspaper opinion or publication is not enough to encapsulate all the numerous achievements of Senator Ucha right from the House of Assembly as a pioneer Speaker and two terms Senator, adding that Ucha’s achievements were there for Nigerians and Ebonyi people to attest to.
Using the 2019 election, it worried Ucha’s loyalists that after Onu’s failure to deliver President Muhammadu Buhari in his ward, he still instigated writers to demean the capacity of Ucha, who polled 2,394 votes for President Buhari in his Ezzagu Ward 2 (Nkomoro) as against Onu who gave Buhari 313 votes in his Obiozara ward.
Also, in Ebonyi South, Onu delivered 18, 722 votes to President Buhari while Ucha delivered 37,655 votes to Buhari in his Ebonyi Central zone. Believed to have been hired by Onu’s people to smear Ucha’s image, his media aide said: “It was Senator Julius Ucha that brought momentum and pedigree to opposition in Ebonyi in 2011.
“This principled politician, who has the enviable record of being the first Ebonyian to serve two terms in the Senate, did what no other politician could do to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Ucha has remained an accomplished parliamentarian, having served as the pioneer speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly before proceeding to the Senate.
“For instance, it is on record that without consulting the governorship candidate (Sen. Ucha) Dr. Onu nominated and forwarded the name of one Sunday Nwaji, from Ugwulangwu as Ucha’s running mate. That explains why Senator Ucha ran the election without even as much as a photograph of any running mate in his campaign posters.
“This singular action impacted negatively on Ucha’s campaign as voters kept asking whether he was running on a single ticket. Also, in that 2011 governorship election, in Dr. Onu’s ward Obiozara, ANPP scored 1180, while in the entire Ohaozara L.G.A, ANPP polled 5,764 votes compared to 15,152 polled by the PDP.
“But in Ucha’s Ezzagu Ward 2 (Nkomoro), ANPP scored 6,215 and 17,095 in Ishielu L.G.A. In 2011, through Ucha’s stronghold, ANPP won one House of Representatives position and two constituencies in the State House of Assembly with none either in Ogbonnaya Onu’s L.G.A or his entire zone”.
Also in 2015 Presidential election as announced by INEC, in Ohaozara L.G.A, Onu delivered 941 votes and 3,091 votes in the entire five L.G.A’s of Ebonyi South zone to President Muhammadu Buhari while Senator Ucha delivered 5,719 votes for Buhari in Ishielu council areas and a total of 11,870 from the four L.G.A’s of Ebonyi Central, where Ucha hails from.
However, because of Onu’s alleged unpopularity and possibly fear of going to the field for any electoral process in the state, the 2018 State Congress committee was allegedly Cornered in Onu’s house in Uburu before they proceeded to a hotel in Enugu.
There, names of ward, local government executives were prepared by Onu’s cronies and handed over to state Panel as executives in the wards and local government areas.
Unfortunately, an insider explained that on the day of the main Congress based on the notice of time table and venue of the state Congress issued to INEC, no member of Onu’s faction appeared on the venue neither did they participate, because they had written the results, while Ucha’s people were said to be on the venue manned by security agencies and INEC officials.
Ucha’s camp said: “Typical of Onu’s usual clandestine political maneuver, he used the results of those wards and local government Congresses concocted in a hotel room to organise Ebonyi State Congress in Private property in the state and used police to stop the duly elected ward and local government executives from participating in the state Congress. The duly elected executives went to court and the court nullified the entire state Congress, LG and wards Congresses as conducted by Onu. As it stands, there’s no subsisting APC Executives in Onu’s Obiozara ward and the entire Ohaozara local government”.
The APC became factionalizsed and operated two state Secretariats. Ucha’s group retained the main Secretariat while Onu’s was quartered at the former Labour Party office along Abakaliki-Enugu expressway and later relocated at Afikpo road.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Anslem Nwaigwe declared that the State Congress conducted by the Congress committee at Nkwegu Ugbala Grand Arena, a private property of Edward Nkwegu was not validly conducted same being in contravention of the party guidelines and violation of the Electoral Act as to Venue, which was also not monitored by the INEC.
Since then, APC has not agreed on common agenda in the state. The 2019 general election further reopened the bad blood between the two camps. Onu was accused of laxity and lack of seriousness during the 2019 Presidential election hence the President failed woefully in his ward, local government and zone unlike the performance of APC during the 2019 presidential election in Ebonyi Central, where Ucha hails from.