Emmanuel Ugwu writes that some leaders of the All Progressives Congress in Abia State played a sell-out role to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, though the party’s governorship campaign was upbeat and the APC was on course for a major upset in Abia
Loyal members of the Abia State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are still ruing what they consider their party’s missed opportunity to take over the Gvernment House in Umuahia in the 2019 national elections. The party had high hopes of breaking the stranglehold of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the state. This hope was hinged on the expectation that the party, which posted a dismal performance in 2015, had perfected its strategy this time around to win the Abia governorship poll, for the first time. But this hope was sorely dashed. Members of Abia APC later discovered to their chagrin that right within the hierarchy of the party leadership were moles whose agenda was at variance with the aspiration of the party.
This numbing reality was laid bare at a post election review and appraisal meeting of the 17 local government party chairmen during which the individual contribution of the party chieftains were analyzed and marks awarded. The party’s LG chairmen, who are the grassroots leaders of the party, in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting noted with sadness the “massive treachery and sabotage that occurred within the ranks of the leaders in the faction led by Hon Donatus Nwankpa.” However it was a different ball game in the other faction, which demonstrated enough commitment to win Abia for the APC.
The chairmen singled out Chief Ikechi Emenike for commendation, saying that he gave his all for the growth of the party. The APC grassroots leaders noted that Emenike gave “unequalled support to APC Abia state chapter both in terms of his financial, logistics, mobilization and strong support towards the success of APC in Abia state during the said 2019 general election.”
According to them, Emenike’s support to the party was “consistent and very determined in approach despite obstacles placed by some individuals in the wheel of progress of Abia APC.” The chairman of APC LG chairmen, Hon Ejike Olekanma (Umunneochi) signed the communiqué along with Vice-chairman, Hon Uzoma Nwamuo (Ugwunagbo), Secretary, Henry Amaefula (Isiala Ngwa North), and Publicity Secretary, Hon Okey Ugochukwu (Isuikwuato). Olekanma told THISDAY that the party’s LG chairmen during their deliberation dispassionately appraised the performance of Abia APC and were really troubled by the revelations that “those who should have staked everything to ensure the success of the party turned round to betray the party and sold its votes to the ruling party.”
Given the very poor outing of the APC in Abia during the 2015 poll in which a largely unpopular candidate, Anyim Nyerere, was allowed to fly the party flag in the governorship poll, the party leaders were faced with a task of rebuilding the party in readiness for the 2019 general election. It was Chief Emenike that took the challenge early by taking the party to the grassroots. He embarked on mobilization and sensitization tour of the 17 local governments several times and succeeded in no small measure to popularize the APC. His job was made easier with the existence of the grassroots structures he built and sustained over the years. The concentric layers of structures was evident in all the wards through the local governments and the state level. They include Emenike Daughters, Emenike Teenagers, and Emenike Youths as well as stakeholders made up of professionals and retired civil servants and opinion moulders in the communities. APC was in the swing and its profile rising.
Unfortunately, instead of building on the momentum created by Chief Emenike, the national leadership of the APC was misled into working with his detractors hence they ignored this golden opportunity of working with the formidable grassroots mobiliser to maximize the party’s rising profile in Abia. As the APC LG party chairmen pointed out in their communiqué the 84,040 votes that President Muhammadu Buhari got in the presidential poll in Abia was made possible by “the relentless efforts of Chief Ikechi Emenike and his uncompromised group of supporters notwithstanding the pressures against his gubernatorial candidature.
Following the manifest division, Abia APC was saddled with parallel state leaderships and parallel governorship candidates. Chief Emenike had emerged from the legally recognized leadership of Dr Emmanuel Ndukwe while Chief Uchechukwu Ogah was picked to fly the flag of the party by the faction led by Hon Donatus Nwankpa. The presence of a former governor, former deputy governor, former Speaker and some federal and state legislators had apparently swayed the national secretariat of the APC to back the faction in disregard to a court order that validated the state executive committee headed by Dr Emmanuel Ndukwe.
Unknown to the APC national leaders in Abuja, the stone they rejected was the real corner stone of the party in Abia and by the time the chips were down it was too late to cry. The mistake of disregarding a court order was made by the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun when Nwankpa was inaugurated as party Abia APC chairman despite the fact that a court of law had already sacked him. By the time Adams Oshiomhole came on board as the national chairman it was expected that he would correct the mistake of his predecessor in handling the leadership crisis in Abia APC. Rather he sustained the impunity he inherited and continued to do business with Nwankpa when the court order specifically barred the party’s national leadership from having anything to do with him.
Nwankpa did not disappoint his critics who had all the while viewed his activities with suspicion. By the time the party needed cohesion and unity of purpose in galvanizing members to canvass for votes across the state, the party chieftains from Ngwa axis abandoned the interest of their party, APC and elected to play sectional politics. They unabashedly abandoned the APC governorship flag bearer and supported the incumbent governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, their kinsman, who was seeking a second tenure. The activities of the APC chieftains from Ngwa made it obvious that the so called ‘Ngwa agenda’ (renewal of Ikpeazu’s mandate) cut across party lines.
Former lawmaker and APC chieftain, Paul Ikonne even went on air to announce that APC had adopted Governor Ikpeazu after a meeting of stakeholders from the Ngwa part of Abia. The governorship candidate of APC in 2015, Chief Anyim Nyerere went along with them, while other APC chieftains from Ngwa acquiesced. The party chairman, Nwankpa, who was expected to call his kinsmen to order and even counter the radio announcement about Ikpeazu’s endorsement, refused to act to save his party. Instead he preferred like the proverbial monkey to ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’. The moles were having a field day in Abia APC in an election the party was expected to give the ruling PDP a run for its money.
In Abia North, the big shots in APC, namely Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, a former governor and Hon Nkiru Onyejeocha, a member of House of Representatives appeared to have been contented with winning their own elections. Kalu was desperately seeking to topple Senator Mao Ohuabunwa from Abia North senatorial seat while Onyejeocha was equally desperate to actualize her dream of a fourth term berth in the National Assembly. It was this ambition that drove the lawmaker representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi federal constituency to abandon PDP, which was not in the mood to give her a ticket for the fourth consecutive time.
She therefore went over to APC where she was welcomed with the much desired fourth term ticket. After the National Assembly poll in which Kalu and Onyejeocha posted favourable results, the duo appeared to have lost interest in the governorship poll and cared less whether or not APC performed well. The party’s governorship flag bearer was left to his own fate. However unlike the APC chieftains of Ngwa extraction who, openly canvassed for the ruling party’s governorship candidate, the Abia North prominent APC leaders only remained passive in the governorship poll. They did not exert the same political force they applied to get things done for the APC in the National Assembly election.
With the 2019 general election over, the Abia APC chieftains are now looking up to Abuja to reward them with appointments, especially ministerial. But the 17 Abia APC LG chairmen have urged Mr. President to ignore the moles that wrecked the party, leaving the members to continue bemoaning the party’s electoral misfortune. According to them, there must be a price to pay for sabotaging the party and it’s certainly not federal cabinet position. Not even the scramble for ministerial slots could obliterate the seething anger within the ranks of the Abia APC as the party chieftains wittingly failed the party in the 2019 poll. A ministerial reward for such party members is inconceivable and a disservice to the fully committed members that worked hard for the party and Mr. President, the LG party chairmen insist.