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How congresses deepen APC crises in Southeast

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Nigeria Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama / AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

There is no doubt that the congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which advanced to the local government stage last weekend, have furthered deepened the crisis in the party in the Southeast.

The outcome of the congresses has so far raised concerns on how prepared the party is in the quest to entrench its hold in the politics of the zone in 2019. This is because, few months into the 2019 general elections, deep rooted acrimony and division have bedeviled the party in a way that cast doubts on whether members would want to work for its success should their grievances fail to receive adequate attention.

The APC was never embraced with open arms in the zone until the end of the 2015 general elections that ended in its favour when scores of political bigwigs began to find their way into the party. It now boasts of commanding presence and followership in the states that make up the zone.

However, the underbelly of the party has been exposed since its congresses kicked-started some weeks ago, suggesting varied interests among its members.

Investigations by The Guardian revealed that chiefly in the blame for the rising acrimony is the determination of its founding members to maintain their relevance and positions in the party, while the newly joined, majority of whom had been described as “political liabilities,” struggle to erase the negative toga by playing roles on who should become what with the congress.

The other is the interest in elective positions for the 2019 general elections. Many believe that with the party’s control of power at the centre, it would be an easy sail for any politician, especially in the Southeast zone to win election. Thus, the contests have been severe; leaving widening gaps in the unity of the party.

Sources also hinted of plot to remove all serving executives of the party in the zone for new ones. Each of the states in the zone was allegedly sponsored with the sum of one hundred million naira for the project said to be financed by an elected executive in the zone. It was gathered that majority received the money and still went against the agenda while others kept faith to it.

Enugu State
The party members have not been together since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections, especially with the earlier appointments made by President Muhammadu Buhari in which those who formed the party in the state were sidelined.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffery Onyeama, Presidential Assistant on Judicial reforms, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku, who was also the party’s Deputy governorship candidate in the 2015 elections and Mr Osita Okechukwu, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) were among the first set of appointees by the President. The trio incidentally hails from the same Udi local government council and Eke ward of the party.

Although Onyeama and Ibekaku were not there when the party was formed, their appointment set the tone for the discontent that has refused to leave the party in the state. With an eye on the senate seat for Enugu West and using their position to advantage, the duo began to rally the support of the distrust members of the party. It soon threw up a faction led by the party’s deputy chairman, Adolphus Ude and Women leader, Queen Nwankwo, who allegedly undertook certain anti-party practices that earned them the suspension of the Ben Nwoye led leadership of the party in the state.

Rather than mend fences, the faction ran into the waiting arms of Onyeama and Ibekaku and has continued to receive their support in their desire to reduce the strength of the state leadership. This is what has continued to play out in the state since the congresses began.

At the congress of their ward in Eke which he incidentally shares with Okechukwu, the Minister received an unpleasant welcome when party supporters, began to boo him. At the end of the exercise, his candidate lost against that of Okechukwu. He had cried out openly at the end of the exercise in condemnation of its outcome describing it as ‘undemocratic.” He had told those who cared to listen that his members were marginalized.

And apparently not to continue to “weep,” Onyeama and Ibekaku opted out of the main stream to hold a parallel local government congress last Saturday, at a secondary school in Udi, where they were elected as delegates. But Okechukwu, Charles Chime and Mrs Maureen Anosike had emerged national delegates to the national convention at the congress held at the Udi Party secretariat, supervised by the Ikechukwu Odigbo-led congress committee of the party and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Onyeama had said that he resorted to parallel congress because the Odigbo committee would deny his supporters participation in the exercise, stressing that they could not access voting materials for the exercise. But Odigbo said the exercise was conducted in strict compliance with the guidelines of the party and urged members to disregard claims of parallel council congresses.

While the outcome of that exercise rages, with the vow by Onyeama that the “votes of my supporters in the exercise must count,” what would be at stake as the party goes into state congresses is the chairmanship position in the state.

Nwoye has held this position since the party began. He has also nurtured it to the level it is presently. What however, may have become his low point is the party’s inability under his watch to win an election. Two council elections have been conducted in the state in his time, a national election had also held and his party ended up in the also-ran list.

Nonetheless, Nwoye is recontesting his position and he would face the opposition from the camp of the Minister who may probably stage another parallel congress on Saturday. Sources said apart from the Minister who may be pushing forward Adolphus Ude; former Secretary to Enugu State government, Onyemuche Nnamani is said to be rallying support for Steve Oruruo, a new comer to the party.
The it is, no outcome this Saturday could assuage the deepened anger and animosity in the state chapter and unless the trend is checked, it may be carried into the 2019 general elections.

Imo State
The frustrations and disenchantment in the party exacerbated after the governor, Rochas Okorocha named his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor, a development being seen as Okorocha’s third term. He did not stop there; he began to allocate other offices available in 2019 to whosoever pleased him and announced noble sons of the state whom he has retired politically.

It was this development that jolted party members, especially from their belief that only fairness and equity could salvage it from the ugly notoriety that infested with the governance style of its own governor. They were therefore, not prepared to accept impositions that could further wreak the chances of the party in the state.

The plot therefore was hatched on how to frustrate the governor in his determined agenda. They had waited for the congresses of the party to make bold their statement that they were no longer in support of the governor’s style. The implosion came during the ward congresses.

Joined by another political juggernaut, Senator Hope Uzodinma from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the anti-Okorocha forces in the APC that included Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere, Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, National Organizing Secretary of the party, Sen Osita Izunaso, Sen Ifeanyi Ararume, Sir Jude Ejiogu, Emeka Nwajiuba among others, completely routed the governor. They ensured his candidates lost.

Okorocha who is yet to recover from the defeat is crying wolf. The fragile peace in the state chapter has taken a flight. The party secretariat has been partially gutted after a fracas that broke out during the ward congress. The development has earned Chris Ezike, the Commissioner of Police in the state a transfer to another state. This was probably due to his role in the “arrest and detention” of congress committee members sent to the state.

The governor had made a dash to Daura to see President Buhari on the issue. His journey was unsuccessful. He returned and sought the intervention of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. Although Osinbajo intervened, it was not enough to assuage the governor, whose ego had been badly damaged. He returned to Owerri and presently hunting his deputy and all those who conspired to deny him the continued hold of the party.

The crisis in Imo PDP is a festering one. The Police have taken over the premises of the party. The anti- Okorocha forces have continued with the congress and insisting on the legality of the exercise. From the ward, they have also won in the local government congress, even against alleged assurances that the exercise was postponed. That has worsened Okorocha’s matter. Okorocha is insisting that nothing short of cancellation and fresh congresses is acceptable to him. Now the party is prostrate and in disarray. Will national leadership listen to Okorocha, who incidentally is the leader of the party in the state and order fresh congresses? What will be the implication of annulling a process that has already started and received general affirmation of party and congress committee members? These are questions agitating the minds as the process enters another level.

It is instructive that the state remains the torchbearer of the party in the zone. Those close to power in the state believe that the way the matter is handled would have overall effect in the party in the future.

Ebonyi State
In Ebonyi, the superiority contest between Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and former senator, Julius Ucha over the soul of the party has continued to divide the party structure, even with the congresses.
Presently, there are two chairmen overlooking the affairs of the party in the state. Eze Nwachukwu leads the Onu faction of the party, while Ben Nwobasi leads the Ucha’s faction. So far, the factions have continued to hold parallel congresses to elect their candidates with each claiming legitimacy and recognition.

Osita Okechukwu

The fact is that the contention in Ebonyi chapter is putting pressures on the politicians who have indicated interests in the governorship stool of the state. One of them told The Guardian on condition of anonymity that; “We need to resolve the issue of leadership to put the party in good stead for the elections. Anyhow you look at it; there is divided loyalty and support from members on the goings on in the party.”

It was gathered that the infighting would continue even in the state congresses as each faction is poised to return parallel executives to continue to function in the state.

Anambra State
Since the conclusion of the governorship election in November last year which the APC lost to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), some gladiators who felt the conspiracy in the party denied Tony Nwoye the opportunity to win the election have continued to look at certain members in the party with suspicion.

It was perhaps this feeling that reared up in the disagreement that arose over the conduct of the congresses in the state where an agreement is yet to be reached whether it held or not.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige was accused of manipulating the process in his favour against other party members. Some members believe that it was the kind of attitude that worked against the party in the governorship election.

It was alleged that congress committee members did not arrive Anambra until 2.30p.m and addressed stakeholders about 4.00p.m on that day. But the Minister had gone to town with the claim that congress held in the state and was successful.

None of the gladiators in the state has so far embarked on parallel congresses. The wonder is where the lists allegedly being paraded by the Minister was gotten. A meeting to resolve the grey areas ended in stalemate as tempers was high over feelings of being short-changed in the process by some members.

The call is that should the party not be amenable to fresh congresses, it should give room for harmonization of various interests and lists by the various factions in the state, a development that does not seem to sink well with those favoured.

Abia State
Although the congresses held so far in the state had been peaceful, there are still ill feelings that resulted to parallel exercises last Saturday by a faction loyal to Chief Ikechi Emenike. Recall that the state leadership had claimed it suspended him before now, but members described the alleged suspension as unrealistic. The tension that arose earlier had resulted to an extension of the exercise to the next day.

How the APC would address the infightings and come out stronger to face challenges of elections in the zone next year would certain elicit the interest of many.



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