Campaign funds, ministerial slot divide Enugu APC
DESPITE its success in the last elections across the country, the All Progressive congress (APC) is not in a comfortable zone in Enugu State and from all indications; it appears that the party is not yet ready to dominate the political space.
For a political party that has just won the presidential election for the first time, it is expected that the victory should have brought the needed cohesion that should propel it towards dominating the political field.
This however is not the case as the party is enveloped in internal bickering since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections.
The cause of the bitter quarrel that has divided the leadership of the party in the state are allegations of mismanagement of the presidential campaign funds and controversy over filling the state’s ministerial slot.
The Guardian learnt that the bickering started immediately the campaign funds were drawn in January this year. It has now become a public issue following a suit filed at the Federal High Court, Enugu by some members of the party.
The litigants are accusing the state party chairman, Ben Nwoye and the gubernatorial candidate, Okey Ezea of mismanaging about N400 million received by the party for the election.
They alleged that the mismanagement was one of the reasons behind the party’s poor outing and prayed the court to compel them to account for the money.
But Ezea denied embezzling the funds. He had forwarded a financial report to the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, detailing how the funds were disbursed.
In the copies of the report which he made available to the press, he explained that only N133 million was handled by his campaign organization before, during and after the campaign.
He wondered where and how the figures were manufactured, stressing that the allegation was a ploy by those who had always worked against the progress of the party, to smear his integrity. He stated that apart from using the money to host the presidential rally of the party, candidates who aspired to various elective positions in the state were also assisted from it.
However, while the issue of the campaign funds awaits the adjudication of the court, controversy over who gets the only ministerial slot and other appointive positions in the cabinet of the in-coming president is further crippling the party.
It could be recalled that late last month, there was an alleged brawl between National Vice-Chairman for Southeast, Emma Eneukwu and Ezea over the ministerial slot of the state.
Although the scuffle reportedly happened during a meeting of the Southeast leaders of the party presided over by Governor Rochas Okorocha in Abuja, it reverberated in Enugu where Ezea circulated a text message to party members, alleging that he was “slapped” by Eneukwu because he told Southeast leaders in the meeting that Nsukka zone had not produced a minister since 1999.
The text message read: “Emma Eneukwu slapped me today because I told Southeast leaders that Nsukka has not been Minister since 1999. He did this before Rochas, Ngige, Izunaso, JOJ, Gen Eze, Ucha etc. I just said the truth and requested justice and equity in the affairs of our party and Enugu state. Emma wants to be Minister by violence. Emma from Udi LGA which has Minister since 2007 including the incumbent, Chinedu Nebo. We must fight injustice and oppression. APC is change”.
But Eneukwu denied slapping or confronting Ezea over ministerial slot saying, “I am surprised about that. Nothing like that happened. I am very surprised. That story is alien to me. I don’t know about it. May be it is calculated attempt to mar my image. I didn’t attack anybody. I am not a thug. I don’t fight”.
Early this month, some members of the party’s executive wrote the national chairman, furnishing him with names of party members in the three zones of the state that should be considered for ministerial and other positions in Buhari’s administration.
Nominated in the letter copied to Buhari were Southeast zonal Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu (Enugu West), businessman, Onyemuche Nnamani (Enugu East) and Gen Chris Eze (rtd) (Enugu North). The letter signed by the Vice-Chairman of the party, Anike Nwoga, State Publicity Secretary, Kate Offor and three others, also recommended other names that could be considered for other positions.
To buttress their alleged desperation, they went further to advice the national leadership of the party “not to accept any list forwarded to it by Nwoye, Eneukwu and Ezea”.
They insisted that the trio were responsible for the abysmal performance of the President-elect in the presidential election in the state, which they blamed on mismanagement of the campaign funds. They accused them of refusing to pay party agents during the elections.
Meanwhile, another statement from the party within the week, allegedly signed by Offor linked former Minister, Professor Barth Nnaji, with ministerial appointment and that the APC in the state would not admit any member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into its fold for now.
The statement, which was forwarded to reporters in Enugu, quoted Offor as saying that refusing further membership was part of the outcome of an enlarged State Executive Committee meeting earlier held.
Offor said the SEC frowned at some elements within Enugu APC who, without authorization or due process, had already held sinister meetings with some PDP members who want to defect to the party.
The spokesperson warned that the party would not hesitate to sanction any member found to be covertly or overtly involving himself in any plot to admit any PDP member until a time authorized by the party.
Offor noted that the state was awash with rumors of how Nnaji wants to covertly grab the Enugu State ministerial slot in the incoming Federal Executive Council, insisting that such must not be on behalf of the membership of Enugu APC, as he belongs to the PDP.
The Guardian gathered however that Nnaji is being linked to the ministerial tussle following visits made to him by the Nwoye-led leadership aimed at attracting membership following their conviction that if the APC must be rooted in the state, it should as much as possible integrate some progressive minds.
The leadership also visited notable personalities like Dubem Onyia, Jim Nwobodo, and senator Fidelis Okoro. It was gathered that, even before the elections, the party leaders wooed them and continued to do so after the exercise.
Nwoye, who was visibly worried with the desperate jostle for ministerial slot warned those criticizing efforts to expand and entrench the party to desist.
He noted that the APC had not made any in-road in any elections conducted in the state, adding that unless things were strengthened out, the party might also not win a seat in this year’s council election.
“We need to expand the party beyond what we have at the moment. It is not necessarily to grab ministerial position that matter but how rooted the party is. We did not win any seat in the recently concluded election, now the review we should be making is the jostle for ministerial slot. I want to place it on record that we must learn to accommodate these big wigs with progressive mind if we must grow this party. Go and check places where the APC won elections, you will discover that some big wigs defected from one party into the APC. It happened in Imo, in Edo, in Lagos and others. So that of Enugu should not be an exception”, Nwoye said.
On the news making the round that the party has rejected Nnaji, Nwoye said: “Falsehood if allowed to stay overtime, becomes the truth. No executive meeting was held on Monday. Professor Nnaji has not met anyone, in the bid to gain a ministerial slot. Enugu APC is open to any Nigerian who shares the progressive interest that we have to join us and help build the party to the extent that anyone who wants to come in and help us to build a strong formidable party in Enugu is welcomed.