Delta APC: Divided they stand
Police take over party secretariat
Across the border in the neighbouring Edo State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been in power for almost eight years. The party won two consecutive elections in the state. But the fortunes of the party in Delta State, which together with Edo constituted Bendel State until it was separated on August 27, 1991, have been abysmal.
Though the party won the presidential election last year, it performed poorly in Delta State; no doubt, it is still a long walk to salvation going by the harsh reality of the challenges before the party.
The problem of the party, which is a cumulative effect of unending strife since inception has more or less placed it in a comatose state.
The result of the simmering crisis is the emergence of two feuding factions that are presently at daggers drawn over the heart and soul of the party; and from indications, neither is ready to back down for the other. Rather than abating the crisis seemed escalating.
Political observers had looked forward to a robust opposition in the state when in October last year following a harvest of political heavyweights for the party, some top members of the rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and their supporters decamped to the party in the state capital, Asaba.
Leading the pack of the broom waving decampees that included Mr. Misan Kubeyinje and Mr. Ebifa Ijeoma, two former Commissioners under Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration, was Chief Paulinus Akpeki, the Ugo of Okpe Kingdom and former Chief of Staff, Government House, Asaba.
Things seemed to be going well for the party as the erstwhile governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Chief Great Ogboru and a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Victor Ochei pitched tent with the party in a great leap of hope.
However going by the events of September 13, this year, it is obvious that all is currently not well with the party in the State following the formation of a new caretaker committee by a faction of the party led by Senator Francis Spanner Okpozo.
Thus the lofty dreams of Akpeki and his cohorts over the future of the party may have to be deferred, at least momentarily.
In a rapid reaction, the chairman of the party, Prophet Jones Erhue insisted that there is no faction and that he remained the authentic chairman of the party in the state, stressing that the Okpozo faction lacked the legal right to set up a committee.
Mr. Nathaniel Omo-Onyeke and Dennis Nwanokwai were selected to act as caretaker chairman and secretary of the party respectively at a meeting held by some factional leaders at the residence of Okpozo in Ozoro, Isoko North Council.
Okpozo, a Second Republic Senator had argued that the choice of Omo-Onyeke and Nwanokai was in line with the judgment of an Asaba High Court, which dissolved the state executive committee led by Erhue.
At the meeting which witnessed the presence of party stalwarts like Dr. Alex Ideh, Dr. Veronica Ogbuagu, Hyacinth Enuha and Sunny Mene, among others, Okpozo explained that the decision was aimed at solidifying and moving the party forward with the ultimate objective of wrestling power from the ruling PDP come 2019.
He said: “We resolved that the State APC is not moving ahead as usual, we have to make a change and that led us to take a resolution. The Party is not moving well and there is a court Judgment that sacked Prophet Jones Erhue-led Exco and we waited to hear from them concerning the judgment of the High Court but they have not showed up.
“If you look at the Party as a whole nothing is happening. No message from the executives, no appointment and the party secretariat has been taken over by weeds and we said it is the high time we took action; Delta is your State, my State and is in your hand, we are taking this decision to favor you all,” he told the gathering.
Also at the meeting, Mene, a former Organising Secretary of the party, noted that the meeting was held to resolve issue affecting the party as the party gears up towards the 2019 governorship election. He added that the committee needed to be put in place to make the party more vibrant and responsive to the needs of Deltans.
But Erhue contended that apart from Okpozo, others who attended the meeting were those purportedly indicted by a national fact-finding committee of the party for offences ranging from anti-party activities to misuse of election funds during the 2015 election in the state.
The embattled APC chairman asserted: “Those at the meeting aside Senator Okpozo, were the same indicted in the fact-finding committee of the APC National committee. Someone somewhere is paying them to distabilise the party. A member of their faction has confessed to this and we’ll soon mention those sponsoring them.
“This is laughable because they lack the legal right to sack a committee that was duly elected from congress. Their action is illegal. If I may ask, is Okpozo’s house the party office in Delta State? The judgment they are referring to is being challenged at the Appeal Court and not until the court rules, their action remains illegal.”
To make matters worse, barely a week after the caretaker committee was inaugurated, Erhue disclosed that that Okpozo and others involved have been summoned to face a Disciplinary Committee of the party in Abuja.
Speaking during a stakeholder’s parley at Emede, Isoko South Local Council of the state, Erue claimed that he was in possession of ‘damning evidence’, which indicated that some party members were being sponsored by external forces to cause confusion in the party ahead of 2019
He declared the caretaker committee chaired by Omo-Onyeke null and void and release presumably from the national headquarters of the party, which affirmed him as the party chairman in the state.
Also, he said a seven-man state disciplinary committee of the party has since commenced work and are expected to investigate the involvement of those mentioned in connection with the parallel caretaker committee.
Similarly, one of the party leaders and former general secretary of National Union of Petroleum and Natural GAS Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori frowned at the formation of a parallel caretaker committee by some party members.
Kokori expressed shock that an elder statesman in the mould of Okpozo, who was a former Deputy Speaker of the Bendel State House of Assembly during the ill-fated Second Republic, could be involved in such a plot. “Why now after all we have suffered together? The promised land is very close now. If it is juju working on him, we have to break the power of the juju,” he stated.
He described the gathering of party faithful as a solidarity meeting and expressed hope that those involved in the parallel caretaker committee would retrace their steps.
Meanwhile, due to the degeneration of the crisis the Police Command in the state has drafted its men to take over the party secretariat in Asaba.
The spokesperson for the command, Celestina Kalu, a Superintendent of Police (SP), explained that the deployment was at the behest of the party following the leadership crisis rocking the chapter and to checkmate potential hoodlums who may want to cash in on the situation to cause mayhem.
Hopes had been raised among APC members in the state after their dismal outing in the 2015 general elections, that with the defection of some notable politicians from PDP and Accord Party to their party that they were now better positioned to square up to the ruling PDP in the state.
However, political watchers argued that if the recent twist of events continues without the party putting its house in order, APC in the state would remain weak and irrelevant.
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