Delta: APC’s protracted crisis and long road to reconciliation
Despite efforts by the Ide Austin Izagbo-led Peace and Reconciliation Committee to douse tension in Delta State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), it appears the factions are not ready to sheath their swords.
Sadly, the party has continued to shoot itself in the foot since 2018, leading to its abysmal performance in 2019 general elections in the state. With the gulf remaining ever wide, a faction is being accused of getting almost all the federal appointments and positioning itself to conquer in 2023, while leaving the rest as vanquished.
The latest crisis, which was worsened by a face-off between the chairman, Evang. Jones Erue and his deputy, Chief Elvis Ayomanor, is damaging whatever efforts the reconciliation has made. A member of the inner caucus told The Guardian there is more to it than meets the ordinary eye.
The source, who pleaded anonymity, explained that what led Erue to direct the publicity secretary, Sylvester Imonina, to suspend Ayomanor and seven others recently, was much more than the alleged gross misconduct and acts contravening the party’s Constitution. This in turn was what prompted the deputy chairman’s response, declaring their suspension illegal.He said the January suspension letter, which was addressed to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), followed a Resolution dated January 18, 2020 by the party’s State Working Committee (SWC), which read in part: “Please be informed that in accordance with articles 21 (D) VI and 17 of the Constitution of our great party, the State Working Committee (SWC) has approved the removal/suspension of the listed persons as officers of the party with immediate effect.”
It listed those suspended to include the Deputy State Chairman, Mr. Tosan Awani (Vice Chairman, Delta South Senatorial District), Mrs. Janet Oyubu (State Woman Leader), Richard Egbo (Chairman, APC Okpe), Johnson Ohwo (Chairman, APC Uvwie), Ben Onwuka (Chairman, APC Oshimili South), Peter Umerah (Chairman, APC Oshimili North) and Cletus Elugbe (Chairman, APC Ukwuani).”
On his part, the deputy chairman’s faction, in a letter signed by Chidi Okonji, APC Delta State Secretary, and his assistant, Ese Agiri, described the suspension as unconstitutional, stating: “The attention of APC Delta State has been drawn to two releases signed by one Oghenelueme Sylvester Imonina (a self-acclaimed Delta APC Publicity Secretary) entitled ‘Constitution of Vacant Senatorial Positions in APC Delta State’ and ‘APC Suspends Delta State Deputy Chairman, seven others for alleged Misconduct.’
“The APC Delta State hereby declares the two publications illegal, unconstitutional, null and void ab initio. Delta APC has not had any formal SWC or State Executive Committee (SEC) meeting since March 2019. Therefore, at no time was any meeting called to take these far-reaching decisions.
“The purported constitution of vacant senatorial positions and suspension of Delta State Deputy Chairman and seven others is a violation of Articles 20 and 21 of APC Constitution, particularly Article 21(D) vi, which guarantees an officer’s right to fair hearing. At no time was any complaint or allegation sent to the Delta State APC Executive Committee in compliance with Article 21(B) i…”
To political watchers in the state, APC seems to have learnt nothing from the crisis that ruined it during the last election, when the scenario was created whereby Prof. Pat Utomi and Chief Great Ogboru emerged as governorship candidates at different venues of the primary in Asaba.
As each factor laid claim to supremacy, Ogboru emerged winner at the Federal College of Education College (Technical), Asaba, venue of the primary supervised by Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd) with 3,292 votes from a total of 3,515, while Utomi, adopted by Chief Cyril Obodo-led faction got 2,481 votes.
Violence had erupted at venue of the primary organised by the Erue faction, as the crowd became unruly, leading to police using teargas to disperse the people. The exercise, however, continued at midnight, when Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan arrived in a Hilux van. The voting proper started at about 1:00 a.m.
The slow pace of accreditation did not go down well with Ogboru, whose intervention led to the gate being opened for easier access to the venue. The rest, they say, is now history, as the party was defeated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).Last Thursday, Ide Izagbo, said: “I am calling for a truce, because when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers most. I also call on party elders to rally round and nip the situation in the bud, as soon as possible.”
Another party chieftain, Dr. Leroy Esozien, believed the party must eradicate impunity among party leaders, for a genuine reconciliation to take place. He said: “Reconciliation is good in principle, and I will always welcome it. We must, however, distinguish between reconciliation and ‘reconciliation;’ between genuine efforts to mend fences and merely putting up facades to paper over the cracks. We have been through quite a bit of the latter. The use of the term reconciliation is itself an acknowledgement that some person or persons have been offended and have grievances.
“This means that the parties concerned must be prepared to take responsibility for any offence, grant forgiveness and provide restitution, whichever applies to each party. Without these, we may have ‘reconciliation’ but there won’t be reconciliation. I read Ide Austin Izagbo’s interview in The Guardian, and I believe if his words are translated into practice, there will be a genuine mending of fences. To sustain any gains from the exercise, the party must turn its back irrevocably on impunity. This is the part that will be more challenging. Impunity is rife at national, state and local government levels and could be difficult to uproot.
“It would be counterproductive to discuss individuals’ grievances in a public arena before discussing them with the reconciliation committee. I think it is enough to say my beef pertains to the divisions in the party, our reprehensible lack of commitment to unity in diversity, and issues of marginalisation. I would like to see the party making itself distinctly different from other parties, as a truly progressive party. Reconciliation would be a good step towards this goal.”
Prince Yemi Emiko, a party faithful said: “I was an APC Senatorial candidate in 2015. At that time, we had more cohesion, better focus and better traction. But the APC in Delta today has several factions, each working deliberately to pull down the other. The Izagbo Committee is a good idea; so long they won’t be teleguided by those who think they have cornered the party, without giving a hoot about performance or progress of other areas, outside the minimal gains we have recorded so far in Delta central.
“To me, there are two critical factions in Delta. The Ogboru/Omo-Agege faction, and the O’tega Emerhor faction. If Izagbo succeeds in bringing these two together in a genuine manner, APC would have been truly reconciled. Of course, there are other pockets of grievances, like that of Chief Enuha from Delta North. He is one of the founding fathers of APC in the state, but who is being largely sidelined, to the detriment of the party.
“I have no stake in the infighting going on. But if you look at the appointments made so far by the Presidency, they appeared to be skewed in favour of one particular group. I belong to the school of thought that believes strongly in equity and spreading benefits and outcomes of our collective struggle. Do not treat me and my people as second-class party members, because you are in a position to do so today. If you do not listen and change your ways, then we wait for you at the next elections and punish you with our votes. It then becomes an endless cycle of tit-for-tat, and the party suffers ultimately.”
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