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Aftermath of ward congress: Umahi, Onu groups spoil for control of APC

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[FILES] Umahi. Photo; TWITTER/REALDAVEUMAHI

Despite the suspense thrown up by the Supreme Court judgment on Ondo State governorship tussle and its far reaching implications for the Governor Mai Mala Buni Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), the recent ward congress of All Progressives Congress (APC) threw up mixed outcomes for Southeast states of Enugu and Ebonyi.

In Ebonyi, it was apparent that the governor, Dr. David Nweze Umahi, used the exercise to assume full charge of the state chapter following the successful conduct of the ward congress penultimate weekend. In the process, the lingering disunity and infighting within the former opposition party was papered over.

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It would be recalled that Ebonyi APC was fractured into a multiplicity of factions, including those loyal to Minister of Science and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, 2015/2019 governorship candidates of the party, Senators Julius Ali Ucha and Sonni Ogbuoji, former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Bernard Ifeanyi Odoh and Executive Director (Training), Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Dr. Steve Egbo.

But, bringing his understanding of Ebonyi politics, borrowing from his experience as state chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to bear in his new party, Umahi held a number of meetings and strategy sessions with APC stakeholders prior to the July 31 ward congress in the state.

The ward congresses threw up mixed outcomes, especially within states that are not controlled by the party. Based on that, the party had settled for a temporary hold on the process, which according to the Caretaker/Convention Planning Committee (CEPCPC) would provide ample time to resolve any misunderstanding. Secretary of CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe noted that although the ward congresses were relatively peaceful and successful, “there was need to constitute the Appeal Committee to smoothen minor crisis that arose in some states.”

Akpanudoedehe remarked that as an organisation guided by rules and procedures, avenues and channels must be provided for members who were dissatisfied with the processes to ventilate their grievances through an internal mechanism.

The Ward Congresses Appeals Committees, which were set up for that purpose have not disclose the resolution of petitions that were received, but the party has indicated its determination to go ahead with the local government and state congresses by September. It would be recalled that the same Akpanudoedehe, who inaugurated the Ward Congresses Appeals Committee, disclosed that APC had jettisoned the idea of going ahead with the remaining congresses until issues that arose from the ward congresses were addressed.

However, the inauguration of the appeal committee was greeted with apprehension as some party faithful criticised the party’s leadership for refusing to spell out either the terms of references or timeframe for the committee’s assignment.

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But, while the party leadership disclosed that it sent a five-man committee to each of the 14 states where petitions were raised, nothing has been heard from the CECPC about their findings.

CECPC chairman, Mai Mala Buni, had stated shortly after the appeals committee was inaugurated “the outcome of the committee’s report will determine when we are going to fix the date for local government and state congresses.”

[FILE PHOTO] Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu

Following the release of schedule of activities for the local government and state congresses, stakeholders in Ebonyi have been strategizing on how to queue into the new lineup, especially due to growing support for Umahi’s Presidential ambition.

Sources within the state chapter of APC claim that the national leadership of the party, particularly the Presidency, is impressed with the track record of the governor.

However, supporters of the Minister of Science and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnia Onu, claim that there are plans to ratify the former governor of old Abia State as the chairman of APC Board of Trustees during the forthcoming national convention.

Apart from tiny voices of opposition elements who claim that the governor was tending towards the Senator Julius Ucha camp, the party leadership in the state and Southeast insist that Governor Umahi has proved himself as “a huge uniting factor and force for APC triumph in the zone.”

In a letter commendation dated August 9, 2021 to Ebonyi APC ‘family and stakeholders’, chairman of the caretaker committee, Comrade Stanley Okoro Emegha, commended the leaders for the successful and smooth conduct of the ward congresses.

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The statement read: “On behalf of the Caretaker Committee of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Ebonyi State, we wish to sincerely thank His Excellency, Chief Engr. (Dr.) David Nweze Umahi, (FNSE, FNATE) Governor of Ebonyi State and leader of our great Party (APC) in the State, His Excellency, Dr. (Barr.) Kelechi Igwe, Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, The Rt. Hon Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Chief Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru,  His Excellency, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology, His Excellency, Chief Martins Nwanchor Elechi, former Governor of Ebonyi State, Hon. Chinedu Ogah, member of Federal House of Representative, His Excellency, Ambassador Nwannebuike Ominyi, Nigeria High Commissioner to Republic of Zambia, Deacon Austin Umahi (Anyanwu ndi Igbo) and indeed all critical Stakeholders of our party at all levels of Government from Ebonyi State, for their immense contributions for the peaceful conduct of the recently concluded ward congress in Ebonyi State.

“We also commend the efforts of members of the Ward Congress Committee (WCC) led by Deacon Ideato C. Ideato Okoli (Chairman Congress Committee) Ebonyi State and Alhaji Galadima Aminu – Danmalaki Sokoto (Secretary Congress Committee) and as well as members of the Local Ward Congress Committee (LWCC) for their Commitment, transparent and credible management of the ward Congress exercise.

“We equally thank all members of APC family in Ebonyi State for their support, active participation and display of exceptional maturity during and after the congress exercise. We wish to assure them of the readiness of the leadership of the party in the state to partner and provide the enabling environment and level playing ground for members to actualize their dreams and aspirations in all activities of the Party.”

2023, LG, State Congresses
ALTHOUGH stakeholders are united in commending the Ideato committee for a job well-done during the ward congress, investigation show that the forthcoming local government and state congresses would determine the reality of the reconciliation programme pursued by Governor Umahi.

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It was gathered that the traction which Umahi’s Presidential ambition has been receiving from stakeholders is pitching him against his older kinsman, Onu, who is said to be aligning with members of opposition to fight the governor over the party structure.

Would the local government and state congress witness similar unity and harmony that were exhibited during the ward congresses? A chieftain of the party, Ogbonnia Onyiba, said there is much doubt about such possibility, stressing that some stakeholders are ganging up to ensure that things do not go smoothly.

He stated: “Some of our big men have started saying that the unity in Ebonyi APC is being seen as a credit to Governor Dave. Everything in the party is about 2023, so the forthcoming local government and state congress may be a different ball game.”

While the national leadership of APC deals with Governor Umahi as leader of the party, supporters of the Minister claim that their principal is in charge.

But, the outcome of the ward congress proved that contrary to such projections, Governor Umahi enjoys the support and allegiance of a greater percentage of the members.

Signs that the forthcoming local council congress in Ebonyi may be hotter than envisaged emerged when those loyal to Onu started echoing the sentiments of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the governor.

For instance, no sooner had the Ebonyi State Government handed over the Special Medical University to the Catholic Church than the PDP kicked against the gesture, warning that the gift should not be.

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Although the state government noted the honesty, transparency and efficiency of such church-run institutions, PDP said the Conference of Catholic Bishop should be wary of “the gift of the newly built Medical University, Uburu.”

One example of well-run Catholic Healthcare facility in the state is Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Afikpo, which has trained many nurses and midwives over the years in addition to delivering quality care.

Perhaps with that in mind, Governor Umahi had handed over to the church the institution, as well as the title document as a gift during the episcopal ordination and installation of Rt. Rev. Peter Chukwu as the new Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese.

In a statement by its publicity secretary, Silas Onu, Ebonyi PDP stated: “The Medical University, Uburu, was built with the commonwealth of Ebonyi State meant for the State University and cannot be gifted like a private property.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we firmly believe that the Church is best positioned to manage such an academic institution better than government. However, we call on the church to reject this Greek gift unless all legal processes are duly followed with the full involvement of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly and Management of Ebonyi State University, whose TETFUND intervention allocation was used to build the Medical University.”

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