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APC’s internal rumbles and South East’s prospects ahead of 2023

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Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. Photo/OwelleRochas/

The decision by 36 state chairmen of All Progressives Congress (APC) to demand accountability from the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, re-opened the misgivings within the party.

Of late, the ruling party has been reeling from internal dissension over the outcome of the 2019 general election, as well as the true standing of its structure in the states.
 
Although the Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu, accused Oshiomhole of highhandedness and excluding other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) in the day-to-day running of the party, the demands from the state chapters came as a big twist, both in the nature and resolve of the signatories.

 
Senator Shuaibu’s letter did much to expose the simmering fissures within the party, because while some state chapters like those of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Katsina, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, and Enugu opposed the call on Oshiomhole to resign, others, including Imo and Sokoto states, rose in support, insisting that the national chairman should quit on grounds that he was promoting impunity in the party.
 
In the letter dated May 27, 2019, Shuaibu lamented that APC’s fortunes and goodwill have nosedived under Oshiomhole’s watch, remarking that the former labour leader and Edo State governor “lacks the composure to lead the APC.”
 
The hoopla over Senator Shuaibu’s letter died down and stakeholders began to anticipate that by the time President Muhammadu Buhari makes appointments in the second term they might be favoured.
 
However, not long after the President unveiled the list of his “Next Level” cabinet, chairman of the state chapters of the ruling party met in Abuja on September 23, 2019, and handed out a 10-day ultimatum to the party leadership to address issues of marginalisation of those that sacrificed, and contributed to the electoral victory of the party in the 2019 general elections.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige. Photo/Twitter/LabourMinNG

 
After the 10 days elapsed, the state chairmen seem frustrated and are said to be on the verge of venting their anger on the national leadership, especially against the backdrop of appointments at the federal and state levels, which they claim did not favour dedicated and loyal party faithful.
 
The state chairmen were also emphatic about the need to fill vacant positions on the NWC, particularly that of the national secretary, which former occupant, Mai Mala Buni, contested and won the gubernatorial election for Yobe State and that of the deputy national chairman (South).
 
One of the APC state chairmen told The Guardian that the problems rocking the party are acute at the state levels, noting that most party faithful has moved out of disenchantment, alleging that the national leadership has dispensed with state structures after the election was won.
 
“We don’t know how to explain to our members that people who worked for the party are neglected while those that did nothing are enjoying the fruit of their labour,” he stated.

Grief, Gamble In South East
WHILE the furore raised by the 36 chapter chairmen was yet to settle, their signed petition to the national leadership of the party became the bone of contention in Enugu State APC. Not long after the chairmen issued their 10-day ultimatum, the Enugu State chapter of the party disowned Dr. Ben Nwoye.
  
Chairman of the party, Deacon Okey Ogbodo, told journalists that the Enugu State chapter “is baffled by the shameful public conduct of former chairman of APC in Enugu State, Ben Nwoye.”
   
Ogbodo regretted that despite the unchallenged declarative order by the Federal High Court, which ruled that ab initio, the former chairman was not qualified to stand as a candidate in May 19, 2018, APC state congress in the state, “Nwoye continues to parade himself as chairman of our party.”
 
While stressing that he won in the congress, Ogbodo said he has petitioned the Enugu State Police Command and the party’s national headquarters to enforce the law and take necessary actions against the “pretender.”
  
On the issue of a pending case in the Court of Appeal, Ogbodo said: “The only appeal arising from that judgment pending at the Appeal Court as of today, is one in which I am seeking a judicial declaration that since Nwoye was found unqualified to contest as a candidate at that congress, I remain, therefore, the automatic winner, there is no other contestant on record, on the day.
  
“But it is worrisome how Nwoye, being fully aware of the judgment, the pendency of the appeal, and grounds thereof, has continued to act provocatively in a manner capable of breaching the peace, junketing around. He goes around parading himself and purporting to speak for Enugu State APC. This is dangerous and outrageous”

  
Ogbodo said it has become obvious that Nwoye’s motive is to intimidate or cajole the national leadership of APC to accord him undeserved, untenable and unmerited recognition, knowing that his fate has already been sealed, in the pending appeal.
   
“This obviously panicky resort to lawlessness and contemptuous behaviour by desperate political jobbers like Nwoye constitutes a big threat to our collective security as a nation because that can actually heat up the polity and compromise our hard-earned democracy.
   
“I hereby urge all lovers of civilization and relevant law enforcement agencies, to rein in Ben Nwoye forthwith, before it is too late. I have pursued, and indeed followed the due process of law as a true democrat, but my evident demonstration of civilization ought not to be taken for granted or misconstrued as cowardice or naivety.
     
“I urge the national body of our party to move decisively to stop Nwoye’s shenanigan from degenerating into lawlessness and save what is left of our party in Enugu State,” he said.
 
On his part, Nwoye denied that there was any pending court case against his position, stressing that he joined other states’ chairmen to address issues that involve the running of the party.
 
The division within the Enugu State chapter of APC defines the parlous state of affairs in the party in the southeast geo-political zone.
   
A source with the national headquarters of the party disclosed that the ruling party was aware of the recriminations in the zone, but decided not to get involved yet for strategic reasons.
   
The source, which spoke to The Guardian after governors elected on the party’s platform confirmed the troubles within the party, remarked that since the party got what it wanted from the zone during the presidential election, it would adopt a similar approach to execute the rebuilding process towards the 2023 polls.
  
It would be recalled that the ruling party’s trouble was compounded by the parallel congresses that preceded the selection of the Oshiomhole NWC as some party stalwarts under the auspices of 2018 APC Convention Contestants’ Forum started agitating for immediate replacement of vacant NWC positions, through a credible process.
     
In a letter addressed to Oshiomhole and the ‘national leader’ of the party, the forum prayed that those to fill the vacant NWC positions must fulfill laid down procedures as stipulated by the APC constitution.
  
Some of the provisions outlined by the forum in the letter signed by its Secretary, Mr. Frank Ossai, include that the prospective candidates must have obtained nomination forms, gone through screening, paid the requisite fees and campaigned for votes in the 2018 elective convention.
   
Part of the letter read: “We note with great satisfaction, the flexible and all-inclusive structure of the party’s national leadership in resolving issues that would ordinarily have led to crisis whenever there are vacant positions in the leadership (positions) of the party.
   
“We are convinced as individuals who have gone through the party’s electoral processes, that leadership positions should always be occupied by persons that are prepared and willing to serve the party selflessly.”
  
Sources disclosed that the issues raised in the forum’s letter have been holding back the party from filling the vacant positions, especially given that the group insisted that “those to fill the positions must have gone through the processes.”
 
While citing the instance of Kogi State, where the party resorted to the governorship primary to choose Yahaya Bello, who was the first runner-up to step in after Prince Abubakar Audu died, the group contended that it would not be fair for Yobe State to introduce a candidate that did not follow due process or contested the post to replace Mai Mala Buni, the former secretary.
   
The National Vice Chairman (North West) Inuwa Abdulkadir, was visited with disciplinary procedure culminating in his expulsion for anti-party activities and going by the 2018 convention Aspirants’ Forum, “such a vacant position (should) be meritoriously allocated to whoever is next in line or pole position to take over.”
 
The forum specifically demanded that while it does not deny any state the right to present multiple candidates for positions allotted to their geo-political zone, “we believe that the principle of justice and fairness demand that any candidate that does not participate in any of the electoral processes should not be made to reap, where he or she did not sow.”

However, sources disclosed that the APC leadership is taking its time over the incomplete membership of the NWC for reasons not unconnected to averting a major implosion, but also for the 2023 presidential calculations.

Party stalwarts, especially those from the South said although they are convinced that a strategy to reshuffle the NWC was afoot, “it would not be done immediately so as not to detonate a time bomb.”

Yet, as the issue of filling the position of the secretary still roils
the party in the North-East geo-political zone, indicators emerged that APC has evinced a political stratagem that would foist South East as a counterforce to the party’s control by a famed national leader towards the 2023 election cycle.

A reliable source in the North East zonal caucus of the party confided in The Guardian that although nobody is mentioning Shuaibu’s damning letter against Oshiomhole, the mood of leaders in the North is that until the party is wrested from the southern cabal, the internal protestations could consume it.

He said that despite APC’s poor returns in the 2019 polls from South East, the geopolitical zone seems to be a fertile ground for the party’s 2023 calculations, but regretted that attempt by the party to use a female politician from Anambra State as a rallying point failed.

 
“The woman was appointed coordinator for President Buhari’s campaign to avoid the infighting among some leaders in the zone, but she did not get the cooperation of the members. It was obvious that the woman did not understand what those who selected her wanted to achieve, but it is not over,” he stated.
 
Just as the challenge of filing the post of the national secretary is believed to be compounded by the presidential ambitions of senators Ibrahim Gaidam, Kashim Ibrahim Shettima and Babagana Gingibe, the APC is disturbed in virtually all the South East states by the power tussle within its chieftains.

FOR instance, in Ebonyi, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Senator Julius Ucha and Governor Dave Umahi, are allegedly engaged in a proxy battle for the control of the state’s structure. The infighting affected the governorship primary, which threw up Senator Sonni Ogbuoji in circumstances, which some consider controversial.
 
Some party stalwarts in the state believe that Umahi pulled
behind the scene strings (through Onu and Ucha), which saw to the emergence of Ogbuoji, who most party faithful believe was not prepared for the contest.
 
Knowing that the zoning arrangement would work against his election, Ogbuoji, who hails from Afikpo South in Ebonyi South Senatorial District, was said to have joined the governorship race ostensibly to position himself for eventual appointment into the federal cabinet.
 
Meanwhile, Ucha was accused of supporting Ogbuoji’s emergence at the expense of his kinsman, a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Ben Odoh, in order to leave the governorship position open when the zoning would be in favour of Ebonyi Central.

   
At the tail end of his electioneering, Ogbuoji alleged that Governor Umahi had finalised arrangements to join the APC, stressing that the governor has been having strategic discussions with leaders of the party in Abuja.
 
In Enugu, the battle between Deacon Ogbodo and Dr. Ben Nwoye, affected the governorship contest as both camps threw up rival candidates in the persons of George Ogara and Senator Ayogu Eze.

But unlike Ebonyi that parades persons with presidential ambition, Enugu has none within the APC fold. But sources indicated that those pushing for the governor’s senatorial ambition want to create an enabling environment to ensure that he becomes the candidate of APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2023.
 
A PDP chieftain from Enugu North Senatorial District (where the governor hails from), told The Guardian that it was based on the fact that the Nsukka cultural zone had resolved to gift Governor Ugwuanyi the senatorial seat that the current occupant, Senator Chuka Utazi, decided to align with the former Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu. It was Utazi that nominated the Ekweremadu for his ill-fated second attempt at clinching the position of Deputy Senate President.
   
The source explained that former Governor Okwezilieze Nwodo was denied the senate seat in keeping with the unwritten arrangement in the state that no federal lawmaker should exceed two terms at either the Green or Red chambers to avert a repeat of the Ekweremadu saga, and to pave the way for the seat to move to Nsukka North in 2023.
 
The setting in Anambra defines deep intrigues and conspiracies.
Although the current Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has ruled out interest in the 2021 governorship election, those close to him said the same could not be said about interest in serving as a prospective presidential running mate.

 
And like what obtained in Ebonyi, the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, was said to have supported a rival candidate to his former national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, for the Anambra Central Senatorial seat to ensure that he (Umeh) does not prove a stumbling block for his succession plan and control of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) structure.
 
Multiple sources in Anambra disclosed that Governor Obiano’s ambition to represent Anambra North in 2023 made him reneged on his support for Senator Stella Oduah’s senatorial ticket on APGA’s platform.
 
It was also gathered that Obiano wants to take the political collaboration with APC to another level to ensure that his preferred governorship candidate succeeds him in 2021. The recent appointment of former Central Bank Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, is being linked to this newfound political alliance between Anambra and the Presidency.

MOST party chieftains blame Owelle Rochas Okorocha for the loss of Imo State in the 2019 polls. Apart from the fact that Okorocha still nurses his presidential ambition, his refusal to step down for President Buhari in 2014, and insistence on fielding his son-in-law, as APC’s gubernatorial candidate in 2019 is being reckoned against him.

Senator Ben Uwajimogu, who is now the highest-ranking political figure in Imo State, told The Guardian that Okorocha worked against all those who helped him to win a second term and thereby rendered the party dissolute by his high handedness.

 
Okorocha, who is facing corruption allegations, has declared his unwillingness to quit APC, but Uwajimogu and the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, are said to be the arrowheads of the APC’s rebuilding process in Imo State.
 
A similar pattern of structural confusion exists in Abia State. Party sources disclosed that the lone APC Senator from the state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, rode to the senate through a combination of deft political footwork and intriguing alliance with his former Chief of Staff, Senator T. A. Orji.
 
Those in the know said Kalu consented with Orji to trade support for President Buhari and Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, such that the PDP structure supported APC in the presidential and National Assembly election, and on March 9 governorship, APC supported the PDP and its gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.
 
While Ogah, who was traded away, got a consolation prize of Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa is vigorously contesting the election result that denied him a second term in the Red chamber.

When therefore, APC stalwarts talk of using the South East as the party’s joker in 2023, it could as well be that they are referring either to the joke, which the party has become in the geo-political zone, or their preparedness to reap from the political short-sightedness, confusion and transactional politics that abound in the area.


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