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APC’s ‘Unity’ List: Last minute plots that failed Nnamani

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
30 March 2022   |   2:40 am
Behind the scenes schemes by stakeholders and gladiators that defined the recent All Progressives Congress (APC) national convention would continue to impact the party’s efforts toward internal cohesion.

Nnamani

Behind the scenes schemes by stakeholders and gladiators that defined the recent All Progressives Congress (APC) national convention would continue to impact the party’s efforts toward internal cohesion.
 
As was visible during the convention, the efforts at achieving consensus did not come easy, especially when some of the aspirants complained bitterly that they were taken for granted and allowed to waste their time and resources on a competition that was not billed to hold.

  
In the case of the Southeast geopolitical zone, President Muhammadu Buhari’s preferred candidate for the position of Deputy National Chairman (South), Dr. Kenechukwu Nnamani could not stand strong during the power play on the eve of the national convention.
    
Although Southeast has only two incumbent governors, the major areas of stress came from the three states under the control of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), particularly Enugu.
 
Perhaps, it was in a bid to ensure a semblance of leadership and oversight that the three PDP states were assigned to the two APC governors: Governor David Nweze Umahi took Abia State, while Enugu and Anambra States became the responsibility of Senator Uzodimma.
  
The Guardian discovered that while Umahi deployed constitutional and internal democracy to deal with Abia APC, which has a former governor and current Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, Enugu was proving tough for Uzodimma due to alleged closeness between Nnamani and Enugu State Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
  
This silent tussle between Nnamani and Uzodimma, the governor/overseer for the state, simmered through the state congress. At the national convention, therefore, the differences between Governor Uzodimma of Imo State and the former President of the Senate, Dr. Nnamani played out during the compilation of the Southeast geopolitical zone’s input to the final Unity List that received affirmation during the recent national convention.
 
Not that alone, calculations and schemes for the 2023 Enugu State governorship poll as well as Nnamani’s stance against the last state congress that threw up Chief Ugochukwu Agballah compounded the former Senate President’s challenges to scuttle his ambition to return to the substantive National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
 
As a former President of the Senate, Nnamani’s decision to cross over from the opposition PDP to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) came with a lot of promise.
    
In the north, especially, the former Senate President was well regarded for his perceived role in the defeat of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure elongation plot. To President Buhari, Nnamani was much like a go-to person on issues regarding Southeast.
 
Time was when the idea of his possible chairmanship of APC was romanticized. On June 25, 2020, when his name featured among the 13-member Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Nnamani’s political clout and coast were enlarged. His position as the Southeast representative on the interim management body conferred on him the status of leader. In his native Enugu State, he was also accorded great respects.
    
At one point, based on his political past of presiding over Nigeria’s Senate, the former Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha actually pronounced Nnamani as Southeast leader of APC to the discomfiture of the easy-going and self-effacing Minister of Science and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnia Onu. 
    
However, due to the three-sided supremacy battle among Okorocha, Onu and Dr. Chris Ngige, Nnamani’s elevation could not win popular support, a development that led to the appointment of current Minister of State for Environment, Dame Sharon Ikeazor, as the Southeast Coordinator of President Buhari’s campaign organisation in 2019. 

The January 14, 2020, Supreme Court judgment, which invalidated the return of Chief Emeka Ihedioha of PDP as the winner of the March 2019 Imo State governorship poll dramatically altered the political equation in Southeast APC.
    
Okorocha, who was the sole APC governor in the zone, lost his bid to enthrone his son-in-law as governor, while Onu and Ngige, who retained their positions in the Federal Cabinet, became constrained in their level of influence.   

Expanding ‘camp Hope’
NO sooner than he was sworn into office as governor of Imo State that Senator Uzodimma renewed his political battle with former governor Okorocha, dismantling all that the former governor set up by way of governance and political structures, including the presumed Nnamani leadership of Southeast APC.
  
Unknown to Okorocha and other APC stakeholders in the zone, Uzodimma’s membership of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction in PDP, which was not opposed to President Buhari’s leadership, worked in his (Uzodimma’s) favour.

  
While some close allies of President Buhari recalled how Okorocha insisted on running for President in 2014, they also put into account how the Sheriff camp’s fight in PDP reduced attacks on APC.
   
Part of the plan to sustain Uzodimma’s ascendancy in the Southeast came to light during the November 6 and 9, 2021 Anambra State governorship poll in which the Imo State governor was made Director-General of the campaign.
   
Also, Governor Uzodimma was said to be instrumental in the reversal of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume’s appointment as Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, where he (Uzodimma) recommended the wife of Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Margery, for the position.
    
Yet, despite his unsung influence on the political balance sheet of the national leadership of APC, the likes of Nnamani rated Uzodimma lowly and decided to take him on. The culmination of the fight was Nnamani’s decision to side with former Governor Sullivan Chime to undermine Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, who had the backing of Uzodimma over the outcome of the Enugu State congress.
   
Sources disclosed that while playing hide and seek with Governor Ugwuanyi over the control of Enugu State APC structure, Nnamani was secretly plotting to use Enugu APC to return a former Director in the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industries, Chief Chinyeaka Ohaa as a gubernatorial candidate.
  
Convinced that Governor Ugwuanyi may not support his governorship project, the former Senate President was said to be working for the emergence of Ohaa in the event that he fails to pick the PDP governorship ticket.
    
However, with the emergence of Agballah as state chairman, Nnamani continued his opposition, claiming that there was a consensus arrangement that favoured the former military administrator of Gombe State, Group Capt Joe Orji from Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu West Senatorial District to which the position was zoned.
  
Immediate past governor of the state, Sullivan Chime, had during a stakeholders’ meeting preceding the state congress argued that it was necessary to micro-zone the office of state chairman to Aninri, stressing that Udi Local Government Area from where he and Agballah hail have produced the Minister.
 
But, shooting down Chime’s argument, Agballah’s supporters claimed that the former governor was creating room for his senatorial aspiration, maintaining that the way out of the stalemate was an option A4 open ballot system. Agballah was eventually elected.
   
Nonetheless, in the effort to stop Agballah’s recognition, Nnamani courted the anger of Uzodimma, who reminded him that his (Nnamani’s) attempt to disrupt the chairmanship of Agballah was a direct affront on his authority as the overseer of Enugu State.
    
At the end of the day, after the President was informed that Orji, whom Nnamani and his group was positioning as the consensus candidate for Enugu APC chairman did not purchase the nomination form nor showed up on the day of the congress, the CECPC was mandated to give Agballah his certificate of return seven days after.
  
It was against that background of clashes of confidence that deliberations on Nnamani’s selection as the consensus choice of Southeast as Deputy National Chairman hit the rocks. Uzodimma was said to have regaled his fellow governors on how the former President of the Senate has been doing the bidding of Enugu PDP to frustrate the progress of APC in the state.
  
A source at the meeting confided in The Guardian that issues of monthly payment of stipend and nomination of ward councilors in Enugu came up, including a donation of a Sports Utility Van by a governor from the opposition party.
  
Further, it was argued that age was not on the side of the former Senate President, especially against the background that the national chairman was climbing to 80. Add to that, Emma Eneukwu, who was being supported by Uzodimma, had informed his former colleagues in All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) that it would not be proper to have both the Enugu State chairman and Deputy National Chairman, former PDP stalwarts in office.
     
Eneukwu had served as Enugu ANPP chairman as well as Deputy Vice Chairman of APC. But, while the arguments about political background were not convincing enough, it was gathered that the discovery that Nnamani was paving the way for somebody who was yet to join the party to emerge as governorship flag bearer incensed the governors.
 
According to sources, Uzodimma had already informed his colleague governors that one Uche Nnaji, who toiled with Sheriff all through its travails in PDP had been making prodigious contributions to the growth and development of APC in Enugu State.
   
“What the governors and some members of the CECPC discovered was that Nnamani wanted to throw up his preferred candidate as governorship flag bearer in Enugu and at the same time promising the state governor that he would make soft chances of a credible candidate emerging on APC. So, when it became obvious that the former Senate President has his eyes on both sides, it was generally accepted that Eneukwu should replace him,” the source disclosed.  
   
When contacted in the thick of the intrigues and horse-trading to state his side, the former Senate President did not take calls from The Guardian nor responded to the SMS to his mobile phone.
 
But, confirming the development, excited Eneukwu said “we are now determined to rebuild APC in Southeast and Enugu State, in particular, stressing that the wishes of the masses triumphed.
   
With the state of things, Nnamani would be leading the pack of other losers, including former Governor Sullivan Chime, whose Senatorial aspiration may be a subject of further discussion, Director General (DG) of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, immediate past state chairman, Dr. Ben Nwoye and Group Capt Orji, among others.
 
However, judging from the tenor of Senator Abdullahi Adamu’s acceptance speech after his inauguration as the new national chairman of APC, a window of opportunity still exists to integrate and incorporate the perceived losers in the emerging scheme of things.
  
The incumbent chairman, who also chaired the APC national Reconciliation Committee had noted: “If a party is not internally democratic, it cannot offer the country true democracy. It is time for us to do things differently.
   
“When we quarrel, we open our flanks to our rival political parties that are only too eager to exploit them for their own benefit. I promise, here and now, that we shall heal any wounds in our party.
   
“We shall effect lasting reconciliation among our members, and we shall go into the next national elections as a strong and united party.’’
   
How the chairman’s remarks would influence development in Enugu State and Southeast geopolitical zone in the days to come as the party prepares for another crucial test through primary elections would be seen.