Enugu: APC members brawl over presidential campaign fund
• Report Indicts Former Senate President
• Money Safe, It’s All Blackmail—Nnamani
The Enugu State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is not strange to crisis. It has been tough task to bring its members together to work for a common goal.Once again, the party has returned to the trenches. This time, the issue at play is how the money sent to the state from the national headquarters for the prosecution of the presidential and National Assembly elections was disbursed.
Report had it that the ex-senate President, Ken Nnamani, who is also the party’s Deputy Director of presidential campaign council in the south, was appointed by the party to receive and disburse the money among the three senatorial zones of the state.The report, which emanated last week after a meeting of some party stakeholders, following the botched election, accused Nnamani of mismanaging the undisclosed amount meant for party agents, candidates and logistics.
It was alleged that Nnamani failed to execute the assignment as directed. Rather, he disbursed the money as he liked, including making some amount available to members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whom he had been accused of supporting in the state.The report said: “This singular act of former Senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani, has vindicated APC members in Enugu State over his alleged romance with the PDP. It simply means that he doesn’t want APC to succeed in the elections.
“But the unfortunate thing is that we have been shouting all this while over his anti-party activities in the state, but the national leadership seems not to be taking the accusation seriously. The man is not a committed APC members, which is why he is not proud of the party.”
It further alleged that some PDP members benefitted from the APC largesse, due to Nnamani’s disposition to the ruling party in the state, and that where APC benefitted, it was not evenly distributed. Nnamani was said to have shortchanged the three senatorial zones, especially Enugu West senatorial district made up of Awgu, Ezeagu Udi, Aninri and Oji River. The fund was reportedly not received in the area, as confirmed by an aide to one of the candidates.He was equally said to have released part of the fund to some APC members loyal to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, leading some members into launching a protest against him.
The aggrieved members called on the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to ensure that the former Senate president did not go unpunished over the act, as it was unbecoming of a person of his calibre.However, controversy over election money is not new to APC. In 2015, members tore themselves into shreds over money sent by the then leadership of Chief John Oyegun to state chapters to assist in campaigns.
While other parties were busy campaigning, APC members in Enugu were deeply concerned over how to share the largesse. In the end, the party performed abysmally in both national and state elections. And while aggrieved candidates of other political parties proceeded to court, those of APC went physical.
In an interview with The Guardian, Nnamani, who migrated from PDP to APC after 2015 general elections, acknowledged that he received the said fund, but quickly added that the money was intact.He said those spreading rumour of fund mismanagement were either on a mission to blackmail him or were among candidates without campaign posters in the state.
Nnamani explained that though the money had been disbursed, nothing had happened to it, as “no kobo had been spent until the elections for which it was meant.”He said: “I take full responsibility for the money, which is meant for party agents in the three senatorial zones of the state. It had been distributed to the areas concerned according to the party’s approved template. No area was shortchanged. I have taken it upon myself to ensure that APC wins election in Enugu State, and one of the ways is to ensure that the money was distributed accordingly.”
Asked how Enugu north and East got settled, while leaving out Enugu West, he stated: “We had issues with Enugu West. So, we formed a committee made up of the Minister, the Senatorial candidate, the House of Representatives candidate and others. In the end, the matter was settled and everybody was happy. So, I don’t know where this report is coming from.”Nnamani said he believed in APC’s victory in the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly elections. He emphasised that it was wrong for people to impute wrong motives over a thing that never happened.
He said: “We should face the elections and not accuse someone falsely, just because you want to get mentioned in the press. I am one of those who believe in APC’s victory and cannot work against it. The party in its wisdom invited me to undertake this assignment, and there is no amount of noise making that will make me deviate from the guidelines. Let them mention figures of what was diverted. It is a question of blackmail.
“I know how much people talk about me, especially at the Senate. I was in public office and I have never been invited by the EFCC for anything. I have not gone into private business with anybody. The party gave money and template on how the money should be distributed. I am not afraid of their noise because I live near the market square in my village in Amaechi, and every day, people make all sorts of noise there. Let whoever is making noise come up with facts and figures, and tell us where the money has been diverted. We have not even gone for election, and any person expecting to be given money for a job not done is wasting his time. It is my duty to account for the money, and I will do so when the time comes.”
There were, however, indications that the crisis over the authentic leadership between Dr. Ben Nwoye and Deacon Okey Ogbodo, which has factionalised the state chapter, may have taken a toll on the disbursement of the election money.Nnamani is not a supporter of Nwoye. He was said to have been instrumental to bringing Ogbodo (his fellow Amaechi kinsman) to the party last year to vie for the office of the state chairman during the congress that ended in fiasco.
Although the national party leadership had reordered the state congress, which was eventually won by Nwoye, the division has refused to heal, as Ogbodo continues to lay claims to leadership.The matter is presently in court. Last month, the Federal High Court in Enugu ruled on the case filed by Ogbodo in which it faulted Nwoye’s election as falling below the party’s guidelines. It, however, refused to withdraw his certificate of return as party chairman in the state as issued by the national leadership. This prompted an appeal by Ogbodo.
Nnamani, who has since inclined towards the Ogbodo faction, was reportedly said to have, in liaison with the Minister of Foreign Affairs (also sympathetic to Ogbodo group) shared the money into two parts. He was alleged to have given one part to the Ogbodo group and the other to Nwoye, a development that angered mainstream APC.Justifying Nnamani’s action, however, a member of Ogbodo group, James Igwe stated: “What is there to talk about who among Nwoye and Ogbodo is the rightful party leader? You were all here when the Federal High Court, Abuja nullified the governorship primary conducted by Nwoye group in which Senator Ayogu Eze emerged winner.
The court in its wisdom said Ayogu Eze was not the rightful party candidate, and that George Ogara, who was produced in the primary conducted by Ogbodo group is the rightful candidate. This should tell you that all their claims have no foundation. Senator Nnamani was even benevolent to have considered them in the sharing because by implication, what that judgment is saying is that whatever they are doing there is illegal.”He went further to cite the nullification of the Senatorial primary that produced Lawrence Ezeh as the candidate for Enugu east in favour of Mrs. Adaku Ogbu-Aguocha (also of Ogbodo faction).
“If the court has continued to upturn what they did, why should anybody cry wolf, when something is being denied them,” he queried.But Sunday Onuoha, a party member and supporter of Nwoye from Oji River, warned Nnamani to desist from “divisive tendencies and actions that could undermine efforts of the party to win elections in the state.”
He stated: “If anybody is talking about the Federal High Court judgment on the governorship primary, the former Senate president should know that it has nothing to do with the party. This is because, aside the stay, which had been secured and the appeal, the party has recognised Ayogu Eze as its governorship candidate in the state. And the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not replaced his name.
He said: “Nnamani should also know that Ben Nwoye is the authentic chairman of the party. If Nnamani has not come with an agenda to help his former party, PDP win the elections, he should have aligned with mainstream APC, which would have automatically quashed the opposition within the party and strengthen the resolve to deepen APC in Enugu State.
“All the same, we are going into elections, and have resolved to leave the matter behind us and work for the party’s success, after which we shall know how we will move in Enugu State APC.”