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Enugu APC: Returning to path of perfidy towards 2021 state congress

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It was the recently concluded party’s Revalidation/Registration exercise that restored unity in the Enugu State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). All along, the party had wobbled in crisis of factionalization. Unfortunately, it was the state congress that held in 2018 that threw up the factions.
While Dr. Ben Nwoye, who is the current Caretaker Committee Chairman in the state led the nucleus of the party, those aggrieved with his leadership style pitched tent with Chief Okey Ogbodo.

The crisis started when aggrieved members, majority of who were serving sanctions over certain infractions committed against the party invaded the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, venue of the state congress with heavily armed thugs and chased away delegates and in return announced Ogbodo (who was not registered with the party) as their new “chairman”.

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The main plank of party members however, returned to the stadium the next day to continue the exercise and re-elected Nwoye as chairman with other state executives. That was the development that infused crisis as the two camps worked at cross-purposes.

While the Nwoye group, which enjoyed the support of the national leadership operated from the state secretariat of the party, the aggrieved group, which enjoyed the support of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, operated from the residence of Ogbodo. Ogbodo group initiated suits in courts on the outcome of the congress and the rightful claimant to the leadership of the party.

They carried their love lost into the 2019 general elections and filled parallel candidates. They opened parallel campaign offices and ran parallel campaigns. At the end of the exercise, the party lost woefully. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) retained all elective seats in the state.

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Jonathan Zwingina committee to the rescue
WHILE the crisis festered, the party at the national level dissolved its state chapters and appointed Caretaker Committees to run its affairs pending the conduct of another congress. Nwoye, whose tenure was still running before the dissolution profited from the exercise. He was sworn in as chairman of Caretaker Committee for the state. There was also a directive for those who filed cases against the party in court to discontinue and withdraw same to pave way for their resolutions using the internal mechanism of the party.

Ogbodo and few members of his group who had taken the party to court did not oblige the order. This led to their expulsion. The Nwoye committee had attempted a healing process by setting up the Contact and Mobilization committee.

This was amplified by the arrival of Senator Jonathan Zwingina-led Registration/Revalidation Committee for the state, which insisted on dealing with members through the state Caretaker Committee. As part of their assignment, they had summoned a meeting of members at the party’s Secretariat, where they extracted firm commitment of all that the “war” was over and that they would work together to ensure a brighter future for the party in the state beginning with the registration/revalidation exercise.

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The move indeed, paid off with the outcome of the exercise. Zwingina, who addressed party stakeholders at the Secretariat on the conclusion of his assignment, announced that 180,291 new members were registered in Enugu State, attributing the feat to hard work and return of unity in the state chapter.

He said the figure was three times more than what the state registered in 2017 when the registration exercise was held. APC according to him registered 64,000 new members then. He asked the stakeholders to sustain the peace and reconciliation in the party, enthusing that it had far more benefits on the long run than what was obtainable at the moment.

Peace threatened?
HOWEVER, few weeks after the conclusion of the registration/revalidation exercise, the party seems not to be at ease. Sound beats emanating from Enugu north indicate that all is not well. It would appear that the combatants have perfected plots to return to their familiar path of perfidy. At the nucleus of the fresh discontent is the zoning of offices in the party ahead of its state congress.

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A state Caretaker Committee meeting that reportedly invited former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former senator Ayogu Eze, former Ambassador Fidel Ayogu and former Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh, had held last week with the resolution to continue with rotation of offices in the party.

They had zoned governorship position to Enugu East; chairman of the party to Enugu West and deputy governorship to Enugu North among other officials at the state level. The idea was to reduce friction and deepen the hold of the party in the state.

The development did not sink well with some party stalwarts from Enugu North senatorial zone, which met on Sunday at the residence of Chief George Ogara at Unadu in Igboeze south council of the state and vehemently rejected the decision.

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Odoh, who chaired the meeting, had told reporters that they rejected the zoning as state executive from the district as stakeholders were not carried along in the zoning arrangement of the party.

Odoh stated that the decision to reject the zoning arrangement was because “Nwoye and few others will not stay in their bedrooms and announce zoning arrangements for APC members in the state”

He stated that; “Enugu North district (Nsukka zone) has over 50 per cent of APC faithful in the state,” adding that, “It is unfair and amounts to marginalization to discuss issue of zoning positions without carrying the district along.”

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He added: “So stakeholders after deliberation on the issue unanimously rejected the zoning arrangements that allocated governorship position to Enugu East district, state party chairman to Enugu West district and retain Secretary position to Enugu North district among others. 
 
“This meeting has directed our members in the district to ignore the so-called zoning arrangement and contest any position of their choice. If Nwoye-led state executive likes, it should fix meetings where executive and stakeholders in the state will discuss issue of party positions and zoning arrangements as it was done in the past. This is the position of stakeholders in Enugu North senatorial district, which comprises party chieftains, state, local governments and ward executives, “Odo added. 
 
He said that Enugu north district would not settle for anything less than the chairman of APC in Enugu State and one national executive position in any zoning arrangement. He added that the meeting approved the “election” of Dr. Simon Ideka, a former Commissioner of Health in the state who is from Aku in Igboetiti local government as the new Zonal Chairman of the party in Enugu North district. He said Ideka would replace Mr. Emecheta Okwu.

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His speech was amplified by the former Nigeria Ambassador to Uganda, Chief Fidel Ayogu, who insisted that the APC had continued to marginalize Enugu north senatorial district, despite its over 102 electoral wards of the state’s 260 wards
 
“You can now understand why we rejected the zoning order and demanding that the matter be revisited because we have the number to win congress and primary elections anytime any day, “ he said 
 
Ogara, who hosted the meeting and in fact, the factional governorship aspirant produced by the Okay Ogbodo group in the 2019 general elections, stated that the move was trite as it would prepare the party to win elective positions in the 2023 elections in the state.
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Logic twisted to create disaffection?
The zonal leadership of the party in Enugu North senatorial zone is however saying that the claim by the “so-called stakeholders” is twisted by hate to create disaffection in the party and return it to crisis, following the ambition of Fidel Ayogu to become chairman of the party.

Ayogu, who joined the party shortly after he was dropped as commissioner, under Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was said to have started mobilizing for the position until he was told that the position would move to Enugu West. Feeling shortchanged, he was said to have railroaded the support of Odo and Ogara in the project to insist that the position should go to Enugu North.
 
Enugu North’s Zonal Publicity Secretary of the party, Ifedioranma Okeme, while distancing the zone from the resolutions of the purported meeting held at Ogara’s house, stated that it was targeted at inciting the Enugu North Zone against the Caretaker Committee leadership in the state, as there was never a time such decision was taken.

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He clarified that the State Caretaker Executive Committee meeting had earlier resolved that every zone should retain her current position on the state working committee, except for the chairmanship position that was zoned to Enugu West and the deputy, to Enugu East.
 
“It is pertinent to note that right from 2014 till date, that Enugu West with her five local governments, has seven working committee members, while, Enugu North and East with six local governments areas have five working committee members, hence, two working committee slots were taken away from them and given to Enugu North and East 1-1 respectively, “he said.
 
Okeme, while urging the public to discountenance the foul cry, regretted that “an illustrious son of the Enugu North in person of Eugene Odo and some other leaders of the zone who do not attend leaders’ meetings or State Executive Committee meetings, which some of them are statutory members will come out publicly to marshal out blames on leadership failures even when they don’t have facts as it were.
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“Consequently, the leadership of Enugu North Senatorial District APC hereby, totally dissociates herself from the outcomes of the purported meeting held at Mr. George Ogara’s residence at Unadu as the meeting was not properly convened by the zonal leadership, and as such should be totally disregarded.
 
“That the APC Enugu North Senatorial zonal meeting held at Ihe hall/tipper park, Ugwuoye Nsukka had before now published a report of the resolution of the meeting, wherein members/leaders of the zone were respectively warned that the zonal leadership shall not condone any form of insubordination to the authority of the zonal leadership, pointing out that members who polarize the party by creating parallel officers and structures shall be faced with the consequences for doing so as contained in the party constitution” 
 
Nwoye reacts
State Chairman of the party, Dr. Ben Nwoye, told The Guardian that sentiments being expressed over the zoning arrangement of the party by stakeholders were unfair and being directed to “fool those who don’t have the right information about APC.”
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Nwoye also stated that the meeting lacked the locus to “ask members in Enugu North to ignore the decision on zoning,” adding that it was not in their place to swear in the Enugu North’s Zonal Chairman.

He said: “We have worked so hard to unite the party and on that prism, I am pleading with those who hatched the plan to retreat. We have all paid for factionalization of the party and we don’t need any more factions. What happened at that meeting never existed? It is a hoarse. It is like wanting to classify someone a fake king. It is a huge joke.  See what transpired at that meeting as mere entertainment.
 
“I am shocked that my good friend and brother, Eugene Odo will be part of this nonsense. Odo was House leader and number one lawmaker in Enugu State at a time. He knows that laws are made by appropriate bodies authorized to make laws.  When the laws are made and you don’t like it, you follow due process to challenge it. Odoh is aware we have a Caretaker Committee and they are aware that a body empowered by the constitution of the party held a meeting in Enugu with fully represented members of the party unanimously taking resolutions.
 
“Someone from Enugu West during that meeting moved a motion on the zoning formula and someone from Enugu North senatorial district seconded the motion. The motion was that the chairman be zoned to the West and deputy chairman to Enugu east; that governorship be zoned to Enugu East and deputy to Enugu north senatorial district. That motion having been moved and properly seconded was also carried unanimously without a single objection.

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“It is not Ben Nwoye. If they, Odo and Fidel don’t like me being chairman, they will soon have their choice on who becomes chairman because I will not run for the office again. But for Eugene Odo to stand and make a statement that people should disregard pronouncement of a legally constituted authority, which was done to preserve peace, equity and fair play is outrageous. I am outraged because Odo knows how to challenge illegality.”
 
Nwoye, who added that zoning was a routine practice to stabilize the system, stressed however, that “nobody says anybody from north or east cannot run to be chairman,” but added that it is for the conscience of the public to know where the pendulum was swinging.
 
On the allegation that Enugu North APC was being marginalized in the state, he stated that it was propaganda being taken too far by those who have refused to understand the workings of the party.
 
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“Since 2015, Enugu North indigene has flown the flag of the APC in governorship elections. The first Ambassador that sprang up from APC in Enugu State is Enugu north indigene. The only person ever appointed as Pro-Chancellor of any University is from Enugu North. They have two DG’s from Enugu North. They have at least one person who is a member of the Option A board. An Enugu north person is a director in the APC national secretariat, ”he said
 
He also faulted the mathematical calculation of Enugu north comprising over 50percent membership of the party and possessing 102 of the state’s 260 electoral wards, stressing that 102 does not amount to 50% and that by the just concluded registration exercise, Awgu local government in Enugu West remains the highest with membership strength of 23,000.

MEANWHILE, Enugu West senatorial zone, where the chairmanship position is zoned has said the arrangement has reduced rancor that would have been associated with the Congress.

At their meeting held in Oji River local government at the weekend, they insisted that nothing should be done to alter the arrangement, even as they hailed the state Caretaker Committee for zoning the chairmanship position to Enugu West.

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