Enugu APC: Still dealing with leadership tussle amid contention for Tinubu’s campaign fund
Nigerian were surprised recently, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Enugu State, Chief Uche Nnaji, declared that the state chapter would not need the campaign fund from the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Nnaji boasted that the state chapter of the party would raise resources to prosecute the electioneering, regretting that “the current contention in Enugu APC is all about Tinubu’s campaign money.”
Speaking during an emergence stakeholders meeting at the Southeast Zonal Office of the party last Sunday, Nnaji, who was part of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) that joined APC, urged that the campaign funds from Tinubu should be withheld until after the election.
He said the suggestion became imperative to ensure that the campaign fund does not become a source of dislocation for APC in the state, adding, “by the special grace of God, we will use Enugu APC resources to fund the election in 2023 and after the election, the party will refund us. It is Tinubu’s money that is causing the crisis in Enugu APC.”
Nnaji regretted that all through the time he and the state chairman, Ugochukwu Agballah, alongside other party faithful were touring the 184 wards in the 204 communities among the 17 council areas of the state, none of the Abuja-based stakeholders cared to participate.
The governorship contender was alluding to the call by some eminent APC stakeholders from the state for the removal of Agballah as the state chairman of the party. Nnaji claimed that it was Agballah that revived APC in Enugu State from its comatose state, even as he urged the stakeholders to come home and help grow the party.
Recall that on August 30, notable chieftains of the party from Enugu State, including the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, former President of Senate, Dr. Ken Nnamani, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (DG, VON) Mr. Osita Okechukwu, former Senatorial aspirant, Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu among others, visited the APC national secretariat.
The stakeholders, who were received by the APC national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC), pleaded with the national leaders of the APC to remove Agballah as the Enugu State chairman. They accused the state chairman of “appropriating the party in the state as a personal possession alongside other executives.”
Although the APC governorship standard bearer, Nnaji, dismissed the stakeholders’ visit to the national secretariat of the party as ill-conceived, investigation by The Guardian revealed that the division in Enugu APC predated the build up to the 2023 poll.
There had been mutual antagonism between old members and new entrants to the party, particularly as older members of the party were riled by Agballah’s emergence as state chairman through the option A4 open ballot system at the state congress four months ago.
Arising from the division, most stakeholders distanced themselves from the running of the party, just as they claimed that Agballah was listening to his voice and that of few persons outside of the state.
Nnaji alluded to the division when he stated that those “leaders who want Agballah removed were not even paying for their ward offices across communities. Now, we have come to make the system work again and they want to remove us. Our executives are doing well and deserve every support they need. No other party can embark on the kind of tour we have embarked upon.”
But, dismissing the allusion to campaign management and funding as the basis of the disagreement, Mr. Gabriel Onoh, the elder son of former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Christian Onoh, blamed the crisis on the activities of desperadoes and political hirelings.
But, chronicling the genesis of the crisis in the party, Mr. Onoh, disclosed that what most of the combatants would not tell anybody was how the power tussle for the APC structure started, adding that no sooner had former Governor Sullivan Chime joined the party than the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama ambushed him.
“Here is the background: Governor Sullivan Chime departs PDP for APC, disillusioned with his successor, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. On arrival, he very quickly runs into a covert opposition led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.”
Onoh explained that on arrival, Chime claimed that the party’s constitution conferred on him the title of party leader as a former governor, pointing out that Onyeama’s counter argument that the clause applies only to former APC governors sparked off the power tussle.
“So, he, Minister Onyeama, said he was the leader, which consequently sets up a battle royale. Keep in mind that the reason the Minister wanted former Governor Chime to leave town, was because Governor Chime had dared to challenge his leadership.
“And, the man to do the job will be Ugo Agballah. And the hit-man to accomplish the caper? None other than the Minister’s bagman, a political amateur called Favour or Flavor or something like that.
“On Tuesday, October 12, 2021 by 3:40pm, in desperation that the Minister and his co-conspirators were about to make a mistake with their choice of Ugo Agballah, I called the Minister, but my arguments went nowhere.
“What followed verbatim, was the Minister’s reply to me: “Many people say if we really want to stand a chance of winning elections, Ugochukwu Agballah is the man. Others say he cannot be controlled. I like the idea of a strong Chairman, who has that kind of strong will. I do not know him, so, I have to rely on what I am told by people whose opinion I value.”
Onoh said he wished that the APC national leaders could listen, especially given that the Minister could not place any value on his (Onoh’s) opinion, adding that “a few hours later, I called Chime and told him we should not seat idly by and accept such a travesty.
“His (Chime’s) classic reply was, ‘Odoneke, don’t get yourself worked up. Relax and watch what happens. These people don’t know the person, (Ugo Agballah) they are dealing with.”
Onoh maintained that the protagonists in the crisis are “on my right hand side, Chime, with no backup, and on my left, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Governor Hope Uzodimma, Onyeama, Senator Ken, Nnamani and other ravening business politicians.”
On his own part, the DG of VON, Okechukwu, said the entire hullabaloo revolves around the leadership style of Agballah, recalling that the state chairman exhibited similar quarrelsomeness he displayed while in PDP, APGA and Accord Party.
Okechukwu said: “My position remains that there is no parish church or mosque, where one joins in less than transparent or suspicious manner and becomes a Catechist or Imam on same day and there won’t be rancour,
“This is the case of my brother and hitherto friend, Chief Ugo Agballah, who became APC chairman by default. One warned then that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the congregation to align with such imposition no matter the pontification, more so when we had similar bitter experience with those who rate APC as rehabilitation center.
“This was made worse by the truism that we know full well the dictatorial disposition of our brother, Chief Agballah. He demonstrated quarrelsomeness in PDP, APGA and Accord Parties.
“Today, the big masquerade is caning those who coupled him together. We are not happy to be vindicated, but it is painful when you see the house you spent fortune, sweat and sacrifice to build being pulled down. I’m in tears because our great party, the APC has been fractured down the line in the 260 wards of Enugu State.”
On the call by Nnaji and state APC chairman, Agballah for the withholding of Tinubu’s campaign fund, Okechukwu declared: “Please ask Agballah and cohorts whether they voted for Tinubu in the presidential primary, and secondly, about the allegation that they are covertly working for Atiku.
“Let me ask, in realpolitik, is blocking Tinubu’s campaign fund not a subtle way to tell Asiwaju that they’re not campaigning for him? Where then will they source the huge fund to campaign? This shows in clear terms that they are comfortable with Atiku’s largesse.”
In spite of the various contending issues, one of the stakeholders that approached the APC NWC, Chief Gbazuagu said he does not know whether what is happening within the Enugu State chapter qualifies to be called a misunderstanding. He also denied knowledge of any crisis.
“When leaders of the party, a sizeable party, both in the national, state, local government and ward levels have leadership and that leadership comes together and said this is what they observed and what they think should be done to put things in a proper perspective and functionality, I don’t think that should be seen as crisis.
“Crisis I can say, is when there are contending forces of almost equal magnitude, you say it is crisis. So, there is no crisis. Few individuals can still have their views or have their voices heard,” he stated.
But, on whether the national leadership will address the issue before the next year’s general election, Gbazuagu argued that there was nothing to address, noting, “We are not saying something that hasn’t a precedence. You can only begin to talk about difficulty, if you choose the consequences of not addressing the matter.
“Take your decision if you feel you can do with the consequences that will arise for not addressing the matter, it is at their own discretion on their position to take a position on the matter. I have run a party before, I have been a national secretary. You run a party to win election, you don’t run a party for purposes of leadership or being a National Working Committee at any level.
“Party leadership that is functional wants to ensures that their party win elections at every level of the party. So, if those who are responsible to ensure the victory of the party in a state, take their position that has not been contradicted by anybody, all the issues those leaders raised have not been contradicted by even the person that is supposed to be answerable to you.
“If there is contradiction because if there are issues raised and you are not addressing the issues and you are affected, yet you are going into other areas that are inconsequential to that issue, then it means the issues raised are correct.”
Although Gbazuagu disclosed that the stakeholders did not give ultimatums to the Senator Adamu-led NWC, he reiterated that their demand was that the chairman of APC in the state should be changed for the party to move forward.
“It is not an overnight issue. They will deliberate about it. Look at the people that came, the Minister was there, the former Senate President was there, former governor Sullivan Chime was part of it. And, this is a case where no new person in Enugu State, no leader of late from other parties have entered APC since the man became chairman. In opposition, do you win with what you have, you win in addition to what you will get.
“How did APC win in 2015? They won because other people joined them, if people did not join them will they win? If people did not join APC in 2015, even from PDP will they have won? The answer is capital NO, they wouldn’t have won, it would have been very difficult.
“But in Enugu State today, it is a case where no new member has come in. I give you an example; 21 governorship aspirants ran election in PDP and one was eventually adopted, out of those 21, none of them has entered APC up till today, rather they are going to Labour Party.
“As a man who came from PDP to APC to bring people, in his senatorial zone, where I come from, where the Minister comes from, where Sullivan Chime comes from, we have 14 strong candidates that ran election in PDP, no one ran in APC, because of him. And those 14 candidates in PDP in my senatorial zone, one was chosen, none of the other persons came into APC as of today, so have we gained in anyway?”
He dismissed insinuations by Onoh that the trouble started as a result of power tussle between former governor Chime and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Onyeama. “It has nothing to do with former governor Chime, that one is local government issue. If you listened to the Minister’s comment, he never mentioned it, he said he regretted, that he did not listen to those who advised him about the man and that the man in question has decapitated everyone including himself, he used that word, it is on camera.
“He said he (the chairman) has decapitated all the leaders including himself, he (Onyeama) was the only person who stood for him, only person, the serving Minister who stood for him said he has decapitated all the leaders including himself,” Gbazuagu stated.
In their responses, Agballah and the APC governorship candidate, Chief Nnaji, described those asking for Agballah’s ouster as ‘food is ready politicians’, stressing that the agitators are targeting campaign funds and not interested in the growth of the party.