Thursday, 28th September 2023

Finger pointing as Southeast APC fights for Tinubu’s ‘slice of bread’

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
11 April 2023   |   4:13 am
Things appear to be falling apart in the Southeast geo-political wing of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In fact, the centre can no longer hold in Abia and Enugu states chapters of the party.

[FILES] Bola Ahmed Tinubu<br />PHOTO: Twitter

• Aftermath of ‘Obidient Tsunami’

Things appear to be falling apart in the Southeast geo-political wing of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In fact, the centre can no longer hold in Abia and Enugu states chapters of the party. The membership registers in those two states are undergoing disputed reviews through the ‘inquisition’ going on to isolate black legs. Nonetheless, the hunted allege cover up by some leaders, who they say, are guilty of purloining funds meant to prosecute the recent general elections in their domains.
As things stand, the sun of good behaviour has failed to shine on APC in Southeast, even as the rain of accusations of larceny, betrayal, sabotage have always beaten its leaders. But for creepy political intrigues and subterfuge, the party had remained a suspicious player in the politics of the region.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the dominant political platform in Southeast geo-political zone until 2003, when the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) began to question the party’s clout.

Not long after APGA took over two out of the five Southeast States-Anambra and Imo, the immediate past Eastern Heartland governor, Rochas Okorocha, joined the amalgamation forces that birthed APC.

From its lone state status in the region, APC received a PDP political big fish in the person of Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi. Umahi’s entry crowned the party’s efforts to entrench its presence in the region.
During his campaign stop at Awka, Anambra State, the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, noted the giant efforts the party was making in Southeast. He urged the leaders to exert more efforts so that he would grant them a slice of break soaked in water.
Perhaps, buoyed by such encouragement, the party expected that the 2023 general elections would crown its efforts and desire to supplant PDP as the dominant political platform in the region. But that aspiration hit a brick wall following the emergence of the ‘Obidient’ Movement, which went into the contest, rallying round Mr. Peter Obi, same man that snatched Anambra State from PDP.
With high hopes that the clamour for power shift to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight years in office would brighten the party’s chances of triumphing at the general elections, APC chieftains from Southeast underrated the ‘Obidients’ and the Presidential standard bearer of Labour Party (LP), Mr. Obi, whom they support and propel.
Outside the little known LP, APC and PDP saw themselves as the Lions in the jungle of Nigeria’s politics. As such with former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, in on corner for PDP and Tinubu for APC on the other, the expectation was that the 2023 electoral pugilism would be a straight fight between the north (PDP) and South (APC).

As exciting as the setting seemed to APC leaders in Southeast, the wild card entry of LP and the ‘Obidients’ turned out more than a fleeting irritation. Not long after the polls closed on February 25, it dawned on Southeast leaders that they got more than they bargained for from the dark horse.
Across the five states, the ‘Obidient Tsunami’ left pain and anguish in its wake: the surprising defeat of entrenched political heavyweights turned out as a humbling experience. That outcome set the stage for a more competitive clash two weeks later, when the governorship and State Assembly polls held on March 18.
As APC put all in its financial arsenal and political muscle to retain the two states in its corner-Ebonyi and Imo-its efforts to capture Abia and Enugu fell flat, such that barely one week after the results of the gubernatorial and state legislative contest were announced, finger pointing took over: What really happened with the structure, finance and big names?
The outcome of the discreet enquiries broke out in the two prospective states Abia and Enugu with a bang. Accusations and counter-accusations of sabotage and filching fill the air.
While Abia State released the list of APC stakeholders to be punished for working against its interest in the elections, Enugu State followed up with suspension and expulsion of powerful names in the party.
As part of its grand strategic plan of providing leadership in Southeast states that are not under APC control, the two governors of Ebonyi and Imo, Umahi and Senator Hope Uzodimma, respectively, were charged with their oversight.

Gov. Umahi

Although Umahi was expected to look in on the goings on in Abia APC, the gubernatorial candidate of the party in the state, Ikechi Emenike, was, for reasons bordering on his purported close relationship to President Buhari, allowed to serve as domestic controller.
In Enugu, Uzodimma had to contend with the likes of former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama and Secretary of APC Reconciliation Committee, Sullivan Chime, as he tried to administer the party in Enugu.

Long ago, during a conversation with late Chuba Okadigbo over the lack of quality political leadership in Southeast, Uzodimma had told the former Senate President that: “if the desirable is not available, the available will be desirable.”
It was perhaps against that mind frame that the Imo State governor supported a former governorship candidate of Accord Party (AP), Chief Ugochukwu Agballah, to become state chairman despite the unrelenting opposition of APC stakeholders in the state.
The cat and mouse relationship between Agballah and the stakeholders played out during the recent elections as Agballah was left alone to shoulder the burden of marketing the party and its candidates.

Enugu: Agballah’s wahala
FALLING back on the inelegant poll numbers scored by APC during the general elections, the Enugu State Executive Committee of the party, led by Agballah, descended on those opposing his leadership.
Addressing journalists in Enugu last Thursday, APC’s state Secretary, Robert Ngwu, announced the suspension of Onyeama and Nnamani from the party on the grounds of alleged anti-party activities.
Further, Ngwu announced the expulsion of former Governor Chime, the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (DG, VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu; a former speaker of the Enugu House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh; Joe Mmamel, Maduka Arum and Flavor Eze, media director of the Independence Campaign Council.
It would be recalled that two months ago, the party set up a five-man disciplinary committee to investigate allegations of anti-party activity levelled against Nnamani, Mmamel and Arum. The state executive committee had noted that the former President of Senate, Nnamani, had been engaging in anti-party activities by hobnobbing with the rival PDP.
While stressing that the culprits engaged in anti-party activities by campaigning for candidates of PDP during the election,  Ngwu declared: “Anti-party activities go against the goals and principles of a political party. When anti-party activities occur, it could undermine the ability of a party to fulfil its role and harm the functioning of the democratic system.”

But dismissing the action as the political equivalence of banditry, the DG VON, Okechukwu lambasted the Agballah-led SEC. He stated: “The story of my kinsman, Ugo Agballah, is the story of a failed chairman quarrelling with himself.
“He (Agballah) came from PDP like a political bandit and hijacked our great party with the assistance of Senator Hope Uzodinma. To fill his empty pocket, he expelled all the stakeholders and boasted of how he will quadruple the 56,000 we scored in 2019 presidential election. Regrettably he scored abysmally only 4,722.”
Okechukwu lamented that instead of eating the humble pie to apologise for leading APC to shameful defeat, Agballah was busy ferrying his Curriculum Vitae to the president-elect’s residence and APC headquarters in search of political appointment.
“This explains why he is telling childish lies against some of us, the foundation members of APC, like me, who sold his only plot of land in Enugu during my gubernatorial election in 2011. Ironically, Agballah was by then in the comfort zone of PDP, while we were putting up the APC structure,” he added.
Anticipating the move to suspend him, Mmamel had told The Guardian that Agballah was out to destroy APC in Enugu State, stressing that the problem in the party was orchestrated by him as a way to serve the interest of an unnamed political party.
Mmamel spoke to The Guardian against the backdrop of threat to suspend him from APC following his endorsement of Dr. Peter Mbah, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in the state.
Pooh-poohing the threat to activate disciplinary actions against him, Mmamel had said it has become obvious that Agballah was out to damage APC electoral fortunes.
“Any person who is suspending a key-player, few weeks to a national election, tell me, is the person doing it for the best interest of the party or to satisfy his own self purpose. He is being personal.
“The question you should be asking me is, do I believe in Ugochukwu Agballah as the state chairman of APC, the answer is no. He cannot be a judge in his own case; he cannot set up a disciplinary committee against me, because I have not been on the same page with him.

“One question we kept asking Agballah when he announced his intention to contest the chairman was, whether he had joined the party. We do not recognise him. So, why will I go to answer his summons, it is just working into your enemy’s tent. I can’t give him that pleasure, what he is doing is a charade, the party needs me, I don’t need the party,” he stated.
Mmamel, disclosed that virtually all the prominent stakeholders have publicly renounced Agballah’s chairmanship.
He stated: “The immediate past governor, Sullivan Chime, who hails from the same Udi/Agbudu ward is not with him, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, is not with him, even the Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, is not with him.
“These are just APC stalwarts from Agballah’s immediate constituency. So, these shenanigans constitute the bane of the problem in our party, APC. I think that another party’s plan is to have a short-cut to their politics by invading the APC in Enugu State, and thereby, imposing Agballah on them without their knowing. That is the hard fact on it.
“Ugochukwu came as an undertaker, he came to make sure that he buries APC properly, sink the party, bury the party leaders and close them up.”
But, when contacted, the APC chairman, Agballah, said the party decided to weed out all those whose membership are only known in Abuja but without any presence at their wards and state constituencies.
Agballah said he has been challenging these members of APC by day and PDP loyalists in the night to explain why they have not been winning elections, adding, “the 2019 election results are there for all to see. They could not win their polling booths.”
Interestingly, both feuding camps in Enugu APC crisis accuse each other of cavorting with PDP and targeting the presidential campaign funds, even as Mmamel specifically accused Agballah of fielding weak APC candidates to pave way for rival candidates on a rival party.

Abia: Emenike’s highway style
IN a letter titled, “Suspension of APC Members Who Openly Worked for Other Political Parties, APP, PDP, LP and YPP During the Elections in Abia State,” the state secretary, Chidi Avuaja, listed nine names of those involved.
They included Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, Senator Nkechi Nworgu, Paul Ikonne, Sam Onuigbo, Anyim Nyerere, Stanley Ohajuruka, Sam Nkire and Nduka Anyanwu. Similar to Enugu State’s case, Avuaja alleged that the nine party members worked openly for rival candidates during the March 18 gubernatorial and state Assembly polls in the state.
But, one of those suspended and member representing Ikwuano/Umuahi Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Samuel Ifeanyi Onuigbo, challenged Emenike to render proper accounts of campaign funds put under his care instead of chasing shadows.
Onuigbo alleged that Emenike and his cohorts damaged APC’s plans to make a good showing at the polls by side-lining stakeholders and embarking on reckless impunity.
Onuigbo said contrary to claims by Avuajah and Kingsley Ononogbu that he did not participate in APC activities at the Ward, LGA, and State levels, he led campaigns in his Ibere Ward 2.
“Can Avajah, Ononogbu and their cohorts, who never joined me for a day to campaign point me to the Ward activity that I was not part of? At the LGA level, at what point did they invite me and I did not join?
“This attitude of completely cutting me off was further proven during the Presidential campaign of our President-elect, His Excellency Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, where, despite subsisting court orders that I am the APC Senatorial Candidate for Abia Central, they conspired and put another person’s name on the brochure.
“Despite the fact that the campaign held in my constituency, I was deliberately ignored, even with my presence there. Before the end of the event, my campaign team made several attempts to get them to recognise me as the host House of Representatives member present, but were rebuffed each time. Was it at that time that I failed to join party activities at the state level?” Onuigbo demanded.

While regretting that Emenike and his tiny clique adopted evasive manoeuvres after the issue of stock-taking was raised, Onuigbo maintained that the careless suspension of leading party chieftains would not prevent the demand for accountability.
The federal lawmaker said the purported suspension was a vain attempt to pool the wool over the eyes of well meaning party faithful, stressing that the desperate action of Emenike and Avaja did not follow the proper disciplinary channel as laid out in the APC constitution.
He stated: “These are the few persons plunging Abia APC into death and destruction. They started side-lining active members in order to reduce the party as a small kiosk to dispense favours.
“Suspension of members of a party is based on established anti-party activities. You don’t wake up in the morning and start suspending people; gather men like puppets and ask them to sign suspension letters.
“They are running from their shadows. But they must render proper account, because money was given by the national headquarters and common sense demands that he who received it should account for how he disbursed it.
“In spite of all the money sent from the national leadership to Abia State, they were only able to post just d8000 votes for the President- elect. Now, to cover their shame they are suspended those calling for accountability.”