It’s uphill battle to market APC in Southeast, says Nwoye
Why we lost Anambra governorship election
Dr Ben Nwoye is the immediate past Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State. Nwoye, who led Enugu APC for over seven years in this interview with LAWRENCE NJOKU, spoke on why the party did not win the Anambra governorship election and its chances going into 2023 general elections in the Southeast.
What is responsible for the failure of APC in the just concluded Anambra governorship election?
I am as disappointed as any other APC chieftain. As a party man, I had hoped that we would win the Anambra State governorship election and that hope would translate to Enugu come 2023 because of the direct link between Enugu and Anambra. I prayed for Senator Andy Uba to win that election. Unfortunately, we did not. I heard there were electoral malpractices that led to our losing the election. In an election, there is no second position. It is a win or loss. I, however, commend Andy Uba for picking up a party that is not popular and doing his best.
Talking about failure, I can tell you that APC is not popular in the Southeast and that is the truth. It is an uphill battle to make people accept APC in the region. The image of APC in the Southeast is a dark image, since 2015 when we started running national elections under APC, it has been an uphill battle for the party. So, anyone who took up the chance of flying the flag at any level, I commend the person. Look at the spate of agitation by separatists; the economic challenge; the cry that the southeast has been marginalised by the ruling party; an allegation that Nnamdi Kanu is unlawfully being detained by the ruling party – APC; and someone that has the guts to fly the flag of APC, should be commended. He made the contest interesting and vibrant. He gave us lots of hope but he didn’t win.
There are, however, other causes why the party failed in the election. When APC came up with the idea that Oshiomhole was not leading the party well and the leadership dissolved the National Working Committee (NWC) led by him (Oshiomhole) and appointed a National Caretaker with a mandate to conduct a national convention, they went down again and dissolved the entire party structure and in most cases converted the same people they dissolved as Caretaker, it was a big mistake. This is because, at the grassroots, confidence was eroded, you dissolved people who were elected without tangible reasons and you are running elections within the same period. We lost Edo election; it was on the heels of that dissolution. In some cases, ward chairmen and ward executives were replaced and once you dissolve, anything goes, so the party to that extent was weakened to its basic roots because of that singular decision.
Then you come down to the Southeast, which is the only zone where they appointed one person to be a member of the National Caretaker and Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee. Nobody protested it, South-south has three representatives and this shows the extent of marginalisation of the Southeast. There are six geo-political zones but we are the only one that has one person. To make the matter worse, the person they picked from the southeast has no experience running a party. We have people with experience running parties in the Southeast.
My brother and leader, Senator Ken Nnamani was a Senate President during the Obasanjo administration. That is his only experience politically as far back as then, nothing more. He is a brand new entrant into APC, he is not grounded and has no idea of the working mechanism of party management. You are running the Anambra election, they introduced ward congresses and they forgot that the Southeast has some level of homogeneity. They placed a man who lacked party administrative capacity and the problem started. In his own state, he got himself engulfed in a problem and the Anambra election suffered. No meetings were held in the Southeast before the election.
When Tony Nwoye ran in 2017, several meetings were held, we had mobilisation of the entire southeast. I also joined in raising funds and everyone saw the result. If not for some in-house fighting in Anambra State, Tony should have won. Most importantly, there was a vibrant campaign – the Vice President was in Anambra for the campaign; the President was in Anambra for the campaign; Oshiomhole was in Anambra for the campaign, but Senator Nnamani lost it. He was fighting everybody, he had newfound fame and lost focus. He was Senate President in early 2000, he did not write books while he was in office or soon after leaving office, but at a time, when he should start mobilising, organising and campaigning for a major election, he was focused on how to launch a book.
The other aspirants who participated in the governorship primary alleged there was no primary; he did nothing to unite them. Rather, he was busy with his book “Standing Strong”. It is misfocus that caused us the election. He wanted to reinvent himself and went about mobilising for his personal growth in the midst of a campaign. He was busy making invitations for his book launch to the North, East and Central. He was not worried about campaigns; he was not worried that the party did not have a campaign flag-off; he was not worried that the party did not have a grand finale on the campaign. He was not worried that one of the aspirants, Chief George Muoghalu, is in court against the party over the election. He was not worried that Senator Chris Ngige was hurt; he was not worried that the Minister, Sharon Ikeazor, was not involved. Things went on their own and what did you expect? When I say these things, it looks like it is an attack. These are facts, it is not an attack, he was running a solo business. He never called a meeting of the southeast executive, which should have comprised the entire chairmen of the zone. At any time he attempted to call a meeting, several members of the party would be locked outside. That is the challenge.
Looking at what you said about the party not being popular in the zone, does that mean there is no hope for APC in the zone in 2023?
I don’t have the ability to forecast even what happens the next minute, but as a lawyer, I deal with facts. Let me take your mind back, in 2011, President Buhari contested under CPC, he scored in Enugu a little over 3,000 votes. His own PDP counterpart, Jonathan scored well over 800,000 votes. Our dear President who helped form APC in 2015, scored a little over 14,000 votes in Enugu State. In 2019, our dear President, through the help of people like us, mobilised and got a little over 50,000 votes, we were able to suppress the votes in the state. Atiku Abubakar is not from the South, but he scored over 300,000 votes at a time that Buhari was scoring a little over 50,000 votes. The image of APC in the entire country is Buhari. In Anambra State, he scored a little over 30,000 votes and that is where Andy Uba scored a little over 40,000 votes in the last election. Andy Uba was a governor and occupies nine senatorial seats, but is now unable to win the election. I am saddened. As chairman of APC in Enugu State, we increased a number of registered members from 14,000 to over 180,000. Going to 2023, we still have time, the story of imposition is the problem because you cannot ride on falsehood.
Take Enugu as a case study, it was Nnamani that facilitated the truncation of internal democracy, where people were holding congresses and they were writing results at the Southeast secretariat. Like what happened in Eke Ward, where a man scored over 600 direct votes and you replaced his name with someone that scored one vote. You have a case of a man who joined the party in August when we stopped registration about the end of February, and today, Senator Nnamani is parading the man as chairman of the party in Enugu State. Do you think that the popularity of APC will increase with such fraud? So we have to change the way we do business, the party is popular in the North, it is popular in the West but not popular in South-south and Southeast but we cannot get the popularity by ignoring people who know the DNA of this party because of selfish reasons.
Who should take up this campaign when virtually all members have one thing against one another?
APC is a national party. I want to restrain my conversation to Southeast. Many of the states had good successors. Congresses were well run and where there were complaints, they were addressed. The problem we have in the Southeast is putting one without experience and making him a sole administrator and he converted that responsibility for personal growth. What I am saying is that this man did not unite the party. Why would we wish Rochas Okorocha away in Imo? He was the only governor of APC extraction in the Southeast. He spent his time, money and intellectual capacity to help spread the message. He was in Enugu when nobody could enter Enugu. He sponsored the broom revolution in the Southeast. He was everywhere in the zone to spread the message of APC as governor, so if you are doing congress and he has issues, and we have a representative who is like the Southeast leader of the party, it is his responsibility to wade in; you cannot ignore Ararume, you cannot ignore Uche Nwosu, it will not work. No single person can run a party no matter how mighty and big, you can’t go to Ebonyi and you ignore a serving Minister, Ogbonnaya Onu; Onu is still one of the three leaders that formed APC. If he has issues in Ebonyi State and you ignore him, do you think you will succeed? You can’t go to Abia and you ignore Orji Uzor Kalu. You can’t go to Anambra and you ignore Chris Ngige, George Moghalu, and Sharon Ikeazor, among others. You celebrate defection when you have not won one and discard people who are founders and funders of the party. Here in Enugu, you can’t undermine me. You cannot undermine Emperor Baywood Ibe, Okey Ezea, Osita Okechukwu, among many others.
Let Senator Ken Nnamani resign, he has failed to unite the party. In fact, he has introduced more division in the party than we had and he needs to apologise because he was not ready for the big stage. He got up there and thought it was time to relaunch himself and that was why after many years, he wrote a book “Standing Strong”, where he devoted a particular chapter, damaging the image of an APC candidate in Anambra State and he did not see anything wrong in that. That is why in his own state, Enugu, instead of going to the state secretariat where the state congress was holding, he went to a drinking arena, where one person anointed himself after thugs chased every other person away.
Is that how we will develop APC in the Southeast? So the only way we can repair the party is for Ken Nnamani to go, I have no hatred for him. Again, assuming without admitting that my friend Ugochukwu Agballah was truly elected in a state congress, then APC has a major problem explaining to Enugu people, why everything coming to the state is made for Udi local government. The Minister is from Udi; the immediate past Vice-Chairman, Emma Enukwu is from Udi; the current serving DG VON is from Udi; the Special Adviser to the President is from Udi, including many of the board chairmen and members; yet Udi produced one of the least registered members in Enugu State. How do you explain it to other members of the party in other local government areas? This thing was zoned to the West and Micro-zoned to Greater Awgu. I am happy that true members of the party gathered at the secretariat and elected 37 members of the state executive and Comrade A.C Ude, a former Deputy Chairman of the party emerged as the State Chairman of the party. So Nnamani must go and after the convention, the unbiased people will come in and listen to the petition. Nobody has listened to the petitions. At every congress, they brought a congress appeal committee, but they have never held a hearing, instead, they will go and have a buffer at the hall. I personally took over 260 petitions to the chairman of the committee in Abuja but they didn’t call one person to any hearing.
Ken has failed to deliver Anambra, he failed to unite the party and has totally factionalised the membership.
For the first time as APC, we didn’t launch a campaign in Anambra State; there was no kickoff, there was no grand finale. APGA launched their campaign, did their campaign finale; PDP launched their campaign, PDP did their campaign finale, so also other political parties but the ruling party did not launch their campaign. It is his job to ensure that Buhari, Mai Bunu and other leaders of the party come to Anambra for the campaign and they are talking about insecurity. Which insecurity?
The state congress you had in Enugu produced two persons who are claiming chairmanship of the party. A. C. Ude and Ugo Agballah, what is going on, Is it part of the recurring drama in APC?
A. C. Ude remains authentic state chairman of the party elected with over 800 votes at the congress held at the state secretariat of APC, he was Deputy state chairman of the party and worked hard to earn the support and love of party members. He is a registered member of our great party.
Ugo Agballah is a good guy, but he didn’t register. Anybody can go and print paper anywhere and write his name. I am the chief custodian of records of the party. I went from the local government and ward to collate registered materials, I did the collation. We have the record, call him and ask for his registration number. The paper he is flying around is an old registration paper not that of 2011, he went to the screening with a registration paper that is not the current registration paper, he is being used for a reason. He couldn’t have joined APC in August when we concluded registration in February and three months after beginning a claim to be chairman of the party. The party is well organised but we have some guerillas running amok in the china shop and they have to be restrained.
When he got on board, in 2018, they recruited a man who was the president-general of a community, a former commissioner in the state, who was never registered with the party to answer as chairman. They deleted the name of a person to put his name in our register but did not know we had a copy of the register, we saw the fraud. Today, he has gone into oblivion, it is the same scenario they are trying to replay with Agballah.