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Registration, revalidation exercise reunites Enugu APC leaders

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Ben Nwoye

There are strong indications that the registration and revalidation exercise of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have restored peace in the Enugu State chapter of the party. At a stakeholders’ meeting to kick-start the exercise on Monday, leaders and stakeholders took turns to proffer way forward. The meeting was held at the secretariat at Government Reserved Area (GRA), Enugu, and presided over by the state Caretaker Committee Chairman, Dr. Ben Nwoye, with leaders and members of both factions in attendance.

Since 2018, peace had eluded the state chapter of the APC. This followed a state congress that held earlier that year that produced Nwoye and Mr. Okay Ogbodo on opposing sides. Ogbodo, who was never a registered member of the party, was allegedly brought in by the group led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, which imposed him after some hired thugs disrupted the congress midway at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium.

While the delegates scampered to safety, the armed thugs had regrouped at the venue to announce Ogbodo the new ‘chairman’ of the party. The next day, delegates returned to the venue and elected Nwoye as chairman. The development almost wreaked the party. While the Ogbodo’s faction received support from certain members, led by Onyeama, the Nwoye group drew its support from majority of the members including the party’s national leadership.

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A fight to finish had ensued. The two camps would not shift ground. Suspension and counter-suspension held sway, with each continuing to claim authenticity. While the crisis lasted, the two factions continued to present parallel candidates during elections and other activities in the state. They also continued to oppose each other’s views, programmes and policies.

The issue of the disaffection in the chapter got to its head during the 2019 general elections, when the two factions presented candidates for the National Assembly and governorship polls. Senator Ayogu Eze, who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a few months to the election, had emerged the candidate of the mainstream faction, led by Nwoye. Tagbo Ogara, on the other hand, also emerged as candidate from the faction led by Ogbodo.

At the same time, other candidates had emerged for the National and state Assembly positions. It soon became a ding-dong affair to the point that two governorship campaign offices were opened.

The two camps rushed to courts and the battle over the rightful candidates that should contest in the election started. There were orders and counter-orders. A few days to the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released list of successful governorship candidates with no candidate for Enugu APC.

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Later on, Sen. Eze was pronounced as the party’s authentic governorship candidate. By then, only two days were left for the governorship election, with the APC failing woefully to impress. The abysmal performance in the election notwithstanding, the factions continued on their warpath. Several reconciliation meetings that were held came up with resolutions that were not upheld, especially by the leaders of both camps.

There was a later directive from the National Caretaker Committee for aggrieved members in court to withdraw all cases and seek resolutions using internal mechanism of the party or face sanctions.

Ogbodo

Ogbodo and four others including Chike Omeje, Rufus Nwagu, Ndubuisi Ani and Chinedu Okosisi had a case in court against the party’s national leadership, which was about the recognition being accorded Nwoye. They discontinued with the court case.

The party had, in December last year, set up a disciplinary committee, chaired by Chief Anike Nwoga, to recommend appropriate sanctions against them. The committee had recommended their expulsion from the party, and that they should not be registered anywhere during the ongoing registration and revalidation exercise. This was upheld.

On Monday, both camps came together again in the registration/revalidation exercise being conducted by the Senator Jonathan Zwingina-led committee, vowing that they had embraced peace and would do all in their ability to move the party forward.

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At the meeting were former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Onyeama, federal Commissioner, Ginika Tor, former governor, Sullivan Chime, former governorship candidates, Okey Eze and Ayogu Eze, former Vice Chairman (Southeast), Apostle Emma Enukwu, Tagbo Ogara, and many others.

Nwoye, who was elated at the turnout, told committee members that the event was the first in many years with party leaders gathering under one roof.

“I want to thank all who made it possible. I am appealing that we approach the registration with open mind and make it a success,” he appealed.

Onyeama regretted the internal squabbles that bogged the party in the past, and expressed optimism that by the coming together of all members and key stakeholders, “anything that is broken can be fixed together. It is necessary that we take the mantle of leadership here in Enugu State and Southeast in 2023.

“We have the resources and people to transform Enugu State, so that we become the party that truly put Enugu State in the hands of God. We want to deliver development; suffering is too much and we can’t continue like this.”

Former Senate President, Nnamani, who is the Southeast representative in APC National Caretaker Committee, said the essence of the registration was to dismiss insinuations in some quarters that APC is a northern party.

“The journey to 2023 has begun. We want to establish strong membership base in all corners of Nigeria. We have to go back and convince our people on the need not to join another party. We have stayed too long in PDP and we are not stakeholders.”

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Former governor Chime said the meeting was the first time stakeholders were coming together in recent time to speak with one voice, and thanked the initiators of the registration exercise, saying it would remove the idea of founding members and create a level-playing ground for every party member.

Sen. Eze said it was an occasion to celebrate the party’s great strides, stressing that “by this feat, we will take the next step to ensure that the good foundation laid today will endure.”

Okey Ezea said he was the happiest person, noting; “APC is a house I participated in building but when it was almost collapsing, you could imagine how I felt.”

He called on the party leadership to institute a reward system for those who had toiled for the party, stressing that such was the tonic that could keep its members together as well as win elections in future.

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