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Suspension gale stokes controversy in Edo APC

By From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City   |   15 February 2017   |   3:35 am

Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State

There is a brewing controversy in the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the recent suspension of not less than 30 members and leaders of the party in parts of Edo South and Edo Central senatorial districts.
  
While 23 of the suspended leaders from Oredo local government were immediately replaced, the party set up a committee headed by the secretary of the party in the state, Chief Osaro Idah, on the seven suspended from Edo Central senatorial district, four of who are state and local government executive members.

Those suspended in Edo Central include: the state Vice Chairman, Chief Francis Okoror; Esan Central local government Chairman, Francis Ubene; the Youth Leader, Anthony Ibhafidon; and Ward Six youth leader, Desmond Egbadon. The three leaders suspended are: Francis Inegbeneki, Kenneth Ihensekhien and Henry Okpame.

  
A statement signed by the state Chairman of the party, Anselm Ojezua explained that the decision to suspend the persons was taken by the State Working Committee (SWC) in accordance with the party’s constitution. He said the SWC adopted the resolutions passed by the various wards in Oredo local government.
  
Arguably, the suspension and change of leadership in Oredo is to dislodge loyalists of the former state youth leader of the party, Osakpamwa Eriyo who is currently being prosecuted over allegations of threatening to kill Idah. It is also meant to curtail his supposed influence in Oredo.
  
However the suspension in Edo Central is a different ball game; already, it is creating ripples. The affected three non-executive members are seen as the pillars of the party in that zone and observers maintained that should they be allowed to go in a district where the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has prominent personalities like Chief Tony Anenih and former Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen among others, it might spell doom for APC.

It is alleged that the state chairman of the APC perceives Inegbeneki, Ihensiekhen and Okpamen as a threat to his being the leader of the party in the district.

Before Ojezua’s emergence as chairman, Inegbeneki has been the rallying point politically in Edo Central with following among the old and young. He has been looked up to as a likely successor to Tony Anenih given his commanding influence across the five local governments that make the senatorial district.
 
Together with Ihensekhien, a former commissioner under Lucky Igbinedion and deputy Chief of Staff to former governor Adams Oshiomhole, as well as Okpamen, they constituted a formidable force in the district.
  
They were alleged to have held Ojezua hostage in the house of Okoror on January 2 this year.Ojezua disclosed that the committee headed by Idah was set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding “the unfortunate incident and submit a report in one month.”
  
The meeting in question ended abruptly when Ojezua declared that the essence of the gathering was an end of year party and not to select or elect a leader for the district. He told The Guardian then that the position of a senatorial leader was unknown to the party and unconstitutional.

“The invitation to the party by Mr. Henry Okoror was supposed to be for an end of year party and the briefing of party members. That was the impression; nobody told us that we were going to discuss the issue of party leadership for the zone.
 
“‎The position taken by some members in favour of a particular person as a leader have the potential of dividing the party, that is why the celebration did not hold and most of those who were supposed to be there were not there,” he added.
 
The party hosted by Okoror in Uromi, Esan North East local government area ended in disarray as most of the leaders in attendance walked away from the party when the issue of who should be the senatorial leader came up.
   
Several speakers including the party’s local government chairmen spoke of the need for the senatorial zone to have a leader who would be the rallying point and through him attracts government’s patronage to Esanland.
   
It was learnt that trouble began when Ojezua allegedly snatched the microphone from Ihensekhien while still speaking. Ihensekhien had moved a motion nominating Inegbineki as the senatorial leader of the party in the zone.
 
The state chairman was apparently opposed to the idea of having a senatorial leader for the zone and this did not go down well with the youths and some party women leaders who insisted that the issue of the district leader must be settled once and for all.
   
The youths were said to have locked the gate to ensure that nobody left the venue of the party until a senatorial leader was picked. Sources maintained that as a result, most of the party members walked out, refusing to eat or consume the beverages that the host provided.
  
Reacting to the suspensions, Inegbeneki said the suspension was null and void, as the state chairman does not have the power to suspend. In an interview with The Guardian, he accused Ojezua of working against the APC in the September 28, 2016 governorship election.

“He suspended me because I accused him in my petition of embezzlement. The result showed that even Ojezua lost his ward in the election; because I have accused him of this that is why he went on this fruitless voyage. I am not a member of the SWC, I am not a member of the Local Government Working Committee, the constitution is clear; the only organ that can suspend me is my ward executive. I can never be cowed.”
  
“APC is not capable of managing it’s victory in Edo state because of the people that are not efficient that we have at the helm of affairs. You can see what is happening in Edo state APC, only recently, the state youth leader was suspended; a man that has done so much for this party. Look at how many people he is claiming to have suspended, if all these people go, how many people will remain in the party? Ojezua is on a mission to destroy the party in Edo state, “ he claimed.  
  
He contended that since Ojezua emerged as the party chairman, “the fortunes of our party in the state have been dwindling because of his inefficiency and his anti-party activities. I told the former governor who forced Ojezua on us as state chairman because he did not win that election; the then governor forced him on us.”

Though Ojezua could not be reached on the allegation of embezzlement against him, one of his aides denied the charges. “Ojezua is a man of integrity, he has been a leader of the party and if he lacked credibility, he would not have been chosen as the party chairman. That allegation is that of a drowning man and so should not be taken serious.”
  
Observers of the development in the party believed that the leaders of the party including former governor Oshiomhole should wade into the crisis and nip it in the bud.
  
A member of the party who spoke anonymously told The Guardian that: “Suspending this leaders from the party in Edo Central is not the best for the APC in Edo; have they suddenly forgotten that Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) then and now APC even with Chief Tom Ikimi still around then was not able to win Igueben because of people like Ihensiekhen. The party started winning that place when he defected from the PDP. Even after Ikimi went back to PDP, APC still won Igueben in the last election. So suspending somebody like that is quite risky.”
  
The state governor has kept mute on the developments in the party in line with his stance to allow party leaders handle party matters while he would concentrate on governance. 

Former political adviser to Oshiomhole, Mr. Charles Idahosa informed The Guardian that the leadership of the party would soon look into the matter.

His words: “There is a party procedure and I don’t think it will create any division like some people are saying. The SWC (State Working Committee) has taken a decision, but you should understand that is not the end. It is like the issue of our publicity secretary who was also suspended for making some inflammatory statements about our former governor.
  
“This is an internal matter; there is no cause for alarm. Remember it is easier to win an election than to manage the victory. You know there will soon be appointments and you should expect some of these cases because people will be doing everything to outsmart the other to get something.
 
“However, some people did not work for the party during the election because they were tied to the apron of their aspirants that did not win the nomination of the party we are going to meet on all of that and separate the grains from the chaff.”




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