It is not getting any better. The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State appears to have bitten more than it can chew and there is therefore, no peace in the party. The October 16 state congress was expected to bring cohesion in the state chapter, but it has deepened the crisis.
There are three factions currently claiming leadership and control. The third faction was the creation of the October 16 state congress.
In April this year, a festering leadership crisis had been resolved after the members came together at the state secretariat and pledged total loyalty to the leadership of the immediate past state chairman, Dr Ben Nwoye. There, they attempted to abandon the imaginary faction created and led by Mr Okay Ogbodo.
It was this tonic, guided by the wise counsel provided by the Senator Jonathan Zwingina- led registration/revalidation committee that enabled members move into the registration/revalidation exercise where they ended up increasing their membership in the state to over 180,000.
Months later, however, the members backtracked and returned to the crisis. By then, the Zwingina-led committee had concluded its assignment and left the state. Allegedly backed by the former senate president, Ken Nnamani and Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffery Onyeama, some stakeholders led by the erstwhile state deputy chairman, Chikwado Chukwunta gathered at an Enugu hotel and read a statement purportedly signed by some members announcing the “impeachment” of Nwoye from office.
They had accused Nwoye of contravening party guidelines by swearing in elected ward executives that emerged from the congress without authority from the party’s national executive. They went further to nominate Chukwunta as the acting state chairman, pending the state congress that would usher in the new state executives.
The development set the tone for a fresh crisis in the party. The faction led by Nwoye had dismissed his purported impeachment as a “ruse” and an attempt to retrieve the party away from its foundation members through the backdoor by some new entrants. They had held their ground that since Nwoye was appointed by the national Caretaker Committee in an acting capacity, it was only those that appointed him that should remove him.
Thus, the factions held sway. When it was time to conduct the local government congress, both camps mobilised for the exercise. However, while the Nwoye camp conducted elections for the emergence of local government executives at the various designated venues, the other faction reportedly converged on the Southeast Zonal Secretariat of the party in the state and produced results.
Efforts made to reconcile the grievances before the state congress did not yield positive results. The committee appointed for the exercise failed to entertain petitions from members of both camps. They had rather addressed the Chukwunta faction at an event centre in the state and returned to Abuja. The crisis has been sustained since then.
Agballah’s entry and rancorous state congress
APPARENTLY, with his eyes fixed on the number one position of the party in the state, a former commissioner for Works in the state, Chief Ugochukwu Agballah had in August this year joined the APC from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He had told those who cared to listen that his movement from the PDP to the APC was to contribute his quota in positioning the party to begin to win elections, especially in the state.
At a meeting held that month at the state secretariat of the party, which he was invited to attend, Nwoye raised his hands and handed him the broom of the party. He had informed him that since he was joining the party after conclusion of the registration/revalidation of members, efforts would be made to ratify his membership in the future.
However, in fulfillment of speculations surrounding his movement into the party, Agballah was to later in September join the race for the chairmanship position of the party at the congress. The position was zoned to Enugu west senatorial zone and micro-zoned to Awgu/ Aninri and Oji River areas to give the area a sense of belonging as well as the fact that it produced the highest number of members during its registration exercise.
Agballah, hails from Udi, also of Enugu west senatorial zone. Addressing a meeting, which he called to announce his desire to contest the chairmanship position, he stated that time had come once again for them to join the APC in the state and turn it into a winning party.
“We will turn APC into a winning party in Enugu State. It’s time for APC to take over the government of Enugu State. We are not pretentious about our mission and vision to take leadership.
“The job of reorganising and repositioning APC in Enugu State requires energetic, vibrant, upwardly mobile and visionary young leaders with extensive political structure and contacts. The Bible according to the book of Ecclesiastics says that there is time and season for everything. This is our time and this is our season,” he stated
On October 16, the state congress of the party took place. It held at two different venues. While the foundation members held the exercise at the state secretariat; the joiners held theirs at an event centre in the state. Through the option A4, after hired thugs had allegedly chased away supporters of two other contestants, Agballah emerged the winner. He was said to have garnered 684 votes against Group Capt Joe Orji (rtd) who was not at the venue and secured no votes as well as Peter Omeje, who secured four votes. On the day he purportedly emerged, it was without any member as part of his executive team. He was alone.
Some stakeholders who reacted to his emergence stated that it recreated a similar story of 2018 state congress in which Okay Ogbodo, who was not registered with the party emerged “state chairman” after some hired thugs chased away accredited delegates at the venue of the exercise.
At the party’s secretariat however, a former Deputy State Chairman, Adolphus Ude polled 782 out of the 1300 votes cast in the congress election decided through secret balloting to defeat Dr Charles Chukwu who secured 202 votes and Chief Benson Eze who came third with 142 votes.
The Agballah faction has continued to hold their meetings anywhere desirable to them and by them. The Ude faction on the other hand has continued to meet at the party secretariat. Both have continued to lay claims to the authenticity in the leadership of the party in the state.
Enugu West Stakeholders draft in Orji as a third force in the crisis
WHILE it is still being contemplated how the state chapter could wriggle out of the confusion created in the emergence of the two factional leaderships, a meeting of some Enugu West stakeholders of the party held last week at Oji River council, where they denounced the October 16 state congress and instead, insisted that retired Group Captain Joe Orji should be returned as the authentic state chairman of the party.
Recall that Orji was billed to participate in the congress where Agballah emerged. He was not spotted anywhere around the venue. His supporters were allegedly driven out of the venue by some hired thugs before the exercise began. Those who conducted the exercise did not allocate any votes to him.
At the stakeholders meeting however, attended by representatives from the five local government councils that make up the senatorial zone, including Udi, Ezeagu, Oji River, Awgu and Aninri, they decided that he (Orji) was the consensus choice of the members before the congress and insisted that nothing would make them accept the purported election of Agballah as the party’s helmsman in the state.
In the communiqué signed by Messrs Linus Achiebe (Aninri), Chiedozie Nwafor (Awgu), Joe Mmamel (Ezeagu) and Vin-Marthins Ilo (Oji River) and Mrs Maureen Anosike (Udi) among others, they described the said congress where Agballah emerged as “a sham and not in line with the constitution of the party.”
They stated that the purported exercise was the handwork of those that wished to destroy the party in the state.
They stated that stakeholders of the party in the state had pursuant to Article 20 (i) (a) of the APC Constitution agreed on zoning and emergence of candidates at the state congress by consensus.
According to them, “having zoned the chairmanship position to Enugu West Senatorial district, the position was further micro-zoned to Aninri/Awgu/Oji-River Federal Constituency.
“Following the step-down of other candidates for the position of the chairman, retired Group-Capt. Joe Orji was unanimously adopted as the consensus candidate.
“All the three senatorial districts submitted the lists of their consensus candidates for adoption and they were unanimously adopted”.
The communiqué stated that the purported congress that returned Agballa as duly elected had no state congress committee and as such cannot hold.
“We later heard and saw in the social media that one Ugochukwu Agballah from Udi in Ezeagu/Udi Federal Constituency claimed to have been declared elected as chairman.
“Agballa was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as of the second week of July, 2021, when he publicly indicated intention to join our party.
“The revalidation/registration exercise of members and new members of the APC had been suspended by then pending the conclusion of congresses and national convention,” it stated.
The communiqué alleged that Agballa obtained an old, discarded APC membership card slip, which was backdated and attached the same to his nomination form.
“Agballa is not a registered member of APC and, therefore, lacks the right to vote or be voted for into any of the elective positions of the party,” it stated.
The communiqué called on the national leadership of the party to discountenance the purported election of Agballa and uphold the “selection” of Orji as the chairmanship consensus candidate of the party in the state.
It also urged the APC to uphold as duly elected all the candidates contained in the consensus list submitted by the three senatorial districts and endorsed by party stakeholders.
Mainstream APC members kick
NO sooner had the meeting of the stakeholders ended than a group of mainstream members from Enugu West zone kicked over the suggestion for Joe Orji to be recognised as the state chairman of the party.
In a statement they released and signed by one of the financiers of the party, Emperor Baywood Ibeh, they noted that Orji may not have the strength to drive the party along winning lines in 2023 due to age.
“Our elder statesman Group Captain Orji is too prominent to be drafted by opportunists and may not be disposed to the hassle and youth aggression battle required to win Lion Building in 2023. For God’s sake he should be allowed to enjoy his retirement; every moon has its circle”, they said.
They however endorsed the emergence of Adolphus Ude as the authentic state chairman of the party and disowned Ugochukwu Agballah, whom they said was not registered with the party.
They insisted that Agballah not only breached their zoning convention, but is not a valid registered member of the party, having joined secretly after registration of the APC had ended.
In the statement signed by Baywood Ibe, the mainstream group agreed with Stakeholders from Enugu West that not only was the process, which produced Agballah invalid; but that he violated the party’s zoning principles.
The group stated that “the zoning principle calls for rotation between the old Udi LGA and old Awgu LGA, Udi having produced the highest party office zoned to Enugu in the last dispensation when Chief Emma Eneukwu occupied the eminent position of National Vice Chairman. Maintaining that equity demands that it is the turn of old Awgu, where Comrade A.C. Ude hails from”
They continued: “Most importantly our dear brother Chief Agballa is not qualified to lead 180,000 foundation members of our great party”, adding that “he knows PDP antics but doesn’t have our progressive culture and may we ask, is APC rehabilitation center in the South East?”
“To stop Senator Ken Nnamani’s impunity, we as foundation legacy members adopt King Solomon’s model of reconciliation with Comrade A.C. Udeh as authentic chairman – share the State executive, 17 local government executives and 260 Ward executives on 50-50 basis, so as to stand a good chance to win Lion Building in 2023”
But Agballah, who spoke through his Media Adviser, Kenneth Ofoma described the groups “as jokers and political mercantilists, who are only interested in trading off the party”
He urged any aggrieved member, who has the interest of the party at heart, to approach the Congress Appeal Committee or the National Reconciliation Committee headed by Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, for redress and reconciliation.
Ofoma noted that his principal remained a legitimate member of the party, adding that he did not only purchase forms for the chairmanship position, he also underwent the party’s screening and was cleared.
It has become almost a fight to finish in the Enugu chapter of the party. That is because those intending to use the platform to contest various offices in 2023, especially the governorship, are said to be behind the various claimants to the leadership of the party. All eyes are now focused on the crisis prone national executive committee of the party to sort out the imbroglio in the Enugu chapter. Many believe that the earlier this is done, the better for the party.
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