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It would appear that combatants that have held Enugu State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to ransom are not prepared to sheath their swords, even after assurances that members of the party have found peace and were prepared to work together for its growth.
Weeks ago, state chairman of the party, Dr. Ben Nwoye, announced that the party had embraced peace. Nwoye’s announcement was sequel to several reconciliation meetings he held with some foundation members of the party in the state, who joined forces with the camp allegedly sponsored by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama and led by Mr. Okey Ogbodo. He said the reconciliation was also in accordance with the directive of the national leadership of the party, which asked crisis–ridden chapters to resolve their differences.
At an enlarged meeting where he formerly unveiled the former Deputy State Chairman, Adolphus Ude and former Women Leader, Lolo Queen Nwankwo and several others, who returned to the main fold, Nwoye had stated that “we now have one united APC in our state”, adding that it was the outcome of months of deliberations.
He said: “Our effort is just to have one united and indivisible party that can participate and win future elections in Enugu State. All the chieftains of the party in the state are aware and disposed to the peace that has returned to the party.”
He stated that Ude, as a foundation member of the party, would lead a contact and mobilisation committee that would deepen the strength of the party in the state and reconcile other interests as well as those who grudgingly left APC to other political parties in the state. Nwoye explained that the setting up of the committee was part of the terms of reconciliation and deliberate efforts to forge unity and carry all the stakeholders along ahead of the October 31, 2020 state Assembly bye-election and the 2023 general elections.
It was this singsong that truce had been reached that Nwoye carried to the Southeast caucus meeting held at the party secretariat in Enugu on September 2, chaired by Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu.
He told the gathering that the exercise was part of efforts to consolidate the newfound unity in the party, adding that such wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago, “but we must build this house together and all the issues have been resolved and we now have one APC in Enugu State.”
Nwoye insisted that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama, who he referred to in his speech as “my leader”, the party financier, Emperor Chris Baywood Ibe, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, the guber candidate of the party in the 2019 general elections, Senator Ayogu Eze, among others, were aware and party to the reconciliation process.
Onu, who listened with rapt attention to the message that peace had finally returned to Enugu State chapter, had urged members not to return to the warpath, insisting that it had done more harm to the party’s growth and development not only in the state, but the zone in general. Represented by the former Southeast vice chairman of the party, Emma Enukwu, the Minister urged Enugu chapter “not to go back to trenches but consolidate on the peace to build a greater APC.”
Onu said that APC had power to control politics in the Southeast zone, but regretted that efforts to realise this had not been successful because of internal wrangling. While attributing the crisis to selfish interests, he said there was no better way to resolve it than members coming together and accepting to forgive whatever injuries that might have been inflicted on them.
“I want to encourage us,” he said, “let’s be using our brain and wisdom, because APC has suffered enough crises. Let’s say no to anything called crisis again. We are happy to read in the papers that the crisis in Enugu has been resolved.”
BUT despite Onu’s admonition and assurances, the wounds in the party appear not to have been healed after all. There are strong signals that those who claimed to have withdrawn to their shell for the party to blossom may not have done so in good faith. Last Sunday, the factions returned to hold their meetings at different venues in the state. Onyeama took some aggrieved members to one of the hotels in Enugu, where talks were held, while Nwoye took the nucleus of the party to the party secretariat at GRA, where another talk was held.
In attendance at the meeting called by Onyeama were the Federal Character Commissioner (FCC) for Enugu state, Mrs. Ginika Tor, Chief Okey Ogbodo, former governorship aspirants, Mr. Ifeanyi Nwoga and Prof. Austin Akubue and Group Capt Joe Orji (rtd) and Major General Chris Ugwu (rtd), among others.
Those who attended the meeting called by Nwoye were the former National Vice Chairman (Southeast), Chief Emma Enukwu, Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, Federal Commissioner, National Population Commission (NPC), Mr. Ejike Njeze, former governorship aspirant, Chief Val Nnaedozie, former senatorial candidate, Tony Mba, BoT members Chief Anike Nwoga and Mrs. Vivien Chukwuani, zonal chairmen and House of Assembly candidate for Isiuzo State Constituency election, MacDonald Okwor.
While the Onyeama group rose atter a resolution calling on the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to set up a caretaker committee to manage the affairs of Enugu chapter following what they termed several failed attempts to resolve the intra-party crisis that created division in the party in the past seven years, the Nwoye group also rose after a vote of confidence on his (Nwoye) leadership style of the party in the state.
Onyeama’s faction lamented that some persons laying claim to the top party leadership positions in the state “are APC members in the day and PDP members at night,” a situation they said has gravely hindered the progress of the party. The faction maintained that since both factions have refused to step down, the only viable option left was to dissolve them and set up a caretaker committee.
Onyeama said that he’d advised Nwoye to call the meeting in order to rub minds with the party faithful on how to move the party forward, stressing that he was, however, startled to learn that he (Nwoye) was allegedly holding a parallel meeting.
“I earlier made it clear to everyone that there is a red line I should not cross, but I have to cross it now, not for personal interest, but for the progress of the party,” he told his group, assuring that their resolution would be forwarded to NWC.
Tor, Nwoga and others stated that the minister was a respected leader of the party, adding that it was disrespectful for a faction of the party to have held a separate meeting at the same time.
But Okechukwu, who spoke from the meeting called by Nwoye, however, stated that the party leadership in the state was not in doubt. He said Nwoye remained the chairman of the party and called on members to close ranks with him to deepen the party.
In the same vein, Enukwu also berated those who attended the meeting outside the party’s secretariat, stressing that time had come for all to bury their differences in the interest of the party. Those who spoke at the venue insisted that the party had come a long way, stressing that they were focused on the re-run election of the state House of Assembly for Isiuzo Local Government Area.
At the meeting, the House of Assembly candidate for Isiuzo Constituency election, MacDonald Okwor, was unveiled and handed the party’s flag. Members also unanimously endorsed the leadership of Nwoye, insisting that he “remains one of the strongest pillars of the party in the state.”
How truce collapsed
THE Guardian gathered that distrust and mutual suspicion might have energised the parallel meetings last Sunday. This, it was said, was geared towards removing the Nwoye-led executive and instituting a caretaker committee.
It was learnt that after the factions had managed a reconciliation that saw members with the minister pitching tent with the Nwoye-led group, following the directive of the National Caretaker Committee of the party, Onyeama had asked Nwoye to convene stakeholders’ meeting to enable them deliberate on the way forward. A source stated that while attempting to invite people to the meeting, Nwoye allegedly discovered that the same directive was also given to Chief Okay Ogbodo, who holds sway as chairman of the faction controlled by the minister. Nwoye had therefore sent counter-messages, asking those he invited about change of venue.
Another source disclosed, however, that while members were preparing for the Enugu meeting, which Nwoye was asked to convene, a meeting held in Abuja by those sympathetic to the minister’s faction, where an agreement was allegedly reached to use the Enugu meeting to muster a vote-of-no-confidence on Nwoye thereby amplifying the call for a caretaker committee for the state.
The source stated that those who attended the meeting had pressured one of the candidates that ran in the 2019 senatorial election to accept to lead the would-be state caretaker committee, but he declined. His refusal notwithstanding, the meeting was said to have resolved that certain persons would be hired to carry placards and protests at the venue of the meeting to allegedly call for the removal of Nwoye and prevent him from presiding over the meeting he called.
“That was enough to garner the support of the National Caretaker Committee to dissolve the Nwoye-led executive and institute a caretaker committee for the state,” the source said.
Although Nwoye was not at the meeting (as he was not invited), he was, however, said to be privy to the resolutions reached. Someone who attended the meeting was said to have informed him about the scheme to replace him, using the meeting he was asked to call in Enugu at the hotel venue. He had therefore changed the venue to the state secretariat.
An official of the party, Joseph Ugwu, who lent credence to the schemes to impose a caretaker committee on the state chapter, stated that “those who truncated the party congress that held in 2018 are behind it all”. He, however, insisted that it would amount to “pouring fuel on fire should the national leadership of the party accede to any request to dissolve the Enugu executive.”
According to him; “There is no way we will allow the soul of APC go into the hands of those who did not know the history of our party or have voter cards; people who are not registered members of this great party. We know those who have toiled to make APC great; it is not about appointment, but commitment,” and asked those still aggrieved over the last general elections to bury their hatchet and return to the main fold.
The parallel meeting last Sunday is now threatening the reconciliation that the party managed to achieve a few months back. Only time will tell how this fresh crisis will abate.
THE GUARDIAN NG