Only last week, the factional chairman of the party in the state, Deacon Okey Ogbodo, knocked Nwoye over the crisis in Enugu APC.
The controversial chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State, Dr. Ben Nwoye, would want to be seen as a no-nonsense party administrator who loathes holding the short end of any stick. Like the headmaster does in school, he believes he is empowered to whip any unruly party member into line. He believes in the supremacy of the party, and just like Louis XIV of medieval France who believed that he was indeed the state, Nwoye also believes that he is the party!
On a chance encounter I had with him sometime in early 2018, he told me that what informs his style was because people do not need soft handling. Whether this no-nonsense style has worked would still remain in the realm of personal conjecture because many members largely attribute the wobbly fortunes of the party in the state to how things are being handled.
Last week, Nwoye stirred the hornets’ nest when he took on the former President of the Senate, an elder statesman and a highly respected leader of the party in the nation, Senator Ken Nnamani. By the way, Nnamani is the national vice chairman of the APC’s campaign council for the South. Nwoye accused him of anti-party activities, lack of pride in the party’s gubernatorial candidate and duplicity. In his words, Nnamani is guilty of being “APC in Abuja and PDP in Enugu State.”
He deprecated Nnamani’s assertion that “a good product markets itself,” which he considers to be a veiled reference to the candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the state vis-à-vis the gubernatorial candidate of his party, the APC, in the person of Sen. Ayogu Eze. For this statement, he believes that Nnamani is not proud of the candidate of his own party in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state. An inverse interpretation is that he has affirmed that the candidate of his party in the forthcoming election is, by implication, not a “good product” that can market itself! But this is by the way. The issue is whether Nwoye has been an asset or a liability to the party in the state.
Before his grouse with Nnamani, Nwoye had been having a running battle with Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who, by virtue of his position as the highest political office holder from the state at the federal level, ought to be the leader of the party in the state. Sometime in 2017, he had called on the President to remove Onyeama from office. He accused Onyeama of varied degrees of anti-party activities. Ditto Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku, the Senior Special Assistant to the President, who until recently was accused of anti-party activities for dragging him to the EFCC. Chief Onyemuche Nnamani, a former secretary to the Enugu State government and one of the major financiers of the party in the state, has been at loggerheads with Nwoye, which crystalised in his summary suspension from the party.
Only recently, Nwoye also warned Osita Okechukwu, the director-general of the Voice of Nigeria, to desist from his anti-party activities lest he would effectively be seen as the “poster face of failure,” a veiled reference to Okechukwu’s unsuccessful attempt at clinching the Enugu West senatorial ticket of
his party in the forthcoming elections. Nwoye’s serial antagonisms against no-table members of the APC in the state have remained a source concern for the party’s stakeholders and many locate such as the major reason the centre can no longer hold for the party in the state. Just a few weeks to the much-expected general election, a casual visitor to the state would literally assume that only the PDP exists, since there is no visible activity around the structure of APC anywhere in the state. By his style of leadership, such men like Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, a major player in the politics of the state, Group Captain Joe Orji, former military governor of Gombe State, and a host of others, men who by their pedigree would have given the party better gravitas in politics, have left. For those like Okechukwu, Onyeama, Onyemuche Nnamani, Anike Nwoga, Adolphus Ude, etc, they are still in the party but, perhaps, not any longer of the party, especially as it concerns the fortunes of the APC in the state. To these people, they are only interested in the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari.
Yet, not a few believe that Dr. Nwoye is just engaging in spineless demagoguery. They accuse him of being guilty of all the accusations he has laid at the doorsteps of all those he has disagreed with, given his well-known friendship and romance with the governor of the state, who is of the PDP stock. Only
last week, the factional chairman of the party in the state, Deacon Okey Ogbodo, knocked Nwoye over the crisis in Enugu APC. Indeed, the APC has been boiling in the state, to the extent that vehicles belonging to the factional gubernatorial candidate of the party, Barr. Tagbo Ogara, were burnt. Ogbodo comes from the same community as Chief Nnamani and it is not distant to see that Nwoye’s reaction to Nnamani’s innocuous statement might have derived from transferred aggression. Ogbodo ended up querying the putative hope of the party at the forthcoming general election in the state, especially in the face of all this acrimony, just a few days to the crucial elections. He wondered how a “house divided against itself can stand,” a veiled reference to the flat preparations of the party towards the forthcoming elections in the state.
There is no doubt that APC as a party would have posed a great challenge to the ruling PDP in Enugu, had the party been organised, especially against the backdrop of the high-profile membership it was able to attract in the last two years. Almost all who matter in the state’s politics had become members of the party. But Nwoye has, by his style, turned all those natural blessings to a burden largely due to a curious paralysis of the will. The role of a chairman includes an ability to mitigate internal party conflicts, and serving as a bulwark for party cohesion, a rallying point for the teeming members of his party. Whether Nwoye has been able to live out this profile would continue to remain a matter for personal conjecture and experience.
But I do not find wisdom in the general irreverence of destroying our highly respected leaders in the name of politics. There is a gulf of difference between courage and bravado. Whereas courage is wisdom exhibited with candour, bravado is, on the other hand, empty and foolish swagger. My prayer, however, is that God should help us that those who should cultivate, do not lay waste. Those who should harvest, do not destroy; those who should guard, do not plunder; and those who should gather, do not scatter.
• Dr Nnamuchi teaches at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka