From Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Two factions of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State, yesterday, held parallel congresses in the 13 local government areas of the state.
While the faction led by Mr Ben Nwobasi held its own across the council areas, Mr Eze Nwachukwu-led faction invited delegates to Nkwegu Ugbala Grand Arena; a hotel reportedly owned by the former 2015 governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Edward Nkwegu.
Thirty-nine delegates were expected to emerge from the state for the non-elective national convention of the party scheduled to hold in Abuja. When broken down, each council area will produce three delegates. There were massive turnouts of party faithful for both factions.
About 9am, there was reasonable number of party members at the APC secretariat along the Enugu-Abakaliki Expressway waiting to collect the materials for the different council areas. The factional State Chairman occupying the secretariat, Ben Nwobasi, while addressing the party members urged them to ensure the exercise was free and credible. He said that the party had written to the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, the State Police Command and the State Security Service DSS to monitor the election and ensure it was smooth and violence-free.
At Nkwegu Ugbala Grand Arena, Eze Nwachukwu-led faction carried out the exercise very peacefully when Sunday Sun visited it. The Nwachukwu-led faction is believed to be enjoying the support of the party’s national leadership. Nwachukwu, however did not give reasons why the faction decided to hold its congress in a hotel in Abakaliki instead of the 13 LGAs.
A source close to the party in Ebonyi alleged that the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, hijacked the five man panel, who boarded the same flight to Enugu on Friday and whisked them away on sighting that Nwobasi and his supporters had thronged Enugu airport to receive the panel to an unknown place.
Sunday Sun gathered that at the time of distribution of congress materials, the five-man committee sent to monitor the election from the party National Secretariat was not seen at the state secretariat, a development that also worried INEC officials who monitored the whole exercise.
When contacted, the factional chairman, Nwachukwu, said that they centralized their venue at the hotel so that all the voters across the council areas would come and cast their votes.
The parallel congresses, Sunday Sun gathered, might not be unconnected to the lingering leadership crisis in the state’s chapter of the party. Some politicians in APC have accused the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ebonyi of sponsoring the feud so as to weaken the party’s structure ahead of the 2019 general election.
It would be recalled that an Ebonyi State high court sitting in Abakaliki recently summoned the APC national chairman and Secretary, John Oyegun and Mala Buni to appear in person to explain why the duo should not be committed to prison for alleged disobedience to court order and recognizing the Nwachukwu-led faction.
When contacted, INEC official in charge of Ivo council area who identified himself as Mr. Agu said the election was ongoing as at press time.