Like an ill-wind, last weekend’s ward congress is threatening the bond and cohesion of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In many of its state chapters, things are falling apart, as party faithful bicker over the outcome of the exercise.
As reactions continued to trial the ward congress, a stakeholders’ meeting in Awka, Anambra State, to discuss the outcome of the congress and “smoothen rough edges” ended in fracas, yesterday.
National Auditor of the party, Chief George Moghalu, the running mate to Dr Tony Nwoye in the last governorship election, Mr Dozie Ikedife jnr and other chieftains described the fracas as embarrassing.
Speaking with journalists in Nnewi, Moghalu said he felt thoroughly embarrassed with the development which he noted was not in line with the APC’s way of doing things.
He debunked claims that the party’s primary was conducted in certain local government areas of the state on Saturday when the committee members actually reported in the state on Sunday.
Mr. Ikedife jnr who was also former APC chairman of contact and mobilisation said the issue of identity of someone whose name was not on the list of committee members to conduct the Congress ignited the fracas.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama has called for cancellation of the Enugu result saying that the exercise was highly flawed.
Onyeama made the call as the faction led by the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) Mr. Osita Okechukwu described the exercise as peaceful and transparent.
Briefing newsmen in company of the Special Adviser to the President on Judicial Reform, Juliet Ibekaku and other party chieftains, the minister alleged that party officials sent to conduct the congress absconded with election materials.
He said up till the time of the briefing he had neither seen officials sent from Abuja nor the election materials.
In a swift reaction, chairman of the party, Dr. Ben Nwoye said the election was transparent.
“It is on record that Enugu State have the most peaceful and transparent congress throughout the country. The issue of the Ward congresses have been done and settled. So, the minister should stop complaining because he is not the leader of the party in Enugu State,” he said.
Okechukwu also described the congress as peaceful and rancour free.
In Cross River, the battle for control of the party has continued unabated as stakeholders stated that the ward congress in the state remained suspended even as there were alleged moves by a faction to announce fake results.
Stakeholders, including the Special Assistant to President on Prosecution, Obono Obla, Senator John Owan, South-South Vice Chairman, Hillard Etta, Deputy Chairman, John Ochalla, Vice Chairman, Central, Cletus Obun, Secretary of the party, Victor Ebong, and other party officials, rejected the Ward Congress committee.
The stakeholders maintained that they would not accept any fake results and added that anybody who wished Cross River APC well should not do anything that would breach the peace.
The maintained that any results from the purported congresses was nothing but a farce and an act of desperation by those who wanted power by all means.
Speaking on behalf of the stakeholders in Calabar, Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Central Senatorial District, Cletus Obun, said the congresses, which were to hold last Saturday were suspended indefinitely following confusions that arose over alleged bias of the Congress Committee chairman, Dr. Stan Ekezie.
Also speaking, the Vice Chairman of APC Northern senatorial district, Dr Eneji Chris-Valentine, said the conduct of congress committee-led by Dr. Ekezie showed that they would not be able to midwife a free and fair election, hence the vote of no confidence passed on members of the committee.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Cross River, Dr. Frankland Briya declined comment saying he had not been briefed by his electoral officers (EOs).
“I am waiting for the report. I wasn’t with them in the local government areas. It is only in the report that I can say there was congress or not, but for now let me wait until the report are submitted.”
The ill-wind is also sweeping through Ebonyi State where former governorship candidate, Senator Julius Ucha, has accused members of the National Working Committee led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun of plotting to destroy the party before quitting.
He described the last Saturday’s ward congresses as a sham insisting that it was a plot by the NWC leadership to make a comeback at the national congress.
“We have crisis at hand because those who are supposed to have left have sworn to destroy the institution that made them what they are. What is going on now is that there is intention by the people who are going out now to destroy the party,” he alleged.
“The members of the state working committee who are also going to contest for their various offices when the convention date is fixed are now driving the process; they jettisoned the process. That’s why I call it a civilian coup against the system,” he said.
The former lawmaker who represented Ebonyi Central, however, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the matter before the party heads for the worst.
This is as Senator John Owan Eno, who represents Cross Rivers Central urged the APC national leadership to disregard and resist any attempt by any person to impose ward officers on the state.
Speaking to newsmen in Abuja, the chairman Senate Committee on Finance, claimed that the ward congress committee sent were compromised.
He pleaded with the national secretariat to constitute another panel to conduct a credible, free and fair ward congress in the state.
Meanwhile, the national secretariat of the ruling party was barricaded by protesters from Kaduna State who were demanding the cancellation of the ward congress.
The protesters brandished anti-Oyegun and El-Rufai posters with all manner of inscriptions like “Baba, please call Kiriku to order,” “APC is dying in Kaduna,” “EFCC, investigate Oyegun and return our money,” “Democracy is about people and not committee of friends,” “Congress must hold in Kaduna,” “Affirmation is undemocratic,” “No APC Ward congress in Kaduna”, “We stand with Baba Buhari for 2019” among others.
In Bauchi State, a faction loyal to House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara have dared Governor Mohammed Abubakar by conducted a parallel election.
One of the leaders of the faction, Senator Nazif Suleiman Gamawa (Bauchi north) accused the ward congress committee led by Dr. Tony Macfoy of bias and doing the bidding of the governor.
Senator Gamawa who addressed journalists on Sunday said Macfoy’s declaration that the ward election on Saturday was free and fair was a “big lie.”
“What he did was unfortunate and very sad. APC is a party that we are proud of. It is a party that is supposed to be a party of justice and we expected nothing less than a free and fair conduct. There was no election on Saturday 5th of May. INEC that is supposed to monitor that election will tell you there was no election. All they did was that they went into their rooms and wrote results. What we did today (Sunday, May 6) was that we came out and insisted that there must be election when we got the forms after struggling with them because initially they didn’t want to give us that forms.”
But Macfoy said he had no knowledge of a parallel election and advised all aggrieved members to seek the conflict resolution mechanism of the party through the Appeal Committee.
Macfoy who declared the ward election conducted by his committee as peaceful, free and fair, said: “I have done my best. There was no ‘rofo-rofo’, there were no placards, there was no ‘I go die oo.’ Every result was collated in this place (APC state secretariat Bauchi) and the process was not done in the hotel or anybody’s bedroom…The people of Bauchi State have made me proud and made my job easier. The election was relatively peaceful.”
Against the exchange of words between the Governor Rochas Okorocha faction and the other led by Senator Benjamin Uwajumogfu, Imo State Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere yesterday commended the members of the party for a successful and peaceful ward congress in spite of the intimidation and harassment by the governor to scuttle the exercise.
Madumere, in a statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Uche Onwuchekwa, praised the party faithful for coming out en mass to fulfill their civic responsibility of electing into office those who will pilot the affairs of the party at the grassroots and upholding the principles and tenets of democracy and freedom of choice as against dictatorship and personal rule.
However, party leaders have alleged plots by some elements to convince the Presidency to exert pressure on APC’s national leadership to tamper with the result.
The leaders in a statement signed by Dr. James Obi after their meeting in Abuja, advised Vice President Osinbajo to resist plots to mislead him on the outcome of the ward congress insisting that the will of the people must be respected.
The APC’s leaders submitted that their advise was predicated on “credible information that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led forces within the party” was putting pressure on the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun to alter the result of the ward congress in the state.
Governor Rochas Okorocha who lost out in the ward congress reportedly met with President Muhammadu Buhari last Sunday at Daura, Katsina State over alleged infractions that characterised the congress.
“We expect internal democracy and internal democracy is the way to go. This kind of funny politics that we are playing must stop,” the governor said.
But the party leaders in their statement insisted that the outcome of the congress was a “sound democratic decision’’ of members of APC across the wards.
However, rising from a meeting yesterday, state commissioners called for the rescheduling of the “botched All Progressive Congress (APC) ward congress election originally slated for Saturday, May 5.” According to them, no congress was held in any part of the state.
Commissioner for Public Transportation, Lasbery Anyanwu who read the communique noted that members of the party from various wards of their local government areas turned up in their numbers at various designated centres for the election but were disappointed after waiting.
He stated that their greatest shock was the absence of the APC Congress Committee and sensitive materials for the conduct of the election.
For Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Kabiru Marafa, next Saturday’s local government congress cannot hold in Zamfara State, as according to him, “there was no ward congress last Saturday.”
Marafa, in a statement, said local government congress would only hold if the ward congress was conducted by the Ambassador Dauda Danladi-led ward and local government Congress committee.
“We will block them from conducting the local government Congress because there was no ward congress. Let them come back and conduct the election,” he said.
Marafa said Ambassador Danladi on Friday promised to convene a meeting of all stakeholders on Saturday morning before the conduct of the election to address the issues arising.
Contrary to the announcement by the Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, Marafa said there was no consensus in Zamfara, arguing that people were deceived by the committee.