• South South splits, 4 state chairmen wash hands off ex-Edo gov’s endorsement, allege ambush
Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
A taste of what may befall the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as the party heads for the national convention, manifested yesterday, with the splitting of the South South, following a controversial zonal meeting, held in Benin, Edo State.
A few minutes after the meeting, wherein South South APC leaders, purportedly, endorsed former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, as the adopted candidate of the zone for the national chairmanship position, four state chairmen of the party and leaders washed their hands off the resolution, alleging ‘ambush’.
In a video recorded after the meeting, APC chairmen from Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa, as well as some aggrieved zonal leaders, told the newsmen that whatever resolution reached at the South South zonal meeting, held at Government House, Edo State, was not binding on them.
The four chairmen accused the national vice chairman of the APC of convening the meeting with the sole aim of getting an endorsement for a particular aspirant to the post of national chairman.
They said the national vice chairman does not have the power to convene any zonal meeting, without getting the clearance of the National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, who is also from South South.
One of the chairmen said: “The national vice chairman is from the zone. The national chairman is also from the zone. The national vice chairman cannot convene a meeting of the zone without the knowledge or approval of the national chairman.
“We were ambushed by the national vice chairman, to adopt a pre-conceived candidate he had already made up his mind about, based on whatever agreement. Even when someone raised a motion, asking him to disqualify himself from the meeting, having shown bias, he ignored it and sat there, and is now saying there was a decision. We want you to know that out of six states, four states are saying it was an ambush; it is not acceptable. There was no resolution.
“We have said every person is free to run for an election. We stand by the resolution of the NEC, that there is a waiver. The national chairman can re-contest if he so wishes. Anybody from the zone can contest. Whatever has come out of this meeting is a farce. It is not binding on anybody. It is null and void, because four states are saying no. Just one and half, Edo and some fraction of Delta, are the people saying they have a vote. This is not democracy. The majority view is that there was no consensus on any candidate.”
Speaking in the same vein, deputy national secretary and a member of the National Working Committee (NEC) said what happened in Benin was the business of Edo State government, and not binding on the South South zone.
He said the zone cannot sit at Edo Government House to decide who is an adopted candidate.
“I want to put it on record that out of the six state chairmen of the party from the zone, we have chairmen of River, Cross Rover, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states here, who are saying this decision is that of the Edo state government. We came to the meeting to find out that the national chairman was not aware of the meeting; he was not even invited to the meeting.”
The Bayelsa State chairman aligned with the others, saying what happened was a fraud.
On his part, the Cross Rover chairman said: “As regards what happened here, I stand to dissociate myself. Whatever resolution so adopted is null and void.”
His Akwa Ibom state counterpart said: “We came here to be ambushed by the national vice chairman. We, from Akwa Ibom State, will not support any decision taken here today. Whatever decision taken today is out of context and we cannot accept it.”
Earlier, the leadership of the APC in South South zone chose Oshiomhole as the choice of the zone for the national chairmanship seat of the party.
The meeting, held in Benin, had in attendance the zonal leaders of the party, led by the Vice Chairman, South South, of the party, Mr. Ntufam Hilliard Eta.
Also at the meeting were Oshiomhole, Chief Timipreye Sylva, Senator Magnus Abe, Alims Agoda, Eseme Ehibo, former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Chief Sam Ewang, Chief Mrs. Miriam Alli, Senator Francis Alimekhena, Frank Ajobena, Chief Great Ogboru, Victor Ochei, Cairo Ojougboh, Senator Domingo Obende, Speaker Kabiru Adjoto, Frank Kokori and the APC South South caucus in the National Assembly.
However, there was tension in the hall when some supporters of the former governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transport, Chief Chubuike Amaechi, said they were not at the meeting for the adoption of any candidate, but were shouted down by majority of the leaders from the zone.
Meanwhile, one of the delegates nominated the incumbent national chairman, Oyegun, but Oshiomhole’s nomination won the day with voice vote.
Addressing newsmen after the meeting, the zonal Vice Chairman of the party, Ntufam Hilliard Eta said:
“You are all aware of the happenings in the party; and, luckily, one of the decisions taken by NEC was that the positions of the party should be retained in the various jurisdictions occupying those positions as at now. And you are aware that South South is occupying the number one position of the party.
“It is important we proceed from the premise of that meeting and begin to discuss and interact on the best ways we can use those resolutions reached at NEC to impact positively on the South South, given that the zone is, unarguably, the fastest growing in the party. We, also, took into consideration the need to put our best forward.
“It was on the basis of these, that we decided to meet today. And, in considering the retention of positions, as regards the status quo, Edo state chapter of the party, led by its chairman, availed us with the information that the party, in Edo, has come to the conclusion that a candidate, in the person of Oshiomhole, be presented to carry on the flag of the party. That decision was unanimous, which means every member of the state caucus, not just participated, but, also, accepted that this must be the position of Edo state.
“Having considered the position of Edo, it was put to vote and majority of the members of the zonal executive committee decided the state’s position must be affirmed by the zonal executive committee. We had some dissenting views, which is normal in a democracy. Majority will always have its way and minority its say.
“In the course of deliberation, somebody had also presented the candidature of Oyegun, but, through voice vote, that vote was defeated. The position of Oshiomhole prevailed, and that stands as the position of the zonal executive committee of the party.
“Oyegun was invited for the meeting, but, maybe, he took excuse, which is normal. This is not the first time we are doing it in the zone; in 2014, a few days to the national convention, we also had a meeting of the zone, where the position of Edo was canvassed; they came to that meeting to tell us that they wanted Oyegun against Chief Tom Ikimi, and we followed them. That time, some people kicked against Oyegun, but, the majority prevailed; and, today, the majority have said Oshiomhole is our choice for the national chairmanship position.”
In the same vein, the Edo State chapter of the APC has dumped Oyegun as national chairman of the party.
This followed the party’s state caucus’ unanimous decision to endorse Oshiomhole to contest as national chairman in the forthcoming national convention.
Chairman of Edo APC, Anselm Ojezua, who disclosed the stand of party’s chieftains at the Government House, in Benin said: “The state chapter of the party has unanimously resolved to support Oshiomhole to vie for the position of national chairman at the national convention, billed to hold on May 14, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.”