RICHARD NDOMA writes on the infighting in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross Rivers State and its impact on the party ahead of 2019 general elections.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State has remained at a crossroads ahead of 2019 governorship election.
Before now, analysts perceived the party in state as having the requisite capacity to match the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in every ramification and perhaps, oust it’s government led by Prof Ben Ayade, from office.
Unfortunately, it would seem like the reverse is the case, given the animosity in the APC, despite the calibre of members within the party.
Among them are political heavy weights like Board Chairman Niger Delta Commission/former Senate leader, Sen Victor Ndoma-Egba; former Cross River State Governor Chief Clement Ebri; former minister for Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke; former chief of staff to Gov. Liyel Imoke, Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong; former seasoned bank boss; Chief Francis Bullem, and others.
Yet, the confusion and litigation trailing the party in recent times makes the chances of the party more hazy ahead of 2019.
The crisis currently ripping the APC apart manifested during the congresses but exacerbated after the party’s primaries. Analysts perceive the crisis as multiple dimensional, bothering on issues of zoning of office and the lingering issue of state executive.
There are also concerns about the stipulation of direct primary by the national leadership of the party. At the core of the crisis however is the tussle for control between the “orginal members of the APC”, that is members in the defunct legacy parties that formed the APC namely ACN, ANPP, CPC as against members who defected to APC after the 2015 general election.
Rumbles from party primaries……
Five APC aspirants had picked and submitted their forms in a bid to unseat PDP’s, Ben Ayade come 2019.
Out of the five aspirants only one is from the Northern Senatorial District of the state, Mr. John Upan. Two are from central, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani; and Senator John Owan Enoh. Two are also from South Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong and former Minister of Culture; and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke.
However, the people from Northern Senatorial District of Cross River State, under the aegis of Cross River North Solidarity Forum (CRNSF), had threatened to vote for PDP in 2019 general elections if the party does not pick its candidate from the north. They stated this in protest to the emergence of aspirants from other senatorial zones. At the time, PDP had two aspirants from the north, the incumbent Senator Ayade and Emmanuel Ibeshi.
Agitation from APC members in the Southern part of the state also rang out as a group, in a statement signed by Mr Ekeng Henshaw and over 30 others, insisted that the next governor for 2019 should come from the South.
A statement issued in Calabar by the group’s spokesman, Joseph Ogah, said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has not been fair to members of the party from the zone in terms of appointment and would resist any move by people who just defected to the party to hijack the ticket from the North.
APC chieftains from the Central region joined the agitation. They argued that all zones have taken their turn and that it is now a free for all or survival of the fittest.
While that issue raged, the emergence of parallel executives arose despite the intervention of the national secretariat of the party.
The national leadership of the party, led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, had in August sacked the two factional executives of the party in the state, led by Ntufam Godwin Etim John and Dr. Mathew Achigbe, and conducted fresh congress that saw the latter emerging as the state chairman who was subsequently inaugurated.
John’s group, which is in court already, has the backing of Usani while Achigbe’s is backed by Owan-Enoh, a former governor, Mr. Clement Ebri, Prof Nyong and others.
Achigbe has since taken over the party secretariat at Barracks Road and operating normal party functions while John’s faction now operates at Marian. Naturally, the issue led to the conduct of parallel governorship primaries in the state.
Expectedly, the crisis deteriorated as the party submitted the name of Sen. John Owan Enoh, senator representing Cross River Central senatorial district, to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the authentic governorship flag bearer for the APC in Cross River.
Before long the other faction of the party went to court to seek redress over claims of attempts to deny them their mandate. The party members resorted to legal action, a move which reflected a loss of faith in the national leadership of the party.
The festering crises continue to cast a shadow over the possibility of APC not just engaging the general election in the state unitedly but unseating the PDP.
The inability of the APC stalwarts to shelve their ambitions in the interest of the party has remained a major albatross entrenching the politics of suspicion ravaging the ranks of the party.
The vice chairman, central, in the state, Mr. Cletus Obun, while trying to x-ray issues stated that chances of the party winning the elections are so slim giving the kind of shoddy treatment usually meted to party men particularly by those who are influential by virtue of their affluence.
He said the biggest distraction faced by the party for now is the inability of the leadership of the party to resolve the friction between the camp led by minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani and that of Sen. John Owan Enoh, senator representing Cross River Central senatorial district at the National Assembly whose name the party summitted to INEC as authentic governorship flag bearer for the APC in Cross River after both factions finished conducting parallel guber primaries.
“That is going to be one of the biggest distractions that the party is likely going to face,” Obun maintained.
Another factor, according to Obun, is a lack of courage on the part of the state leadership of the party to handle the matters and treat the issues once and for all.
He said the fight among party men over who controls affairs of the party has weakened the party immensely stressing that such fight has brought division and dichotomy between the old and new members.
To him, old members think they are the original owners of the party against the thinking of the new members who feel that they ought to be integrated into the party.
“As I speak now, most of the members who are divided under the fight for the leadership of the party believe that they have been short-changed in the build up to the primaries.
“This leaves them out of the contestation. Such that not until this moment, there is nobody, which means that they have not been taken or carried along.
“It’s like the original members of the party have been suffocated out of contention. And they are a very critical element in the political space.”
He also decried what he called continous emphasis on ability to fund election which has led to sidelining good candidates because they don’t have large warchest for elections.
Obun called for integration of all the factions existing in the party irrespective of the portfolio or elective offices being contested for if they want to make the APC cohesive and formidable in Cross River State.
“We are going to suffer, if issues of this nature are not quickly addressed,” he warned.
Commissioner representing Cross River State in the Board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Sylvester Nsa, agrees that the disunity in the party would affect its chances of winning the gubernatorial poll in Cross River State in 2019.
However, unlike Obun, he lays the blame on the party’s national Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. He believes Oshiomhole aggravated the problem of the party in the state when he undermined the position of his predecessor, Chief John Oyegun by “destroying the structures which were once acknowledged.”
Nsa alleged that after Oshiomhole summoned a meeting in his private residence only to declare the said executive un-recognised, because he had ulterior motives which most party men didn’t like.
He said that those of them who saw that singular act of Oshiomhole as impunity went to court to seek redress. The former NDDC chieftain said even when the court restrained the national chairman from recognising the new exco, Oshiomhole shunned the court order and still went further to give recognition to the purported executive led by Dr. Matthew Achigbe.
“Despite insinuations that the party has two parallel exco, those of them who are in support of Usani know that there is one exco led by Etim John that is legally recognised by the court of law and claimed that pastor Usani Usani’s emergence which was witness by INEC, and indeed all security agencies that needed to be at the contest remained the authentic governorship candidate of the party.
“But, if otherwise, it therefore means it is going to be PDP versus PDP because John Owan Enoh and his running mate, Hon. Ekpo Okon are stocks from the PDP.”
Nsa added “My worry is inexplicable, because I have never been in PDP, have never affiliated or congregated in any way with PDP, I am a blue broad progressive person and it is on record that I have never been in PDP before.
He said,”I am worried that Adam Oshiomhole has come to spoil our party and effort that we put over the years. But I tell you, we will continue to apply the apparatus of justice and God in his infinite mercy will grant us victory.”
On the allegations by some stakeholders in the APC that the crises is bordered on personal ego by the two principal actors of Usani Usani and Senator John Owan Enoh because either of them is ready to stoop low for the other, Nsa alleged that overtures put forward by the minister to reach out to the national chairman for dialogue met a brick wall.
He accused the party chairman of shutting his doors against the minister who had been willing to broker peace adding that it was on that basis that they decided to seek redress at the court of law.
On his part, media aide to Senator john Owan Enoh, Mr. Kelvin Oji, maintained that his boss remains the authentic governorship flag bearer for the APC in Cross River State.
He said that the disagreement between his boss and minister for Niger Delta Affairs over who flys the party’s governorship flag, would be sorted out at the appropriate time. He however accused Usani of acting a script written by Gov. Ayade so that Ayade will hand over power to him in 2023.
“What he is doing is merely acting a script cooked by the governor for him to act.” Enoh’s media aide said that there is no state in the South South that the APC has clear chances of clinching the governorship other than Cross River State.
He said that the reason is simple adding that any election is only a referendum on the incumbent.
“You and I know that since the past three years now Ayade has misruled the state. Cross River State cannot afford another four more years of Ayade’s mis-rule,” Enoh’s aide maintained.
Boasting that “When the campaign kicks-in, every other person will fall in line,” the media aide said they are focused on having a robust campaign since INEC has accepted and acknowledged Enoh as candidate for the APC.
Oji added that he believes that those fighting to get their names on the tickets should realise that the time has come to unite and rally round the candidate of the party.
Reacting to the court order, Oji said, when we get to the bridge we will know what to do. You and I know that John Owan Enoh is the real flag bearer of the party, unless you are talking about “jankara judgement”. I know too well that such jankara judgment will not happen.
“This is so because the primaries which produced Sen. John Owan Enoh as the party flag bearer was conducted by authentic committee which came from Abuja not the one conducted by Usani’s faction via a kangaroo committee which had someone from the state as its committee chairman.”
Interestingly Usani and Enoh, have perhaps, in the heat of the tussle and for fear of being betrayed, chose their party chairmen from their senatorial zone, central, a senario which is poised to create some dissentment from the north and south districts.
Analysts posit that this situation could enable the PDP consolidate its fortunes in the two districts. A human rights lawyer/activist, Chief Utum Eteng, however argues that it is not the turn of the central district to produce the governor of the state.
Eteng, who incidentally hails from Central senatorial district, said giving the governorship position to any one from the central would mean distorting the political arrangement which according to him had been zoned by the opinion moulders to the north.
He added that “issues of zoning shouldn’t be toyed with so that confusion will not erupt in 2023 when another dispensation will kick off.”
With both camps in APC refusing to backdown, it remains to be seen how much inroads the party can make as the flag off of campaigns starts in a couple of weeks.
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