Stakeholders have expressed concerns over the gale of defections from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State, which may weaken the chances of the party in the forthcoming 2019 elections. OBINNA OGBONNAYA writes.
Barely two months to the governorship election in Ebonyi State, which would decide who occupies the Abacha Governmnent House in Abakaliki, it is expected that all the political parties would by now concentrate on their campaign strategies and wooing of voters.
But for the APC in Ebonyi, it is a different story as it is still facing lingering legal battle instituted against the governorship candidate of the party, Senator Sunny Ogbuorji and the former Secretary to the State Government, Prof Bernard Odoh, who came second during the party primaries that witnessed wanton destruction of lives and property.
While the APC and its governorship candidate, Ogbuorji are still battling with the distraction caused by Prof Odoh at the Enugu Federal High Court where he is challenging the former’s emergence as the governorship candidate of tbe party, the mass defections of political bigwigs of the APC to the PDP and the refusal of the prominent contenders at the party governorship primaries to sheathe their swords and join hands with the governorship candidate has become a source of worry to the party leadership in the state and at the national level.
Odoh, who supposedly was the preferred candidate of the majority of the youths, was said to have been allegedly shortchanged by some powers that-be within the party by adopting a delegate list at the primaries, which is currently being challenged by him at the court.
LEADERSHIP Friday though, gathered that the governorship aspirant, Prof Odoh had earlier adopted the use of the delegate lists of Ezza South and Ikwo local government areas on the presumption that the delegates would vote for him but as soon as the primary election’s result was declared in favour of Senator Ogbuorji, Prof Odoh immediately started challenging the outcome of the election result.
He mobilised his supporters to take to the streets while he briefed his legal team to head to the court. Though other governorship aspirants like the former commissioner for Works, Dr Paul Okorie, who was the Labour Party governorship candidate in 2015 election, Sir Edward Nkwagu, the former Universal Basic Education Board chairman in the state, Chief Austin Edeze, among others, did not challenge the result but they have all stayed away from the activities of the party since the conclusion of the party primaries.
Supporters of the governorship aspirants are at a loss as to the next line of action since their principals are yet to come out on whether to support the governorship candidate of the party or remain afloat. According to an APC stalwart in the state, Chief Calistus Ogwuoke, who exclusively spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday, expressed regret over the attitude of the governorship aspirants, describing them as bad losers.
According to Ogwuoke, “it is very unfortunate that PDP seems to have gotten it right in this present dispensation while we in the APC are losing grip of what we all suffered to achieve in 2015.”
“Immediately after the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the PDP presidential candidate in Port Harcourt, almost all the presidential aspirants rallied round him and threw their weights behind him but in Ebonyi APC, the story is different.
“Yes, Senator Sunny Ogbuorji may not be the choice candidate of the majority of the APC party faithful but he is bearing the flag of the party for the governorship election in the state come 2019 and it is expected that all the governorship aspirants should join hands with him and ensure victory for the party.
“Since after the primaries, apart from the court action taken against him by Prof Odoh, almost, if not all the governorship aspirants have all abandoned him to his fate and that is not sportsmanship.
“If Ogbuorji wins, it is victory for APC and not just him alone. This is part of a grand plan to disorganize the party and the election programme of the party. I believe that what they are doing is to continue to weaken the party structure ahead of the 2019 elections. It is simply payback and if urgent steps are not taken to address the issue, the party would not make any headway in the forthcoming governorship election in the state,” he said.
Apart from the frustration of abandoning the governorship candidate of the party to his fate, aggrieved members of the party who have continued to cast aspersions on the person of the national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, accusing him of selling the party ticket to the highest bidder, are also leaving the party in droves to the ruling PDP.
Sources close to the APC revealed to LEADERSHIP Friday that the party would be shocked by what they termed ‘Tsunami’ that is about to hit it in the state, saying what would remain of the party is “pitiable”.
“They are still stunned by the defections of the the former minister for Power and Steel, Chief Goddy Ogbaga, that of the former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Onwe S. Onwe and the former Ikwo council boss, Chief GNG who were the first to confront the leadership of the party on the need to do things right but rather decided to engage in selling the form to the highest bidder irrespective of zoning arrangement and popularity.
“Unfortunately, just last week, the leadership of our party in Ugwulangwu which happens to be one of our strongholds went to the radio and made an announcement directing our governorship candidate never to come to the place for either consultation or compaign.
“Tell me, some of the signatories to the announcement are supporters of a governorship aspirant in the just concluded primaries. Apart from the people of Ugwulangwu, Prof Odoh is loved by the people of Ezza North, Ezza South, Ishielu and Ikwo and the local governments in question are the strongholds of APC in Ebonyi central and since their illustrious son was denied the ticket, they have vowed to work against the party and from what is happening, you can see them frustrating every chances of the party in making any headway in those areas.
“This is what imposition brings about in a party. The National leadership of the party would have put moderlities in place to resolve some of the issues but looking at it critically, I would want to join those who are insinuating that the leadership of the party are not interested in Ebonyi governorship but just to deliver Mr.President in the state”.
“Tell me, Why won’t the governorship aspirants and other aspirants abandon the party when they were all shortchanged by the same party they worked for. The leadership of the party knew they won’t conduct free and credible election yet they extorted millions of naira from the aspirants. I know many of them who sold their choice properties, some took loans from the banks, some even borrowed from friends and associates. Many of them are battling to settle their debts to avoid embarrassment and ridicule and if the PDP government offers to assist them, don’t you think, it would be so tempting?
“And the kind of governor running the affairs of the state today is a man that can not offer you what you maybe able to reject. It would only take a strong willed man to resist his tempting money and I’m happy that the number of defectors are still what it is currently but I have my doubt if many won’t join the PDP soon.
“There is no gainsaying that after the sack of Prof Odoh by the state governor and his eventual entry to the APC in the state, the party became vibrant. The controversial visit of the national chairman of the party, Comrade Oshiomole and the statements credited to him during the visit also brought the party to the center stage with hundreds of its social media activists throwing tantrums to the state government and the PDP but today, the outcome of the primaries and the emergence of Senator Sunny Ogbuorji seem to have whittled down all those activities of the party.
It is worthy of note to state that the defection during the Abakaliki APC rally were part of calculated attampt against Governor David Umahi and one of those who defected was the now returnee to the PDP, Chief Godwin Ogbaga, a former Minister from the state. His defection was dramatic because while he left the PDap to the APC to contest the senatorial seat of Ebonyi North zone, Governor Umahi retained his wife Mrs. Elizabeth Ogbaga as a commissioner. Political analyst in the state described the governor’s action as rare. Many are of the opinion that it was unbelievable in the contest of politics in Nigeria today. Few months after that defection, the Minister returned back to PDP and by extension to Dave Umahi. The former minister according to Chief Igwe Chikadibia, an APC Chaiftain in the state may have considered the golden heart of Umahi for not sacking the wife as a commissioner in dumping the All Progressives Congress, APC just 3 months after the primaries. According to the former minister who made the U-turn to his former party after he lost the APC ticket to the former commissioner for Local government and Chieftaincy matters under Chief Martin Elechi’s administration said he took the decision to return to the PDP after a delegation of the newly constituted reconciliation committee paid him a visit. The former minister while speaking to newsmen said his coming back was to nurture the party to ensure they gain victor come 2019 general election.
He explained that he could not give deaf ear to the plea of the people, being one of the founders of the party. “The entire PDP party stalwarts, elders of the state,and government officials technically emptied into my house on Monday at Onwe road, but frankly it was an intimidating crowd, not just the crowd but the quality of personalities. They came specifically to appeal to me to come back. we know what happened about two months ago, all movements were made, people migrated to other parties due to one grievance or the other. The reason why they came was because i was among the founders of the party, in 1998 when I was a Minister,and among the financiers of the party during the formation. Since that time I have remained committed and faithful member of the party till now.
“So this period, a lot of people continued showing interest including Bishops, elders and friends, across the state were pleading and saying look don’t abandon your house. If you don’t listen to what human beings are saying is it the voice of the spirit that you will listen to? The answer is no. “So I saw it as an honor, after listening to all the appeals even from my supporters I deemed it necessary to come back and help nurture the house I joined in building especially now that we are in election period” he stated.
While the PDP in Ebonyi state is reconciling all its aggrieved members and wooing them back to the party, members of the Prof Odoh campaign group are yet to willingly dissolve the group after several marathon meetings have been summoned by the some chieftains of the APC. Before the primaries, the party statesmen which include the Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya, former governor, Chief Martin Elechi, former Senator, Chief Chris Nwankwo have been unable to convince the group to agree to drop its decision to continue to challenge the outcome of the party primaries in the court.
LEADERSHIP gathered that there is a possiblity of political sabotage as the governorship candidate, Ogbuorji, who emerged alongside Comrade Chinedu Ogah, Ezza South/Ikwo Federal Constituency, Senator Julius Ali Ucha, Ebonyi Central senatorial zone were not the prefered candidates of the three major chieftains of the party.
Notable among those presumed that may not work in favour of the governorship candidate include, all the governorahip aspirants in the concluded primaries, the Ebonyi Central senatorial aspirant, who was a former member of the state Aasembly, Hon Enyi C. Enyi and his supporters. The former House of Representatives member, Hon Peter Edeh who contested and allegedly won the party primaries to represent Ishielu/Ezza North Federal constituency. Hon Edeh has been parading certified true copy of his primary result sheet signed and issued to him by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Edeh was said to have been edged out to pave way for Senator Ucha who hails from the same Local Government Area with him. He is currently in court challenging the election. Others include, over 18 House of Assembly aspirants and their supporters who are also challenging the outcome of the primaries result.
Some of the aggrieved party members told Leadership that no conditions have been given to them by the governorship candidate if they eventually agree to work for him stressing that many of their enthusiastic supporters espercially youths that would be useful to the party during campaign and the election wants concrete committment.
Mr. Ifeabuche Nwaugo, an aspirant for the House of Assembly told LEADERSHIP Friday that the grievances of the contestants who spent huge sums of money in purchasing forms and risked their lives has not been addressed noting that until they receive convincing words from the governorship candidate of accomodation in his government, they would continue to sit back and watch him emerge victorious at the polls without them. He said that the best gift the governorship candidate would receive now is the bringing together every aggrieved member back to the fold before they all decamp to the PDP.
“The level of impunity and imposition perpetrated by the governorship candidate, Comrade Chinedu Ogah and Senator Julius Ucha forced members of the party into this situation the party is now and very unfortunately, the perpetrators of the act do not have any mechanism to address it. Niether the governorship candidate and the two party stalwarts have any solution for reconciliation. They believe they can do it all alone, we are watching them,” he added.
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