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Can Sowore’s AAC Survive This Storm?

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MOSES ORJIME writes on the crisis rocking the African Action Congress (AAC), one of the newly formed political parties before the general elections which took place early this year

African Action Congress (AAC), one of the new parties that participated in the 2019 elections is presently in a state of chaos.

For a party that claims to have the moral high ground and had a penchant for criticising the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the last election campaigns, the narratives from the current crisis within the party is quite insightful.

Just like many other new parties, AAC, formed by online publisher, Omoyele Sowore, came on the political scene, targeting the young population.

Launched in Abuja on August 15, 2018, the party had the slogan, Take It Back-action.

Expectedly, Sowore emerged the national chairman. The national secretary was Leonard Nzenwa; national treasurer, Ajeigbe Samuel; national financial secretary, Patience Ezekiel; national legal adviser Adikun.

As anticipated also, Sowore was nominated as presidential flagbearer of the party for the 2019 general election.

Sowore who pulled out of the pact to form a coalition with some young presidential hopefuls could only poll 33,395 votes after the presidential election.

While he protested the outcome of the election, AAC was neither able to win a single seat in the 9th National Assembly nor produce a state governor.

However, just when pundits thought the party should be reflecting on why it performed poorly with a bid to build towards forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, Ondo and Edo, and ultimately the  2023 polls, it has found itself enmeshed in a crisis of confidence.

On May 13, 2019 Omoyele Sowore, its presidential candidate, and the leadership of the AAC, engaged in what could be described as a ‘show of strength.’

Mazi Okwy, a member of the AAC National Executive Committee (NEC), had announced the suspension of Sowore over “failure to convene a NEC meeting, financial misappropriation and other anti-party activities.”

He said the party had appointed Leonard Ezenwa as acting national chairman, with one Abayomi Olufemi as his deputy.

Okwy said the suspension was based “particularly on inflow of illegal foreign funds into the party and personally retaining same in contravention of Section 225 (3)(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), together with eight others.”

However, in reaction, Sowore announced the suspension of top members of the party and expulsion of Nzenwa.

In a statement he personally signed as ‘national chairman’ of the party, Sowore described those suspended as “misguided individuals.”

“It has come to the notice of the office of the chairman of the African Action Congress that a group of suspended members, induced by financial reasons and anti-progressive politics, gathered in Abuja on 13th May, 2019, and purportedly held a NEC meeting,” the statement read.

“These members, led by Leonard Nzenwa, former national secretary, who was suspended for financial impropriety and anti-party activities, have demonstrated by their actions that they have never been, and have never shared, the core beliefs that those of us in the African Action Congress hold.

“Leonard Nzenwa is hereby expelled from the party, and the misguided individuals who participated in the Abuja meeting are suspended from the party until investigations reveal the extent of their involvement.”

This crisis comes after an earlier  controversy shook the party as a  result of the endorsement of AAC’s candidate in Rivers State, Biokpomabo Awara, by the leader of the APC in the state and minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, ahead of the governorship election.

Following his party’s exclusion from the election process in the state, Amaechi, while addressing supporters of the APC in the state, explained that it was pertinent for his party to adopt the AAC candidate considering the closeness of the elections.

Akpo Yeeh, deputy governorship candidate of the AAC in Rivers, had resigned his membership of the party over what he described as undue interference by Amaechi.

Yeeh who conveyed his decision to Biokpomabo Awara, governorship candidate of the AAC, in a letter announced he was joining the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He said his decision was influenced by the “complete hijack of the structure and administration of our Party by a faction of the APC in Rivers State led by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, for his personal political ambition”.

He said in the circumstance, he could not in all conscience continue to lend support to the “selfish political venture of the Minister of Transportation, which does not mean well for the progress and development of the people of Rivers State”.

“My decisions were informed by the complete hijack of the structure and administration of our Party by a faction of the APC in Rivers State led by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, for his personal political ambition.

The party’s national leadership also distanced itself from the endorsement.

Perhaps, in a bid to set the record straight, Sowore, recently gave an account of expenditure from public funds he solicited to fund his presidential ambition.

In an infograph, Sowore 2019 Campaign Organisation revealed that it had spent a grand total of N157,884,936.98 for its campaign activities.

The campaign, which lasted for 50 weeks, and cut across 36 states in over 15 countries detailed its expenses to include townhall rentals, which gulped N9.8million for event centres and N3.2million for accessories.

Others include caravan rentals for N8.1million, travel costs N5.5million, mobilisation of attendees N20.2million, refreshment for attendees N3.3million, accommodation of candidate and team members N4.2million, and security and Intelligence N740,000.

Sowore raised monies publicly through a GoFundMe account and a Zenith Bank Account.

Recounting his experience and the need for accountability through a statement, human rights activist Sowore said:  “A little over one year ago, we embarked on a remarkable journey aimed at rescuing Nigeria from 58 years of inept leadership, returning power to the Nigerian people and setting our nation on a path to progress and growth.”

How far this crisis goes remains to be seen. But unless it is robustly resolved, the party might just go the way of those before it that withered away even before they started.

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