The recent ward and local government congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) drew mixed reactions across the country. While the exercises were smooth in some states, in others, it widened the gulf among already warring camps of the party.
As much as such reaction was not unexpected in the context of contest for power, according to pundits, it however, underscores the enormity of the tussle within the party as it heads into the 2023 general elections.
Enugu and Abia fall within the latter category of intense power tussle, perhaps because they are state under the political leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The ward and local government congresses worsened the crisis rocking APC in Enugu. The crisis between the founding members of APC and those who joined have been on.
The acting chairman of the party in the state, Ben Okoye is head of the foundation members who describe themselves as members of the defunct Congress for Progress Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN).
Those who make up the new members are called on ex- Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani, minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and former governor of the state, Barrister Sullivan Chime.
However, pundits thought the crisis had been laid to rest when the two camps attended a meeting on the ward congress election at the party state secretariat.
At the meeting, which was attended by foundation members of the party and other stakeholders, Dr. Ijeomah Arodiogbu, the chairman of the committee sent from Abuja to monitor the congress had assured all interested parties that the exercise will be fair, boasting that nobody can manipulate him.
Prior to the meeting however, the state caretaker committee chairman of the party, Ben Nwoye, had raised the alarm over plots to hijack result sheets for the exercise, an allegation which was denied by the electoral committee chairman.
But the outcome of the last ward congresses of the party turned out to be a point of crisis as allegations of absence of result sheets in all the polling units in the whole state emerged.
Shortly after the election, Nwoye raised the alarm that result sheets in the 260 wards of Enugu were missing, insisting that no single ward was given result sheets for the exercise.
Perturbed by the development, Nwoye swiftly inaugurated the supposed members of the ward executives and delegates who were elected during the congress of the party at ward level.
Inaugurating the newly elected officials from the 260 wards in Enugu State, the chairman of the caretaker committee of the party in the state, Dr. Ben Nwoye advised them to go back and be in charge of the party at their different wards.
He told the jubilant officials that their names have already been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission that supervised the exercise last Saturday.
Afraid that some people were trying to push them off a party they labored hard to build in the state, foundation members of the party called on the Nnamani-led camp to halt the coup d’etat against them.
The state publicity of the APC, Mrs. Kate Ofor, who is also a legacy foundation member made the appeal in a statement she made available to news men in Enugu.
But the appeal did not yield any result as those loyal to Nnamani and Onyema announced a former deputy to Nwoye Prince Gilbert Chikwado Chukwunta as state chairman of the party.
Subsequently, the group led by Chukwunta went ahead and conducted parallel congress in some of the 17 local government areas of the state.
As a fallout to the crisis, 41 members were expelled from the party. Speaking on the development, Nwoye said 41 members who filed the suit had automatically expelled themselves from the party.
The expulsion, according to the party, followed their alleged violation of the provision of the party’s constitution.
As controversy continues to trail the ward and local government congresses in Enugu, the question on the lips of many is, will the national leadership of the party save the soul of the party.
In Abia, events that heralded the concluded congresses began at the expanded caucus meeting of the party on Thursday, July 29 in Ikwuano local government area of the state, barely 48 hours to the kick-off of the ward congress.
At the meeting which was hosted by Hon Emeka Atuma, a faction of the party chaired by Hon Donatus Nwankpa, reaffirmed the suspension of High Chief Ikechi Emenike from the party for anti-party activities.
Chairman of the meeting, minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uche Ogah, said Emenike had already been suspended by his Umukabia Ward, Umuahia North local government area, and the party state executive.
Emenike, an economist, a developmental journalist and consultant to many international organisations is a founding member of APC in the country and secretary of the powerful contact and strategy committee.
Shortly after the pronouncement, a party chieftain Hon Obilor Ogbonna, told LEADERSHIP, that the suspension was a desperate move by desperate politicians who have lost relevance.
Preparatory to the ward congress, the chairman of the congress committee, Hon Israel Goli, while addressing a press conference in Umuahia, the capital said they had met with the stakeholders and assured them of a free and transparent exercise.
The federal lawmaker also said the date, venue, and time of the meeting was communicated to the stakeholders. Asked if all stakeholders were contacted, he answered in the affirmative.
On the suspension of Emenike, he said it is a huge joke as nobody in his or her right mind can make such a statement.
Meanwhile, about midday on the congress day, the factional chairman addressed a press conference in Umuahia, alleging that the congress committee had absconded with the electoral materials.
Explaining that efforts were on to trace their whereabouts, he accused them of attempting to ferment a crisis in the party by not identifying with his executive committee which he said had the list of the candidates.
He however urged members to go ahead and conduct the congress.
Speaking to newsmen in Umuahia, the capital, after monitoring the exercise with other members of the 7-member committee later in the day at the end of the exercise, Goli denied there was a parallel congress.
In a dramatic turn of events, on Thursday, September 2, about 48 hours to the local government congresses, Nwankpa inaugurated chairmen of the 184 wards in the state, calling for unification of these members.
Speaking after the legal adviser, Barr Onuoha Nwokoma administered the Oath of office on them, Nwankpa urged the chairmen to take urgent steps to bring estranged members back into the fold.
But while addressing newsmen on September 3, at the party’s secretariat in the capital ahead of the local government congresses, the chairman, Goli assured both the candidates and the stakeholders of a plain playing field.
Reacting to the reported inauguration of the ward executive committee of the faction, Goli denied that APC is not factionalised in the state.
As announced by the national headquarters of the party, the state congress is about a fortnight away from now. The exercise, which of course can be likened to a dress rehearsal will mark the end of the struggle for the soul of the party in the state.