FELIX IGBEKOYI writes on the tussle within Delta State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Much like some states, the outcome of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ward congresses in Delta State crystalised the long and winding tussle for the soul of the party.
The battle for who leads the party in the state has been between the deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege and the minister of state for Labour, Festus Keyamo.
Although both camps had accused each other of trying to manipulate the outcome of the congress, not many pundits foresaw the raw powerplay that characterised the exercise.
Party faithful had barely begun to engage in the exercise when fierce looking police officers took over the APC state secretariat in Asaba.
Over five police Hilux and Sienna vehicles were stationed at the front of the secretariat while youths from different parts of the state numbering over 100 were seen around the premises.
One of the security men confided in LEADERSHIP that security was tight because members of the three-man committee sent to Delta State for the conduct of APC ward congress were almost lynched by aggrieved aspirants as they were saved by some party members.
The aggrieved aspirants numbering over 100 gathered at the secretariat, lamenting that they were not given forms even after presenting their payment tellers for the collection of forms.
Before now there has been a crisis rocking the party in regards to the sales of Application Forms for wards, local government areas and state congresses in which there was also an alarm over alleged hijack of the forms.
While the faction loyal to Keyamo pulled out of the exercise, Omo-Agege’s faction and the state Caretaker Committee chairman, Prophet Jones Ode Erue, continued.
Keyamo and seven other party leaders had alleged that congress materials were hijacked when the three-man congress committee arrived in Asaba from Abuja.
They called for the cancellation of the exercise, alleging that the caretaker chairman included only his loyalists as candidates for the wards and chapter congresses.
“The party in the state has come under the vice-grip of one man just because of his ambition to rule the state in 2023.
“We don’t know how he wants to achieve this if the party is balkanized with elements of disharmony holding sway,” they alleged.
But Omo-Agege’s camp called for Keyamo’s sack, insisting that “only his sack will bring peace to return and rebuild the party for 2023.”
The caretaker chairman, Erue, explained that “the delay in sorting of materials is due to the restriction of movements owing to environmental sanitation, assuring the exercise would go on as planned.
When contacted for clarification, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Edafe Bright, said the officers are there to provide security.
When APC at the national level released guidelines for the congresses, it was meant to inform all the state chapters to put their houses in order and prepare their members for the task ahead.
But while other states prepared for the exercise, the announcement revived the crisis within the Delta State chapter of the party.
The crisis reached its peak shortly before the congress when members of the Delta State Caretaker Committee alleged that 50 percent of forms for the ward congresses sent from the national secretariat were missing.
The state executive members said sales of forms were supposed to have started two Wednesdays ago but that nothing was happening at the party secretariat.
The text was signed by APC Delta Caretaker Committee secretary, Comrade Okonji Chidi; Elvis Ayomanor, deputy chairman and Sir Amorighoye Sunny Mene, APC Delta State Caretaker Committee state organising secretary.
They accused a media aide of the caretaker chairman of masterminding the hijack of congress application forms by allegedly impersonating the state party caretaker organising secretary with the apparent endorsement of the caretaker chairman.
However, one of the accused, Nick Ovuakporie, denied hijacking the forms adding that there was no time he took possession of the party’s Ward Congress Forms in the state.
Earlier, the minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo and other leaders of the APC in the state raised the alarm over alleged hijack of materials meant for the conduct of the party’s ward congresses in the state.
The party leaders in a letter dated to July 21, 2021 and addressed to national organising secretary of APC, Abuja, further alleged that the officials sent from Abuja were also taken away with the materials.
They further alleged that the national organising secretary of the state caretaker committee had been pocketed by a “so-called leader.”
“However, we cannot be denied the right to associate within the party to promote a common interest, like we have agreed to do.”
They threatened to boycott the whole process and look at other legal options if genuine party members are denied access to the forms by these character
Reacting, publicity secretary of the Delta APC caretaker committee, Sylvester Imonina, said the materials were in the custody of the state chairman, Jones Erue, adding that they were not hijacked but very much intact.
Imonina said the statement by the seven leaders contained “complete lies and unfounded conspiracies by the authors in order to create a state of chaos and panic in Delta State in a bid to discredit the conduct of the forthcoming congresses.”
To outsmart the Omo-Agege camp, Delta State APC Leaders Council was formed and went ahead to nominate persons to conduct the forthcoming congresses in the state.
But attempts by the leaders’ to produce consensus executive members at the ward, council and state levels ended in confusion.
The emergency meeting which was held virtually, was attended by Festus Keyamo, SAN, (Hon. Minister and Convener), Olorogun Great Ogboru (Governorship Candidate, 2019), Olorogun O’tega Emerhor (Governorship Candidate, 2015), Dr. Cairo Ojoigboh (former ED, NDDC), Dr. Alex Ideh, AVM Okorodudu (rtd.), Dr. Mariam Ali and Dr. Eugene Okolocha and where several resolutions were reached, as the said leaders agreed.
Meanwhile, Emerhor, who earlier contributed and was in support of the resolutions, sent in a message 24 hours later, that after deeper reflection and consultations, he backed down and would not proceed with the agreements.
But the APC led by Erue distanced itself from the group, stating that the group is strange and illegal to the party’s Constitution and its activities amount to anti-party.
Speaking through the director, publicity APC Delta State, Nick Ovuakporie, the state chairman condemned the divisive actions of the group, vowing that, “the party will not condone such shenanigans from anyone, no matter how highly placed such individuals may be”.
Meanwhile, party leaders, particularly in Delta north senatorial district linked the development in the party to the influence of Omo-Agege and decided to cut him to size.
Presumed largely as the governorship candidate of the APC in 2023, Omo-Agege has used his position as DSP in the last two years to build structures across the state ahead of 2023 with the tacit support of Erue.
But some party leaders in Delta north who are also nursing gubernatorial ambition have expressed determination to restrict Omo-Agege from the zone starting with party congresses to elect ward, local government and state officers.
They also resolved to produce the next state chairman of the party after Erue who is from Delta South.
Addressing party faithful in Agbor, chairman of Delta North Senatorial District Caretaker Committee, George Okafor, said the zone was seeking the understanding of other districts to concede the state chairmanship position to Delta north.
However, Omo-Agege is said to enjoy the support of the senator representing Delta north, Peter Nwaoboshi.
Clearly, the tussle for who controls the soul of the party will run for a long time.