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Congress: Old, new APC set for an epic battle over Party’s leadership in Ebonyi

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Even though the rumours about plots by the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dvaid Umahi to defect to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC were vehemently strong that one could literally cut through it with a knife, he was often more desperate to dispel and dismiss them, insisting he will remain in his Party- the PDP and will have nothing to do with a the ruling Party he described as ‘filled with failed politicians’.

But like pregnancy, Umahi eventually yielded to analysts claims and predictions when he officially announced his defection to the APC in a ceremony that held in the Ecumenical Centre on November 19, 2020. He was received by his the Care-Taker Chairman of the Party and Governor of Yobe State, Malam Mai Buni and his Jigawa counterpart, Abubakar Badaru among a few other stakeholders from outside the Salt of the nation. His pronounced reason for defecting, Umahi told those who care to listen was to ‘connect Ebonyi to the centre’.

As expected, most political office holders and some elected officials in the State joined him in declaring for the APC. But rather to his shock and surprise of some keen watchers of political developments in the State, eight out of nine members of the National Assembly and about half of the members of the State’s House of Assembly rather to stay put in the PDP- the platform upon which they were elected. A rave of defections to the ruling Party as expected followed thereafter with thousands of elected and appointed officials joining the music, beginning from the 13 Council Chairmen and some other grass-root appointees.

It is pertinent to remark that of course, scores of appointees who felt unconvinced to decamp with their benefactor, the Governor either resigned or were suspended from office. What many considered the apogee of the high-wired political altercation was when a few weeks after his defection, Governor Umahi in a Press conference branded leaders of his defunct Party including Senators Anyim Pius Anyim and Sam Egwu (who both contributed hugely in his emergence in 2015) as sponsors of IPOB and insecurity in the State.

At this point, the battle line was fully drawn and the remnants of the appointees and supporters Umahi left behind in the PDP to ‘cause crises’ in the opposition Party began to throw spanners at the works and efforts to revamp the Party for a post-Umahi era. This culminated in litigations commenced by the immediate-past Chairman of the Party in the State, Onyekachi Nwebonyi who approached the Court of law challenging the dissolution of the State’s Executives by the National Working Committee of the Party. Apparently exhausting his scripts, Nwebonyi and his co-travelers were later to throw in the towel and eventually joined Umahi in defecting to the ruling APC.

Since after failed attempts by the Fred Udeogu-led appointed State Care-Taker Committee to possess the PDP Secretariat, the Party has remained under lock and key, forcing the interim Excos to operate from a hotel owned by one of the PDP National Assembly members. The Nwebonyi faction and his loyalists who had continually laid claims to the Secretariat had clashed with the Udeogu supporters when they, in compliance to an ‘order of Court’ went to take possession of the Secretariat around March this year.

It is also apt to state that since Umahi’s defection, PDP stakeholders, including Ebonyi House of Assembly members have been hounded and harassed for not defecting to the APC with the Governor.

And Umahi inherited Ebonyi APC’s long divided house…

With his defection, the new APC consequently constitutes of the Governor who automatically became the leader of the Party in the State as the National Working Committee handed over the Party’s structure to him in compliance with the Party’s constitution and his teeming supporters who joined the Party. This development was despite the fact that there were clear grudges by some members of the Party- the old APC against Umahi for joining the Party he sternly criticized, hounded and in extreme cases, attacked its members.

Even as Umahi denies the obvious, the old APC members some of who are founding members of the Party including the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, former Governor of the State Chief Martin Elechi, member representing Ikwo/Ezza South federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Chinedu Ogah, a two-term Senator from Ebonyi Central, Julius Ali Ucha who contested governorship in the state in 2015, another former Senator, Anthony Agbo, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji who flew the Party’s flag in 2019, Chairman Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Chief Elias Mbam, Labour Party Governorship election in Ebonyi 2015 election, Arc. Edward Nkwegu, former UBEB Chairman, Chief Austin Edeze, and two-term House of Representatives member, Hon. Christopher Omo Isu and a former Secretary to Ebonyi State government, Professor Benard Odoh who also aspired for the Party’s ticket in 2018.

 

 

The rest are; former Commissioners in the State, Dr. Paul Okorie, Chief James Aro Nweke, Engr. Chukwuma Nwandugo, former Chairman of Afikpo North LGA, Pharm Tony Ekoh Jnr, and a Chieftain of the Party in the state Chief Haroun Ajah among numerous others stakeholders who had been in the Party before Umahi’s decampment. It is apt to reminisce that the APC in Ebonyi since the era of the defunct APP and even ANPP had been enmeshed in deep leadership and factional crises with Onu and Ucha always locked in supremacy battle over who is the authentic leader of the Party. The leadership crises and disunity in the Party had cost the Party its victory in 2015 and 2019 elections.

Members of the new APC on the other hand are; Governor Umahi and his Deputy, Dr. Kelechi Igwe, 16 members of the State House of Assembly, Commissioners, the 13 Local Government Chairmen, Special Assistants, Senior Special Assistants, members of Boards, Commissions and parastatals, and other aides of the Governor.

The peace of a graveyard had pervaded in the Party since the defection of Governor Umahi and his loyalists with warring stakeholders lying in wait for the due time. It is not surprising to some therefore that peace seems departing the mausoleum following petitions and counter-petitions between both members of the old and the new APC.


Harvest of petitions, counter-petitions as Uwa writes Care-Taker C’tee to tame Umahi…

The first to fire a petition was Hon. Chijioke Uwa, a member representing South East in APC National Committee for the Mobilization of Women, Youth and People with Disability during the recently-held Party’s Revalidation and Registration exercise. Uwa had petitioned the National Working Committee of the Party alleging sidelining of old APC members by Umahi.

His petition alleged, “I am the member representing the South East in the All Progressives Congress, APC, National Committee for the Mobilization of Women, Youth and People with Disability for Party Revalidation and Registration.

Uwa had recalled that on 18th November 2020 when Your Excellency led a  delegation of APC national officers to Ebonyi State for the formal defection of Governor David Umahi into APC, he led a protest of  Concerned stakeholders of Old APC members over the manner of Governor Umahi’s impending ‘lone defection into APC wherein members of the old APC in Ebonyi State who were killed in different parts of Ebonyi State by Governor David Umahi and his agents for voting for the All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general elections were neither mourned nor their survivor’s given financial assistance to cope with life; and others framed up and thrown into prison, facing trial or forced into exile for the same “offense” of voting for All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari in the same 2019 general elections were neither released from prison/trial nor reinstated and compensated by the same Governor David Umahi who then was joining the APC.

 “Your Excellency may recall that in the protest, the concerned old APC members expressed concern that it was unwholesome there was no recourse to us by our chief assailant and antagonist, Governor David Umahi, who intended to join us via that defection ceremony; and expressed fears that given Governor David Umahi’s verified antecedents, he was on a mission to supplant and rubbish the old APC members who stood with the Party and suffered through thick and thin.

The petitioner had alleged that after listening to their complaints which were so genuine that Governor David Umahi who was present and heard our complaints against him could neither deny nor refute any, openly apologized to them in the presence of Buni and other APC national officers, allegedly promising to mourn the said APC martyrs who were allegedly killed by Umahi’s agents for voting for All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general elections and also to pay compensation to their survivors to enable them to absorb the shock of the untimely deaths of their respective breadwinners.

 The petitioner had further alleged that Umahi promised to release those he clamped into prison and those facing trial for the “crime” of voting for All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 and also reinstate those forced into exile and restitute their respective inheritances which were allegedly divested of them for the same “crime” of voting for APC and President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general election; and (4) to accommodate the old APC members in both the structure and running of the APC and his administration in Ebonyi State.

 “It was after that and the assurance that Your Excellency and the national leadership of the party will ensure that Governor David Umahi implements those agreements that you urged us to join the defection ceremony. As core loyalists, we obeyed.

Your, the essence of this correspondence is to regretfully inform you, the national leadership of the  All Progressives Congress and His Excellency President Muhammadu  Buhari, GCFR, that Governor David Umahi has serially breached all those honest agreements; and that as Your Excellences read this letter, supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, in the 2019 general elections have been unmourned while many others are languishing in prison in Abakaliki and Afikpo with many yet in exile with their inheritances divested of them by the agents of the selfsame Governor David Umahi who has continued to habitually mouth his love for President Muhammadu Buhari on television screens in the hope of attracting support for his (Umahi’s) 2023 vice-presidential project”, he further alleged.

The petitioner further alleged that Governor Umahi has equally used his influence to frustrate the intervention of the Human Rights Defenders in the pathetic case of the embattled supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari whom he allegedly clamped into prison, forced into exile, divested of their homes and other inheritances, or subjected to trial for trumped-up criminal charges.


“Governor Umahi who joined the Party as a loner without any stakeholder from the national or State Assembly member (Note that no legislator whether federal or state from Ebonyi State has defected to APC on the floor of the legislative chambers) from his former political Party took over the leadership of the Party through the installation of his Commissioner for Internal Security, Hon.  Stanley Emeagha as Acting State Chairman; the Council Chairman of Onicha LGA, Engr. Igbo, as the State Organizing Secretary;  and another of his appointee as the State Publicity Secretary and so on. Through those aides of his, Governor David Umahi has not only succeeded in supplanting the old APC members, but he has positioned himself menacingly to hijack the on-coming APC  congresses and install his shortlisted cronies and thereby seal the 
the fate of the old APC members in Ebonyi State”, Uwa alleged.

 The former Federal Commissioner further claimed that Umahi’s antagonism against the old APC family is depleting the gains of the APC National Committee for Mobilization of Women, Youths, and People Living with Disabilities to which he belongs in  Ebonyi State which is his State of origin.

“For instance, this is why people like the former Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and Senatorial aspirant for Ebonyi South, Dr. Abia Onyike, who read our protest letter against Umahi’s roughshod lone defection into APC to the National Chairman and members of the APC NEC  delegation who came to welcome the Ebonyi governor into APC on 18th November 2020 have left APC, but we are still hanging on in the trust that something can be done to tame Governor David Umahi even now”, he concluded.

 

Ebonyi APC, Umahi supporters fight back… Wants Uwa suspended from Party

But the new APC led by OkoroEmegha described Uwa’s petition as a devised, contrived and stage-managed means to cause disharmony among party leaders by some disgruntled elements to hijack the Party congresses or hold parallel ones.

The Party through its Publicity Secretary, Ogbuatu Simbad regretted that Uwa’s petition was coming at a time the Party leaders and members are working assiduously to close ranks, unite and come out with unity for peaceful Congresses.

He said, “we are not ignorant of the fact that some people who may not be satisfied (of course it is impossible to satisfy everybody) with the successes and unity the Party has recorded within the period that Gov. Umahi defected to it will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the Party roasts in crises, but we want to assure them that there is no room for them to cause catastrophe as APC currently in Ebonyi State is more grounded and more formidable than it was in the time past. We should rather wish that this fellow toes the part of peace and fashion out modalities that can strengthen the Party.

“We wish to explicitly say that, if Mr. Uwa had genuine intentions, he would have taken alternative means by reminding His Excellency of the contracts they had with him before defection which he had failed to keep (that is if there is one).

“In reaction to the allegations made in the petition or report, we as a party wish to state that” the Leader of the party and the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi in his exceptional peaceful disposition has gone the extra mile in bringing the leaders of the Party together and involved them in his all-inclusive governance of the State contrary to the petitioner’s allegation of sidelining. This was done through different Party leaders and stakeholders meetings he had convened in which the relevant party leaders and stakeholders have always come and critical issues and decisions were discussed and reached. Chief Martin Elechi- the former governor, Chief Peter Ogali, Arch Edward Nkwegu, Chief Ugo Chima, Sen. Chris Nwankwo, and others have always attended such meetings. Inquiries can be made Sir.

“His Excellency, Gov Umahi on 29th November 2020, few weeks after the defection convened first of such meetings of the founding fathers, elders, and relevant stakeholders of the party at the Governor’s Lodge, Old Government House, Abakaliki. They were all in attendance and the governor announced that all the political prisoners, including those that were in prison before he took over as the governor, were all pardoned and he gave a matching order that they should be released immediately. It was in the same meeting that His Excellency, announced the Immediate Past State Chairman of the party, Pastor Eze Nwachukw Eze as a Commissioner.


The reaction further clarified, “Similarly, the Caretaker Chairman of the Party in the state, Chief Stanley Okoro Emegha had in recent time made a reconciliatory move where he paid a courtesy call to relevant stakeholders and leaders of the party. The visit significantly yielded the desired fruit as those who felt aggrieved buried their anger and promised to be committed to the party’s programs and policies. For instance, the governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 election Sen. Soni Ogbuoji has always attended our meeting, sent a representative, or taken permission when he would be unavoidably absent. The same thing applies to some other leaders.

 

Umahi adds his voice… harps on unity

Governor Umahi who emphasized the need for unity and oneness in the Party to ensure victory in the 2023 general elections, said there is nothing like foundation APC and foundational PDP members in the Party. In other words, Umahi even at the recent stakeholders meeting held last week at the Ecumenical centre laboured to stamp his disposition that there were no old and new members of the APC as he submitted that they were all equal members of the Party.

 “There is nobody here that was not in one party before the other. So, we are all joining APC at different times. And so, there is nothing like foundational APC members, foundational PDP members, there is nothing like that”, he maintained, rather advocating for transparency and consensus in the forthcoming congresses of the Party.


He said even though the party emphasizes consensus, it must be tested in the field to ensure the emergence of popular candidates and rancor-free exercise. He pleaded that anyone who wishes to contest any of the positions during the congresses should not be disallowed to do so.

 Said Umahi, “our Party emphasizes consensus but this consensus must be tested in the field because if you say that this person is the most popular and acceptable by the people, the will of the people must prevail if we want to win elections.

Consensus does not mean that we will stay in Abakaliki and results of those who will represent the rural people that is not consensus. Consensus is where at least 80% of the stakeholders of a particular ward agree that these people are the most popular people not when one or two stakeholders say these are the list; I don’t think this is what we are looking for”, he informed.

 Umahi continued that the Party will like to have a transparent congress. ‘We will like the rural people to have their say so that our elections will be rancor-free so that there will be peace. There is nobody here that was not in one Party before the other. So, we are all joining APC at different times. And so, there is nothing like foundational APC members, foundational PDP members, there is nothing like that.

 Indirectly making a veiled reference to the petition, Umahi said, “We will never allow anybody to change the narratives. We have a lot of avenues by Ebonyi behavior and the provisions of the constitution to handle issues if you feel aggrieved. Writing to the nation is not the best because nobody from outside will come in between to solve our problems, we will solve our problems by ourselves.”

Wards, LG and State Congresses and the scramble for Ebonyi APC’s soul

There are claims that Governor Umahi basking on claims that the APC National leadership has handed over all APC-controlled States to the Governors of the States to hold forth as leaders of the Party has offered a 70% (for new APC members) Vs 30% (for old APC members)- an offer that was said to have been vehemently rejected by the old APC.

An insider source hinted Orient politics desk that some federal appointees, including the aggrieved stakeholders of the old bloc of APC had met at the residence of an Abuja-based federal appointee to deliberate on how to possibly conduct a parallel congress on Saturday, citing Umahi’s negligence and modus operandi as their reason. The stakeholders, majority of who are said to be backing a Muslim candidate, Dr. Haroun Aja for the State’s Chairmanship position are said to have drawn up their swords with a vow to submit a parallel congress list to the Party’s National Secretariat.

This is said to be against the plans of Umahi to either retain the Okoro Emegha-led Exco or bring in his close ally and former Ohaozara LG Chairman, Enekwachi Akpa to head the Party in the State. Sources close to him said Umahi is ready to spend the needed cash to stamp his authority as the leader of the Party by lining up his loyalists who he can trust as members of the State Exco of the Party.

As the war between the old APC and new APC rages in the Party, political watchers predict that it may affect the chances of the party in the 2023 general elections. Most intriguingly is that many, particularly the opposition are waiting with baited breathes to see how the congress makes, or breaks the crisis-ladden APC in Ebonyi.

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