From Magnus Eze, Enugu
The Enugu State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) would struggle into the February 25 and March 12 polls, and if no drastic intervention is made, the party may not just be roundly trounced but will come out with heavy bruises.
APC in the state has been embroiled in intractable leadership crises dating back to even before the 2019 elections when there existed two clear factions. Founding Chairman of the party in the state, Dr. Ben Nwoye led a faction with backing from chieftains like former Enugu governor, Sullivan Chime, Sen. Ayogu Eze and others while Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Ginika Tor and some others filed behind Okey Ogbodo, as factional chairman.
The dogfight in 2019 was so fierce that the party paraded two claimants to the governorship ticket -Ayogu Eze and George Ogara until even after the election.
Daily Sun was told that the circumstance that brought in a former Commissioner for Works in the state, Chief Ugochukwu Agballah as the current State Chairman of the party was everything but transparent. So, instead of dousing tension, Agballah’s succession of Nwoye was rancorous as the matter got messier with more chieftains squaring up for war.
It was gathered that Agballah’s emergence which was linked to Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, alienated several chieftains of the party, such that they did not participate in the primary elections that produced the party’s candidates for the forthcoming polls. The primary election of the gubernatorial candidate, Chief Uchenna Nnaji (Nwakaibie) was a mere formality as there was no challenger, because the party reportedly reserved the form for him alone.
For the aggrieved APC leaders, the party’s candidates in the oncoming elections are simply clutching poisoned chalice.
Signs that a day like the APC presidential rally in Enugu would come were there for all to see.
However, the Tinubu/Shettima presidential rally at Okpara Square, Enugu, on Wednesday, January 11, clearly exposed the underbelly of the APC in Enugu State as the crisis bedevilling the party took a turn for the worse.
Prominent stakeholders of the party such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama, former President of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani, former Governor Chime and others shunned the party’s presidential campaign rally.
Other leaders of the party in the state that boycotted the event were the immediate past State Chairman of the party, Nwoye, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, former Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Eugene Odo, Sen. Ayogu Eze, former Secretary to Enugu State Government (SSG), Onyemuche Nnamani, and presidential aide Ibekaku- Nwagwu, just to mention a few.
Apparently in a bid to make up, Daily Sun confirmed that enormous resources were channelled towards mobilising people from neighbouring Ebonyi and Imo States.
In fact, not a few people saw the APC presidential rally in Enugu as its zonal rally for the South East. It actually appeared that way because majority of those in attendance came from outside the state, particularly Ebonyi, where Governor David Umahi ferried an intimidating crowd.
Leaders of the party had earlier in the day received the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his entourage at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
But while Tinubu headed to the Michael Okpara Square, venue of the rally, the aggrieved party leaders diverted to Chime’s Enugu residence, where they addressed newsmen.
According to them, their absence at the rally was to send a clear signal to the national leadership of the APC that something urgently must be done over the crisis in the Enugu State chapter of the party.
The leaders accused Uzodinma of allegedly hijacking the APC structure in Enugu State, thereby disorganizing the party.
Chime, Nnamani and Odoh said they were not privy to all the preparations and programme for the rally. They described Tinubu as a good candidate, assuring that they would work for his victory in the presidential election.
Chime said: “We received our presidential candidate at the Airport. We believe in him; he is the best.
“However, we are not at Okpara Square because of the internal issues we have in Enugu within the party. It has been there and this is because sometime in October, 2021, a non-member was foisted on us after the botched State Party Congress as a so-called chairman.
“The party leaders went to Abuja, complained but nobody took them seriously, the issues continued. So, we have to distance ourselves from the local chapter of the party. After today, we expect that the party will do the right thing.”
Regarding the party’s presidential candidate, Chime said, “we will ensure that he gets more than the required 25 percent. Enugu must be counted.
“Today’s event is just a rally; the major thing is election and we are working hard to see to the victory of the party.”
In the same manner, Nnamani declared that all loyal party members will support and work for Tinubu’s victory.
He, however, further explained that “we are not aware of the preparations for this rally. That is why we did not want to go and create a scene there.
“The rally was pretty much organized from outside Enugu.”
But, barely 24 hours to the Enugu presidential rally, leader of Concerned Enugu APC Members, Adolphus Ude, had raised the alarm that Agballah was trying to give the national leaders of the party and Tinubu, false electoral hope in the state.
Ude, who is the pioneer Deputy Chairman of APC in Enugu alleged that the duo engaged contractors to ferry a rented crowd from Ebonyi, Anambra, Abia, Imo, Benue and other nearby states to come and parade as Enugu people.
“It is a shame that they still have to shop for crowd beyond the borders of Enugu State even after they settled for Okpara Square, which is a very small venue compared to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. But can the people they are mobilising to Enugu tomorrow (Wednesday) cast votes for our party during the general election? The answer is no,” he declared.
Recall that some party leaders and members had on Monday, January 9, protested against the Agballah and Nnaji, at the national headquarters of the party in Abuja over alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million 2022 national convention allowances meant for Enugu delegates and the sum of N283 million meant for purchase of nomination and expression of interest forms to fill all elective positions in the state.
They called on the national leadership of the party to immediately sack Agballah and appoint a caretaker chairman to save the Enugu State chapter of the party before the 2023 general elections.
Fidelis Edeh, Director-General of Nwakaibie Uche Nnaji Campaign Organisation said there was no iota of truth in the claim, adding it was left for the national headquarters of APC to confirm if such funds were released.
Daily Sun gathered that Tinubu did not know what was going on until Umahi was announced to speak as the representative of the Director General of the Campaign, Governor Simon Lalong. The thunderous applause which greeted the announcement jolted the presidential candidate into consciousness that the crowd was majorly from Ebonyi State.
He was said to have expressed dissatisfaction with the development but the Deputy National Chairman (South), Chief Emma Eneukwu, publicly apologised to him for the lapses in the organisation of the event.
A chieftain of the party who accompanied Abia State APC governorship candidate, Ikechi Emenike to the event told Daily Sun that “It was like another Ebonyi rally because all these people singing and dancing are from Ebonyi.”
Notwithstanding, the party’s senatorial candidate for Enugu East, Princess Ada Ogbu, was indisputably in a class of her own; her mobilisation was second to none. The horde of supporters singing her praises was so vociferous; they sang, marched and danced without end. Ada Ogbu’s banners alongside the fliers of the candidate of Udi/Ezeagu Federal Constituency, dominated the venue.
It is noteworthy that Uzodimma alluded to the boycott of the rally by many major stakeholders of the party in the state in his speech as South East Coordinator of the Campaign. He recalled that he had intervened when he discovered that the party was in tatters, adding that his aim was to have a united APC in the state.
He also appealed to those aggrieved members to come and join forces with others in the interest of the party’s candidates in Enugu State, the presidential candidate and the APC as a whole.
Some other speakers also spoke in the same vein, stressing that this was a golden opportunity for the party to claim the governorship seat of Enugu State through the flag bearer, Nnaji.
They all assured Tinubu that the Igbo will vote massively for the APC.
“We will convince our people, we will educate our people, we will continue to talk to our people to vote APC.
“We are running a unified campaign, so, we are going to vote APC from bottom to top. There is nothing like vote here today, vote there tomorrow,” Uzodimma said.
For Umahi, Ndigbo are in APC to properly integrate in the centre, so, “I am begging our people, there is no sentiment in the fight for our survival. We must vote APC so that we can proudly approach Jagaban, when he becomes President.”
Pointing out that they were only obedient to APC; he added that “nobody can intimidate us. We are not negotiating anything like 60 or 70 percent. It must be 90 percent, then the rest parties can share 10 percent.”
Eneukwu said Tinubu had been tested and trusted as Governor of Lagos State, remarking that, “the people of the South East are going to stand on your mandate to govern Nigeria.”
Regardless, Tinubu asked the people of the South East to work with APC and vote for him as he was ready to make the zone an industrial hub.
He said: “As you pray, be ready to sacrifice for Nigeria. Here you are, if the Federal Government collaborates with you, if you elect me as the president and we work together, we can site the industrial hub for Enugu, industrial hub for Imo, for Ebonyi, Anambra, Abia, build seaports, two in Port Harcourt, fabricating engines, making all the things necessary, not just cutlass and bag makers.
“Enugu will become an industrial hub greater than before. There will be job for all of you…All you need is to partner with the Federal Government. Let’s work in the same party together.”