By Titi Ogunrinde
ONE issue that has continued to bother watchers of political events in Enugu State is the unpreparedness of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to supplant the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state’s politics.
They had vowed to win the 2015 general election to compensate, but that seems a tall dream, as the party performed poorly in the 2015 general elections, securing less than 30,000 votes. It did not even win in any of the wards in the state. Many believe that the result the party recorded in the election is a reflection of how crisis had eaten deep the fabrics of party.
Emecheta Ugwu, a lawyer and Enugu North chairman of the party, gave credence to this, noting, “APC in Enugu State remains the weakest following a plethora of crisis.”
He stated, “rather than work in the interest of the party, members indulge in blackmail and campaign of calumny against one another,” adding, “individual selfish interest was more paramount than the overall interest of the party.”
Ugwu confessed his doubt about the party’s ability to win the 2015 elections in the state with the tattered political arrangement on ground, saying, “we lack presence in several wards of the state.”
Based on the outcome of that election, the expectations were that APC should have by now began a postmortem and attempt to restructure to enable it confront the coming elections in the state. For instance, it is expected that Enugu will, by November this year, conduct election in the 17 local councils and 260 wards of the state.
There are also feelings that the party should have re-strategised on the best way to pursue the election cases in the tribunal as well as other post elections appraisals. This does not seem to be in the plan of the party now, as its leaders are currently engrossed in the struggle over who gets the only ministerial slot of the state.
The leaders, drawn from the three senatorial zones, in order to get endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari, are deploying every arsenal known in politics.
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that the intense battle for the ministerial slot has resulted in a big discord. Those on the scorecard are the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Okey Ezea; his running mate, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku; former Secretary to State government, Onyemuche Nnamani; spokesman of the party in the Southeast, Osita Okechukwu; the party’s National Vice Chairman (Southeast), Emma Enukwu, and lately, former Minister, Prof Barth Nnaji, who though is not a member of the party, is favoured, as one of the technocrats Buhari needs turn around the country’s economy.
With the level of injuries caused by the hate campaigns and character assassinations already employed against one another by the leaders of the party in the state over the slot, many are of the opinion that getting the APC members together again to work as one united party men and women might take some time. If that becomes the case, then the dominance of PDP in Enugu politics is bound to continue.
It was gathered that at a meeting of the stakeholders of the party from the Southeast held in Abuja, in May, Ezea had remarked that Enugu North Senatorial Zone should be allowed to produce the minister in line with an unwritten ordinance in the state.
Ezea was said to have reasoned that since the commencement of democracy in 1999, elected governors of the state have had the privilege of nominating candidates for ministerial positions from their zone, stressing that the idea had denied his Enugu North
Senatorial zone from producing a minister.
He added that it was also fair and square to allow the zone the chance, since it was opportune to produce the governor in the election. Enukwu, an indigene of the state, but from a different zone, was reportedly uncomfortable with his position at the meeting and had attacked him.
When Ezea returned to Enugu some days later, he forwarded written text messages to stakeholders of the party in the state on how he was ‘slapped’ by Enukwu for allegedly asking that Enugu North Senatorial Zone be left to produce the minister.
Enukwu, however, swiftly denied the attack on Ezea saying: “I’m surprised about that. Nothing like that happened. I am very surprised. That story is alien to me. I don’t know about it. May be it is calculated attempt to smear my image. I didn’t attack anybody. I am not a thug. I don’t fight.”
Meanwhile, some stakeholders in the party later met and wrote a letter addressed to President Buhari, detailing persons qualified to be nominated minister in his cabinet. The letter signed by the party’s state Vice Chairman, Anike Nwoga, and the Publicity Secretary, Kate Offor; had nominated Southeast zonal Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu (Enugu West), businessman, Onyemuche Nnamani (Enugu East) and Gen Chris Eze (rtd) (Enugu North) for the ministerial slot.
They reasoned that the nomination of the three received the support of stakeholders of the party, adding that they had worked for the promotion of the objectives of the party in the state.
They went further to advice the national leadership of the party not to accept any list forwarded to it by the state chairman, Ben Nwoye, Enukwu or Ezea for the ministerial slots. They insisted that the trio (Ezea, Nwoye and Enukwu) were responsible for the abysmal performance of the party in the state following their mismanagement of the campaign funds of the party.
While the contention was on, Offor single-handedly authored a statement that APC (in the state) would not admit any member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or any other party into its fold for now.
Offor said the SEC frowned at some elements within Enugu APC, who without authorisation or due process, had already held sinister meetings with some PDP members, who want to defect to APC. Those who read the letter saw it as a ploy to prevent certain ‘progressive elements’ outside the party who might be considered for appointment from getting it.
Angered by this action, Nwoye warned those criticising efforts to expand and entrench the party in the state to desist. He noted that so far, the APC had not made any in road in elections conducted in Enugu, adding that unless things were straightened out, the party might also not win a seat in this year’s council election.
Recently, the police in the state arrested the party’s Vice Chairman, Anike Nwoga, over a said petition written against him by Ezea. Nwoga was said to have disparaged the candidate in a publication he made over funds received for the 2015 general elections. He had accused Ezea of mismanaging the N400 million allegedly earmarked to fund the party’s campaigns.
Now, the caucus of the party in Enugu North Senatorial zone made up of six council areas —Igbo-Etiti, Igbo-Eze North, Igbo-Eze South, Nsukka, Udenu and Uzo Uwani — have taken the attacks on Ezea and the intense lobbying as orchestrated campaign against the zone aimed at denying it the slot.
The zone raised an alarm that since the conclusion of its consultations and evaluation on their members that showed interest in the ministerial job, which Ezea emerged as the choice, there has been orchestrated plans to scuttle his ambition.
“Ezea remains the strongest pillar in the building and sustenance of APC in Enugu State. Those angling for the position have not been part of this party. We know their antecedents and cannot be easily deceived. The APC in Enugu has become an embarrassment to our people, because members have become greedy. Everybody is now on the news, because there is a position for the state. We seem to have forgotten that our party is meant to offer credible alternative,” they said.
But another pressure group, Enugu Renaissance Initiative (ERI) has joined the fray insisting that the former SSG, Onyemuche Nnamani (Enugu East) remained suitable to be appointed as a minister from the state.
The group in a statement by its coordinator, Maxwell Ndu, insisted that merit and not mediocrity should be the yardstick, stressing that such is the change, which APC advocates.
The way things are, only a pronouncement from President Buhari over his choice minister might end this agitation and quarrels in Enugu APC.
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