The chances of All Progressive Congress, APC winning elections in Enugu State are becoming slimmer by the day as crisis after crisis has continued to dog the party, in the weeks leading to elections.
Barely 40 days to the presidential election, the party is still grappling with an internal problem capable of denying it the opportunity of winning any elective position as it happened in 2019. This is so because on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, when the presidential candidate of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu came to Enugu for campaigns, major stakeholders in the party were conspicuously absent at the Okpara Square, Independence Layout, Enugu where the campaign rally took place.
The party bigwigs that distanced themselves from the presidential rally include the former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former governor, Sullivan Chime, former Speaker, Hon. Eugene Odo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr Osita Okechukwu and the immediate past chairman of the state, Dr Ben Nwoye among others.
Although most of the party bigwigs received the presidential candidate at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu on his arrival, they diverted to Chime’s Enugu residence, where they addressed the media on their absence at the rally, adding that the move was to send a clear signal to the national leadership of the party that something urgently must be done over the crisis in the state chapter of the party.
Blaming the crisis on Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, the party bigwigs alleged that he has hijacked the APC structure in Enugu State, thereby disorganising the party.
The various speakers said they were not privy to all the preparations and programme for the rally.
In unison, the leaders agreed that Tinubu is a good candidate and pledged their support to ensure his victory in the presidential election. The former Governor Chime, “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.”
On the party’s candidate, Chime said, “we will ensure that he gets more than the required 25 per cent. Enugu must be counted. Today’s event is just a rally, the major thing is an election and we are working hard to see to the victory of the party.”
On his part, the former Senate President, Senator Nnamani declared that “Tinubu is the candidate of the party and all loyal party members will support and work for his victory.” However, disclosed 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.”
Meanwhile, the party hierarchy was not happy with the chairman of the party, Chief Ugochukwu Agballah and the governorship candidate, Chief Uche Nnaji, who they had accused of high-handedness, especially in the area of handling the delegate congress funds. In short, the duo were accused of the unaccounted $1.3 million being the sale of forms and the monies the presidential candidates paid to the delegates for the national congress of the party.
Before the Tinubu presidential rally, the party had been in shambles and the disgruntled party members had demonstrated to the party leadership in Abuja that they want Agballah out as their chairman.
The stakeholders, who met the APC national chairman at the party’s national secretariat, in Abuja, also demanded an interim executive of the party in Enugu state.
Other stakeholders listed in the petition submitted to the national chairman include former governor of Enugu state, Sullivan Chime, General Okoloagu, Sen. Ayogu Eze, Chief Gbazuagu Nweke, Barr. Eugene Odo, Mr. Ifeanyi Nwoga, Chief Onyemuche Nnamani and Osita Okechukwu.
The petition read: “The party in Enugu State recorded an unprecedented milestone of reinvention of itself during the last membership registration exercise.
“The party rebounded in goodwill as membership soared and the Party continued on this positive trend into the ward and local government congresses and was cruising towards taking away the shine from the ruling party in the State.
“A major crack however emerged during the state congress, when Mr Ugochukwu Agballah was surreptitiously manoeuvred into the party to become its state chairman to the bewilderment and vehement opposition of a majority of the party members who knew his antecedents as a person and in Enugu State politics.
“The chairman may wish to recall that as Chairman of All Progressives Congress National Peace and Reconciliation Committee that former governor Sallivan Chime had led a protest of stakeholders/elders of Enugu State All Progressive Congress Chapter against the emergence of Ugo Agaballah as state chairman on two grounds: The non-membership of Ugo Agballah and the controversial and irregular process of Ugo Agballah’s emergence as state chairman.
“Ugo Agballah was given the benefit of the doubt by a few leaders of the Party and issued a certificate of return. It was felt by those few leaders that the party needed to change direction at all costs and have a vibrant leader who could finally unite the party in the State. Unfortunately, the new Chairman did not waste time in proving those majority leaders who opposed his emergence correct in their warning.
“He immediately systematically dismantled the core of the party structure and brought in his followers. He insulted the party leaders, including those few who supported his emergence, sidelined them completely in matters affecting the running of the party in the state and has been operating as a sole administrator or indeed a dictator. The result has been the withdrawal from the party of a growing number of important leaders and members.
“The party is imploding and on the brink of imminent collapse. It is in no position as things stand, to be competitive in the general elections. The leaders now believe that a radical solution is called for to save the state party from total collapse and disgrace in the state.
“The aim is to unify the party through the appointment of a caretaker chairman as the current chairman has alienated and lost the confidence of the majority of the members of the state party and its leadership.
“Very importantly, it should be noted that he has been lawfully removed by his Udi/Agbudu ward of Udi LGA of Enugu State on the 19th day of August 2022 by an overwhelming majority of party members in his ward. A copy of the resolution is hereby attached.
“This petition is written with a view of notifying the National Chairman and National Working Committee of APC of the state of affairs of our great party in Enugu State. As elders of the party in the state, we strongly believe that we must bring these anomalies to your attention for urgent remedial action. A stitch in time saves nine.”
The stakeholders, however, demanded an urgent intervention by the national chairman.
“We urge the NWC to immediately save the party in Enugu State from total collapse by removing Mr Ugochukwu Agballa from office and in his place put a Caretaker Chairman who should be someone not within the present State Executive Committee. The party still stands a chance of remedying the situation and being competitive in the general elections.”
When all entreaties to have Agballah removed as chairman seemed to have failed, the party hierarchy again, led by the former parallel chairman, Chief Adolphus Ude, went to Abuja and demanded that Agballah be called to account for $1.3 million which they claimed Agballah and the governorship candidate, Nnaji embezzled in broad daylight during the October 2022 national Congress.
To drive home their demand and to prove that they are angry the top party hierarchy decided to shun Tinubu’s presidential rally at Okpara Square, Enugu, thereby forcing Agballah and the governor of Ebonyi State to hire crowds from Ebonyi, Imo and Kogi states to fill the Square to give the impression that there was nothing wrong the party in the state.
Just two days ago, Ude raised a dirge that Agballah and Nnaji were after his life for leading the protest march against them to Abuja. There was no concrete evidence that his life was threatened but his allegation went viral on social media that his life is in danger.
The crisis in Enugu APC however predates the Tinubu presidential campaign rally because many top party members, some of which were mentioned above, never wanted Agballah to be the party chairman. Agballah was a PDP member, just decamped to APC a few weeks before the state Congress but was able to bulldoze his way and became the party chairman. Those who felt that his emergence fell short of expectations have done everything possible to see that he is uprooted or detained.
Whether any man believes it or not, though none of the factions agree that there is a crack in the party hierarchy, the party had been broken into factions.
The former party chairman, Dr Ben Nwoye, who midwifed the party since 2014 APC was formed until Agballah emerged as chairman after a turbulent Congress, is leading a faction that has metamorphosed into Tinubu/Shettima Support Group which he donated his house at Independence Layout as the campaign headquarters of the group.
A chieftain of the party and chairman of Awgu local government, Kenneth Ofoma who doubles as Special Adviser on Media to the governor, Agballah said Ude and co-travellers belonged to the past, adding that the new APC in Enugu State is focused on delivering all their candidates in the forthcoming polls.
He said, “Chief Agballah who is the chairman of APC in the state and Chief Uche Nnaji, the governorship candidate of the party don’t know that they even exist. They are not losing sleep APC is ever energized and reformed.”