By Omeiza Ajayi, ABUJA
In spite of its determined efforts to stave off crisis in the lead-up to the conduct of its Ward Congresses across the states and the FCT, the Gov. Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC now has its hands full with the controversies that have trailed the exercise in some states of the federation.From Delta, Osun, Kwara, Enugu to Lagos and many other states, events of last weekend can best be described as a congress of crisis rather than a congress of all progressives.
On the eve of the event, the national leadership of the party had threatened to wield the big stick on any of its members who conduct parallel exercises or open parallel party secretariats.
The party hierarchy through the National Secretary of its Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe also moved to ward off a possible resort to litigations in the aftermath of the exercise.
He specifically reminded party members of the December 8, 2020 resolution of the National Executive Committee NEC of the party which directed all aggrieved members to withdraw cases from the courts and warned others not to institute litigations against the party.
The NEC had ordered that “all pending litigations instituted by members against the party should be withdrawn forthwith, and going forward, no member should institute matters against the party, without exhausting the internal mechanism for conflict resolution, as enshrined in the party’s constitution”.
The party therefore insisted that all activities that may be carried out by persons to put the party and its officers in bad light, before, during and after the congresses should be jettisoned.
The party added that “all activities or processes leading up to the congresses and thereafter which do not have the approval of the CECPC are exercises in futility. This is to say that: any purported; parallel congress, parallel party organ and or parallel party office, is to say the least a nullity”.
The APC leadership vowed to dish out maximum punishment to offenders in accordance with its constitutional provisions.
“These divisive activities will not be tolerated. For the avoidance of doubt, the party shall deploy the full weight of the law as stipulated in section 21(D) of our party’s Constitution on any one who perpetrates such unlawful Act(s) and also on their sponsors”, the party said
In spite of the above warnings however, there have been protests in some states of the federation regarding the conduct of the exercise.
Even two days before the exercise in Delta state, there was a fracas at the state secretariat of the party where the three-man committee sent for the conduct of the congresses narrowly escaped being lynched by aggrieved aspirants, but for the intervention of some party members.
Forms for the exercise were in short supply as most of the aspirants who had paid in the bank could not be issued forms when they presented their bank tellers.
Head of the three-man committee, Mr George Ojong Egbe said; “as at today 29th July, thousands of tellers were presented to me and there were no forms to issue out. In the course of explaining, violence erupted, but for the intervention of the State Deputy Chair, Organising Secretary and other party members, we would been lynched.”
Some stakeholders of the party in the state have however kicked against the exercise, accusing the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege of hijacking the process.
Those who are aggrieved include the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo SAN; Executive Director in charge of Projects at the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, and former governorship candidates of the party, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor and Chief Great Ogboru.
In Osun state, it is a battle of wits between the state governor, Gboyega Oyetola and his predecessor and incumbent Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. A group within the party, Progressive Minded People PMP had accused the “Ilerioluwa faction” of the party of buying up the over 18, 000 forms dispatched to the state for last weekend’s Ward Congresses of the party.
Convener of the PMP, Sunday Oriolowo who is a loyalist of Aregbesola said “majority of party members in the state had proceeded to the bank to pay for the forms as directed by the party guidelines.
However, we were surprised when on Wednesday, 28th July 2021 – the day the payment for the forms was supposed to close- we still hadn’t seen the officials who were sent to Osun for the assignment.
“Findings revealed that the national party officials who were sent to the state had actually arrived Osun, but were held incommunicado by officials loyal to the governor. Many members of the party were then forced to pick up their form from our national headquarters in Abuja.
“Of course, it is true that the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Committee for Osun State Ward Congress, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye arrived the state less than 12 hours to the congress and held a meeting with selected individuals inside the governor’s house, however, we would like to know if he asked about the whereabouts of the officials sent ahead from Abuja to sell forms to majority of the party members.
“By the way, we have it on good authority that over 18,000 forms given to the party officials from Abuja were paid for in bulk on a single teller and collected from the officials by an official loyal to the governor as against our party’s Ward Congress Guidelines.
“This information is verifiable and evidence exists to back this up when the time comes”, he added.
There had been several protests by different groups against the outcome p the exercise.
However, the Osun State Government has debunked the allegations, saying no such thing happened.
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Ismail Omipidan disclosed this in response to the allegations. He said; “The truth is, no such thing happened and you can cross check with your man here. The committee’s chairman also addressed the issue during the stakeholders’ meeting held on Friday evening shortly after their arrival.
In Kwara, where there has been no love lost between the state governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, loyalists of the minister have also kicked against the exercise.
While the Mohammed group had opened a parallel state party secretariat, the party leadership in Abuja had threatened sanctions against the minister. Mohammed’s loyalists have also complained about the processes leading to the Congresses and the actual exercise itself.
In Enugu, some chieftains of the party have faulted the inauguration of ward executives by state chairman, Dr Ben Nwoye in alleged violation of congress guidelines. Nwoye had on Tuesday, inaugurated a five-man party executives in the 260 political wards at the party’s state secretariat, claiming that there was no provision in the APC constitution that forbids him from inaugurating them.
According to him, “the leadership of the party gave us the go ahead to conduct the congress and there is nothing in our constitution that prohibits me from inaugurating you.”
However, APC chieftains — General Chris Eze, retd; an APC BoT member, General JOJ Okoloagu, retd, and former governorship aspirants — Chief Tagbo Ogara, Chief Ben Eche and Mrs Ginika Tor as well as other party leaders like Ejike Njeze described the action of the chairman as “a show of rascality.”
A splinter group within the Lagos APC, Lagos4Lagos which has been trying to upstage the Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu political structure also claimed to have held a parallel congress. The claim was however dismissed by the chairman of the party in the state.
Despite warnings from the national leadership of the party, loyalists of Governor Dapo Abiodun and those of his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, held parallel congresses across some wards in the state.
Though the governor has debunked the claims but news reports indicate that there were parallel exercises in some parts of the state.
While the situation in Oyo was not too pronounced, party members loyal to the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, and those loyal to former governor, Mr. Adebayo Alao-Akala held different ward congresses in Ogbomoso North Local Government Area.
Seen as a battle for supremacy between the supporters of the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, and those of Governor Kayode Fayemi, the exercise in Ekiti was one of the most rancorous following the reported killing of one person in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
Loyalists of the National Secretary of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe including the state chapter of the party have declared the exercise as successful.
However, supporters of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, have on their part accused Akpanudoedehe of manipulating the process through officials sent from the national secretariat to conduct the exercise.
In Imo, it was a walk over for the state governor, Hope Uzodinma as loyalists of Senators Rochas Okorocha and Ifeanyi Ararume, reportedly boycotted the exercise.
Rivers of controversy
The situation was not any different in Rivers where the state chapter of the party have been enmeshed in persistent crisis. In the state, loyalists of Senator Magnus Abe boycotted the congress which was seen as favouring the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.
While the CECPC of the party awaits report from the states, it is left to be seen how it intends to resolve these issues in the lead up to the party’s national convention.