Crisis is deepening in the Abia and Imo States’ All Progressives Congress (APC), following the outcome of the ward congress. Two factions that emerged from the exercises have continued to lay claims to authenticity and this in the long run is casting doubts on the seriousness of the party to remain a strong force in the states.
In Abia, each of the two factions in existence before the Saturday, July 31st Congress asserted they held their congress and elected Ward executives therefrom in accordance with the party guidelines.
One faction, which has its state office at Uyo street/ Uzuakoli road in Umuahia – the state capital has Mazi Enyinnaya Harbor as state chairman, while the other has an office at 38 Azikwe road also in Umuahia, has Hon Donatus Nwankpa as the state APC Caretaker Committee chairman.
Court Restraining Injunction
But the state high court in Ukwa Judicial Division on August 4 restrained the All Progressives Congress (APC), its agents, servants, and privies from receiving, accepting, and or acting on the purported list of successful candidates for the APC Ward Congresses in the state from seven of the twelve Respondents in the Suit pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice brought pursuant to Order 3 Rules 4 of the Abia state high court Civil Rules.
The Court verdict was sequel to the Application/Suit / HUK/ 31M/2021, which was brought before the court presided over by Mr. Justice C. H. Ahuchaogu, by Davies Jumbo on behalf of himself and all the successful Ward chairmanship candidates and Engr. John Nnah for himself and all the successful Local Government and State Delegates of the state APC as Claimants/Applicants.
The Defendants/Respondents were APC, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, for himself and on behalf of APC Caretaker/Extra Ordinary Convention Planning Committee, Hon Sunny Goli, INEC, Nwankpa as Chairman of Abia APC Caretaker Committee and the Secretary, Perfect Okorie and six others.
Some top members of the Harbor-led State Executive are Chief Ikechi Emenike; Hon Nkeiru Onyejeocha, who is the deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives; Chief Anyiam Nyerere, member of the National Pensions Commission; Prince Paul Ikonne Executive Secretary of the National Agricultural Land Development Authority among others.
Similarly, the Nwankpa faction has Minister of State for Mines and Solid Minerals Dr. Uche Ogah; senators Orji Uzor Kalu and Nkechi Nwaogu; Benjamin Kalu of the House of Representatives, among many others as members.
Scenario Before The Ward Congress
THURSDAY and Friday (29 and 30 July) before the said scheduled Ward Congress, signs emerged that both factions would hold individual ward congresses.
On Thursday, the Nwankpa faction at a caucus meeting reportedly presided over by Minister Uche Ogah at the Ntalakwu Oboro Ikwuano council country home of the former member of House of Representatives Emeka Atuma, told members of the faction to prepare for Saturday’s Ward Congress to be conducted peacefully in accordance with the APC guidelines.
The members of the Harbour-led faction also met the following day (Friday) at Toxeydon Events Center & Suites, Umuagu, located on the outskirts of Umuahia, the state capital.
During the meeting, the Chairman of the State Congress Committee appointed by the APC, Sonny Goli reportedly addressed party members, promising that his Committee would conduct fair and transparent congress in all the state’s 184 Wards. Party members were said to have resolved that it would be the results of the Congress that would determine which of the two factions was on the ground in the state and not by verbal claims.
But after a meeting with the state party executive on that Saturday, Nwankpa told Journalists that members of the Goli-led state Congress Committee were still being expected to report at the party Secretariat at Umuahia for the congress to commence in accordance with the APC Congresses guidelines.
He disclosed that all contestants who paid for forms were screened and cleared to participate in the scheduled congress.
His words: “It is about 1 p.m. now, and we are still waiting for the Committee members to come with the letter from Abuja introducing them as the duly appointed members of the Abia State Congress Committee.”
Nwankpa warned members of the party against dealing with any faction other than himself stressing that doing so would amount to illegality.
He accused the national leadership of not communicating with him as the state chairman and directed party members to go and do the needful to ensure a peaceful congress on that day.
He disclosed that all efforts made to liaise with the Congress Committee from Abuja failed, stressing that as the recognised state Caretaker Committee chairman, the Congress Committee members ought to have reported to him on arriving in the state.
According to Nwankpa, going by the APC rule, any party congress conducted outside the stipulated party guidelines would amount to illegality.
On July 31 each faction conducted its a congress. But in the case of the Harbour-led faction, it was reported that the Goli-led Congress Committee presided at the Congress.
This is going by Nwankpa’s allegation that the Committee sidelined him and did not report to him on arriving the state whereas he is the state APC chairman.
THE next day after the Ward Congress, Nwankpa addressed a press conference on matters arising and insisted that the Abia state APC Chapter was not quarreling but rather, fully intact against speculations in some quarters.
He told party members that there should be no cause for alarm saying, “only one governor will be in Abia. Only one person will fly the flag of APC in Abia state. All we want is that due process should be followed.”
According to him; “confusion and conflict followed the Saturday ward congress of the party as the Goli-led committee sent by APC National Working Committee (NWC) to oversee the ward congress in Abia State, did not meet with the Hon. Donatus Nwankpa’s State Working Committee (SWC), instead went ahead to recognise a faction of the party.
“APC Abia State is intact and we did our congress in accordance with laid down procedures, laid down regulations, laid down guidelines because the guidelines are clear and the committee from Abuja, ought to work with the state working committee led by Honorable chief Donatus Nwankpa.”
He disclosed that from all investigations, they knew that mischief happened somewhere; that there was a conspiracy between the people that were sent and the people who were on the ground here to manipulate them.
“This is unfortunate but the matter is being resolved and we have implicit confidence that the APC national leadership led by His Excellency Mai Mala Buni, will be able to resolve this matter.
“ We have implicit confidence that the national caretaker and extraordinary convention committee led by Buni would apply every party instrument and our internal conflict resolution mechanism to resolve this matter. The party could not inaugurate winners of the last ward congresses winners because of a court restraining order secured by some aggrieved members and the party was duly served.”
Harbor Faction Reacts
MAZI Harbor, the chairman of the other faction asserted that the Ward Congress was peacefully held in all the state 184 Wards under the watch of the APC constituted Congresses Committee for Abia State led by Hon Goli.
“We are not aware that parallel APC Ward Congress was held in Abia State on Saturday 31st July 2021. APC Wards Executives were duly elected on that day and names of the winners were submitted on August 2.
“We are set for the LGA and State Congresses that will follow soon and thereafter, with duly elected executives at Wards, local governments and state levels, the state APC will repositioned on the path of progress towards winning elections. It is after these congresses that who is who in the true Abia state APC, including its leaders at all levels will be known.”
He was asked if he was not aware of the court injunction that restrained the party from accepting the list of purportedly successful candidates in the said Ward Congress.
On the way forward to resolving the skirmishes and disagreement including factionalization within the state APC, he corroborated Nwankpa’s stance that the party leadership has an internal mechanism to work with and reconcile aggrieved members.
According to him, the party has already taken steps by encouraging and asking aggrieved members and parties to channel their petitions to the Congresses Appeal Committee that was charged to do the needful in that regard.
IN Imo State, the congress led to the emergence of two factions, which has continued to unsettle the state.
Prior to the 2019 general elections, there had been the existence of a faction loyal to the erstwhile governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, chaired by Daniel Nwafor, and another faction loyal to Senator Hope Uzodimma, headed by Chief Marcelinus Nlemigbo, which was supported by the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole. The support still subsists with the Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee.
Just before the recent Ward Congress held in the 305 political wards in the 27 Local Government Areas of the state, the Nwafor -led faction through the Ideato South LGA APC chairman, approached the court seeking for an ex parte injunction to stop the Congress, but the High Court did not grant that, rather the ruling for the substantive case was slated for August 31.
Nwafor, while fielding questions from The Guardian said: “Before that Ward Congress started, my Ideato South LGA chairman, who has locus in the matter went to court.
“He was seeking an injunction to stop the process. He was looking for an ex parte injunction, but it was injunction was not granted. The judge asked him to put the other people (faction) on notice. So on the matter, they have gone to the court, three times since that time. Now it has been slated for August 31 for a ruling.
“Two, we believe that this process, Ward Congress thing, is illegal. Our position has not changed. We did not partake in it and we will not partake in illegality. We really believe that at the due time, the truth will prevail.
“We are not bordered. Let the party continue with illegality. At the due time, we pray that God will vindicate us.”
Nlemigbo on his part did not pick all the calls put to him by The Guardian from Owerri. He did not respond to the text message sent to him, urging him to comment on the issue and explain the side of his faction.
It is instructive that on the eve of the ward congress, the governor, Uzodimma, held a meeting with stakeholders of his faction of the party at the Government House, Owerri. He told them to desist from writing list of some members and declaring them elected without going through any elective process.
Uzodimma, clarified that in as much as there was a need to build and maintain a formidable structure in his camp, he insisted that it must be done following the due process, a clear departure from the old.