With one year to another election, the 2019 general election, there appears no end in sight to the leadership crisis rocking the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State despite all efforts to reconcile the warring factions.
This means that the hope of the party, winning the forthcoming election in the state especially the governorship seat may turn out to be a pipe dream as the leadership crisis that engulfed its fold overtime has resurfaced again.
The genesis of the internal crisis of the party is traceable to after the 2015 general elections, when aggrieved members who were allegedly not carried along in the disbursement of the party’s largesse during the election decided to call for the removal of the Mr Ben Nwobasi led executive in the state chapter.
Since then, peace has not returned to the party even as the National Working Committee of the party from the headquarters earlier this year, were in the state to settle the lingering crisis that has engulfed the state chapter of the party, but to no avail.
As the crisis took another dimension, the National Chairman of the party and National Secretary, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Hon. Mai Mala Buni were in April this year summoned before Justice A. A Nwaigwe of a High court sitting in Abakaliki.
Justice Nwaigwe had asked the two leaders of the party to appear in person to answer questions why they should not be committed to prison for disobeying an order of interlocutory injunction restraining them, their agents and privies from conducting any new congress aimed at electing new executives of the party in Ebonyi State.
The Daily Time gathered that the crisis exacerbated when the national chairman was said to have transmitted a letter to the state deputy chairman, Eze Nwachukwu as the state Acting chairman of the party.
While Nwachukwu claimed that Nwobasi was suspended, the state chairman of the party on his part insisted that he still remains the authentic chairman of the party, describing his deputy as an “impostor”.
Justice Nwaigwe had on November 6, 2014 restrained the respondent from appointing caretaker committee in place of the executives elected during the ward, Local government and state congresses conducted in the state on November 11, 16 and 29 of 2014, respectively pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The counsel to the applicants, Godwin Onwusi noted that the APC National chairman and National Secretary had earlier been served Form 48 which is the notice of consequence of disobedience to court order that may commit the duo to prison if found guilty.
While briefing journalists in Abakaliki, Onwusi said that he applied to the Court for Order of committal to prison, (Form 49), for the respondents to appear before the court and explain why they should not be committed to prison for contempt.
In the Form 49, he said “Take Notice that pursuant to section 72; Order 1X, Rule 13(1) and (2) of the Sheriffs and Civil Processes ACT, CAP S6 LFN updated to 2010 and Order 42 Rule 9 (3)(C) of the Rules of this Honourable Court,
the Counsel, on behalf of the applicants, will on the 4th day of May 2017 at the hour of 9 O’clock in the forenoon or soon thereafter, as the business of the court will permit,
apply to this Court for an Order of committal to prison of the 1st Respondent/Contemnor and the party sought to be committed as agent/privy of the 2nd respondent/Contemnor for having disobeyed the order of this court made on the 6th day of November, 2014”.
“That while the substantive suit was and is still pending in Court, the party sought to be committed as agents/privy signed and issued a letter dated 23rd February, 2017 to one Pastor Nwachukwu Eze appointing him the Acting Chairman of the APC, Ebonyi State, notwithstanding that the order restrained both the respondents and their agents/privies from doing so, Onwusi maintained.
Following the escalating crisis within the party, attempts by the party to hold delegates congresses across the 13 local government areas of the state in preparation for its upcoming national convention, has not been successful.
Instead, of the 39 delegates expected from the state, the party ended up electing a total of 78 delegates in a parallel but peaceful Congresses across the 13 council areas of the state.
The hopes and aspirations of many lovers of multi-party democracy in the state who have been lamenting the absence of credible opposition to the ruling PDP in the state were again dashed as the APC gave another clear indication that they were not ready to form a formidable front against the ruling PDP in the state.
The crisis in the party is protracted, being as old as the party itself, many Ebonyians and political watchers in the state had expected the party leaders in the state to sheath their swords and come together in order to avoid a repeat of what happened to them in 2015 during the coming elections in 2019.
Although some of the leaders of the party in the state have always insisted that the crisis in the party had ended and that the party was one and ready to chase the ruling PDP out of Ebonyi Government House come 2019,
but the Saturday parallel congresses held in the state has put a lie to all the claims of peace and unity of purpose variously made by some top leaders of the party in the recent past.
The Daily Times investigations revealed that while a faction led by Mr Ben Nwobasi, loyal to the 2015 APC guber flag bearer in the state and former Senate Committee chairman on Works, Senator Julius Ali Ucha, held its congress across the 13 council areas,
Mr Eze Nwachukwu-led faction, loyal to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr.Ogbonnaya Onu, held their own at Nkwegu Ugbala Grand Arena; a popular events centre owned by the 2015 governorship candidate of the Labour Party in the state, Sir. Edward Nkwegu, who has defected to the party.
Our correspondent gathered that a total of thirty-nine delegates were expected to emerge from the state for the forthcoming non-elective national convention of the party scheduled to hold in Abuja with each council area expected to produce three delegates, but the state chapter of the party ended up electing a total of 78 delegates.
It is not immediately clear which of the delegates from the factions would be accepted by the National Working Committee of the party for the convention,
but one of the factional Chairmen of the party, Ben. Nwobasi, told newsmen in Abakaliki that he wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Ebonyi State Police Command and the Department of State Services (DSS ) to monitor the election and ensure it was conducted in line with relevant laws.
Nwobasi who made the statement while addressing journalists and party members at the party office along Old Abakaliki-Enugu road during the distribution of materials, urged his party members to disregard any other congress holding anywhere within the state, adding that any congress not supervised by him in the state was illegal and unacceptable in law.
The other faction led by Pastor Eze Nwachukwu which is believed to be enjoying the backing of the party’s national leader and Minister of Science and Technology, Dr.Ogbonnaya Onu, said that they centralized their venue at the Nkwoagu Ugbala so that all the voters across the council areas would come and cast their votes without molestations.
Nwachukwu described Nwobasi’s congress as PDP congress and enjoined his members not to panic, maintaining that their faction was the authentic APC in the state.
The two warring factions of the party, last Monday met with President Muhammadu Buhari in a closed-door meeting, the embattled state Chairman, Ben Nwobasi, insisted against the claims of the factional Chairman, Eze Nwachukwu, that the crisis has not been resolved.
The meeting which was held at Presidential lodge in the state Government House, Abakaliki, was attended by the two factional chairmen and other leaders of both camps.
The Daily Times learnt that since the party concluded its state congresses in 2014, the state Chairman, Nwobasi, and his erstwhile deputy, Nwachukwu, has been locked in a running leadership battle of the party in the state.
Nwachukwu had claimed that the crisis has been resolved, but Nwobasi disputes that, claiming there was still a subsisting court injunction restraining the party from tampering with his election as the state chairman.
A source in the meeting said that the President charged all members of the party to come and work together so as to win elections in the state in 2019.
The source also disclosed that major issues were raised on the alleged clampdown on the members of the party by the state government, including the revocation of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of the private school belonging to the former Commissioner for Education, Ndubuisi Agbo.
Also discussed was the proposed $130 million loan from the Islamic Bank being sought by the state government, but the President advised them to work together with the state government for the development of the state.
Briefing journalists after the closed door meeting, Nwobasi noted that the President advised them to come together and work as a team to win elections in 2019.
Nwobasi said: “The President addressed us and advised us as a father to come together and work as a team and so we thanked God for that.”
Though, he noted that the factional crisis has not been resolved, the embattled chairman added that he still remains the authentic elected state chairman of the party.
Meanwhile, the factional chairman, Eze Nwachukwu insisted that the crisis has been resolved but lamented the alleged pains and afflictions from the state government on the APC family in the state.
Twenty four hours after the reconciliatory meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the warring factions of the Ebonyi State chapter of the party ended in deadlock,
the leadership of the All Progressives Youth Vanguard (APYV) in the state blamed the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, for masterminding the leadership crisis in the party.
The national leader of the group, Mr. Frank Ngwu, in a statement threatened that the group would protest against Oyegun’s rescheduled visit to the state on Friday, 17th November, 2017 stressing that the party would not honour his visits.
He specifically berated Onu for using his closeness with the Presidency and party’s national leadership to foment troubles in the party, while alledging that Oyegun has made himself a willing tool to destabilize the party in the state.
The group also passed vote of no confidence on the national chairman, noting that he is incompetent to head the party and further urged him to resign so as to redeem the image of the party.
He alleged that Onu teamed up with the defectors from the Labour Party (LP) to hijack the party’s structure from the state Chairman, Ben Nwobasi, by appointing the erstwhile state Deputy Chairman, Eze Nwachukwu, as the acting state chairman of the party against a subsisting court injunction.
The group also lamented that Onu has not made any effort to wade into the chairmanship crisis which has further split the party into other factions thereby creating confusion on the genuine leadership of the party.
The leader warned that the group would mobilise the teeming members of the party to protest against the visit and further charged security agents to stop the planned visit to avoid breach of public peace, as they would resist all attempt to cause more crisis in the party which his visit portends.
Ngwu said: “We will not allow Oyegun to come to Ebonyi State. The crisis in Ebonyi APC revolves around Onu and Oyegun. The duo is making business with the party in the state. Onu has refused to give peace a chance. Two of them are bent on removing our elected chairman, Nwobasi.
“To tell you that Oyegun is either confused or has commercialised APC in Ebonyi, when some moneybags visited him, he authored a letter on February 23, 2017 appointing Nwachukwu as the state acting chairman.
When contempt proceeding was served on him, he quickly authorised another letter on April 25 withdrawing his initial letter.
“We cannot allow such character to come and cause mayhem in the state because of his double standard. We want him to resolve the crisis before coming to Ebonyi State otherwise we will resist him from stepping his foot into Ebonyi soil.
His leadership incompetence has further exacerbated the crisis in our state chapter of APC and this has endangered the strength of our party in the state.”
He therefore noted that the state chapter of APC would not continue to relate with him as its national chairman until he obeys the court injunction which restrained him from tampering with the 2014 state congress which elected Nwobasi and the state working committee of which Nwachukwu was Nwobasi’s Deputy.
Although some of the leaders of the party in the state have always insisted that the crisis in the party had ended and that the party was one and ready to chase the ruling PDP out of Ebonyi Government House come 2019, but the Saturday parallel congresses held in the state has put a lie to all the claims of peace and unity of purpose variously made by some top leaders of the party in the recent past.