Visible cracks have emerged in the Enugu state chapter of the All Progressives Congress as party leaders fight for appointments in the incoming administration led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd). MAURICE OKAFOR in Enugu reports
The Enugu state chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, is presently swimming in troubled waters barely two weeks to the May 29, hand over date. A crisis of confidence and the jostling for ministerial positions and other appointments that will accrue to the state from the Muhammadu Buhari presidency have pitched the stakeholders of the party in the state against the other. This has caused serious division in the rank and file of the party in the state.
Though the party is yet to concede defeat to the PDP in the Enugu state governorship race since its governorship candidate, Okey Ezea filed a petition against the return of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate as the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC, however, Hallmark investigations in Enugu revealed that what has occupied the minds of Chief Ezea and other stakeholders of the party in the state is the struggle over who should get what appointment in the incoming federal government.
Some of the party’s stakeholders who Hallmark gathered are scheming for federal appointments in the incoming APC government to be led by Buhari include, the state party chairman, Dr Ben Nwoye, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, the spokesperson of the party in the zone; the deputy governorship candidate of the party, Mrs. Ibekaku and the Deputy National Chairman of the party [South East], Emma Eneukwu, who hails from Udi council area of the state, among others.
To a large extent, the serious commitment to which both Ezea and these other stakeholders have individually attached to the struggle for appointments has relegated the issue of challenging the outcome of the governorship election at the Election Petition Tribunal to the background.
In fact, the jostle for the appointments has led to allegations and blackmail with a view to run down opponents who are interested in the appointments. Some of the stakeholders are even lobbying for positions that ordinarily they do not merit and in the process try to jeopardise the collective interest of the party.
The Hallmark gathered that it was for this reason that the Enugu chapter of the APC reportedly blocked the Chief Jim Nwobodo, former governor of old Anambra state and Prof Barth Nnaji, immediate past minister of power from joining the party. Though there were contrary reports to the incident denying the allegation.
Sources disclosed that the state publicity secretary of the party, Mrs. Kate Offor was used by some of the stakeholders of the party to deliver the statement announcing the rejection of the PDP chieftains from joining the APC.
Mrs. Offor, said that the party decided to close its door on Nwobodo and Nnaji because initial advances to woo them to join APC in the state was turned down by the duo. Mrs. Offor further warned that any attempt to project any of them for ministerial position on the banner of the party would be totally rejected by the state’s APC.
But in a swift reaction, the state chairman of the party, Nwoye publicly denied that there was no such incident that the state executive council of the party met and took such decision. He said that the APC in Enugu state has its doors wide open to welcome new members to its fold.
He stated, “I led a group to pay a courtesy visit to Prof. Barth Nnaji. We want to build a formidable alternative. I did not go seeking to co-opt him to be minister, though he is free to join the party.
“Barth is not the only person we visited. We visited many people, including PDP members to come and join us to build the party. We want big names to dump their parties for APC”.
He maintained that the party had at no time held any Exco meeting where it was resolved that new members were not needed in the party. “No Exco meeting was held on Monday. There was no such meeting”.
The Hallmark checks revealed that the current state of affairs in Enugu APC is linked to the struggle and scheming for political appointments. This informed the reason for the state governorship candidate, Ezea to make open declarations of the total sum of money that accrued to him from outside sources to prosecute his governorship campaigns. He put the total sum at one hundred and thirty three million naira [N133m].
Ezea made the disclosure against reports in the media that a total of N400 million was sent to the state through him for the execution of the 2015 electioneering project, yet the party failed to make appreciable impact in view of the results of the elections thereafter.
Prior to Ezea’s public disclosure on the campaign expenses, it was alleged that the said N400million was pocketed by him and the state chairman, Nwoye as they failed to mobilize the party agents in the state properly.
Hallmark gathered that Gen J.O.J Okoloagu (retd), a chieftain of the party in the state and senatorial candidate for Enugu North senatorial district, initially summoned a meeting of the stakeholders to find out the truth of the matter from Ezea and Nwoye, but both of them did not respond for reasons best known to them. Sources said that this created room for suspicion and loss of confidence in their leadership in the state by stakeholders.
Hallmark reports that the suspicion and jostle for appointments have created a big gulf in the party especially between the governorship candidate, Ezea and Eneukwu, the National deputy Chairman [South East] of the party who is a citizen of Enugu state.
Our findings showed that there were discordant voices at a zonal meeting held at Abuja a forth night ago under the chairmanship of the Imo state governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha. Ezea pleaded for the support of the meeting in ensuring that the ministerial slot that would come to Enugu state is zoned to Enugu North senatorial zone where he comes from, on the basis that the zone has never produced a minister for Enugu state since the inception of the present democratic process in 1999.
He went further to point out that the Enugu state ministerial slot has always been filled up by Udi in Enugu West senatorial district, where Eneukwu hails from. The Hallmark was told that Eneukwu got angry and hit back at him at the meeting at this point. in fact reports had it that Ezea was allegedly slapped by Eneukwu at the meeting.
But Eneukwu in a telephone chat with Hallmark admitted that he disagreed with the sentiments espoused by Ezea on the zoning of the ministerial position of the state, but denied his claim that he (Eneukwu) slapped him. Eneukwu told Hallmark that the personal contributions of the stakeholders to the growth of APC should be the watchword or guiding principle in allocating positions.
From every indication, the raging battle in the Enugu chapter of APC over appointments is not good for the image of the party in the state. Analysts suggest that it would continue until the Buhari led federal government names its new Cabinet. Thereafter, the party would now come together to strategise on how to tackle PDP in the state ahead of the 2019 general elections.