By Emmanuel Aziken, Dayo Johnson, Henry Umoru, Omeiza Ajayi, Davies Iheamnachor & Emem Idio
ABUJA—FORTY-EIGHT hours to the deadline handed down by the New Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP bloc in the All Progressives Congress, APC, on a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, party officials were at the weekend navigating around what they called a knife-edge situation.
The ultimatum from the nPDP came as the party continued to lurch over the crisis that arose from penultimate weekend’s ward congresses that flowed onto the local government area congresses last weekend.
Meanwhile, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has denied the allegation of his plan to defect from the APC to his former party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. The allegation was contained in a statement issued by a former member of the APC and governorship aspirant in APGA, Uche Onyegocha, who alleged that a N3 billion offer by the governor to facilitate his return to APGA was rebuffed.
Elsewhere, disturbing signals on the state of the party after the APC local government congresses continued through the weekend in several states with reports of parallel congresses in many states.
In Delta State, the contention in the party had at the weekend, narrowed into two major tendencies, led by Otega Emerhor on one side and the pair of Chief Great Ogboru and Senator Ovie-Omo Agege on the other.
It was the same story in Enugu, Oyo, Ondo, Kogi among several other states.
The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Vanguard learned yesterday, was to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to present the letter from the nPDP. Though normally reliable sources revealed that Odigie-Oyegun had a meeting with the president on Saturday, that meeting it was gathered, was specifically on the crisis that emanated from the ward and local government area congresses.
A source at the party secretariat, however, told Vanguard that Chief Odigie-Oyegun was slated to meet with the president on Saturday but doubted if the meeting held, “because the president came back to the country on Friday and might require some rest first.”
The nPDP bloc in the party comprising Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Senators Aliyu Wamakko, Danjuma Goje, Rabiu Kwankwanso among others, were at the national secretariat of the APC last Wednesday where they accused President Buhari of sidelining them in spite of their significant contributions to his election in 2015.
In Delta State, confusion over the outcome of the ward and local government area congresses continued with different stakeholders continuing to stake victory in parallel results.
While the Emerhor bloc continued to claim victory on the ground, the Ogboru/Omo-Agege bloc at the weekend dismissed the assertions of the parallel bloc.
Senator Omo-Agege in a statement at the weekend issued by his aide, Prince Efe Duku said:
“While some fringe elements may have, in defiance of due process, had a few social gatherings in the name of ‘parallel congresses,’ such conduct is fruitless now and will remain so even in the future. This is the same impunity and desperation that drove some of them to steal some Ward congress materials last week as already confirmed by the police.
“It is just a childish mistake for these elements to believe they can build on their last week’s alleged crime of disappearing to Port Harcourt to write fake results. No one can destabilize APC in Delta State.”
In one of the unfolding developments that occurred in Delta State, Vanguard learned of a significant realignment in the top caucus of the party with the state chairman, Prophet Jones Erue shifting allegiance from the Emerhor tendency to the Ogboru/Omo-Agege tendency.
In Enugu State, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama and Osita Okechukwu, Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, VON, were split with both party leaders leading members in parallel congresses.
Dr. Ikechukwu Odigbo from Delta State, who was chairman of the six-man committee in Enugu State, dismissed claims of a parallel congress as conducted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama.
“I was sent by the NWC of the APC to help organize the congress here in Enugu State. I’m leading a 6-man delegation.
“Enugu is a peaceful place unlike what happened in other places where there were skirmishes. There is also high enthusiasm of members. The competition is high, and we look forward to a good party base for APC in Enugu State.”
Meanwhile, In Imo State Governor Okorocha was yesterday fending off claims of his political annihilation as he dismissed reports that he had approached the APGA national leadership to give him space.
“There is nothing like that. Since Owelle left APGA the party has not won any election in the state. In fact, the party only has a two-room apartment as its headquarters,” Sam Onwuemeodo, the governor’s spokesman told Vanguard yesterday.
He affirmed that the governor’s traducers were troubled with his political ascendancy and were doing everything to rubbish his image.
The assertion followed claims by Uche Onyeagucha, an APGA governorship aspirant in the state that Okorocha had made entreaties to APGA to rejoin the party on whose platform he won the 2011 governorship election.
“We are aware that since last week now, Governor Okorocha who was humiliated in the ward congresses of his party by the allied forces of APC coalition in the state has been making surreptitious moves through the leadership of the party to defect to APGA to enable him perpetuate his third term agenda. We have stated this severally that Governor Okorocha is in self-succeeding mission to rule the state in perpetuity to enable him to continue to loot the state dry. Now, we have been vindicated,” Onyegocha said in a statement issued by his spokesman, MacDonald Enwere.
Similar confusion reigned in Oyo State where Governor Abiola Ajimobi and the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, organised parallel local government area congresses in the 33 local government councils in the state.
The factions, SENACO and APC Unity Forum, are loyal to Governor Ajimobi and Shittu respectively.
The congresses organised by Ajimobi took place in all local government secretariats while the Unity Forum had their congresses in LG party secretariats and halls where they are popular.
Mr. Adebayo Shittu, who spoke with Vanguard in a telephone interview, confirmed that parallel congresses were held by his group in all the 33 local government areas.
He added that SSS, Civil Defence, police and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, supervised their congress.
Ajimobi said it was not possible that you please everybody especially in politics. But let all aggrieved people go through the right channel because the party will not allow any hooliganism in the state.
We were excluded by Ajimobi—Shittu
He further stressed that his group controls 70 per cent of party executives in the councils.
He said: “I want to confirm to you that parallel congresses were held in the state. This happened because we have been excluded by Governor Ajimobi. We have our results which would be forwarded to the National Working Committee. We expect the NWC of our party to do justice. It should sort things out.”
Speaking with newsmen in Ibadan, he threatened that his group might be left with no other option than to approach the court if justice is not done.”
Shittu accused the congress committee led by Alhaji Musa Halilu-Ahmed of alleged compromise.
Justifying his stance, Shittu alleged that “the committee sold forms to us, and we went to do our ward congresses. We have video evidence of everything. The SSS, police, and others covered it. But, when we came back on Sunday evening to submit the results and the forms, we saw members of the committees who said the result would be collected on Monday. “We didn’t suspect anything. We were there in the hotel till about 11 pm on Monday thinking that we would have the opportunity of submitting our forms and results. But, by the time we got there, an armoured carrier was facing us. The governor was already in the party secretariat.
“We pray that this matter doesn’t get to court. If the party succeeds in resolving the matter, it won’t get to court, but if the matter is not amicably resolved within the party then we would go to court,” Shittu said.
Speaking on the election, two party agents had their reservations saying it was not all fair but they decided to let peace reign.
In Ondo State, parallel local government congresses were also conducted in most councils leading to several injuries.
Owo and ldanre council areas were the only exceptions to the narrative of parallel congresses in the 18 local government areas of the state.
Among those injured were the former lawmaker, representing Irele local government at the House of Assembly, Hon. Afolabi Iwalewa, and the current Caretaker Chairman of the local government area, Prince Gbadebo Odimayo.
Meanwhile, the state chairman of the party, Ade Adetimehin, has dismissed as fake, alleged congresses conducted by those he described as unscrupulous individuals who are bent on tarnishing the party’s credibility, saying any congress not supervised by the Election Committee sent by the party’s National Secretariat was null and void.
It was a similar story of controversy in Bayelsa State where former governor of the state and leader of the APC in the state, Chief Timipre Sylva, led a five-man panel congress committee from the party headquarters to supervise voting in the eight local government council.
Sylva, at the end, affirmed the local government congresses as peaceful and without controversy.
His claim was, however, contradicted as elsewhere in the state capital, some aggrieved chieftains of the party in the state held parallel congresses.
Among the dissenters were former speaker of the state House of Assembly and one-time Acting Governor, Nestor Binabo, the state representative on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Professor John Braimbaifa, Prince Preye Aganaba former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Bolous Indianmowei and Dr. Allison. They accused Chief Timipre Sylva of setting a dangerous precedence within the APC by singlehandedly hijacking the party for his personal interest.
APC Congress c’ttee hails exercise in Rivers,
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Ward and Local Government Congresses Committee sent to Rivers State yesterday hailed the exercise as peaceful and transparent.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Joseph Dogo, who spoke in Port Harcourt after receiving briefs from delegates sent to monitor the process at the 23 LGA of the state, noted that APC in the state is still united and formidable. It will be recalled that Sen. Magnus Abe, a governorship aspirant of the party for the 2019 election, had secured a court order stopping the conduct of the LG congress, although, the party defied the injunction.
Dogo stated that from his observation the exercise was satisfactory, warning leaders and supporters of the party to remains focused and shun detractors.
PDP denies sponsoring Abe to destabilise APC
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has denied sponsoring Senator Magnus Abe to destabilise his political party, the APC, APC.
However, Samuel Nwanosike, the former spokesman and now the Chairmanship candidate of the PDP in Ikwerre Local Government Area, in the June 16th Local Government Election said the concern of PDP is that the judiciary should not be shut down for any political reasons.
Nwanosike, who was said to have led the PDP group to unlock the judiciary, stressed that his involvement was a coincidence, noting that he had visited the state judiciary to sign his chairmanship candidate form before the thugs started shooting.
Nwanosike said: “There is no relationship between us (PDP) and Abe, our concern is that the court should not be closed. Those making the comments that we are sponsoring Abe are to be blamed for what is happening.
“Nobody should use party to decimate our democracy. We are calling on President Buhari to arrest and prosecute the members of APC who tried to close down our court. It is a treasonable offense.
Also in Zamfara State, the political war between Governor Abdulaziz Yari and Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum( Downstream), Senator Kabiru Marafa, APC, reared as the latter’s camp yesterday produced a list of local government executives for the party in the state.
A statement yesterday from Marafa’s camp, described the congress as very successful, saying that the list has been forwarded to the national Secretariat of the APC.