By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Dayo Johnson, Olasukanmi Akoni, Umar Yusuf, Ola Ajayi, Perez Brisibe, Egufe Yafugborhi, Chinonso Alozie
The All Progressives Congress, APC is set to elect new state officers today in congresses across the country with the quest for political supremacy by competing stakeholders threatening the party’s dominance of the political space.
Ahead of today’s state congresses rival party chieftains were yesterday still engaged in last minute intrigues and last-minute meetings aimed at staving off potential threats to the party’s 2019 aspirations.
One of those involved in the last minute troubleshooting efforts was Rotimi Amaechi, President Muhammadu Buhari 2019 Presidential Campaign manager who was yesterday locked in a closed-door meeting with the outgoing national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Their meeting nonetheless, the quest for rivalry remained fierce in Imo, Rivers, Ondo, Oyo, Cross Rivers, Anambra and Adamawa States with party stakeholders as at last night determined to elect parallel state executive officers. In Delta State, party stakeholders determined to foist unity upon two major tendencies it was learned, resolved to postpone the evil day with the deferment of the state congress to Monday.
In Ondo State the rivalry escalated towards alleged felony yesterday after one of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s leading rivals, Senator Ajayi Boroffice alleged a plot to plant arms, ammunition and other illegal items in his property as a way of silencing him.
The divisions in the party according to some stakeholders yesterday could hamper the party’s chances in the 2019 election. This may have drawn Amaechi to Odigie-Oyegun yesterday.
One of those who expressed this fear yesterday was Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. The governor who claimed to have retired his rivals in the party was, however, last night fighting for relevance after he was outfoxed by a coalition of politicians led by his deputy, Prince Eze Madumere.
The coalition against Okorocha which includes the APC’s National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, Senators Ifeanyi Ararume, Hope Uzodinma among others was set to enthrone a new state executive for the party today irrespective of the governor’s wishes for fresh ward and local government congresses.
The chairman of the state chapter of the party, Mr. Hilary Eke, confirmed to Saturday Vanguard that the Congress would hold today. He, however, drew back from naming the venue of the Congress following the recent suspected arson attack on the state secretariat of the party.
“The APC, state Congress will hold on Saturday, no going back. The leadership of APC has directed that the Congress will take place.
Asked for the venue of the congress, he said:
“There will be stakeholders meeting, and in that meeting, the stakeholders will decide the venue. I am not the congress chairman to decide where the Congress will take place.
Governor Okorocha was, however, unyielding yesterday warning that the party could forge ahead without him at its expense.
Noting what he claimed as his superiority over the Imo and Southeast political sphere, Okorocha speaking through his chief press secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo in a communiqué yesterday said:
“only a party that wants to reduce its fortunes would toy with a man that had submerged all the big names in the state and won the guber election in the state for two times, because of the rantings of some selfish politicians.”
Giving fibre to the governor yesterday was a group of women APC stakeholders who besieged the police headquarters in the state to demand the arrest and prosecution of Izunaso, Ararume and others they claimed derailed the conduct of the ward and local government congresses.
The women who commenced the march from the Government House chapel demanded dates for new ward and local government congresses alleging that irregularities marred those recently conducted.
In a communiqué signed by 27 APC women leaders, led by Ugochi Nnanna Okoro, the women said:
“We demand the immediate arrest and prosecution of Chief Inibehe Okori, Osita Izunaso, Ifeanyi Araraume, Theodore Ekechi, Kelechi Nwagwu, for bolting away with electoral materials they received for the ward congresses.
“Imo women henceforth will not tolerate snatching, hiding of electoral materials, or violence within subsequent elections.
“We demand a new date for a new Congress which should be free and fair. We are ready to go to the field with anybody in a test of popularity. We affirm our loyalty to the party and observance of the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The situation was no less murky in Delta State where party stakeholders have lined up behind two major tendencies, the Great Ogboru/Ovie Omo-Agege group and the Oterga Emerhor led group.
The intrigues Saturday Vanguard learned may have led to the postponement of the Congress to Monday as stakeholders sought ways to paper over the cracks that emerged from the ward and local government congresses. Emerhor, a close confidant of the outgoing national chairman, Odigie-Oyegun, was yesterday locked in a meeting with him in Abuja alongside the minister of transportation at the national secretariat.
The subject of the discussion could not be fathomed, but sources said it would not be far from the issues affecting the Congress.
In one of the intrigues to have bestirred the party in Delta State, Emerhor had at a meeting with some stakeholders reportedly re-zoned the offices swapping offices between Delta Central and Delta South. The import of the swap was that the bid by five aspirants including the outgoing chairman, Prophet Jones Erue for the office of state chairman could be imperilled as Erue and his four rivals are Isoko from Delta South.
Given the fact that both tendencies in the state compiled separate delegates’ lists at the ward and local government congresses there was confusion yesterday, among some party chieftains over what list would be used for the Monday election.
In a development that has shocked many party chieftains, Emerhor, who had been considered as the staying power of the outgoing chairman, Erue has changed stance.
Emerhor, Saturday Vanguard learned, is canvassing the aspiration of the outgoing deputy chairman, Cyril Ogodo from Delta Central to take over as state chairman. The Ogboru/Emerhor tendency is now pushing Erue.
Speaking on his chances, Ogodo said: “The people of the State want an effective State Executive Council, and you know when the head is weak, it becomes something else for the body.
Erue on his part has accused the national chairman of the party, Odigie-Oyegun, national organising secretary, Senator Izunaso and Emerhor of setting the party’s affairs in a bad light in the state.
“How can a party which is fighting corruption be so neck deep in corruption and nepotism?” he questioned in an interview. Odigie-Oyegun is believed to have maternal roots in Delta Central, a relationship some Delta stakeholders allege may have fanned his strong bond with Emerhor.
“Yesterday (Thursday) there was a briefing at the national secretariat of the party by the Organizing Secretary, and the NWC and the people (committee) were told that they should liaise and work with the state chairman who would provide accommodation and he would give them the list of delegates,” Erue added.
Saturday Vanguard learned that despite the instruction that specific instruction was later passed on to the chairman of the Delta State Congress committee, Senator Gbenga Obadara not to liaise with the Delta State chairman but rather with Emerhor, a development that reportedly brought about a misunderstanding between Obadara and the national officer.
“Immediately they knew that the man refused to take the list from them being a process man, they called them back and had to step down Delta stating that Delta should remain till on Monday which is unconstitutional.
“How can a party which is fighting corruption be so neck deep in corruption and nepotism? Why are we like this?,” Erue said as he alleged antagonistic postures from the outgoing National Working Committee, NWC because of his support for the aspiration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman.
“The reason for the postponement of the Congress is because the chairman (Congress Committee) refused to do their bid. Why is the chairman being given a directive to go and work with O’tega and take a list from O’tega?” he queried.
The intrigues in the Rivers State chapter of the party was turning eerily quiet yesterday as the two major camps in the party appeared to maintain unusual silence after the raucous outing the previous weekend.
Just as with the Ward and Local Government Area congresses, the whereabouts of the Joseph Dogo led Congress committee could not be immediately discerned leaving stakeholders in apprehension over today’s congress.
Calls and text inquiries to critical stakeholders, including Chris Finebone, Spokesman of the Rivers state chapter of the party and allies of 2019 governorship aspirant, Senator Magnus Abe did not receive any response.
However, a party chieftain said “by the end of the day, the party would come up with a clear picture, for now, key stakeholders are cautious.
“The bitterness and rancour over the past two Congresses have not gone down well with the national leadership of the party. Nobody wants a repeat of the oddities,” he said noting that the national leadership had intervened.
A source revealed yesterday that for peace to reign that it was being canvassed that the outgoing chairman, Chief Davies Ikanya could be returned alongside with other allies of Abe into their previous positions.
Senator Boroffice, who is one of several key stakeholders at variance with Governor Akeredolu yesterday raised the alarm of a plot to plant arms in his property in Akure, the state capital.
In a statement issued in Akure by his media aide, Kayode Fakuyi, the senator described the plot as “apogee of desperation while calling on security agencies to note the heinous plot.
Boroffice who represents Ondo North Senatorial district said he is in “possession of credible information that some desperate politicians and their agents are plotting to plant arms, ammunition and other illegal items in his property in Akure”.
“The plot was hatched in an attempt to rope, frame and implicate the senator in a criminal matter. The target is to distract the senator from the responsibilities of lawmaking and representation of the good people of Ondo North senatorial district.”
Boroffice and other leading stakeholders including the outgoing chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, a former governorship aspirant of the party, Dr. Segun Abraham, member of the House of representatives, Mr. Bamidele Baderinwa it was gathered are set to hold parallel state Congress today in Akure.
One of the factional leaders said yesterday: “we will not join the main APC group led by the Acting Chairman, Ade Adetimehin to participate in the exercise.
“We are not going to join Governor Akeredolu and Ade Adetimehin because two of them disrupted the ward and local government congresses.
“We are holding our own separately; we are authentic because we followed due process in electing our leaders at the ward and local government congresses. They were the ones who did not follow the constitution of the party during the last congresses.
“Akeredolu and Adetimehin want to destroy the party, but we will not allow them. Initially we planned to hold the exercise at the same venue with them, but we don’t want violence, that is why we decided to hold our own at another place, and all stakeholders will be there.”
The rivalry is no less visible in Oyo State where separate party stakeholders are set to gather at different venues in Ibadan today.
The group aligned to Governor Abiola Ajimobi Saturday Vanguard gathered will elect new state officers at the Adamasingba Stadium while the group led by the minister of communication will gather at the Liberty Stadium.
In Adamawa State, the unanimity of the state’s stakeholders to line up behind President Muhammadu Buhari has, however, not tempered the animosity between the two tendencies in the state who it was feared last night might be headed for parallel congresses.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the division in the state chapter of the party has seen Governor Mohammed Jibrilla paired with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha and the National vice chairman, north-East of the party Comrade Salihu Mustafa against other influential party members. The antagonists of the governor include the erstwhile SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, former Governor Murtala Nyako and Engr. Markus Grindi.
The group which claims to be the authentic APC members from the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC has been pitched in battle with the governor alleging their exclusion from party and governance of the state.
The two groups who conducted parallel congresses are set for a showdown today.
The story of discord in several states is, however, not the case in states like Lagos, Ogun among several other states where APC stakeholders appear to be working in cordiality.
In Lagos State the hegemony of the national party leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was set to continue after he led party stakeholders to endorse 65-year-old former commissioner, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, as the new chairman of the party in the state.
Balogun and a new set of officers for the party are set to be ratified in a Congress that is expected to pass off without much acrimony. Heavy security nevertheless is expected to be provided at the venue today.
Balogun, it was gathered prevailed over former head of service, Mr. Sunny Ajose, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi and Mutiu Aare.
It was gathered that GAC also endorsed Ajose, as Deputy Chairman.
A former Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed during Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, was endorsed as the Party Secretary.
The stakeholders who met under the aegis of the Governor’s Advisory Council, GAC further Ms. Jumoke Okoya-Thomas, a former member of the House of Representatives from Lagos Central Senatorial District as the State Woman Leader.
The contentions nonetheless, sources said that the party might head for harmonisation after the national convention.
As a source said yesterday, the work of rebuilding and unifying the party will be left to Adams Oshiomhole, the presumed national chairman.
“These problems will be resolved after the national convention, I can assure you, there will be harmonisation and people will be brought back together again,” the party source said yesterday.