By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor; Dayo Johnson, Omeiza Ajayi, Daud Olatunji & Chinonso Alozie
LAGOS—A number of All Progressives Congress, APC, governors are on tenterhooks ahead of a meeting of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, to approve the list of its governorship candidates for the 2019 elections.
The tension is coming against the background of intrigues, as different stakeholders position themselves and hit at one another for ascendancy with the return from holiday today of national party chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Vanguard gathered at the weekend that the NWC, apparently in a move to cut Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State to size, had decided to divide the list of candidates for the State House of Assembly into four, with the governor getting one-quarter of the pie.
Meanwhile, despite moves by the party to get itself into play in Zamfara State, the crisis between Senator Kabiru Marafa and Governor Abdulazziz Yari was still unfolding. Marafa, yesterday, listed ten reasons Governor Yari should be expelled from the party, including allegedly bungling the party’s primaries for candidates from the state.
The crisis in Imo State also took another dimension, yesterday, after Governor Rochas Okorocha brought a new angle to the crisis, when in a sweeping attack on his political foes, took on the Catholic prelate of Owerri, Archbishop Anthony Obinna, who he accused of being a sympathiser of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
The meeting of the NWC to endorse the list of governorship candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Vanguard gathered, is likely to hold tomorrow or Wednesday.
Vanguard gathered that the party is expected to take a robust stance on the issue of Zamfara where it was excluded by INEC from fielding candidates for all elections in the state.
This is aside the fact that there are already, at least, three court cases on the same matter.
“Our lawyers are working on the issue. We submitted a list to INEC, and they refused to accept. They should prove to us how many other parties did primaries. We did ours. If they failed to monitor it, how is that our fault?
‘’We are also going to submit the name of our governorship candidate. The case is already in court, but we intend to pursue it to a logical conclusion,” he said.
However, the prospects of the state chapter of the party reaching a convergence with all interests in the state on the issue were in doubt yesterday, after one of Governor Yari’s staunch rivals in the state issued a 10-point disclaimer of his fidelity to the APC.
Why Yari should go — Marafa
Giving reasons Yari should be expelled from the party, Senator Marafa in a statement, called for the governor’s expulsion on the basis of “gross indiscipline and violation of our party constitution.
“The measure becomes necessary to maintain party discipline and deter others that may be tempted to take similar actions to achieve their selfish objectives.”
Among the justifications he gave for the move were “frustrating the efforts of NWC to conduct direct primaries for Zamfara State.
“Directing state officials to conclude an election that was cancelled by a panel that has the legal authority to do so.
“Aiding and abating of violence that led to the death of six people, and injuring of many others including women and children on the October 3, 2018.
“Insulting publicly the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and issuing of a threat to cause bloodshed if the NWC refused to do his bidding.
“Announcing the result of an illegal election conducted by his faction in violation of subsisting court order.
“Blocking APC chances of fielding candidates by conducting and announcing an illegal election on 7th October 2018.
“Causing disunity and disaffection among APC family in Zamfara State.”
He also accused the governor of neglecting his primary responsibility of providing leadership in the face of wanton killings and spending of Zamfara taxpayers’ money on the sponsorship of protest to remove Oshiomhole from office.
Abiodun seeks peace with Amosun.
Meanwhile the governorship candidate of the party in Ogun State, Chief Abiodun, was yesterday making moves to appease Governor Ibikunle Amosun to stay within the fold of the APC, despite the setbacks for the governor.
Abiodun, who spoke through his media aide, Ojo Emmanuel, said media reports that associates of Governor Amosun had registered with the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, were still being considered as rumours.
“To us, we consider the report as a mere rumour that should not be treated with seriousness. Governor Amosun remains the leader of APC in Ogun State, so, the thought of leaving the party would not cross his mind. We do not see the report as something serious. It is a mere rumour,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the State Councillors Forum has denied reports that its members declared their support for Abiodun.
The forum in a statement signed by the Secretary of the Forum, Ololade Kazeem, reiterated their support for Adekunle Akinlade, the gubernatorial aspirant championed by Amosun.
The Forum blamed the report on some unnamed desperate politicians, adding that all councillors were at the stakeholders forum on 2019 budget at the time the rally was quoted to have taken place.
Anxiety in Ondo
In nearby Ondo State, anxiety has gripped the faction of the party loyal to Governor Akeredolu over alleged alteration of the list of candidates for the state House of Assembly election as prepared by the national secretariat.
Reliable sources informed Vanguard that some leaders of the party in Abuja were determined to clip the wings of the governor, hence their interest in the list of the State Assembly candidates.
The governor had been alleged to be one of the governors bent on removing Oshiomhole from office allegedly for not kowtowing to their plans.
Consequently, the source said the party leadership divided the 26 seats among four main interest groups within the party.
The four interest groups benefiting from the sharing are Akeredolu, Senator Ajayi Borofice, Segun Abraham and Olusola Oke, though there were unconfirmed reports of Oke’s immediate exit from the party.
Vanguard learned that the fear of the governor’s camp was that with the arrangement, the governor would be at the mercy of the assembly members loyal to his political foes in the state.
Meanwhile, the three House of Representative candidates in the south senatorial area of the state have reportedly distanced themselves from the incumbent Senator, Yele Omogunwa, who they said was unpopular and might pose a threat to their chances of being elected.
This is on the heels of the release of the list of the authentic Senate and House of Representatives candidates for the forthcoming elections in the state by INEC.
Speaking with newsmen, one of the Assembly aspirants said that “the three prospective House of Representatives members have devised means to separate their electioneering campaigns from Omogunwa’s on the ground that he was unpopular and might pose a threat to their chances of being elected.
Speaking against the background of crisis the primaries generated, the aspirant blamed Governor Akeredolu for the situation in the party over his “undiplomatic approach to the intrigues.”
According to him, “the three Reps are just finding different means to adopt as campaign strategies because unlike their counterparts in the central and north who have a good ground to go round with their senatorial candidates, the situation in the south is a bit difficult.
“The funny aspect of it is that, while they can canvass for themselves and the president, a mention of the name Senator Omogunwa will scatter things because people don’t want him, it is as bad as that. The worst thing is that it is now the turn of Ileoluji Okeigbo local government to produce the Senator.
Okorocha cries out, says Uzodimma backed by Church, Udenwa
Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, yesterday, claimed that the Catholic Bishop of Owerri Diocese, Anthony Obinna, and former governor of Imo state, Achike Udenwa, were backing Senator Hope Uzodimma, to grab the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state.
Okorocha in a statement to newsmen in Owerri through his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, also said another stakeholder in the state, Ezekiel Izuogu, was among those supporting Uzodimma.
The governor said he was not happy that Obinna, had not seen anything good in his government.
In Okorocha’s view, such a plan would destroy APC, in the state. He also said the Catholics in Imo State will still support his government.
“We are also aware of the roles of the Archbishop of Owerri Catholic Diocese, Bishop Anthony Obinna and that of the Former Chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers, Cletus Ilomuanya in the Imo APC imbroglio with Chief Hope Uzodinma at the centre.
“These people can never love APC and President Muhammadu Buhari and would not also love Governor Rochas Okorocha who worked for the APC victory in Imo in 2015 and made President Buhari have the highest number of votes in Imo in the South-East against their wish.
“They do not wish APC and President Buhari victory in 2019. That is the meaning or interpretation of their both open and tacit support for Hope Uzodinma
“Chief Achike Udenwa is indeed envious of Rochas Okorocha because for the eight years he was governor on the ticket of PDP, he could only talk about the State Secretariat as achievements which Governor Okorocha also rebuilt.
“Let him publish any other achievement of his administration and let Rochas publish his own achievements. How was Owerri when he was governor and how is Owerri today?
“For Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu who is from the same Ideato South with Governor Okorocha, he has been contesting for the governorship of the State since the time of DPN in the late eighties. Ran again under SDP. Ran equally on the platform of APP. Ditto ANPP.
“And he has been contesting and has not been able to win any. At a time, he came up with Z6oo with the story that he has built a local car, with the hope too that such gimmick could win the governorship for him but all to no avail.
“But Rochas is today completing his second term. That is the reason for his own anger. Otherwise, he would have been happy with his kinsman and who has done very well as governor.
“In the case of Archbishop Anthony Obinna, he has never hidden his sympathy for APGA.
“He said it openly in 2015. And in 2015, he backed the governorship Candidate of APGA, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho and the PDP Presidential Candidate Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He does not like APC or President Buhari.
“It is also not true that the Catholic Church in the State is not happy with Governor Okorocha. Rather, the members of the Catholic Church in the State had voted massively for him in 2011 and 2015 respectively. And he has done a lot to appreciate that Church.
“In 2015, Governor Okorocha took President Muhammadu Buhari to Archbishop Obinna when he came on campaign. They met privately for hours. But two days after, his newspaper THE LEADER came up with the caption”Alhaji in Government House,” and told the false story of how Governor Okorocha was taking Igbo youths to the North to be Islamized.
“The medium uptill today has never seen any reason to give APC and President Buhari a chance.
“Hope Uzodinma does not attend Church Services. But Uche Nwosu is an ardent member of the Catholic Church, and he has done so much for the Catholic Church which has earned him awards and recognitions.
“Why would the head of the Owerri Diocese prefer someone who does not attend Church to someone who is a disciple in that Church. This is one million naira question.
“For Cletus Ilomuanya, he is a product of PDP. Governor Okorocha removed him as a traditional ruler and as the Chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers because he was PDP personified.
“So, one does not expect him to love Okorocha or APC or President Buhari. His wish is to see PDP back to Power.
Meanwhile, Mr. Uche Nwosu has advised the party’s national chairman, Oshiomhole, not to take counsel from ‘Abuja politicians.’
The governorship candidate, whose emergence is being opposed by those who insist he was forced on the party, said only his candidature could guarantee a win for the party in the 2019 election.
He warned Oshiomhole not to take side with politicians working against the will of the people.
Nwosu told journalists in Owerri that such could jeopardise the chances of the party in the general election in the state.
He said: “The leadership of the party should not base their decisions on mere sentiments and propaganda perpetrated by the Abuja-based politicians who cannot even win their polling booths in an election.”