Those who had hoped that presentation of certificate of return to state chairmen of All Progressives Congress (APC) would bring to an end the lingering crisis in the Enugu State chapter of the party might need to reconsider their position.
The new development is sure to further deepen the crisis of the party in the state. The new twist followed the inability of supposed state chairman, Ugochukwu Agballah, to receive certificate of return like other chairmen across the country.
To fill the void, immediate past chairman, Dr Ben Nwoye, returned home with the claim that he remained Caretaker Committee Chairman and that the committee, which he leads, was never dissolved by the party’s leadership.
Agballah, who emerged under a controversial circumstance in one of the state congresses held in October last year, had his name in the list of chairmen billed to receive certificate of return last Thursday.
Although his name was wrongly inserted as “Ogochukwu”, he travelled to Abuja for the purpose of the exercise and sat patiently while waiting for the exercise to begin. The PassMaga gathered when it was the turn of Enugu, Agballah moved forward to receive the certificate of return but was turned back.
A video recording of the event that has gone viral on the social media showed that the national secretary of the caretaker committee John Akpanudoedehe, asked him to go back to his seat while other 34 chairmen received their certificates and posed for a photograph with it.
Agballah neither received his certificate nor showed off with it like others, a development that has fuelled speculations that he may have been denied by the party as its chairman.
He however returned to Enugu the next day, to the warm embrace of his supporters who rode in a motorcade to the state secretariat of the party at the Government Reserved Area (GRA) and forcefully took over the place.
Addressing his supporters at the premises, he stated that a new horizon was in the offing and his desire to make the party a platform that could win elections in the state.
He said, “Like the legendary Greek Argonauts, the new APC leadership has the golden fleece. Today, the journey for competitive politics begins, as we mark an end to political and economic monopoly in Enugu State.”
But the faction loyal to the immediate past chairman, Nwoye kicked. They described the public show as “fake”, insisting that he was neither recognised nor issued with certificate of return as party chairman of the state.
Asking him to produce his certificate of return and show it to the world, the way other chairmen did, they described the celebration that heralded his return from Abuja as “celebration of failure.”
Nwoye, who addressed reporters, stated that Agballah was “rejected” by the national leadership, stressing that his rejection will now pave way for true reconciliation and healing in the party.
He stated that Agballah was not registered with the party and that no state congress elected him in the state, stressing that, despite party’s internal problems, it has process and rules guiding its activities.
Nwoye said Agballah joined the party in August last year at the close of registration, adding“he does not understand the workings of APC, he did not register with us; yet those who brought him from PDP, where I am not sure he has resigned his membership, are bent on using him to destroy our party.
“The last time I was here, I told the world that there was no congress at the Event Centre, somewhere in Independence Layout where Agballah proclaimed himself the chairman of APC.
“We have gone beyond the period in time when people on their own impose themselves on the party. We have over the years tried to give Enugu State alternative brand and alternative voice. The same brand we have built it so well that we now have over 180,000 APC registered members in Enugu.
“And then my good friend who is in PDP, who has enjoyed the government of PDP for years showed up at the state secretariat on August 25, 2021 and said he had intention of joining APC. This is the man who has served in the state executive council on several occassion; ran for governorship twice. But when he came, he did not tell us the truth that he wanted to take over the party by force.”
Nwoye claimed that he remained the authentic caretaker committee chairman of the party in the state by the leadership void created in the state chapter, as according to him, “nature abhors vacuum.”
He said efforts would be made to continue the reconciliation, which was put on hold following the killing of two members of party during a reconciliation meeting held last month at Amaechi – Obeagu, Enugu South council.
He stated that Agballah would never become the chairman of the party in the state, stressing that zoning arrangement to Enugu West that micro zoned the office to greater Awgu was against him.
Agballah is from Udi, Enugu West Senatorial District. Although the party zoned the chairmanship to Enugu West, it insisted that the candidate should come from Awgu/Oji River axis to give members a sense of belonging and spread of offices.
The party had reasoned that it would be unfair to allow Udi produce the chairman since the area still holds a large chunk of appointments APC made in the state.
For instance, the area produced the Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Presidential Adviser; the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria and the state representative at the National Population Commission (NPC), adding that doing so will mean concentrating political appointment in one area.
But Agballah dismissed Nwoye as “meddle some interloper”, alleging that he was suspended as caretaker committee chairman by the then state executive and that his then deputy, Chikwado Chukwunta, acted out their tenure.
Speaking through his Publicity Officer, Charles Solo Ako, he said: “All the caretaker committees across the state have long been dissolved immediately after the congress that vested victory on Ugochukwu Agballah as the winner in Enugu State. Only the National Caretaker/Extra Ordinary Convention Planning Committee led by Mai Mala Buni is left standing and fu
nctioning to midwife a new National Working Committee in the forthcoming national convention of the party.”
He claimed that Agballah was invited and inaugurated as elected chairman of APC Enugu State, adding that his election at the October 16 state congress was supervised by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the seven- man congress committee headed by Dr. Ijeoma Arodiogbu.
He said, “There is absolutely nothing like parallel congress in Enugu State because the congress committee was never divided in their operations and decisions. Nobody can therefore take away the elected state working committee members under Agballah’s leadership.
“Except for Kano and Sokoto, where there are legal constraints, 34 states (including Enugu) and FCT were invited, listed and inaugurated on February 3, 2022 in Abuja as reported in the national newspapers and television/radio stations. And for emphasis, there is no court order stopping Enugu’s APC chairman, Agballah from being inaugurated, and he was indeed, inaugurated.
“Assuming but not granted that there was a vacuum in Enugu, the National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee would have made an official statement to that effect. And if there is need for anybody to hold brief, that person will not be Nwoye, a suspended former caretaker committee chairman. It is a total amazement that people are still granting audience to Nwoye and are still giving his words undue consideration.”
A chieftain of the party, Chief James Igwe stated that there is a zoning arrangement that micro-zoned the chairmanship office to Awgu/Oji River, stressing that the duo of “Ude and Orji are supposed to benefit from this arrangement since they are the contestants from that area among others.”
He added: “It was this arrangement that those who brought Agballah purportedly led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama are trying to disrupt when they foisted Agballah on the state congress of the party in October. To achieve this, they took the venue of the congress away from the state secretariat of the party to an event centre, in Independence Layout and pronounced Agballah as winner. This is the cause of the problem.
“Remember that Adolphus Ude had emerged the same day at the secretariat of the party. Ude group is the main faction of this party, which comprises foundation members. The former Military Administrator of Gombe State, Group Capt. Joe Orji (rtd), was the consensus candidate before the state congress and was denied from participating in the exercise. Orji is riding on the feathers of former Senate President, Ken Nnamani and former Governor Sullivan Chime. So the development threw up three active parallel factions in the state.”
It was gathered that since the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led committee directed the state chapter to reconcile the factions; efforts had been made to bring members on board. In some cases, offices had been shared across board to ensure that members of the three groups were accommodated.
However, reconciliation meeting at the Obeagu- Amaechi ward 3, Enugu South council, on January 18, turned awry, as it led to the killing of two chieftains of the party, Comrade Kelvin Ezeoha and Chidera Ogaba. Ezeoha was the state youth leader and Ogaba, a student leader. Ogaba was buried last Friday, the same day, the Agballah faction was on the street celebrating his return from Abuja.
One challenge that the tussle may have raised at the moment is the faction that will present candidates in the council election billed later in the month. Already, the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) is at a loss on which of the factions it would accept its list for the exercise.
Last week, Agballah faction wrote the commission, asking for the postponement of the exercise, which according to it, clashed with the national convention of the party.