Raphael Ede examines the fresh crisis in the Enugu State chapter of the All Progressives Congress and its implication for the 2023 general elections
The fragile peace in the Enugu State chapter of the All Progressives Congress was shattered on August 19, 2022, following the announcement of the suspension and expulsion of the state’s party chairman, Chief Ugochukwu Agballah in his Udi/Agbudu Ward, Udi Local Government Area of the state.
This is coming barely six months before the presidential election, which the party is expected to win.
The suspension was contained in a letter titled, “Letter of Debarment from Holding Party Office, Suspension and Expulsion from APC Udi/Agbudu Ward,” which was signed by ward chairman and secretary, Aduma Ferdinand and Onyia Francis, respectively.
The letter partly read, “In view of the fact that weighty allegations were made against you by virtue of a letter dated August 2, 2022, and you were requested to respond to the allegations, which you failed to do; in view of the recommendation of the disciplinary committee, and pursuant to the powers vested in us as the Executive Committee of APC Udi/Agbudu Ward, we hereby on August 19, 2022, debar you, Hon. Ugochukwu Agballah from holding party office in APC with immediate effect. We suspend you, Ugochukwu Agballah from being a member of the APC Udi/Agbudu Ward. We expel you, Ugochukwu Agballah from APC Udi/Agbudu ward.”
However, the state chapter of the party, in a swift statement by the state’s party Publicity Secretary, Mr Charles-Solo Ako, which was titled, “A joke taken too far: The purported letter of the expulsion of the state chairman is fake and a distraction from the enemies of our great party,” described the expulsion as a nullity, inconsequential, and a big joke.
The party’s spokesperson stated, “This is an orchestrated plan of our great party’s enemies, opposition, and political detractors, aimed at distracting the party from our determined goal, relying on the enormous support, acceptability, and popularity of our party and her 2023 candidates under the efficient leadership of Hon. Ugochukwu Agballah as state chairman.”
“These two alleged impostors/fake executives of the ward were never executives, and as such, they cannot build something on nothing; they are mere impersonators. They are therefore advised to tender an apology within the next twenty-four hours, or they will face the consequences of their evil plan in full force.
“The members of our party and the general public are advised to disregard such devilish work of our party’s enemies and continue to be determined and resolute in our pursuit of providing a better political platform for Ndi Enugu.”
To make matters worse, some political stakeholders last week appealed to the National Working Committee and leadership to remove the state chairman, Agballah and his executives from office.
The team led by former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, immediate past Enugu State governor, Sullivan Chime; and Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, declared that the move was the only means to rescue the ailing Enugu APC.
Addressing journalists after a marathon meeting with the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, at the APC Secretariat in Abuja, the delegation accused Agballah of “appropriating the party in the state as a personal possession.”
In a petition addressed to the APC national chairman and dated August 30, 2022, the delegation begged the NWC to rescue Enugu APC from its downward spiral, implosion, and imminent collapse.
The statement partly read, “The party is imploding and on the brink of collapse. It is in no position, as things stand, to be competitive in the general elections. The leaders now believe that a radical solution is called for to save the party from total collapse and disgrace in the state.
“However, a major crack appeared during the state congress, when Mr Ugochukwu Agballah was secretly manoeuvred into the party to become its state chairman, much to the surprise and vehement opposition of the majority of party members who knew his antecedents as a person and in Enugu State politics.
“Agballah was given the benefit of the doubt by a few leaders of the party and issued a certificate of return. Those few leaders felt that the party needed to change direction at all costs and have a vibrant leader who could finally unite the party in the state. Unfortunately, the new chairman did not waste time in proving those majority leaders who opposed his emergence correct in their warning.
“This petition is written with a view to notifying the National Chairman and National Working Committee of APC of the state of affairs of our great party in Enugu State. As elders of the party in the state, we strongly believe that it is our duty to bring these anomalies to your attention for urgent remedial action. A stitch in time saves nine.”
In response to the call for his removal, the Enugu chairman stated that there was no crisis in the party other than the fabricated crisis by some “Abuja-based politicians,” but that the fabricated dispute was deeper than the delegation’s portrayal.
Agballah declared that it is no longer a secret in Enugu that many of the elder statesmen who made up the delegation are known to foment trouble in every election year.
He said, “The truth is that we, the State Executive, asked all leaders and stakeholders to relocate from Abuja and go and strengthen their wards, but none agreed. They want me to be holding meetings with them in Abuja. Unfortunately, I have relocated to the wards and have visited almost 180 wards as of today.
“As of this minute, I am sending my report from Olo Ward in Ezeagu LGA. These eminent personalities are all APC in Abuja and PDP in Enugu. Little wonder none of them has ever publicly condemned the bad-performing Ebeano cabal that has ruled Enugu for 23 years. Let them show the press any media report where they have ever done so.
“These public office holders are mostly unknown in their respective wards and do not participate in any APC activity in their respective wards, which is why none of them won their respective polling booths in 2015 and 2019. If they did, I challenge them to present the result sheet to the press, and I also challenge them to present evidence of their attendance in any meeting of their wards since October 2021, when I was elected state chairman and when I insisted on every stakeholder’s attendance of meetings.
“Every election year they create a crisis. They did it to Ben Nwoye (former chairman) a few months before the 2015 election and repeated it in the 2019 election. These are comprador PDP in the night and APC in the morning members.”
Meanwhile, political pundits believed that the crisis in the party was engineered by political hucksters who believed that if the chairman was not removed, they may not have a say in the campaign fund management.
“This is all about who will preside over the campaign fund for the state. It is not about the interest of the party or how the party will win the election. They see Agballah as a stumbling block on their way, and therefore he must be removed,” Chief Augustine Chukwu, a political analyst, said.
Similarly, a chieftain of the party in Enugu State, Mr Felix Okafor, has accused the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema and his Special Adviser, Flavour Eze of working with the Peoples Democratic Party government in the state to destabilise APC ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Rising from an emergency ward meeting attended by more than 1,000 members yesterday at Eke Udi market square, the party said Ferdinand Aduma and Francis Onyia, who are signatories to the purported expulsion letter are known members of the People’s Democratic Party, being used to cause distraction in the APC as the ruling PDP was afraid of the growing popularity and acceptance of the APC in the state.
Okafor said the Foreign Affairs Minister was secretly partnering with the Enugu State government through his Special Adviser, Flavour Eze, to thwart efforts being made by the state chairman of the party, Agballah, to reposition the party to win big in the coming general elections.
Okafor said, “I want to tell the world that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his PA, Flavour Eze are the cause of the crisis. They are afraid that Ugo Agballah will make Bola Tinubu win the election in the Udi/Agbudu ward, the Udi Local Government Area, and in Enugu State in general and they are afraid of that.
“When they get to Abuja, they will be APC members, but when they return to Enugu, they become something else. I want to tell you that when I was the APC registration committee chairman, the Minister of Foreign Affairs did not support us even with one naira; ask Sen. Jonathan Zwingina, who was in charge of re-registration in Enugu State. He did not support the party. If he had supported the party, let the Minister come and tell the world what he gave the APC during registration.
“The Minister wants to repeat what he did in 2019 when Senator Ayogu Eze ran for governorship under APC. He tried to repeat it this time around but we refused him. Today, we have a single governorship candidate, a single state chairman, and a single ward chairman in Udi/Agbudu ward, and they are not happy about it.
“They are messing with the wrong person. Ugo Agballah is a consummate politician, a prolific mobiliser, and a people-oriented chairman who is ready and who, with his charismatic leadership, is capable of galvanising support that will give APC victory come 2023.”
The ward passed a vote of confidence on Agballah as the state chairman of the party, while also passing a vote of confidence on the party’s chairman in Udi/Agbudu ward, Mr. Clinton Ezeago and his executive.
Meanwhile, there is another twist to the crisis. Some analysts have said the crisis might have been engineered by the ruling People’s Democratic Party in the state to destabilise the party ahead of the 2023 general election.
However, some party members told our correspondent that the crisis stemmed from Agballah’s unilateral imposition of candidates for the party’s primaries, as opposed to the popular candidates who actually emerged winners.
One of the chieftains, Chief Okenwa Stanley, disclosed that Agballah is just a fraudster, noting that during the presidential primary, he pocketed 70 per cent of funds meant for delegates from the state.