UCHENNA INYA writes on the sudden defection of the dissolved Ebonyi State Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) amid a pending appeal before a Federal High Court ruling which reinstated the committee
Since November last year, when Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Ebonyi State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been enmeshed in leadership crisis. The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had dissolved the State Working Committee (SWC) immediately Umahi defected to the APC and set up caretaker committee to run the party.
The NWC named Chief Fred Udeogu as Chairman of the caretaker committee. But the dissolved SWC said it remains in charge of the party and proceeded to the state High Court to challenge the NWC’s action. Chief Udeogu and other members of the caretaker committee were joined in the suit.
The suit instituted against the PDP NWC and the caretaker committee suffered several setbacks with withdrawals by three judges who were separately assigned the suit. But as the suit lingered in the state High Court, Nwebonyi proceeded to the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, which not only reinstated him but described his removal by the NWC of the party as unconstitutional and null and void. The judgement by the Federal High Court prompted the Udeogu-led caretaker committee to proceed to the Appeal Court. While both paries on the matter are awaiting the judgement of the appellate court, Nwebonyi and other members of the dissolved SWC of the party, announced their defection to the APC. Nwebonyi also claimed that Local Governments and Ward leaders of the party also joined him to move to the APC.
In a communique titled: “Resignation of State, Local Government and Ward Executives of the Peoples Democratic Party, following dissatisfaction with the National and South East zonal leadership of the party,” he cited marginalization of the South-East zone, violation of the ruling of the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki which recognized the elected state executives and their inability to work with the present leadership of the party in the zone as some of the reasons behind the defection.
The communiqué read in part: “It is worthy of note that the national and zonal leadership of the party had intentionally excluded Ebonyi State chapter from the Zonal Executive Committee (ZEC) that organized the recent zonal congress of the party.
This is in total disregard to the ruling of the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki which recognized the elected executives of the party in Ebonyi State. The national leadership of the party also blatantly rebuffed all efforts made by the leadership of the state chapter of the party for due process to be followed.
“In the light of the foregoing, we wish to express our total rejection of the anti-democratic practices in the party and therefore resign our positions as well as our membership of the party. We have made genuine efforts to get things done the right way but some leaders of the party are bent on using antics and gimmicks to achieve their inordinate ambitions. “We, therefore, have no other option than to part ways with a party which is already stuck on the shenanigans of few overlords. However, we do appreciate the wonderful relationships we have had over the years but do advise the party to change its ways and embrace more democratic tenets in the conduct of party affairs. We urge South-East members of PDP not to allow the zone to be deceived and disgraced.”
APC, PDP bicker
The state Acting Chairman of APC, Chief Stanley Emegha who welcomed the decampees to the party’s fold, called on citizens and members of the party to come out en mass and be part of the ongoing registration exercise of the party. According to him, there’s no longer room for the PDP to strive in Ebonyi State. Also, the Acting Publicity Secretary of the APC in the state, Ogbuatu Simbad, described the defection as a long awaited decision.
He said: “The defection is in no doubt an experiment of fortune, a deserved and long awaited decision under controlled conditions made to demonstrate a known truth that the APC is the only political party bestowed with divine commission to navigate our dear nation and state to the next level of transformation. “There is no gainsaying that PDP has misplaced its popularity, intertwined with a battered ideal as a political party which has obviously made its corruption tendencies degenerated to steep cliffs.
It is still very fresh in our minds how under PDP, governance was mismanaged, our nation’s economy was plunged into precipice, terrorism and insurgency took the centre stage, nothing was in proper operation, reasons Nigerians flushed out the party in 2015 through their votes. Consequently, we have no reason to ask why gale of mass defection daily hits hard on the party across the nation.
“To Barr. Nwebonyi and his group, we say, welcome. We have no doubt of your ability as a seasoned administra-tor that has steered the ship of the former most popular political party in Africa to contribute immensely towards the growth and success of our dear party.
APC is a progressive family with a common ideal and sheer commitment to fairness, justice and equality, and so, we wish to assure you and your followers of fair treatments, equal opportunities and all inclusive disposition at all times.” But the PDP, through Chief Silas Onu, who was named Caretaker Publicity Secretary of the party by the NWC, said Nwebonyi’s defection was a confirmation that the judgement delivered by the Federal High Court, which reinstated him was temporal relief that will most certainly be thrown out by the Appeal Court. His words: “We call on all party faithful to remain resolute and focused on the responsibility that is ahead of us to reinvigorate ourselves for a successful and total takeover of government come 2023.
“The PDP can authoritatively confirm that Mr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi has finally eaten the humble pie by openly acknowledging his membership of the APC. This move is a direct result of his expulsion from the PDP as we are not a fold for shifty characters. “We do hope that the Police will finally have the courage to investigate the looting of the PDP secretariat by the Nwebonyi-led group upon their sack by the National Working Committee of our great party.” Ebonyi PDP Youth Alliance, in its reaction, said Nwebonyi’s defection is a validation that PDP has come to stay in Ebonyi and also a manifestation of truth.
A statement signed by its convener, Chinedum Elekwachi, stated: “We commend Barr. Nwebonyi for this bold move. Indeed, nothing new has happened as it is an opportunity to rebuild our party to continue to mainstream political leadership of the state.
The members of our great party in the 13 local government areas and 171 electoral wards are by this advised to remain resolute and determined as the hand of Esau has finally been plunged. “Ebonyi PDP Youth Alliance will always remain committed in the total recapturing of the state to PDP because PDP gave our people light and hope. PDP delivered Ebonyi from backwardness and we can’t afford to join fold with a party that has brought calamity to Nigeria.” Another group in the state PDP, PDP National Youth Agenda, commended Nwebonyi and wished him well.
The group, which has Comrade Comrade Eze Abraham as chairman, said with Nwebonyi leaving PDP, the party is now stronger and ready to sack APC in the state in 2023. “It is joy all over Ebonyi over the defection of the erstwhile state chairman of our great party, PDP, Barr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi, and the Ebonyi State chapter of PDP National Youth Agenda welcomes the cheering news. “It is said that pregnancy cannot be hidden beyond four months and this defection has again validated the fact. It is a clear indication that Ebonyi State is PDP and it is observable that truth cannot not be hidden forever.
“For his boldness in making this move, we commend him and wish him well. This is the time to build, mend and structure our party to maintain her position in the state and beyond. We employ the members of our great party to remain law abiding and play politics devoid of bitterness. “We will always remain committed in the total recapturing of the state to PDP because PDP gave our people light and hope. PDP delivered Ebonyi from backwardness and we can’t afford to join fold with a party that has brought calamity to Nigeria”.
Anyim, Egwu, Odefa, others regroup
Immediately Nwebonyi defected to the APC, the state PDP held an emergency meeting and celebrated his move. The meeting which was well attended took place at Salt Lake Hotel, Abakaliki owned by the Senator representing Ebonyi Central Senatorial Zone, Chief Obinna Ogba, on Monday last week; two days after the defection. Leaders of the party, who attended the meeting include National Vice Chairman (South-East), Chief Ali Odefa; former Senate President and ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; former governor of the state and senator representing Ebonyi North at the National Assembly, Dr. Sam Egwu; National Assembly members, members of the state House of Assembly who refused to defect to APC, former ministers and former ambassadors, former state and federal lawmakers and former political appointees, among others. Addressing party faithful at the meeting, Odefa who hails from Ebonyi State, told the ruling APC that PDP will resist every intimidation from it.
He boasted that the era of using security agents and every other means including the courts to intimidate members of the opposition was over. He added that the South-East is PDP and that the victory of the party at the just held Aba North/South federal constituency bye-election is a confirmation of that. His words: “As you know, the South- East is PDP.
The only governorship they (APC) have in the zone was stolen from the backyard. In Imo, they used the court to steal that one from us. So, our party is on ground. “The era of intimidation is gone. Police cannot intimidate us, they cannot use DSS against us, they will not use the court against us. We will resist all these dictatorial tendencies and they are already tired. We will continue to uphold the principles and core values of our party, don’t be afraid.
“We are not in a shouting match, it is those people that are talking, they are shouting. We are on the drawing board; we are planning, we are calculating, we are reaching out to people and the result is what you just saw that happened in Aba, Abia State on Saturday. Politics is not about shouting. We are not noise makers, we are focused. “Haven’t you seen now that the people who were originally not part of us have left? We are all happier together now. The embittered ones have left our party now and we now know how many we are and we the party is happier and we move forward. I can assure you all of us are the people, who can win elections in their places. You cannot go to Ivo Local Government, where Senator Anyim Pius Anyim is from and you will say you will win there. In Onicha Local Government, we are there.
It is a simple Mathematics. Politics is not shouting; I will crush you, I will grind you. No, we have gone beyond that era. “I want to encourage you, do not be intimidated. They said Ali cannot come back to Abakaliki, is this not Ali? I am the supreme leader, they can’t do anything. Do not be afraid, call your meetings, mobilize your people, call your meetings, secure your meetings, they won’t do nothing, they are frustrated. One advantage you have over them is that in our party, we will democratize the process of primaries. Everybody will have a level playing field during the primaries.”
The party leaders later addressed journalists, pleading with Governor Umahi to allow them to take over the party secretariat. The Caretaker Committee Chairman, Udeogu, who spoke on their behalf, said: “You may wish to recall that when Governor David Umahi defected to the APC on November 18, 2020, no single member of the National Assembly from Ebonyi State or any critical PDP stakeholder defected with him. “He then boasted that he will make the PDP unworkable and unviable. Violence was visited on our members and several court cases were clamped down on our party and its officials.
In fact, our activities were constantly disrupted. Governor Umahi commissioned Barr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi, his political hireling and surrogate to undermine the activities of our party, but today we are happy and pleased to note that we welcome the latest development which is the withdrawal and resignation of Barr. Onyekachi Nwebonyi from the PDP, thereby bringing to an end all the machinations which had hitherto created problems for our party and its teeming members in Ebonyi State. “From now onwards, we have taken back our party and we hereby pledge to ensure that all our teeming members are united to work assiduously for victory come 2023.
We, hereby, plead with Governor Umahi to facilitate a peaceful surrender of our party secretariat which his hirelings had attempted to occupy and vandalize. “Let me also use this opportunity to urge Governor Umahi to rethink the violence that has been unleashed on the state since his defection. The spate of politically motivated killings across the state is condemnable and unacceptable. We urge the governor to take steps to stem down this unwarranted violence in the interest of our dear state.”
The state government, in its reaction, took Udeogu and the PDP to the cleaners, saying: Iit is understandable that the mass movement of Ebonyi people to APC has caused a colossal collapse of the PDP from its very fabric, but the remnants of that party should be brave enough to face the bitter reality of the fragile condition of PDP in the state.” The state Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Uchenna Orji, who spoke for the government, said: “While we are not surprised at the visionless and emptiness of the meeting of a party that was discourteously held at a drinking place, we are surprised that the maker of the press extract could have the effrontery to connect the performing Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi to the unending woes of PDP in Ebonyi State, when our dear governor, the government and people of Ebonyi State have gloriously moved to a progressive party of national spread, the APC.
“We are therefore surprised that the first meeting of PDP in the state, after the state’s defection to APC, which should have been agenda setting after being irreparably flattened by the mass exodus of the good people of Ebonyi State, was only held to play a blame game against the APC government of the state in which issues raised thereof are impotently, baseless, and objectively diversionary. We want to use this medium to again admonish the PDP in Ebonyi State to leave the government and good people of Ebonyi State out of the party’s woes, including leadership tussle as we have no business with a troubled party.
“The plea that the governor should facilitate the takeover of Africa’s biggest party secretariat by the state chapter of PDP and the allegation that the governor unleashed violence and politically motivated killings in the state after our massive defection to APC can best be described as the most unintelligent shenanigans of the most frustrated opposition party in the history of the state. If the present crop of leaders of PDP in the state had accused Ebonyi State government of punishing them with unprecedented transformational projects or exposing their inefficiency and failure to attract development to Ebonyi State which they did at the pleasure of their personal aggrandizement, it would have been understandable.
“The good people of Ebonyi State cannot be deceived because we have the history and record of the involvement of each of the present leaders of PDP in the monumental violence, politically motivated killings and communal clashes that engulfed Ebonyi State like a holocaust between 2001 and 2003 for which their leaders were the protagonists, as we have the details including video clips of how they carried each other’s mock coffin as a smoke screen to hide their atrocities. We are aware of the various but halted plots of the PDP to import weaponry and machinery to unleash terror on parts of the state for the illmotives of Mr. Fred Udeogu and his group of PDP members. “We are not unaware that this new marriage of the formerly estranged political titans is not without violent motives, but they should be assured that our security surveillance has been networked in every part of the state to dismantle such orchestrations and forestall a re-occurrence of a showdown of angry Abuja group in the state.
“We therefore call on our dear Ebonyians to disregard and discountenance the press release of the Udeogu group of PDP, held on 29th March, 2021 as an idle and directionless cover up lamentation to curry the sympathy of the gullible and attract the attention of our focused Divine Mandate Administration to their self-inflicted woes.” Although the defection of the State Working Committee of the PDP to the APC has led to a war of words between the two dominant parties in the state and the state government, there is no doubt that the state PDP has heaved a sigh of relief after four months of leadership tussle between the Caretaker Committee of the party and the dissolved State Working Committee.