APC membership revalidation unites warring chieftains
KENNETH OFOMA reports on how the ongoing membership registration and revalidation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has reconciled members of the various camps of the party in Enugu State
The greatest gain of the ongoing registration and revalidation of membership by the All Progressives Congress (APC) is that it has helped to bring together all the various camps within the party in Enugu State under one roof. Right from the arrival of the Senator Jonathan Zwingina-led Registration/Revalidation Committee and the maiden meeting the committee held with Enugu APC stakeholders on February 1, it was clear to everybody that the hitherto warring factions of the party had decided to lay down their arms and work together for the interest of the party in the state.
APC chieftains in the state, including former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani; former governor of the state, Sullivan Chime; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 general election, Senator Ayogu Eze, among others, gathered at the state secretariat of the party to receive the Enugu State APC National Registration Committee.
Speaking at the event which turned to be a rallying point for the stakeholders, Onyeama said the new found love has the potential of transforming Enugu State even as he boasted that APC will take over the state from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2023.
The minister, who regretted internal squabbles that bogged the party in the past, however, expressed optimism that by coming together of all members and key stakeholders, ‘anything that is broken can be fixed together.” His words: “It is necessary that we take the mantle of leadership here in Enugu State and South- East in 2023.
We have the resources and people to transform Enugu, so that we can truly put the state in the hands of God. We want to deliver development; suffering is too much and we can’t continue like this.”
Senator Nnamani, who is the South-East representative in the APC National Caretaker Committee, said the essence of the registration and revalidation exercise is to dismiss insinuations in some quarters that APC is a northern party.
“The journey to 2023 has begun. We want to establish a strong membership base in all corners of Nigeria, we have to go back and convince our people on the need for them to try another party. We have stayed too long in PDP and we are not stakeholders,” he said.
Chime, on his part, said the meeting was the first time the stakeholders were coming together in recent time to speak with one voice. He therefore thanked the initiators of the registration exercise, saying it will remove the idea of founding members and create a level playing ground for every member of the party.
Also speaking, the Senator Zwingina said Enugu will be one of the best states with a resounding registration exercise and called for cooperation and support of all the stakeholders.
Earlier, the APC Caretaker Committee in the State, Dr. Ben Nwoye, said the presence of Senator Zwingina and his team has brought peace to APC in the state and urged members to keep the spirit.
Nwoye promised a smooth registration exercise in the state where nobody will hijack the process and materials. It would be recall that before the revalidation exercise, members of the party loyal to the Minister of Foreign Affairs had refused to recognize and work with the Nwoyeled State Executive Committee. Instead they rallied round a factional leader, Deacon Okay Ogbodo.
The division in the party led to its dismal performance during the 2019 general election. The division brought about many lawsuits with regard to who was the gubernatorial candidate of the party in the state.
Senator Eze, who eventually got the ticket of the party as produced in a primary organized by the Nwoye-led group and recognized by the national leader ship of the party, only started his campaign two days to the election because of the legal tango.
Despite efforts by the national leadership of the party to unite all the factions into one, the crisis persisted even after the general election until the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led National Caretaker Committee came on board and seven members of the APC in the state loyal to Onyeama were subjected to a disciplinary panel for refusing to withdraw suits against the party and some of its chieftains.
The letter of the national leadership of the party, signed by the Head, Legal Services Barrister, Dare Oketade, that contained the directive to set up the three-man panel in Enugu State, read: “The leadership of the party has decided to invoke the provision of Article (21), of the party’s constitution against its members in your state chapter who flouted the directive of NEC.
“In light of the above and in furtherance to your letter dated 18th, August, 2020, wherein, you identified some members of the party in your state chapter who flouted the directive of NEC, whose names are as follows: Deacon Okey Ogbodo, Barr. Chike Omeje, Rufus Nwagu, Rev. Onuora, Ndubuisi Ani, Chinedu Okosisi and Nonye Okoro.
“I am directed by the Caretaker Committee/Extra-Ordinary Planning Convention Committee to instruct the relevant Executive Committee in your state chapter to immediately set up a disciplinary committee to commence, and complete the process of suspension of the above mentioned members from the party.”
The committee, which was quickly set up was headed by the Enugu East Zonal Vice Chairman of the party, Chief Anike Nwoga, while other members were Chief Benson Eze and Barr. Anayo Nebe, the Legal Adviser to the state chapter of the party, who served as secretary.
The seven erring members led by Deacon Ogbodo, who was laying claim to the leadership of the party in the state belong to the Foreign Affairs Minister’s group that have been opposing Dr. Nwoye’s led executive since after the last state and local government congresses of the party.
It was following the outcome and recommendations of the disciplinary committee and refusal of the Ogbodo group to withdraw the suits that informed the decision of APC leadership to expel them from the party.
They include Deacon Ogbodo, Jonas Onuoha, Rufus Nwagu and Barr. Chike Omeje. Their expulsion was announced by Nwoye on December 16, 2020, at the party’s state secretariat during the swearing in of members of the caretaker committee. With the expulsion of the minister’s loyalists, it was time to beat a retreat and come together for the interest of the party, and the revalidation exercise provided a veritable opportunity.
The revalidation exercise in some cases was turned into a carnival of sort with the major stakeholders rolling out the drums to partake in the exercise with full mobilization of people from their respective wards and local governments.
For instance, Chime and Onyeama revalidated their membership of the party the same day in their separate wards at Udi Local Government Area of the state.
The exercise witnessed by Senator Zwingina, Senator Nnamani and Dr. Nwoye, among others, saw a large turnout of people of the area. Chime, in a remark at his Udi/Agbudu ward, described his former party, PDP as a party without leadership and called on people of the state and South- East to use the opportunity of the exercise to register and be equal joiners and members of the APC.
“I have come here today, proud to revalidate my membership of the party. I have been a member of this party and I have come here to endorse my support and membership of this party.
This is the party I believe will take us to the next level within this state. “We were members of PDP before and we had to lead, but the PDP we used to know is no longer the same PDP. PDP now is a party without national leadership.
This is now a party without national leadership, that’s PDP. I don’t think we have heard about anyone they defer to in PDP. In PDP, every man is a big man; you are on your own. But in APC, we have a leader, we have a well-organized party.
That will tell you how organized the party is and the programmes they have for this country and our state. “So, I urge all of you to please take this opportunity to come and register, identify with us, we will certainly see how we can move this state forward come next elections, that’s 2023,” he said.
Onyeama, who registered at his Amankwo Eke ward 002, called on the people of Eke, Enugu State and Nigeria to register with the party to move the country forward, He insisted that only the APC can fix Nigeria going by the good but challenging work the party is already doing.
He said leaders of the party are not just looking for people to register as members but that the party and the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had made some solid development marks even in Eke, his home town and the entire country.
Earlier, Zwingina declared that the registration and revalidation exercise is in line with the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) and constitution of the party, which provides that revalidation of membership should take place every six months.
“I want to call on all the people of this local government, Enugu State and indeed South-East and Nigeria to come out because the APC is moving and the train will definitely accommodate everybody.
This registration does not exclude anyone, it was not designed to exclude anyone and it will exclude no one, so everybody will feel at home,” he said.
Similarly, the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu and Senator Eze revalidated their membership the same day in their respective wards.
The duo made it clear that the ongoing registration and revalidation of membership exercise will eliminate god-fatherism in APC and make every Nigerian from any part of the country to be equal owners of the party.
They added that the exercise will also provide an opportunity for the people of the South-East to increase their stake in the party, which presents them the best platform to actualize their aspiration of producing Nigeria’s president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
Speaking at his Eke ward in Udi Local Government Area, shortly after registration and revalidation of his membership of the party, Okechukwu expressed surprise that the party’s pioneer National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; its National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the immediate past National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, are opposed to the noble exercise.
His words: “Let Comrade Oshiomhole tell you that APC revalidation and registration exercise is unconstitutional or Pa Akande that it is a waste of resources, tell them it is fake news, for the registration exercise is to make the people the genuine owners of our great party and not godfathers. APC constitution mandates us under section 9(4) to update our membership every six months.”
Senator Eze, who spoke at his Umuozzi ward in Igboze North Local Government Area, expressed optimism that APC will offer Ndigbo the opportunity to produce the next president of Nigeria in 2023. He, therefore, called on the people of the zone to take advantage of the revalidation exercise to populate the party and become major stakeholders.
He also used the opportunity to dispel insinuations in some quarters that he may have returned or planning to return to his former party, PDP.
“This event has demonstrated beyond doubt, if anybody is still in doubt that I’m a staunch member of APC. Anybody thinking that I’m in another party is deceiving himself,” he said.