President Muhammadu Buhari’s working visit to Ebonyi State have re-ignited the lingering leadership tussle rocking the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as it had polarised the opposition party along two factions.
Orient Daily gathered that Buhari held a closed-door meeting with some select stakeholders of APC at the Presidential Lodge, Ebonyi State during which members of the faction of the party led by the embattled chairman, Ben Nwobasi, who is loyal to Senator Julius Ali Ucha, were allegedly banned from participating in the meeting before the President intervened.
The meeting, which was attended by members of both factions, one headed by the factional chairman, Pastor Eze Nwachukwu and the embattled chairman, Ben Nwobasi, ended in a deadlock as both factions threw banters at each other with accusations and counter accusations.
Some of the issues, it was learned that dominated the discourse between the President and the APC stakeholders during the close-door meeting, was who becomes the authentic chairman of the party in the state. Other issues include the loan sought by the state government, alleged maltreatment of the APC by PDP in the state, among others.
However, in their reactions, some of participants made contradictory statements. While the factional chairman, Pastor Eze Nwachukwu, a loyalist to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, described the meeting as a landmark achievement for the party as it provided a rare opportunity for them to officially report to the President the alleged ruthless treatment meted on them by the present administration of PDP under David Nweze Umahi, the other faction by Ben Nwobasi said he remains the authentic chairman of APC in Ebonyi State.
Moreover, Eze Nwachukwu dismissed any crisis in the party, stating that the leadership crisis rocking the party has been resolved. But Nwobasi and others refuted the claims by Nwachukwu, saying that the matter is still in court.
Nwachukwu said, ” The President graciously granted the APC family in Ebonyi State the opportunity to interact with him and it was successful. We presented our challenges, the humiliations, impunity and the callousness of the present government in Ebonyi State. The pains and the afflictions he has unleashed on the APC family. We made them clearly to Mr. President. We are happy because he has given us the assurance to address them in fullness even as we prepare to receive our national chairman tomorrow to recruit more members.
“The leadership crisis in the party is gone because today, I made a presentation to Mr. President and it was clearly acknowledged. Like the 13-member working committee has returned on the 13th before the arrival of Mr. President. So, the crisis is over,” he stated.
But Nwobasi said that Mr. President lacks the capacity to resolve the crisis rocking the leadership of APC in Ebonyi State, adding that Nwachukwu lied when he announced that the crisis has been laid to rest.
”It is not true that the leadership crisis rocking the party has been resolved. The matters are still in court. One of them will be coming up on the 23rd. The first judgement we got, they have appealed it at the court of appeal, Enugu. So, if he is telling you that the matter is over, he is fabricating some lies.
“I am still the authentic and elected APC chairman in Ebonyi state. There is no provision of caretaker position in the party’s constitution. I can give you documents from the national secretary which shows that his appointment as a caretaker is illegal.
“None of my members joined the group headed by the caretaker chairman. If you would not mind, I can speak for them because we were asked to come with 10 persons from each group. And as you can see, none of them is here because we came with our leaders. So, it is not true.
“You do not expect the visit of Mr. President to resolve the crisis rocking the party. The President is not a party leader. He is not the party executive. He is not the national chairman of the party. The President would not ordinarily delve into a matter that does not concern him.
“The President has advised us because they made a lot of allegations against the state government that the state government has revoked a lot of Certificate of Occupancy of the son of Chibueze Agbo.
“They also said that the loan in question should not be granted. But the President in his wisdom has advised us to work as a team and opposition so that we can work, and win election come 2019”, he disclosed.
Meanwhile, The National coordinator of a group known as Initiatives for Demonstrating Change, Comrade Chinedu Ogah, has called on the Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi and other south-east governors not in All Progressives Congress (APC) to defect to the party to enable them benefit from the policies and programmes of the APC-led government.
Ogah, who participated in the closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Lodge, said in Abakaliki that the authentic chairman of the party is Ben Nwobasi.
He distanced the faction led by Nwobasi from the plot by the Nwachukwu-led group to stop the African Development Bank (AFDB) and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) loan for the construction of Ring roads in the state.
”The meeting with the President is a welcome development. We met with him as APC members in Ebonyi State. He came into Ebonyi as our leader and we appreciated the rousing welcome given to him. Irrespective of the fact that our governor is a PDP member, he was able to attract the President to Ebonyi State; that is to show there is a cordial relationship.
“So, what we are saying is that whatever we can do to move Ebonyi State forward, we should do it. We are not party to anybody working against the development of Ebonyi State. We welcome the construction of the ring road. If there is anything that could be done for the ring road to be constructed, Umahi should do it. The ring road will benefit me particularly because, it cut across my local government area”, he said.
He called on members in the All Progressives Congress who are lamenting the closure of their property by the Ebonyi State government to pay their tax, warning that Ebonyi people should be able to distinguish political matter from personal altercation.
He said, “If anybody is complaining that his property was closed by the state government, mine was also closed some time ago. It is not political. You have to follow the law and pay state tax. If you did not pay and your property is closed, it should not be interpreted to be political. There are things we do not need to drag into politics. We should treat political matters politically and different from personal matters.
“What we are saying is that the chairman of APC in Ebonyi State is Nwobasi. Whoever is parading himself as APC chairman in the state is making mockery of himself. There is nothing like reconciliation in Ebonyi State APC. They are just deceiving themselves. Nobody can stay in his house and call himself APC chairman. We have not reconciled. There are still factions in APC in Ebonyi State. Nobody locked us out. The truth is that they first forwarded their names when we came in, we forwarded our names and it was acknowledged by Mr. President. We all entered, and the meeting was held.
“What we are talking about is the grassroots. We are talking about winning election. It is not about staying in your house and dishing out instructions. We are talking about how APC will win election. We are urging the governor of Ebonyi State to come into APC. It is not about staying outside. He should come to APC let us do the politics.
“If the south-east governors come into APC, we will unite and get what we want from the federal government. As a governor of PDP, he cannot join in caucus meeting. If he joins APC, he will be part of the caucus and with the relationship he has established with the president, he will have a soft landing. And that is why we are saying that he should join us.
“The door is open. We are welcoming everybody to come to APC. There is no how the governor will join APC that we will not be great. Recall what happened when the new PDP was formed when Rotimi Amaechi and others decamped, they are the one that drive the new PDP. What we are saying is that all the governors in the south east should come and join the APC so that we can build a united house and united Nigeria.