TODAY, there is joy in Enugu State’s All Progressives Congress (APC) as the members celebrate the reunion of the factions loyal to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the party’s State Chairman, Dr. Ben Nwoye, respectively.
The two factions, which flexed political muscles against each other since 2017, reunited on Wednesday, August 26, 2020, even as the leaders of the factions publicly declared determination to work together to rebuild the party.
Confirming the high expectations arising from the development, the excited State Chairman, Nwoye, said after inaugurating a 10 man Contact and Mobilisation Committee, headed by Adolphus Ude: “This exercise is part of efforts to consolidate the new found unity in our party. This wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago, but we must build this house together and all the issues have been resolved. Today, we have one APC in Enugu. Our aim is to build one indivisible party that will be strong to win elections in the state.”
He also told newsmen that the reconciliation was initiated by the national leadership of APC, saying that all the major stakeholders in the prolonged leadership crisis were aware and carried along, except one person, Okey Ogbodo, who, according to him, refused to be part of the reconciliation efforts.
Some of the leaders he identified as conceding to the reconciliation included the minister, Onyeama; Chris Baywood Ibe; former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani; the governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 General Election, Ayogu Eze, among others.
Fresh tasks ahead
Some insiders and close observers to the politics of Enugu State have said consolidations of APC in the state goes beyond the show of repentance and the friendly utterances made during the said reunification show. Dr. Kingsley Udochukwu, a political analyst in Nsukka, told The Nation that the face-off is not just between the Foreign Affairs Minister, Onyeama, and the state Chairman, Nwoye. “No, it is deeper than that. Recall the way Onyeama emerged on the scene from nowhere and suddenly assumed leadership position in the state chapter of the party, where he allegedly did not sow. Some old members, financiers and leaders, who invested so much in the party, and therefore expected to be given that honour, would need to be identified and truly won over before the party will enjoy genuine unity. Yhey still feel Onyeama’s leadership position draws only from his appointment as a minister.
“This explains why close observers like my humble self believe the party has just begun the journey and that it has a long way to go. The task before the newly inaugurated Contact and Mobilisation Committee, led by Adolphus Ude, is much. Don’t forget that the Chairman of the committee, Ude, was a central figure in the face off.”
In her response, Madam Agnes Udeme, a retired teacher and grassroots supporter in Enugu, urged both the Nwoye-led state executive of the party and the peace committee to take the bull by the horn if they hope to consolidate on what happened this week. “Let all the leaders admit that so much had gone wrong in the party. As the saying goes, when two Elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. The party will need to reconcile all its leaders in the state if it ever hopes to regain its lost ground at the grassroots level. That will be a good starting point. I was impressed when Nwoye openly acknowledged Onyeama as his leader and when the state Chairman went ahead to appoint Ude, who was the Pioneer Chairman of the party in the state and the leader of the minister’s group, as the Chairman of the peace consolidation committee. If they continue this way, genuine peace would be found and when this is done, APC will truly be repositioned to win elections in Enugu. I can confirm to you that the party has great sons and daughters of Enugu in its fold. The challenge is how to reconcile personal grudges of the leaders in the state.”
Genesis of the rift
Although inside sources said the genesis of the prolonged leadership crisis in Enugu State chapter of APC, which involved Onyeama and Nwoye, dates far beyond the fracas that took place during the party’s last national convention, it could be said that the crisis caught national attention when the Nwoye-led state executive threatened to expel Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, for allegedly altering the list of delegates that were to participate in the party’s national convention.
The matter worsened when, soon after the congresses, the Minister and his supporters formed their own parallel structure, led by Deacon Okey Ogbodo.
Since then, the party has not spoken with one voice until the APC’s new national leadership initiated the current peace initiative, calling on all aggrieved members across the country that are in courts to withdraw their suits and embrace internal mechanisms in resolving their differences.
This week’s open show of reconciliation between Onyeama’s supporters and Nwoye’s leadership in the state suggests that the initiative is yielding fruits in Enugu State.
It however remains to be seen; how far the peace consolidation structure Nwoye put in place will go in reaching and winning all the important stakeholders.