APC and culture of violence in Enugu politics

By Ejike Eze

“I do not have doubts in my mind that this pre-meditated, unwarranted attacks on our candidate’s campaign facilities was orchestrated by Mr. Ben Nwoye and his paymasters including the impostor, Ayogu Eze and ex-governor Sullivan Chime, who are all desperate to wrestle from me the machinery of the party in Enugu State and its gubernatorial nomination which … Barrister Tagbo Ogara had won fair and square. I also legitimately posit that this was why Mr. Chime had personally threatened, not long ago, in a widely reported interview, that the 2019 General Election in Enugu would be war.” … This mindless resort to high level dissident, violent action as unleashed last night on our Candidate is abhorrent, primitive and a dangerous dimension to intra-party disagreement in the body politics of our country, bearing in mind that we are not yet thinking of our common enemy at the polls. How can a house divided against itself stand? – Deacon Okey Ogbodo.

These are the words of Deacon Okey Ogbodo, one of the chairmen of our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in a recent press release, accusing some highly-placed members of the party of complicity in the burning of some branded campaign vehicles at the office of one of the gubernatorial candidates of the party in Enugu state. Note my deliberate use of the clause “one of“ in my descriptions which, in my opinion, sums up the fortunes and state of the party in the state for quite some time now. Instead of one chairman as envisaged by our constitution, we have two persons contending for the position. And instead of one gubernatorial candidate, we have two claimants to the position.  With barely two months to the much anticipated gubernatorial election in the state, I am tempted to echo the question posed by Deacon Ogbodo: can a house divided against itself stand? The answer is obvious. Yet that is not my concern now. My concern is that we all seem to have forgotten so easily and Enugu state would be the worse for it!

Not too long ago, Enugu, the Coal City State, dominated the national news headlines for the wrong reason: it was enmeshed in a gruesome godfather war between Ex-governor Chimaroke Nnamani and his estranged godfather, Chief Jim Nwobodo. It was a miasma of misplaced confidence and arrogance of power! Enugu was literally a war zone, and the traditional peace that defined the city was overthrown, while the roughnecks of politics, otherwise known as political thugs made it a haven of sorts! Life in the city became brutish, miserable and short. Enugu was literally reduced to an epicenter of darkness! Anybody who had the wherewithal took flight from the city while the roughnecks contended for superiority amongst their ranks and there was a harvest of needless deaths. Economic activities in the city nosedived, night life was eclipsed and the city was stripped bare! Sullivan Chime, the immediate past governor of the state was a product of this anciente regime! But credit must also be given to him as the man who recovered the city from that darkness. It was an interesting but curious metamorphosis!

For the eight long years of his tenure as governor of Enugu state, he returned the city to her glorious salubrious past, a heavenly ambience for all easterners. He remodeled the city infrastructure and improved on the security architecture; economic activities blossomed, and Enugu moved from the backwaters of an ultra-impecunious state to the point where it can largely sustain even without much assistance from the centre. This was the resume that Sullivan came with into the fold of the APC which made all of us who are the “legacy” members of the party so proud of his company. I have been a member of this party since 2006, having been a member of the now defunct Action Congress (AC), that later transformed to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the legacy parties that gave birth to the present APC. But I am presently worried by the fortune of the party in the state especially in the past two years and I feel it is better for us to re-examine ourselves before we advertently return the state to that proverbial land of Egypt from whence we had survived. A life not worth re-examining is indeed a life not worth living!

The truth is that for quite a while now, we have not known peace within us as a party. It suffices to say therefore that a house riddled with crisis as we have been enmeshed in cannot creditably lay claim to serious contention against the opponents. I feel particularly ashamed that all that are heard about this great party in Enugu is warmongering news after the other. First it was among the party executives whereof there were suspensions and counter-suspensions. Adolphus Udeh, the former deputy chairman in the state and his group, first, forcefully removed the chairman, Dr. Ben Nwoye and his own clique, who in turn removed Mr. Udeh and his own group. That crisis festered until the last congress of the party and consumed some high profile members. The chairman in turn suspended the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, notwithstanding the fact that he is the highest officeholder of the party in the state and by implication, ought to be the leader of the party in the state. The police have on several occasions had cause to seal off the state party secretariat as a consequence of brigandage and unremitting disorder. The party congresses that were held were bazaars of shameful episodes. They were so rancorous such that some of our elder statesmen including the former Senate President Ken Nnamani and Jim Nwobodo had to be scurrilously chaperoned away by the security men! Issues arising from the party primaries have remained intractable up till now, less than two months away from the elections! All efforts so far at resolving them, including the visit of the governor of Kano State Alhaji Abdulahi Umar Ganduje have been without results.

Ex-governor Chime unguardedly described the forthcoming elections in the state as going to be “war” while one of the gubernatorial candidates of the party Sen. Ayogu proclaimed that he is going to run a ‘”scorched earth” campaign! And now, there is arson, mindlessly burning down to ashes the very few branded campaign vehicles that have something to say about APC presence in Enugu State! It is instructive to note that we are not blaming the PDP which ought to be our common opponents. We are rather curiously pouring accusations and counter-accusations against ourselves. Every man is seemingly on his own; naively hoping that God is for us all. Yet I know that in politics, God most often works with those who are prepared to work for themselves. As Deacon Ogbodo rightly queried,’ without reconciliation how can we confront our common enemy, the PDP in the forthcoming elections in the state?’

In trying to lay a handle on what has been the problem of the party in the state, I do not look far to locate it on the influx of politicians-of-fortune, especially of the PDP stock. Leopards do not easily change their spots, and they have infested this great party with all their well-known viruses of violence and corruption. I sincerely blame the national leadership of the party for throwing the gates wide open and thereby making the APC a refugee camp for corrupt, dubious and greedy politicians of all hews who do not see politics beyond the lure of office and material things. The Bible says it is an abomination to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For those of us who have remained in this party long before the light that came at the end of the tunnel, vis-à-vis the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the 2015 polls, we hold the principle of progressive politics as a religion. As in other developed polities, belonging to a political party must not necessarily just end up in immediate power grab. One belongs to a party based on the principles of its pursuit. For instance Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a far-left political party of South Africa knows that it might not be an immediate happenstance for him to become the president of his country. But he is steadfast, and each day that passes underscores the possibility of attaining that lofty height. Ditto President Muhammadu Buhari who remained steadfast in his discipline and puritanical principles until Nigerians reckoned with the fact that it was time to redeem the country from the hands of the invading PDP. It pains me each time I observe the main culprits that pillaged our common wealth during the PDP years of the locust, shamefacedly mouthing derogatory remarks about the party they fed fat on simply because they have crossed over to our zone. Does someone’s sin against the polity simply get remitted by the mere fact of changing a party? The PDP blood still runs in their vein, and their genealogy shows that their ancestors are arrant criminals who are incapable of redemption. This indeed, is the root of the problem of our party especially in Enugu!

The mainstream membership of our party are not happy, and this is simply stating the obvious. We have been used, abused and totally reduced to the ordinary. Those we fought against invaded the house and were aided to overrun us. They have brought with them their trademark violence and brigandage. Almost all the candidates of our party in the forthcoming elections are drawn from the PDP refugees; none was reserved for the legacy members. It was a cash and carry business, and given that we have not had the (mis)fortune of ravaging the state’s economy as they have had over the years, most of us could not afford the cost of the party forms; and the party did not have any provision for affirmative action that could have taken into consideration our investments in time and emotions. A cursory analysis would explain further. Of the three senatorial candidates, only Mrs. Ibekaku Nwagu was a member of our party. Of the eight House of Representatives seats for contest in the state, all are former members of the PDP. Ditto the House of Assembly candidates. The two contenders to the governorship ticket Barrister Tagbo Ogara and Senator Ayogu Eze are estranged members of the PDP, with the later having joined the party just one month before the primaries! As our brother Osita Okechukwu rightly observed, “Ayogu and Ugwuanyi are in true sense of the word, all of the PDP family. So it is left for Enugu people to choose which of the PDP candidates they feel is better.”

It is strange therefore to expect a miracle. All that spews from their mouths is how elections could be manipulated employing the almighty federal might! There is hardly any effort at mobilizing the people ostensibly oblivious of the fact that this is a government headed by President Buhari who has his eyes more on history than power grab. But even if we are to rely on the fabled “federal might” it would still need the people to help it work. Who are our people for this work; who have we organized to carry out such herculean task? With barely two months away from the elections, can a house divided amongst itself stand?

A Chinese proverb has it that no matter how far you might have gone in the wrong direction, the only remedy is to go back to the point you missed your way. That point is the legacy members of the party in the state who have been forgotten so soon.

 

Ejike Eze, a politician, wrote in from Enugu.

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