APC Delta: A House Divided Against Itself | Independent Newspapers Limited
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APC Delta: A House Divided Against Itself

Anirah Urges Delta APC Members To Resolve Delta Crisis
Posted: Oct 6, 2016 at 3:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Charles Okogene



In Delta State, it has been one week, one trouble for the All Progressives Congress (APC) since the last general elections in which it came out a distant third in the governorship election in the state. Analysts have predicted that unless the leadership of the party acts swiftly, it is on the broadway to self destruction.

For the APC in Delta State, the crisis which is capable of tearing the party into two equal parts, if not more, started as a mere protest that sometimes accompany party congresses or primaries preparatory to general elections.

This was what the APC, which by size and popularity was supposed to be the main opposition party in the state that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presides over, found itself after the state congresses that was conducted earlier in the year to usher in new executives that would pilot the affairs of the party in readiness for the 2019 elections which many are dreaming might bring a new government through the party in the state which has been under the grips of PDP since 1999.

The ‘family’ disagreement’ which would have been nipped in the bud was allowed to fester like leprosy so much that the issue was taken to the court for adjudication. At the court, the pendulum of justice tilted in the favour of those who felt that the congresses were not properly conducted and rather than obey the decision of the court, the leadership of the party, especially at the national level, ‘refused’ to do the needful – compel the Prophet Jones Erhue led executive of the party in the state to vacate office for a caretaker committee that would organise a fresh congress step in.

This was how the real problem started; and since the leaders of the party in Abuja failed to do what was expected of them, the aggrieved party members that challenged the congresses and its outcome in court decided to help themselves since nobody was ready to help them. And so on Tuesday, September 13 2016 a group that styles itself as the Elders and Leaders committee of the party in a meeting at the Ozoro residence of Senator Francis Spanner Okpozo, constituted a caretaker committee, in line with the order of an Asaba High Court which had on April 30 2016 nullified the controversial congresses, with Nathaniel Omo-Onyeke and Dennis Nwanokwai as chairman and secretary respectively.

This singular act was what was needed for the commotion that is threatening to pull down APC structure which had been standing on a sandy foundation in the state – no thanks to the controversial merger it went into with Labour Party (LP) and other parties at the state level after the 2015 general elections.
As expected, Erhue whose legitimacy as the chairman of the party in the state was nullified by the April 30 2016 order of an Asaba High Court was the first to kick against the Elders and Leaders constituted Omo-Onyeke and Nwanokwai led Caretaker Committee.

In well a publicised press statement, Erhue carpeted the Elders and the committee in the following words, “those who formed the caretaker committee have been summoned to Abuja to face a disciplinary committee of the party in Abuja.”

Erhue did not stop at that, he said that those behind the caretaker committee are sponsored by external forces determined to cause confusion in the party ahead of 2019 governorship election saying “those involve in constituting a parallel caretaker committee have been summoned to appear before the disciplinary committee at Abuja on September 24.”
He then dropped the bombshell as he presented a seven-man disciplinary committee of the party at the state level to members of the party still loyal to him saying, “the committee has since commenced work and are expected to investigate the involvement of those mentioned in connection with the parallel caretaker committee of the party in the state.”

Erhue was not alone in the condemnation of the caretaker committee and those behind its formation; a chieftain of the party, Chief Frank Kokori, added his voice as he frowned at the formation of the committee.

If Erhue had thought that his revelation that the caretaker committee members have been invited to Abuja by the disciplinary committee would drive fears down the spine of the Omo-onyeke chaired committee, the reverse was the case as Nwanokwai told Independent that the invitation is not from the party’s national disciplinary committee but a forced meeting with some members of the National Working Committee (NWC).
“Not disciplinary committee but a ‘forced’ meeting with some members of the NWC. We are calling their bluff!” Nwanokwai said.
Apparently, this might have jolted the National Vice Chairman South South of the party, Prince Hilliard Eta, who in his reaction said that the Okpozo led Elders and Leaders Committee is an unknown creation and aberration to the party’s constitution and so, not recognised by the national leadership of the party.
“All decision taken by such unknown creation are nullity abinitio,” Eta said.

Eta’s description of the  committee and the Elders and Leaders that constituted it as an “unknown creation” worsened the crisis as the Omo-Onyeke led committee accused him of scheming to perpetuate the Erhue led executive in office despite the fact that it has been sacked by the court and called for his immediate resignation.

They also accused him of taking side with the speed by which he rushed to the press to condemn the formation of the committee but maintained a deaf ear to the Asaba High Court order that sacked Erhue and members of his exco and ordered for a committee to organise a fresh congress of the party in the state.
“We have read the misguided and uninformed press release of the National Vice Chairman, South-South, Prince Hilliard E. Eta published on page 22 of the Vanguard Newspaper of Monday 19th September, 2016 in reaction to the newly-constituted Caretaker Committee for the APC Delta State. Consequently, our well-considered response in reaction is that the erstwhile Prophet Jones Erhue-led State Exco remains sacked in law.

“The call by Prince Hilliard Eta to all structures and membership of the party in Delta State to remain loyal to the Prophet Jones Erhue-led State Exco, by stretch of any imagination, is in contempt of court, a gross illegality as it amounts to over ruling the judgement of a court of competent jurisdiction, partisan interest, provocative  and a brazen invitation to anarchy.

“The party’s NWC sees issues only through the prism of one man, Olorogun Otega Emerho and continues to parade a State Exco in defiance of the judgment of the  High Court of Justice, Delta State, which sacked the said State Exco on 30th April, 2015 – more than 16 months ago,” the release issued and signed by Dr. K.O. Nwchukwu and Barr. Ambrose Egwunatum on behalf of the new committee read in part.
The statement recalled that in the judgment of  Suit NO. A/245/2014: CHIEF ADOLO OKOTIE EBOH & ANOR. V. ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) & 2ORS, “the court declared the congress of the  APC purportedly held on the 26th of April, 2014 at the Hope Christian Centre, Asaba, illegal, null and void, having been conducted in clear breach of the approved  guidelines for the conduct of state congress of the party.

“It held that the action of the NWC and Eta is in violation of the judgement of the court to the effect that the 2nd and 3rd defendants, Prophet Jones Erhue and Chidi Okonji as well as other officers purportedly elected at the said congress are hereby restrained from parading or holding out themselves as the valid or duly elected chairman, secretary and officers respectively of the Delta State Chapter of the All progressives Congress.”

It therefore reminded the party of the position of the court that “the 1st defendant (All Progressives Congress) is hereby restrained from recognising and/ or dealing with the 2nd and 3rd defendants, Prophet Jones Erhue and Chidi Okonji as well as other officers purportedly elected on the 26th day of April, 2014 at the Hope Christian Centre, Asaba as members of the Executive Committee of the Delta State Chapter of its party.”

Consequently, it recalled the judgement of the court that  “it is hereby ordered that the 1st defendant [All Progressives Congress] conduct a fresh Congress in Delta State for the purpose of electing the Executive Committee of the Delta State Chapter of All Progressives Congress in accordance with its constitution and approved guidelines.”

However, insted of seeking the path of honour by obeying the order of the Asaba High Court which will lead to an amicable resolution of the crisis, Erhue ran to the police with an allegation that some members of the party were planning to invade the secretariat and the police took over the secretariat to prevent a  possible breakdown of law and order.

The occupation of the secretariat by the police came just days after a group of persons alleged to be loyal to the seven – man disciplinary committee set up by the sacked Erhue executive engaged those loyal to Omo-Onyeke committee in a free for all at the secretariat.
While reacting to the presence of police at the secretariat and the purported invitation of the members of his committee by the police, Nwanokwai said, “the crisis is artificial. What is playing out is the desperation of Olorogun Otega Emerhor to hold on to the sacked members of the State Exco (by judgment of the High Court of Justice, Delta State of Nigeria, holden at Asaba on April 30, 2015) to secure the party’s ticket for the guber polls in 2019. The situation is even made more hopeless following the loss of membership by the erstwhile Prophet Jones led State Exco, as a result of filing an action against the party at the Federal High Court Warri last year. Article 21 (D) (v) of the party’s Constitution provides for automatic expulsion of members who file a suit against the party in court. They can only be re-admitted after withdrawing the suit. The suit is still pending. They are no longer members of the party and these former members are the ones fomenting trouble in the party. On the police aspect, there is no such invitation extended to us formally or informally.

“However, in view of the heavy police presence witnessed at the party secretariat lately, the leadership of the party in the State will be meeting with the Commissioner of Police to formally be briefed on what the immediate and remote causes are.”
According to Nwanokwai, “the party is united under the leadership of Sen. F. S. Okpozo and the Elders and Leaders. Olorogun O’tega is only worried about the influx of other political heavyweights into the party. It will no longer be business as usual.”

On Monday, October 3, the crisis took new and dangerous turn with the discovery of fetish items deposited by unknown persons at the main entrance into the party’s state secretariat opposite St. Patrick’s College Asaba. An indication that those involved in the power tussle have gone diabolical which is an ill-wind that will blow no one any good.

And while nobody can predict how the crisis would be amicably resolved, one thing which most Deltans and political analysts are sure of, is that if the leadership of the party, at the national level, continues to delay in enforcing the Asaba High Court order, there is the possibility that the party might go to the 2019 elections as a house divided against itself.