The Imo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is on the boil at the moment. Two executives are laying claim to the leadership of the party.
While the MacDonald Ebere-led executive elected on October 16 last year insists it is still the legitimate executive, the Dan Nwafor-led executive which was dissolved in 2020 claims it had been reinstated.
Its reinstatement followed a Supreme Court verdict delivered on May 27, 2022 and subsequent letter dated June 15, 2022 and signed by Senator Iyiola Omisore, National Secretary of the APC.
To forestall breakdown of law and order, the police on Friday, July 1 took over the Secretariat of the party in Owerri.
Shortly after the dissolution of state executive committees by the National Executive Committee, NEC of the party in 2020, one Evan Enwerem and two others had dragged the APC to court challenging the ouster of the Dan Nwafor led executive of the party.
The Federal High Court in Abuja quashed the dissolution of the Nwafor-led executive which was elected in 2018 for a four-year tenure.
The APC which had enthroned a Caretaker Committee with Prince Marcellinus Nlemigbo as chairman to administer the Imo chapter overlooked the Federal High Court verdict hence didn’t file any appeal against the judgement of the lower court till the period of appeal elapsed.
Seeing that it had been caught in a web, it rushed to the trial court to seek extension of time to enable it file an appeal. It was learnt that the court never granted its request. The party, according to its spokesman in Imo State, Cajetan Duke still went ahead to approach the Court of Appeal to appeal the judgement of the trial court.
It was gathered that the Nwafor-led executive still won at the Appeal Court necessitating the party to proceed to the Supreme Court.
On May 27, the apex court dismissed the APC appeal, but ruled that the trial court lacked jurisdictional competence to hear the matter in the first place. In fact, it accused Enwerem and two others of forum shopping, a situation where by an applicant looks for a pliant court or judge to obtain a favourable verdict.
It went ahead to quash the suit together with the entire processes from the trial court to the Appellate Court and directed the parties to bear their individual cost.
When the news of the reinstatement of the Dan Nwafor-led executive first broke out in May, the reaction of the APC leaders in the state including the state governor, Hope Uzodimma was mainly that the tenure of the Nwafor led executive had elapsed even if it was to return to office.
Not much was heard about the reinstatement till a letter emerged from the Office of the National Secretary of the party, Senator Iyiola Omisore reinstating Nwafor as Chairman of the Imo State chapter.
The letter which was dated June 15, 2022 cited the apex court verdict of May 27 as reason for directing Nwafor to return to office and take charge of activities of the party at its Secretariat in Owerri till the expiration of its tenure on July 31, 2022.
So, why would police take over the Secretariat and bar Nwafor from resuming work? Speaking during Hardtalk, a current affairs programme aired Saturday, July 2, at Zanders 105.7FM Owerri, Duke said the police did not take over the Secretariat but was invited to ensure miscreants do not capitalize on the hullabaloo arising from possible return to office of Nwafor to perpetrate mayhem.
The spokesman of the Ebere-led executive insisted that Nwafor cannot return to office, maintaining that the party’s NEC got rid of Nwafor-led executive in 2020.
He also stated that the apex court never reinstated Nwafor. According to him, having ruled that the trial court lacked jurisdictional competence to try the matter and having struck out the case together with the entire processes from the trial court to the Appellate Court, the apex court had given a clean bill of health to the Ebere-led executive to continue to administer the party.
Duke was emphatic that Nwafor said to be a protege of former governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha cannot return to office as Chairman of the Imo APC at a time Senator Uzodimma is governor and leader of the party in the state.
“Don’t wish others what you cannot tolerate”, Duke advised, adding that Okorocha could not have tolerated somebody who was not loyal to him to superintend the party when he held sway as governor.
Duke who accused Nwafor of idleness which is the reason for him to still lay claim to the chairmanship position when other members of his ‘defunct’ executive had moved on, regretted that the media in the state were helping to exacerbate the crisis rocking the party in the state.
According to him, the constant reportage by the local media of the reinstatement of Nwafor was fanning the embers of the crisis rocking the party.
Felix Morka, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC is quoted as saying that Omisore’s letter reinstating Nwafor might have been ‘scripted in error’, a stance that didn’t tally with the initial position of the Ebere-led executive which declared the letter as fake. If the letter was scripted in error, it means either Omisore is incompetent or was unduly influenced to write the letter.
Again, the fact that the National Working Committee, NWC had not met and deliberated on the matter before Omisore’s controversial missive portrays the APC as lacking cohesion.
Analyst and journalist, Salvator Amadi said the several missteps of the APC not only on the Imo case but also on other issues have continued to prove that the party is a motley crowd of strange bedfellows, who congregated in 2014 mainly to seize power without knowing how to administer the country and itself.
Duke disagreed with Amadi, stating that there was no political party in the country that is not embroiled in internal strife. He recalled how erstwhile President, Olusegun Obasanjo eased Audu Ogbe out of office as National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party. Obasanjo was reported to have stormed Ogbe’s residence in Abuja and requested for a bowl of pounded yam.
After munching to his heart’s satisfaction, Obasanjo brought out a letter of resignation and ordered Ogbe to endorse it. A forlorn-looking Ogbe requested to be allowed to go into his room to bring a biro to enable him to sign only for Obasanjo to produce a biro swiftly for him (Ogbe).
The ex-president who later returned to order Ogbe to affix a date on the endorsed letter told the Benue State-born chief that he could not continue as National Chairman of the PDP after publicly condemning some of his government’s policies.
Commenting on the Imo APC saga, the member representing Okigwe South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Chike John Okafor revealed that Nwafor was foisted on the party by the Rescue Mission, the political outfit of Okorocha to distract the APC in the state.
He asserted that the objective was achieved but regretted that the distraction was still being allowed to fester.
On his Facebook page, Okafor wrote; “This is not common knowledge, but for everyone who was in the know, the choice of Daniel Nwafor as the Chairman of Imo APC by our Rescue Mission faction of the party then, was a divisive error and one of the pillars of discontent that eventually disintegrated the party.
“And to think that this same mistake is being allowed to fester and cause problems for the party and the state at this auspicious time is rather very unfortunate.
“Nevertheless, I do Hope we learnt sufficiently from the errors of the past.”
Clearly, the crisis rocking the Imo APC is due to the festering face-off between Okorocha and Uzodimma, a rift that started in 2018 when Uzodimma was drafted to join the gubernatorial race in the state on the platform of the APC in order to stall Okorocha’s plan to foist his son in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor.
Uzodimma was not thinking of running for the governorship of the state. He was only interested in returning to the Senate to enable him angle for the presidency of the Senate when some APC chieftains pleaded with him to throw his hat into the ring on the belief that he was the only person capable of helping to wrest power from Okorocha, who had subdued almost all in the state.
Working with some Abuja political gladiators including Ahmed Gulak, Uzodimma ‘won’ the Imo APC gubernatorial primary poll after Gulak had sneaked out of his hotel room early in the morning and dashed to the Sam Mbakwe Airport to be airlifted to Abuja where he announced the result of the primary poll that he could not conduct a day earlier.
Since the incident, Uzodimma and Okorocha have been at daggers-drawn politically. Observers had thought that the rift would have ended after the Supreme Court delivered its controversial judgement on January 14, 2020 that brought Uzodimma to power and Okorocha gleefully attended his inauguration on January 15.
Also Okorocha’s desire that the Uzodimma government drops its recovery programme of looted public assets, which government overlooked owing to pressure from the citizens must have also compounded the face-off between the two politicians. Though politicians are given to playing to the gallery or engaging in showmanship by throwing banters and exchanging pleasantries in public, it is believed that there is a deep-seated animosity between the governor and his predecessor.
As a result, allowing Nwafor, a known Okorocha loyalist to return to office seems to be the last thing the governor will allow to happen under his watch. Nwafor’s resumption of office also has implications.
It may upturn all the National Assembly primaries conducted by the APC in the state. This could be the reason why the apex court in striking out the appeal filed by the APC also struck out the suit including the entire processes from the trial court to the Appellant Court.
A lawyer who does not want his name in print argued that the issue of the trial court lacking jurisdictional competence as ruled by the apex court does not hold water because a Federal High Court in Abuja is of equal coordinate jurisdiction with a state high court or a federal high court in Imo State. Again, he argued that the dissolution of the Nwafor-led executive was carried out by the NEC of the party in Abuja. The lawyer insisted that the APC having filed its appeal after the expiration of the period for appeal should have made the apex court to uphold the decision of the trial court as the Appeal Court did.
As it stands now, Nwafor will have to continue to lick his wound since he cannot proceed to any other court.