A lingering leadership friction in the All Progressives Grand Alliance could derail the re-election bid of Governor Willie Obiano in Anambra State, latest checks by PREMIUM TIMES have shown.
The Independent National Electoral Commission has fixed November 18 for the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state.
But several months of leadership tussles which resulted in a myriad of lawsuits in several jurisdictions across the country could see the governor disqualified by INEC from participating in the election.
Earlier this week, Mr. Obiano was in Abuja to reportedly convince INEC officials to recognise his faction and allow him the chance to participate in the election proper.
But his aides said their principal was not scheming for a way out of the crisis, insisting he was only in town to pick up his primary nomination form on the platform of the party.
Although the electoral empire said no concrete resolution had been reached over the crisis as it relates to the 2017 poll in the state, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, its director of information, said officials would be persuaded only by the decision of the court of higher jurisdiction.
“We will be guided by the pronouncement of the most senior court in choosing the faction to work with,” Mr. Osaze-Uzzi said.
The move will be in consonance with INEC’s decision on Ondo State last year, when it complied with the order of the Court of Appeal and recognised the candidate of the Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party.
About 10 separate lawsuits are simultaneously underway at different courts over the dispute, those familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES.
The first order was procured by the Martin Agbaso-led faction at the Enugu Division of Enugu State High Court on May 22.
The presiding judge, A.R. Ozoemena, affirmed Mr. Agbaso as the chairman of the party in an order of mandamus and ordered Victor Oye, who leads the governor’s faction, to stop parading himself as chairman.
But on July 3, an Anambra State High Court in Awka gave a counter ruling by declaring Mr. Oye as the authentic chairman of the party.
Another pronouncement in favour of the governor’s faction came two weeks later on July 18, when another Anambra State High Court in Nnewi reaffirmed Mr. Oye’s status as the real chairman of APGA.
The presiding judge, Chukwudi Okaa, said Mr. Agbaso and all those connected to him should desist from making claims to the leadership of the party.
But key amongst the orders was the affirmation of Mr. Agbaso’s May 22 order of mandamus by the Appeal Court in Enugu last month.
The order asked INEC, the police and other departments of government to stop dealing with Mr. Oye.
CRISIS, TRIGGERED BY DISCIPLINARY MEASURE
The protracted crisis followed the decision by the party’s National Working Committee to suspend Mr. Oye, then the chairman, and some members for alleged insubordination, anti-party activities amongst other alleged infractions on the party’s constitution.
The suspension, which came on October 5, 2016, also affected Abubakar Adamu, the deputy national chairman, (North) and Uche Okogbuo, the national deputy chairman (South).
Subsequently, the NWC appointed Nwabueze Okafor as the acting national chairman of the party.
But Mr. Oye and other suspended officials dismissed their suspension and continued to lay claim to the leadership of the party.
In a counter move on December 21, Mr. Oye and others met in Awka and decided to suspend Mr. Okafor and other members of his executive committee.
Expelled alongside Mr. Okafor were the National Woman Leader, Ezinne Nneamaka; National Youth Leader, Chucks Nwoga; Deputy National Financial Secretary, Okechukwu Nkoloagu; and Deputy National Secretary, Jerry Obasi, amongst others.
The counter move effectively factionalised the party, as Mr. Okafor maintained his status as the acting chairman.
FACTIONAL CHAIRMAN DIES
On January 8, Mr. Okafor, a career civil servant and former president of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, passed on in Enugu, after being briefly indisposed.
But before his death, his faction had named Mr. Agbaso as the acting deputy national chairman. He was confirmed chairman shortly after Mr. Okafor’s death was announced.
He continued the leadership tussle from where his late ally stopped, and currently enjoys the highest court decision in the dispute.
His faction has given its gubernatorial ticket to lawyer and busiessman, Chinedu Idigo.
But Messrs. Obiano and Oye remained resolute in their believe that they would prevail before Anambra voters troop to polling units on December 18.
The faction has fixed a convention which it hope would help legitimise it, according to party insiders.
It is also taking consolation in last month’s ruling of the Supreme Court which dealt an excruciating blow to factional elements in the PDP and affirmed Makarfi-led faction as the authentic leadership of the party.
Mr. Oye told reporters last month that Mr. Agbaso was being used to destabilise the party and weaken it from within by outside elements plotting to eliminate the governor from featuring on the ballot papers in order to increase their own chances.
Mr. Osaze-Uzzi said INEC would soon issue a statement to let Nigerians know where the electoral body stands on the matter.