A meeting called for President Muhammadu Buhari to reconcile the two factions of the All Progressives Congress in Ebonyi State reportedly ended in a deadlock on Wednesday.
One of the factions is loyal to Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, while the other is loyal to the 2015 governorship candidate of the party in the state, Ali Ucha.
The tussle of the two factions over the leadership of APC in Ebonyi began before the 2015 elections.
While the Ucha-led faction has Ben Nwobasi as its Chairman, the Onu group has Mr. Nwobasi’s Vice Chairman as its Chairman, after purportedly impeaching Mr. Nwobasi in 2015.
But the Nwobasi group went to court even before the purported impeachment and got a restraining order barring the party from effecting a change in the leadership of the party. That matter is still in court.
President Buhari, who paid a two-day working visit to the state, was expected to use the opportunity to settle the dispute so that the party can mount a strong challenge to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the state, led by Governor David Umahi.
But that did not materialise, as Mr. Buhari, it was reliably gathered from a source in the meeting, advised both factions to sheathe their swords, reconcile and close ranks.
Signs that the crisis may not be resolved were noticed earlier when the Nwachukwu faction tried to lock out stalwarts from the Nwobasi faction from the meeting with President Buhari on Wednesday Morning.
But the plan failed as some stalwarts, especially Mr. Ogah, who had been to the Aso Rock Villa repeatedly, were recognised by some security aides to the president and were allowed into the meeting which held at the Presidential Lodge of Government House, Abakaliki.
After the meeting, both factional chairmen briefed journalists separately and gave different accounts of what transpired in the meeting.
For Mr. Nwachukwu, the meeting resolved the crisis and the 13 members of the State Working Committee, SWC, have reconciled with his faction.
He also said the party complained of the highhandedness of Governor Umahi and how he allegedly had been intimidating party faithful by shutting down businesses of some of them.
“We discussed with Mr. President the callousness of the present government in the state, the pains and the afflictions he has unleashed on the APC family in the state. We made it clear to the president and we are happy he has promised to address them in fullness even as we prepare for the visit of our national chairman to recruit more members into the party.
“The leadership crisis is gone. Today, I made presentations of our address to Mr. President. The 13 members State Working Committee (SWC) of the part have returned. That happened a day before the visit of our president. So the crisis is over”
He also debunked the allegations levelled against Mr. Onu by Governor Umahi on Tuesday in his address, where he accused the minister of frustrating the state government’s efforts to access loans from African Development Bank and Islamic Bank to reconstruct the Abakaliki ring road.
“We have debunked that allegation. The Plaintiffs to that matter are concerned citizens of Ebonyi state. None of the appointees of Mr. President in the state is a plaintiff to that matter,” he said.
But Mr. Nwobasi disagreed with Mr. Nwachukwu, stating that he is still the chairman of the party as the matter is still in court.
“The leadership crisis has not been resolved. The matters are still in court. One of it is coming up on 23rd of this month. The first judgment we got, they have appealed it in the Court of Appeal in Enugu. The matter is not over. Anybody telling you that the matter is over is just fabricating some lies”.
“I am still the authentic elected chairman of APC in the state. There is no provision of caretaker chairmen or whatever in our party constitution. If you like, I can give you a letter where the national secretary wrote withdrawing a letter earlier issued to him as acting chairman”.
“The SWC members are still with me. What happened was that we were asked to come with about ten persons each and you can see, none of them is here, because we came with our leaders. So, is not true”.
He threw light on why the president did not delve into the leadership crisis but only advised them to settle for the sake of the party.
“Well, you don’t expect that because, one, the President is not the national chairman or an executive officer of the party. Of course, he may not understand that there are some skirmishes in APC in Ebonyi state. So, Mr. President would not ordinarily delve into a matter that does not concern him”.
He said that plans to shut out his faction by the Nwachukwu faction failed as he and his supporters were still able to gain entry into the venue of the meeting.
“It was ok. The President addressed us and advised us as father to come together and work as a team. The Labour Party people who think that they are so strong, so powerful and money bags and they feel they can use their money to push us out of the party”.
“Even in this arrangement (referring to the meeting with the President), they felt they are very close to the President, wanted to have his way but God in his own will always have his own way and that was what happened. And so we thanked God”.
“We must always continue to pray to God for unity and future of our party. I also want to thank the Press for having been following this matter and making balanced and robust publication about this matter.”
“They (Nwachukwu’s faction) made a lot of allegations against the state government; that the state government has revoked some certificates of occupancy of the son of Prince Chibueze Agbo (an APC stalwart whose school was closed for failure to pay tax).
“They also said that the loan in question, should not be granted. But the president in his wisdom has advised us to go and work as a team and as an opposition so that we can win election come 2019,” Mr. Nwachukwu added.
Another stakeholder, Chinedu Ogah, while describing the meeting as a welcome development, however, condemned calls by the Nwachukwu faction against the state government over the loan and for sealing Mr. Agbo’s school.
”We are not against anything that will develop Ebonyi irrespective of our party affiliations. If there is any way the ring road could be constructed, we welcome it, because, that ring road will benefit us and our people.
“Again, if anybody comes to say that his property was closed, my own was once closed for two years by the state government. I did not see it as having political undertone. You have to obey the rule of law.
“If you have not paid your tax and your place is closed, you can’t begin to link it with politics. We should try to separate politics from rule of law. What we are saying is that the chairman of APC in Ebonyi State is Ben Nwobasi. Whoever that is parading himself as APC chairman is making mockery of himself”.
“There is nothing like reconciliation. We have not reconciled. We still having factions in APC in Ebonyi state,” he said.
Mr. Ogah also urged the state governor, David Umahi to join the APC so as to attract more support from the federal government.
“We are urging the Governor of Ebonyi state to come into APC. We are asking him to come to APC, let us do the politics. Because, if most of the governors in the South-east join APC, we will unite and get more power from the centre”.
“Now, as a governor under PDP platform, he can’t be part of caucus. When he comes to APC, he will be part of the caucus and with the relationship he has established in the Presidential Villa.
“It will be smooth ride for him. Those of you who are his friend should tell him to come to APC and if he comes, he will be highly welcomed. The door is open. We are welcoming everybody to come to APC. We are pleading with the South-east governors to come to APC so that we build a united Nigeria”.