Dr Ben Nwoye, you were the immediate past chairman of APC in Enugu State. There is this rumour that since you left as chairman of APC Enugu State that the party is struggling; the party has lost focus and that the party is not prepared for 2023 elections in Enugu State. What really happened? Is there crisis in APC?
I don’t believe that the party has crumbled. The party has fundamental issues of leadership that needs to be resolved. Party is human beings, party is not the symbol, party is not alphabets, party is not flag. There are people who made up the party. If anyone who has raw power decides to exercise their raw power, whether from within or from outside the party or the state and that raw power interferes with the freedom of members of the party or the people of the party as I call them, the people have choice. It’s a free world. Being a member of a party is just simple exercise of constitutional rights of freedom of association. Those who joined APC or those who joined to found APC or joined together and found APC, agreed to exercise their rights to associate. So, if someone comes from somewhere and imposes leadership on them, they have choice. Their choice of staying and accepting imposed leader or choice of staying and sitting back and becoming less interested and less active. The third option is the real bad option, they decide to leave the party and go elsewhere. APC Enugu State is experiencing all three knuckles because leadership has been imposed on them in the State. Imposed by the leadership of the Mai Mala Buni led Caretaker Committee; they imposed leadership from wards through local government, zonal levels to senatorial district level and state level. So, different people based on their personal idiosyncrasies have taken charge of their political future. Some have decided to stay with the imposed leadership and work with the imposed leadership; some have decided to stay with the party but refused to accept the imposed leadership and some have decided to leave out rightly. But those who have refused to accept the leadership are divided into two. There are those who are sitting and saying they are not going anywhere. There are those who are shopping for other parties. And these are all rights and freedoms of association. That’s what is happening in APC.
Now that APC in Enugu State have a new national chairman, don’t you think there’s still hope for those who want to shop for other political parties?
Let me tell you something, my former deputy Chikwado Chukwuka, he left the party and has purchased form running for Governor under PDP and he left with the supporters. You see, time is of essence. It’s not a question of new leadership. When these things happened, petitions were written, cross petitions, counter petitions; meetings were held, appeals were made…
Have you drawn the attention of the new national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu to address the matter?
He was the chairman of the Reconciliation Committee. Meetings were held with him, he listened. The Senator Abdullahi Adamu’s report recognized that there was no congress in Enugu State APC under the leadership of Mai Mallam Buni. And he submitted a report for cancelation and equally requested for additional time to finish some other States. Myself, Distinguished Senator Ken Nnamani, His Excellency Sullivan Chime, Senator Ayogu Eze, Ambassador Fidel Ayogu, Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, the current Deputy National Chairman, the first governorship candidate of the party, Chief Barrister Okezie, DG VON Mr. Osita Okechukwu and many other leaders appeared before the Adamu’s Committee in Abuja; and a non-controverted statement or uncontroverted evidence was presented by Distinguished Senator Ken Nnamani former Senate President, immediate past Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency Sullivan Chimem that there was no State congress in Enugu State. Despite the report and the evidence, the Governor Mai Mallam Buni Caretaker Committee swore in the man who did not go through any congress and disregarded the report of Adamu.
But now Senator Adamu is the chairman and he has spoken extensively on these matters and about trying to reconcile the party at all levels.
You see, reconciliation is where people are quarreling and fighting over something. Nobody is quarrelling here with anybody. So he said ‘go and reconcile’. No! we are not children. Nobody is quarrelling. This is an association of people who are pursuing their political interest and ideology through a political platform and they said ‘there was no congress, somebody bought result sheets, came down to Enugu, wrote result sheets from the Wards to State level. And that the person they put as the henchman of the party, aside from not been a member of the party, his face is new in the progressive forum. And that these leaders have said they will not follow him as their leader. And that the Distinguished Senator Adamu’s panel agrees.’ So, its not a question of reconciliation, it’s a question of cancelation, undo the wrong or right the wrong in any way you can do it. As the new national chairman, Senator Adamu should implement his own report. The report is on his table right now. The bulk stops on his table. The Senator Adanu’s report was a report where the Distinguished Senator was making a recommendation to a serving chairman. Fate is wonderful. The table turned overnight and he became the chairman. So, ultimately, we here in Enugu, I personally expect him to implement his own report. He doesn’t need to form any other committee.
Sir, you are talking about Senator Ken Nnamani here, Sullivan Chime and a host of other pillars of the party in this State not recognizing Ugochukwu Agballah as the new chairman. Two questions for you sir: does that mean the party has collapsed in Enugu State? Does it mean those you mentioned and other APC stalwarts are shopping for alternative parties ahead of 2023?
The party as presently constituted has failed to live up to its own mantra of fairness justice and equity. They failed on that. They have failed the average member at ward level who purchased form to via for a position and did via for the position but they wrote the name of those who did not via for positions. So, the people you mentioned are the big boys as Americans would say. The big men would always find their space. A former Senate President does not need to follow any chairman. He can order any chairman to come and former Governor, the same thing. But we’re talking about the masses – the masses at the grassroots in about 260 wards. When you have a result sheet given to one woman who takes the result sheet and coopt two other men and they decides to run around and write results and edited it and say ‘these are your executives’.
I use my ward for example, they gave me a ward chairman whose not the person elected during the congress. They wrote the name, ward congress is going on, incidentally, the young man participated in the original ward congress but he’s a vibrant member. They wrote his name, made up others, some members and some nonmembers. The same thing was replicated in all the 260 wards.
In Nkanu East where you are from, the young lady, Princess Ada Ogbu, who was in possession of the result sheets, wrote her personal driver as the chairman of the party. Nkanu East is the vastest local government of three sections of which each of them could be a local government. You can’t cross one without going through two or three other local governments, even going through other States like Ebonyi State. And she sits down in her father’s palace, wrote the name of her personal driver as the local government chairman, wrote the name of her steward as the national delegate, wrote the name of the man that does the laundry as the second national delegate and then wrote her name as the woman delegate. They have now made it a political business, to collect and share money that would be paid as national delegate. A local government chairman is an automatic delegate amongst the three elected delegates. That’s what they’re concerned with. And the average progressive has a very clear understanding of their rights. One, they’re doing this freely, by free will. This is an opposition PDP state.
There’s no reward system from APC, national or Federal Government. People like us used our personal money and funds to fund the party because we want alternative platform. And then somebody who has more money, gathers a lot of millions, goes to national secretariat, pays a corrupt group of people there and the corrupt group of people decides to release result sheets to them to write and adopt the results written.
Does it mean that APC has no more prospects in Enugu State?
The future is bleak. I can only tell you at this point that APC Enugu State is ‘buyers beware’. You have multiple law suits challenging the membership statue of the chairman that was imposed. There are multiple law suits challenging the congress that produced him and these law suits have evidence. You also have criminal matter being brought against the chairman for forgery of membership card. It’s pending before the IG. And so if anybody is going to be paying nomination form fir N30 million, N20 million or N10 million, it’s ‘buyers beware’. The case of Rivers and Zamfara States is still fresh. I have sent a detailed position to the National chairman, because I want APC to succeed; an independent analysis of the position. I’ve written to the Deputy National Chairman, explained to him where it hurts because I know the DNA of APC Enugu State. If you go to Orji River, they imposed a Local Government chairman that is unknown to Nweke Gbazuagu who is a pillar in that local government; unknown to Chief Valentine Nnaedozie; unknown to Hon Timothy Ama. Valentine Nnaedozie was the gubernatorial candidate of APCN one of the merging parties. Timothy Ama was the Zonal Organizing Secretary South East; unknown to Vin Martins Ilo, immediate past flag-bearer for Aninri/Awgu/Oji River in the Federal House of Representatives constituency.
And one man by the name Prof Nick Eze gave his personal staff name and made him Chairman of APC Oji River local government. So, when you say future being blink, that is the future of APC in Oji River. If you allow it to stand, can you hold election there successfully with all these four people? With the immediate past chairman of APC Oji River, Chief Benson Eze, where the man is unknown to him. Chief Benson Eze was the chairman of all local government chairmen. And you pick someone’s personal staff. Oji River is 20 wards and you pick an unknown person to become the chairman. The same thing was done at Aninri. Someone’s personal driver is made the chairman of Aninri. The same thing was done in Awgu. Awgu becomes worst because it’s one of your colleagues, a well-known brilliant Journalist who was never known to be a politician. The only politics he’s ever known to have played was when he worked/served as the chairman of Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), chairman NUJ South East – that is Comrade Kenneth Offomah. When did he join APC? He never joined APC but they wrote his name and he’s now the chairman of Awgu Local Government. Awgu is the strongest base of APC in Enugu State. They produced the highest number of members; they produced the number of voters in the two last general elections. And you brought a Journalist who is unknown to the party as a politician?
2023 is not when you learn on the job. You need experienced hands. So, you can go down the line to Udi, produced a chairman who is incidentally from the same ward/community nephew of the Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs without the support of the knowledge of the immediate past Governor, DG VON or serving SSA to the President Barrister Mrs Ibekaku-Nwagwu.
Do you foresee the handwork of the opposition party PDP trying to destabilize APC?
No! People say that but it’s not. And I will tell you why. We know where it’s coming from. It’s not PDP. The story has it that there’s a man who’s not a member of the party yet who wants to be the Governor of Enugu State. And he has a lot of money, according to the story. And so, he invested the money in bribing unscrupulous people who now came in and did the dirty job. The money paid to them, they took the result sheets and wrote the results and he’s the one picking his own people that would give him nomination as the candidate. But then, maybe, he will succeed. When he gets the nomination, does it end there? Can he campaign successfully in Oji River without the inputs of all those five great men that I named? The answer is No! Not under APC. We don’t have anybody greater than them in APC. The same thing applies in Nkanu West. Can you come to Nkanu West and campaign successfully and ignore Chief Onyemuchi Nnamani, ignore me, ignore Barrister Ifeanyi Nwobia, Chief Sunday Eze and a host of others? Ignore all these people. So, when you look at it and go to Enugu East, they picked a local government chairman and the state Secretary whom they wrote their names from one family. You know about Nkanu dynamics; we share things according to blood line, internal sub-ethnicity group. And Enugu East is a highly urbanized local government, very vast. You don’t pick a local government chairman and a member of Caretaker Committee from the same unit. There is Emene; there is Abakpa where the non-indigenes have the highest number of voters. Usually, you get chairman either from the area of Emene or from the non-indigenes. And a non-working committee member can come from other parts of Nike Enugu East. They clustered it leaving out non-indigenes, leaving out those from Emene. So, what would be the incentive of APC members of non-indigenes who have the highest member in population in Enugu East coming out to support APC in 2023 if they are not integrated in the system?
You have not answered my question. Is Dr. Ben Nwoye shopping for another political party?
The best answer I can give you is, APC is not the only political platform. Political parties are just conveyers. I have followers. It’s not me. By the grace of God, I was one of those who grew this party from less than 10,000 in 2013 to presently over 184,000 members. I was fortunate in the course of my stewardship to have welcome in big wigs: the immediate past Governor of Enugu State. And we’re talking about just barely two years after he left office. It was less than two years. It was in March 2017. He left office in May 2015; I was fortunate to welcome the one time Governor of old Anambra State, one of the most respected Igbo politician alive and one of the most respected politician from the second Republic, His Excellency Chief Jim Nwobodo. He joined the party. I was also fortunate to be instrumental to welcome a true Democrat, the President of the fifth Senate, Distinguished Senator Ken Nnamani. I was also fortunate in welcoming the two-time Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, immediate past Rt. Hon Eugene Odoh, less than two years after he left office. I can go on and on. I welcome in the party business moguls who injected millions. When we say we grew the party we didn’t grow it bare hands. The government of APC didn’t give us money; the national office never gave us money; they never paid for our Secretariat but we kept on; people funded us. I can go on and on how and where we collapsed the structure of PDP to build APC. But sadly enough, this happened. The National Caretaker Committee of Mai Mallam Buni failed us …those he left to work for him. Mai Mallam Buni I know him, he’s a good man, but he trusted Senator Akpan Udode too much. Both Akpan Udode and his subordinates conspired and destroyed APC in Enugu State. So I hold Senator Akpan Udode totally responsible for what happened.
One, you recall, he was the person that when it was time to handover certificate of return, he said Enugu hold on. And the question he holds Enugu people and Nigerian people unanswered is why did he later issue the certificate? He said Enugu hold on because of the report of Senator Adamu. There was no congress. So he needs to explain to them. Today he has declared to be the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. The Akwa Ibom people have to ask him. We have the video where he said Enugu hold on. What happened two days later on the Valentine Day? ‘Why did you in your office with the imposed chairman issue the certificate of return’? It was issued by Mai Mallam Buni; it was not issued in the presence of other members of national caretaker committee. Why was it issued in private office of Distinguished Senator John James Akpan Udode? These are questions he has to answer. I’m saying this to give you and perhaps the readers’ perspective of what happened in Enugu State. I did my best efforts. I don’t want to be a chairman of APC. I had a waiver to run again and I said don’t want. I want somebody else to take the baton a run better faster from where I stopped. There should be continuity, but not to impose a leader. And I said allow the people to elect their leader. So, Udode failed us; failed the people of APC Enugu State.
My last question is this, the deed has been done and APC has no more time for congress proper. Let’s assume now that imposed chairman of Enugu State APC come on his knees begging would you accept him as your chairman?
It is not true that the deed has been done and that there’s no time for congress. It’s not true. If somebody comes to your home and steals your TV, only two things that the law requires, one is, first, restitution and returns back the TV. The second one is punishment. If the person comes back to beg you ‘I have stolen your TV, I’m very sorry I stole it. But I want to keep it because it will inconvenience me to return it’. Would you say, ‘Yes! You can keep my TV because of the inconveniences and heavy load to return it’. Then the thief is justifying the reason for the theft. He wants you to bless the act of thievery. So, if you do anything other than both morality demands which is restitution and punishment. Restitution must come first; the second part is where the forgiveness comes where you say temper justice with mercy. If he comes in his knees begging and honourably resigns, he wasn’t elected and he knows it, then we can come back and welcome you to the party. They don’t have to have congress. What I recommend is to put up a caretaker committee by honourable men and women who can midwife it. Enugu State should be running on caretaker if they want to restore confidence of leadership in Enugu State. The answer is Caretaker Committee. Dissolve it and place a Caretaker Committee. Time is too short for Congresses as Congress breeds problems. They have the power just like the NEC has the power to dissolve National Working Committee and National Executive Committee and put up Caretaker across board. Dissolve Enugu and put up Caretaker. Put up men and women of good character.
Apart from that, what is the way forward?
That’s the way forward because the confidence has already eroded. This was a broad day robbery. It’s a different thing when you are a victim of pick pocket. You don’t know who stole it. But someone holds you by the gun without mask and took your wristwatch and he’s wearing it. What is the way forward? Return my wrist watch.
Your chairmanship tenure finished at the expiration of eight years
It’s not me. Get the point and that’s why I said that I never wanted to run again. The advocacy I’m doing is for the love of the party and the love of the people. We gave Enugu State alternative platform. People had hope and that hope came from hard work of ordinary people; commitment and someone through fraudulent means now came in and dash the hope. The NEC led by His Excellency Senator Adamu can restore hope. You can go and interview Sullivan Chime. He’s no longer interested. You can go on and interview other people, they are no longer interested. I’m telling and you can quote me. When you go to Sullivan Chime, quote me, he is no longer interested.
There are insinuations that you want to cross over to PDP
PDP is a political party, why not if I want to go to PDP? What will stop me? It’s an association. I have my friends there, they are not my enemies. I have the right to change to any political party, after all, the former Governor of Zamfara State whose party was taken and given to people who rubbished the victory of APC, the party was taken and given to them. He has gone to the party that they abandoned for him and he’s going to go and revive PDP. So, PDP is an option and so also all other 17 political parties. There are other good parties aside PDP.