By CrossRiverWatch Admin Follow @crossriverwatch
The unending squabbles and infighting within the ranks of the All Progressives Congress APC in Cross River state, if not properly handled, will snowball into a gale of defections, multiple sources within the party have told CrossRiverWatch.
Since the substantive State Chairman of the party, Pastor Usani Usani was appointed Minister of Niger Delta over two years ago, the inability of the different factions of the party to work together has stalled several efforts to fill the vacant position leaving Mr. John Ochalla in acting capacity for over a year now.
Last week, the party executive announced the suspension of the Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Usani, while rooting for his expulsion from the party.
Usani was suspended after a recent meeting of the state executive and working committee which nearly ended in fisticuffs with the acting chairman, Mr. John Ochalla citing insubordination among others as causes for Usani’s suspension and possible expulsion.
But, a counter statement signed by the duo of the State Organizing Secretary, Egbe Owan Ayang and the State Legal Adviser, Mr. Lazarus Undie, issued in Calabar said there was neither an item on the agenda of the meeting that led to the suspension of Mr. Usani nor a resolution to that effect.
Meanwhile, a cross section of some members of the party who spoke to CrossRiverWatch lamented what they described as the strangle hold of the Niger Delta Minister on the party in the state and threatened to decamp should the Minister be allowed to continue to have his way.
Sources in the APC told this reporter that the bone of contention in the prevailing feud is about how to fill the vacant position of the state party chairman and the group that will eventually control the list of delegates to the party convention later in the year.
Since Pastor Usani who was the substantive State Chairman was appointed Minister in 2015, the seat remained vacant until Ochalla was appointed in acting capacity and he has been acting since then.
“Now that the party wants to get a substantive chairman to fill the post, the minister has a person in mind and the group against him also have other options in mind.
“Though they have been other lingering issues previously, but the cause of this latest brouhaha is about filling the chairmanship post in anticipation of who will control delegates list to convention.” One party official told us.
CrossRiverWatch gathered that in a bid to resolve the impasse, the National Chairman of the party, Chief Oyegun, intervened and called for a meeting in his house in Abuja with a view to discussing modalities for filling the vacancy.
One source who is familiar with the development told our reporter that:
“He (Oyegun) said look, this vacancy is there, the one Usani left and we need to fill it. He called for dinner at 8pm in his house sometime towards the end of November 2017. He specifically said the invitation was meant for 5 people and he felt that if that meeting held with Usani there and all that, there will be a resolution.
“When Usani heard this he went and mobilized thugs and brought over 30 people to the national chairman’s house who were making noise.
“The National Chairman was not happy and protested and Usani said a lot of things that day which Oyegun did not like but eventually the frayed nerves were calmed and he asked him to apologize which Usani did but the meeting was dead on arrival.
“Usani then invited a few people to Lagos and when they met, he was so desperate and then told Senator Ndoma-Egba, Senator Florence Giwa and Senator Otu that Etim John should be the Chairman.
“He now wrote to the national chairman that it was unanimously agreed that Etim John should be the only candidate and there should be an arrangement for a confirmatory congress for him.
“And the state executive was not aware of all these and when it came to the attention of these guys, they said no way.
“The state working committee then met and said since he has continued to hold meetings and even telling those suspended that their suspension was of no effect, then he should be suspended as well.” Our source explained.
A senior member of the party, who is also a senior citizen told CrossRiverWatch under anonymity that, allowing Minister Usani to continue to undermine the interest of the majority of party members in the state, will just be opening the door for a mass exodus of members to other places where their interest will be accommodated and respected.
“Usani was not even around when registration of parties were made. Somehow towards the end, someone just put in his name and without Amaechi knowing who he was; he was not even interested in the race, he did not come, he was in Abuja sheltering somewhere, squatting in someone’s place; then they invited him and said come and register; in fact he was registered through a proxy.
“When Usani came, Akin Ricketts went and did some funny things because he knows Amaechi, and for people who were interested like Captain Inah bought forms because they wanted to run including Hilliard.
“Amaechi invited them to PortHarcourt. He should have organized a better congress for them. Rather somebody introduced Usani because somebody was calling him His Excellency because of 10,000 votes he got out of one million when he wanted to run against Imoke.
“When Amaechi heard that, he now told him, your excellency why don’t you become the Chairman of the party. But it was all rehearsed.
“People told Amaechi that what he should have done is to invite people who ran and give them the opportunity to run again in the proper atmosphere. But, he did not do that, he just stampeded them into doing that without considering Usani’s background.
“Now God has again blessed him, they made him minister. Relinquish this post for more than a year, he will not. His office was still locked, he was keeping everything then he did not think anything was wrong and even now we don’t think he has handed over fully.
“But, the interesting thing now is that Usani wants to be Governor of Cross River and Usani has gone to identify somebody who has come to join his Church, one Etim John, who was one time Chairman of Etung local government. Etim has left his church and has gone to join Usani’s church.
“He has an understanding with Ayade that in 2023 he will run so his duty now is to try as much as possible to create this kind of situation in order that APC will not get up.
“The day they come in and say that guy is the Chairman of the party, I am gone. Anybody who does not know that the APC has enough problems now should not even try that kind of thing.
“I tell you, at least 90 percent of APC members will defect. People have vowed that if Usani Usani brings in that man just because of his own interest, more than 90 percent of the people will defect. In Cross River APC, the only problem we have is Usani.
“He has a murder charge hanging over his head in Ugep from those years where he is alleged to have murdered a chief registrar.”
But an aide to the Niger Delta Minister who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorized to comment on the matter, told CrossRiverWatch that it is those who came long after Usani and others had suffered to build APC in the state, that are planning to hijack the party for their selfish ends vowing that the minister’s camp will resist the moves.
“So many people who did not work for the formation or growth of our party in state, in fact some of them who even worked against the formation and existence of this party in the state, who later came to join us on a platter of gold are the ones who now want to create crisis and chaos and see how they can hijack the party for their own selfish ends and we will resist them.”
On Usani’s suspension, the Minister’s camp in their statement said that: “There was no competent meeting validly called for 27/1/2018 in that the notice of meeting issued through a text message on 24/1/2018 for meeting to hold on 27/1/2018, violates Article 10 of the All Progressives Congress, APC, constitution which requires at least 14 days for a valid meeting state working committee meeting nay, was an agenda in the text message billed for discussion in the meeting of the working committee,” the group said.
The group however said the suspension of Mr. Usani was smuggled into the agenda and listed as item 6(b) and was rejected by majority of the executive committee members of the party which caused the rowdy end of the meeting.
According to them, this act forced “The National Vice Chairman South-South; Prince Hilliard Eta, John Ochala, the Acting State Chairman of the party to leave the meeting.
“There was no resolution by either the state working committee or the state executive committee of the All Progressives, APC, Cross River State suspending the Honorable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs; Pastor Usani Uguru Usani from the Party and no allegation was raised or is pending against him in the state executive committee of the party.
“The allegation predicating the purported suspension of the Honorable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, is premised on his membership of a -15 man Committee approved by National Chairman to meet, resolve and appoint an Acting State Chairman for APC, Cross River State and it was yet to be discussed when John Ochalla announced that he received security report that the meeting be called off and soon thereafter, the meeting ended unceremoniously and all members dispersed so when was the Minister suspended?” the group queried.
They accused Mr. Eta of openly impugning the National Chairman for giving approval to the leaders in the state to midwife the process of getting an acting chairman; an action which they described as: “Mischievous and an act of insubordination intended to disparage and bring to disrepute the person of His Excellency, Chief John Odigie Oyegun and the office of the National Chairman of this great party, which we find offensive, intolerable and should not be put up with.”
The group said the actions of Mr. Eta and Mr. Ochalla have made them “political liabilities” and called for their expulsion by the national executive committee of the party.
But, Mr. Eta dismissed claims by the group challenging the legality of the suspension of Mr. Usani Usani as mere talk from market men and women.
Mr. Eta told CrossRiverWatch in a telephone interview that the constitution of the APC was clear on who can handle issues of discipline in the party and maintained that those calling for his expulsion from the party were not in the right position to do so.
He said that: “The party is run by various executive committees from the wards to the national,” adding that; “There is what you call the ward executive committee, then you have the chapter executive committee then you have the senatorial executive committee; you have the state executive committee; you have the zonal executive committee and then you have the national executive committee.
“Only those that i have enumerated that decides on matters of discipline; so, which of these organs is purportedly calling for my suspension?”
On the suspension, Mr. Eta wondered why this reporter even bothered contacting him. He averred that: “A group of market men and market women can sit together and call for the suspension of the national vice chairman, don’t you think you should do a more detailed finding?”
On the challenges and issues surrounding the state chairmanship of the party, Mr. Eta said that: “For me, I am a democrat. The constitution of the party that I belong to, the APC is very clear on how people emerge as officers of the party from the ward to the national level.
“Certainly, if by the end of the day the people of my party decide to select whoever, whether Usani Uguru Usani is the one, all of us will work under that person but until that time, the rules and the grand norms of the party must be respected by all.”
CrossRiverWatch’s Jonathan Ugbal Follow @NaijaJonathan and Ushang Ewa contributed to this report