FEATURES/POLITICS – Delta APC in the throes of 2023 politics

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Senator Omo-Agege and chief Great Ogboru.

BY INNEH BARTH

In this report, INNEH BARTH traces the ongoing crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State to the rivalry between Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege and his former ally and 2019 governorship candidate, Chief Great Ogboru, ahead of the 2023 governorship poll.

Barely five months after a peace deal was brokered among the members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State, the party has slumped into a deeper crisis, causing insinuations in some quarters that the party is perhaps jinxed in the state.
Peace has eluded the party since its inception in the state. Overtures made by concerned leaders for political actors in the party to embrace peace and work as a united family has been ignored.
The APC was founded by Olorogun Otega Emerhor in Delta State. He, along side notable leaders in the country, was a major financier of the party, especially in Delta State in the build up to 2015 general elections and eventually became the party’s flag bearer then. The party could not make much impact at the time in the state because nobody thought it would win presidential election. But more significant however was the need to balance political equation in the state at the time.
Thus, majority of Deltans saw the need then to vote for PDP and its gubernatorial candidate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who hailed from Delta North senatorial district which was yet to produced the governor of the state.
Then, the duo of Chief Great Ogboru and Senator Ovie Augustine Omo-Agege were in the Labour Party LP, where the former was the governorship candidate and the later, senatorial candidate. But they, like Emerhor, were from the Delta Central senatorial district. While Emerhor and Ogboru did not succeed in their governorship ambitions, Omo-Agege won his election to the Senate.
As the 2019 general elections drew closer, Omo-Agege and Ogboru dumped Labour Party for the APC and eventually both became the senatorial and governorship candidates respectively. Interestingly, Emerhor and Omo-Agege battled for senatorial ticket of the party, but the latter prevailed thanks to the court verdict to emerge the current Deputy Senate President DSP.
While the party suffered debilitating internal tussles through out the 2019 election cycle which affected its fortune, Omo-Agege’s emergence as DSP however made notable Deltans to plead with Emerhor and a splinter group within the party to drop cases against the deputy senate president in court. That truce ensured relatively calm within the party.
The calm within the party lasted for about five months as events of the last three weeks indicate that hostilities have resumed amongst party chieftains scheming for the top job in the state. Precisely, on February 12, 2020, there was an advertorial in one of the dailies, by a five man disciplinary committee set up by Ogboru’s loyalist within the APC State Working Committee (SWC) inviting the state party chairman, Prophet Jones Erue to appear before it to answer aquery bothering on financial transactions of the party and alleged unilateral suspension of some local government council executives of the party. The advertorial was signed by Pastor Godwin Akpovie and Leo Ebinim, chairman and secretary respectively of panel.
In what looked like a response to the advertorial, a stakeholders meeting of the party was called few days later. The meeting was presided by Erue, resulted in the suspension of the panel who were ascribed loyalists of Ogboru in the SWC. While the suspension of the five state officials was ratified by the stakeholders, an interesting twist emerged as the positions were filled by officers loyal to Omo-Agege.
Deputy Chief of staff to the Deputy Senate President, Barr Alex Onwuadiamu was made the new state secretary, while the younger brother of Erue’s former deputy, Chief Moses Ogodo was brought in as the new state deputy chairman.
Miffed by Ogboru’s plot to edge him off the chairmanship seat, Erue hit below the belt by accusing the 2019 gubernatorial candidate of embezzling funds meant for the election campaign.
While he blamed Ogboru for the party’s poor performance in 2019, the party chairman alleged that the party’s governorship candidate could not account for about N4 billion that came to the party during the election period.
Erue, while speaking with journalists after the stakeholders meeting further alleged that Ogboru cornered the election funds, sidelining him, as party chairman and Omo-Agege, noting that there of them were put in charge of the election funds and other affairs.
The Delta APC chairman regretted that inspite of the billions of naira that was received by the governorship candidate in the state, the party could only deliver two local governments.
Hear him: “We went into election, money came, we don’t know how much that came to the party. To make it official for the first time, three of us were asked to receive the money. Myself as the state chairman, the governorship candidate, Ogboru, and the then Senator, now Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-agege.
“I told them that I have a prophetic ministry, and I should not be part of it because at the end of the day, they will say, I embezzled their money. So, I did not receive the money and Omo-Agege also said he will not be part of receiving the money, so only Ogboru went and signed for the money.
“I raised some funds through the then former minister for Petroleum (State) Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. After all, Ogboru used these monies to win only two local governments. I can’t remember the figure but officially three of us were to receive over N2 billion from the party but speculation says all the funds received was over N4 billion,” he said.
Erue said members of the five man panel that was purportedly set up to probe him had been suspended from the party for anti-party activities as well as forming parallel executive, alleging that some of the leaders of the party were sponsoring and causing crisis in the party.
He however widened the scope of his attack to include former governor of state, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who defected to the party after 2015. Erue lambasted Uduaghan for his role in the entire election episode, being the chairman of the Ogboru Governorship Campaign Council and queried rhetorically, “how many followers did he come with into the party?” Erue queried.
But Ogboru reacted swiftly and hard to the allegations, describing the state chairman as “a pathological liar.”
Ogboru denied embezzling the funds meant for the party’s campaign during the last governorship election in the state, adding that he would not join issues with a “pathological liar.”
“No election money was embezzled by me. If there’s money meant for election, it’s for election. I’m not answerable to Erue because it was not state party money. It’s my duty as the governorship candidate to disburse it and that was what I did.
“Erue is the one fueling crisis in the party. Between me, and the chairman who illegally suspended five APC council chairmen and his deputy and others, who is fueling crisis? He suspended them without following due process. He won’t go with this. He is leaving as chairman this time around.” Ogboru added.
The back and forth between the camps seems to have thrown up lots of insinuations chief of which is the race for who controls the soul of the party ahead of the 2023 election. This is in light of the fact that both Omo-Agege and Ogboru would be eligible for the position as it would be zoned to their geo-political zone. What’s more, the recent declaration by the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole that Omo-Agege as DSP is the leader of the party in the South-south, many feathers were rattled.
Giving his perspective on of the raging crisis, a chieftain of the party and the publicity secretary of Buhari Support Organisation (BSO), in Delta State, Apostle V.E.O. Sorokwu, avers that the issue the party is grappling with now proceeds the election.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP he noted that while the issues border on the leadership of the party vis-à-vis the congress and primaries, he stressed that it was not unconnected with the 2023 race.
“Immediately Omo-Agege emerged as the DSP so many issues in court were withdrawn including the ones he had with Emerhor and with the party faction led by Cyril Ogodo; they were all withdrawn from court paving the way for peace.
“Omo-Agege initiated a reconciliation forum. I am aware he reached out to various interest groups within the party and then he also enunciated that reconciliation efforts with the manner and style he appointed his aides, which was commended by all because he didn’t make it one-sided. I think this is where the present crisis could hing on. I remember, in his own faction then, prior to elections, he and the governorship candidate of APC, Chief Ogboru, were the arrowhead of that faction.
“After his emergence as DSP and the way he began to reach out to others and the appointments he made perhaps didn’t go down well with majority of that faction. Maybe they felt he should have concentrated more by appointing only persons from his faction but Senator Omo-Agege extended the appointments of his aides across board, one or two persons are even from other parties.
“I think that was where the present crisis started and because of the way he handled post election issues of appointment, and reconciliation process his popularity began to soar not just as DSP but his influence in the state. Among APC and even among Deltans, he was hailed the way he was going about, coupled with the fact that he was attending political functions of even chieftains of the PDP. So his style of politics, perhaps, didn’t go down well with Chief Ogboru’s camp.
“I think that was where they began to insinuate that he is preparing the ground for governorship election in 2023 just as Ogboru has similar ambition. Clearly, he does appear that Ogboru has not rested his governorship ambition; it is obvious that he is still eyeing the governorship from the same APC in 2023. So all these put together polarised the party again, this time not with Emerhor or even other leader but between Omo-Agege and Ogboru. The APC is torn between Omo-Agege and Ogboru on account of 2023 governorship interests,” he said.
Apostle Sorokwu who was at the stakeholders meeting in Asaba, Delta State capital, concurred that members of the SWC were removed by an enlarged stakeholders. He described the panel as illegal.
On whether the party chairman is taking side on the matter, Sorokwu said, “I will not say he is taking side because he is already part and parcel of the issue. The probe panel was orchestrated by Chief Ogboru allies in the state working committee. The action of the deputy state chairman and the secretary led to the enlarge stakeholders meetings were their suspension was formally rectified.
“When they illegally set up a probe panel the chairman took an action by suspending them and followed the stakeholders meeting. It takes only the SWC to set up a panel not the deputy and secretary alone, they underminedthe office of the chairman to setup panel to probe the chairman and even sponsored an advertorial in a national daily,” he said.
Apostle Sorokwu, however denied that APC is jinxed to be in perpetual crisis in the state.
He said, “When you are confronting herculean mountain you need to put your house in order. Delta APC, they are treating opposition with kid gloves, there are only two surviving political dynasty in Nigeria-Tinubu dynasty and chief James Ibori dynasty since 1999.
“Tinubu of the APC and Ibori of the PDP these two Dynasties are on their 24 years run in government so they are well entrenched, they have empowered generations they are in their third decade of their political empowerment. The body politics of Delta State is in their hands so before you can pull them out of power you must put yourself properly together and that is what Delta APC has not been able to do.
“Some of the causes of the crisis is the forth coming congress and 2023 general elections. Before now leadership in Delta APC was not clear cut. Yes, Emerhor did the much he could but he never had government power or constitutional power and authority to do so. Fortunately, Omo-Agege is a two time senator and the DSP. It is God that crowned him, we should be happy and support him and with that 2023 governorship will be up for the taking,” he stated.
However, it is expected that with Omo-Agege as the leader of the party not just in the state but in the South-southregion, he should be able to midwife the needed peace in the party in the state. But how far can he go to achieve a true reconciliatory efforts against the wish of a political group that supported him to power remains to be seen.
• Source: https://leadership.ng/2020/02/26/delta-apc-in-the-throes-of-2023-politics/

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