PARALLEL congresses organised by various factions were recorded in several states on October 16 as Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), held elections for state executives across the country.
The development has widened cracks within the party, already grappling with a leadership crisis at the national level.
The parallel congresses led to the emergence of two different party chairmen and executive committees in some state chapters of the APC.
States where parallel congresses were held included: Enugu, Ogun, Osun, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Niger, Lagos and Abia.
In Enugu, parallel congresses were the outcome of a protracted supremacy battle between the foundation APC members, led by state chairman Ben Nwoye and Director General of Voice of Nigeria Osita Okechukwu, and the newcomers, led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama and a former Senate President Ken Nnamani. A former governor of Enugu State Sullivan Chime is also in the camp of the newcomers.
The foundation members have been resisting attempts by the newcomers, most of who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to take over the APC in Enugu.
The minister’s camp held its state congress at the Bush House Event Centre, in Enugu, where Ugo Agballah was announced as the new state chairman.
But a different state chairman emerged from the congress conducted by the Nwoye camp.
The parallel congresses in Ogun State were organised by the two factions – the camp loyal to governor Dapo Abiodun and the group led by former governor Ibikunle Amosun.
Abiodun’s camp held its congress at MKO Abiola Stadium, where Yemi Sanusi was declared the new APC state chairman.
Violence was recorded at Ake Palace ground, where Amosun’s faction held its congress.
The Amosun camp announced Derin Adebiyi as the new Ogun State APC chairman.
The parallel congresses in Akwa Ibom State stemmed from the ongoing battle for supremacy and control between Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio and National Secretary of the APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) Akpan John Udoedeghe.
Akpabio’s loyalists held a congress at Kara Event Centre, where a new state APC executive committee was elected.
Another Akwa Ibom State APC executive committee emerged at the congress held by Udoedeghe’s camp at Sheer Grace Centre, in Uyo.
Osun State also recorded parallel congresses.
Loyalists of the state governor Adegboyega Oyetola elected a new state party executive.
But the faction loyal to Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola also conducted its own congress, where a different party executive was elected.
Two APC factions in Abia State held parallel congresses in Umuahia, the state capital. Two different state party executive committees and chairmen emerged from the congresses.
The factions are separately led by a former governorship candidate Ikechi Emenike, and Abia State APC caretaker chairman Donatus Nwankpa.
Kwara State governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq and Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed continued their battle for the control of APC in the state by staging parallel congresses in Illorin, the state capital.
The two factions have different party secretariats in the city.
Sunday Fagbemi was announced as the new chairman of APC in Kwara State at the congress conducted by the governor’s camp.
On the other hand, the minister’s group elected Bashir Bolarinwa as the new chairman of the party in Kwara State.
Parallel congresses recorded in Kano State followed the long-running battle for supremacy between governor Abdullahi Ganduje and a former Kano State governor Ibrahim Shekarau.
There were reports that operatives of the State Security Service were deployed to seal the Sani Abacha Youth Centre, the venue where the Shekarau faction planned to hold its congress. But it was also reported that the parallel congress went ahead at a different venue.
Ganduje’s loyalists elected a new executive committee for the Kano State chapter of the APC at a congress that held at the Sani Abacha Indoor Sports Hall, in Kano.
In Lagos State, Cornelius Ojelabi was announced as the new APC state chairman after he was elected unopposed at the congress organised by state party leadership under governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
However, an APC faction, Lagos4Lagos Movement, held a parallel state congress where Sunday Ajayi was elected as the state party chairman.
The Lagos4Lagos Movement was reportedly set up to challenge an APC national leader, former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu.
* APC crisis deepens
The parallel congresses recorded in the October 16 APC State Congresses is a direct consequence of cracks within the party.
Several state chapters of the party are currently factionalised.
Parallel congresses were also witnessed in most of the states where local government congresses held in early September.
The states include Lagos, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Osun, Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Ekiti and Rivers.
At the national level, the APC is led by a caretaker committee – the Caretaker/ Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) – which was set up in the absence of an elected party executive committee. The CECPC is headed by Yobe State governor Mai Mala Buni, a development which makes him the party’s caretaker national chairman.
But rather than hold the party together, the caretaker committee has become a source for division and conflict.
The APC is currently grappling with a national leadership crisis that is centred on the constitutionality of Buni’s dual role as state governor and chairman of the party’s caretaker committee.
The Supreme Court had on July 28 while delivering judgment in the petition filed by PDP candidate Eyitayo Jegede against the election of Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC, noted that Buni’s position as party chairman was not in compliance with the provisions of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution stated: “The governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.”
A group known as Concerned APC Stakeholders, reportedly backed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who believed that the Supreme Court pronouncement rendered Buni’s leadership called for the dissolution of the caretaker committee.
They also sought the nullification of ward congresses earlier organised by the caretaker committee on July 31.
But governors elected on the platform of the party, under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), backed the Buni-led CECPC and endorsed the ward congresses organised by the caretaker committee.
Buni is a member of the APC Progressive Governors’ Forum.
The APC governors insisted that the Supreme Court pronouncement did not invalidate Buni’s leadership.
However, several members of the party had since filed cases in court, asking for the sack of the Buni-led caretaker committee.
In September, a Delta State High Court sitting in Asaba restrained Buni from acting or parading as chairman of the caretaker committee until the determination of a substantive suit before the court.
The court presided by Justice Onome Umukoro also stopped the APC Local Government Congress in Delta State scheduled for September 4.
But, in seeming defiance of the court order, Buni has continued to function as the APC caretaker chairman.
He is insisting that the court order was not binding on him.
According to Buni, the order of the Delta State High Court was directed at the Delta State APC caretaker committee chairman.
* APC sets up reconciliation committee
Meanwhile, the APC had on October 11 inaugurated a National Reconciliation Committee.
Members of the committee include Minister of Special Duties and former governor of Benue State George Akume; former Enugu State governor Sullivan Chime; former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara and a former governor of Jigawa State Saad Birnin Kudu.
The committee was mandated to reconcile, harmonise, integrate and unite members of the party.