Membership drive: How far can APC achieve in SouthEast?

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By Sam Egburonu

With this week’s inauguration of the party’s Women and Youth Mobilization Team, preparation for All Progressives Congress’ forthcoming nationwide membership registration and re-validation exercise has taken a new leap.

While inaugurating the mobilization team at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja on Tuesday, Yobe State Governor and Chairman of APC Caretaker and Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Mai-Mala Buni, said the appointment of the tentative ten-member committee is an extension of his team’s reconciliatory moves and “breath of new life into the party.”

He said: “You are expected to mount a rigorous sensitization programme to effectively mobilize every member of the party, especially women and youth, to either revalidate their membership or register afresh.

“You should leave no stone unturned to ensure effective mobilization for every member to take advantage of this opportunity to register.”

In his remarks, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, who was appointed the Chairman of the newly inaugurated sensitization committee, said, “By the time we are done with the registration of all members, APC will not just be the largest in Africa, we are going to call on developing nations to come and learn from Nigeria.”

It would be recalled that the APC national membership registration, update and revalidation exercise was earlier scheduled for December 12, 2020 but later postponed to January, 2021.

While taking delivery of the party’s membership registration materials on November 5, 2020, Buni had said it was “the beginning of efforts at repositioning APC as a viable, consistent, cohesive and coordinated political party in the country.”

What hope in the Southeast?

Although most of the Southeast states have, since 1999, been governed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the rate at which All Progressives Congress (APC) has, of recent, attracted prominent politicians from the Southeast zone, suggests its prospect in the zone has suddenly become very high.

The Nation investigation confirms that in virtually all the Southeast states, many strong grassroots political leaders have joined the APC; a development that confirms possible electoral victory if the political leaders would forgo personal ego and work together as a team in their various states.

Already, out of the five Southeast states, two; Imo and Ebonyi states are currently governed by APC governors. Two; Abia and Enugu, are currently governed by PDP governors and one; Anambra, is ruled by All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) governor.

APC also boasts of elected senators and members of House of Representatives, who, together with appointed ministers, former government functionaries and other officials form the top leadership expected to influence acceptance of the party in the zone.

It is believed that the outcome of the exercise and the fortunes of the APC in the zone, in future elections, depend, to a very large extent, on these identified leaders, especially on their ability to carry the people along. It also depends on their ability to relate with and work with each other.

Abia:

Although Abia State is currently governed by Dr Okezie Ikpeazu-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it is one of the states in the Southeast zone where All Progressives Congress’ prospect is considered very high.

This is mainly because of the caliber of top political leaders from the state that are now in APC. They include the Leader of Abia APC caucus, the former governor of Abia State and now Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu; former governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc, Alex Otti; former governorship candidate of APC in the state and current Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah; and Donatus Nwankpa, the Chairman of the state APC, among many others.

Chief Ukaegbu Onuoha, an APC sympathizer in Abia North said if these leaders could eschew personal interest and work together, the party is solid enough to contest against the ruling PDP. “I can confirm to you that APC today has the best of Abia political leaders in its fold. If the top politicians in Abia APC unite, no one can stop them from taking over the Government House in Umuahia. Abia APC leaders today are real grassroots politicians who have visible structures. The Leader, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, for example, has visible followership across Abia State. Alex Otti built APGA and with it ran the most formidable and successful campaigns during the last two governorship polls in the state. It is interesting to note that he joined APC with that structure intact. The other leaders also have followers. If these structures are united across the state, APC is sure to win. So, the fortunes of the political party in future elections depend on these leaders and their supporters,” Onuoha said.

Our investigation shows that even before the formal membership drive exercise, APC leaders in Abia have sent their men to the villages to help recruit new members.

Okoronkwo Eleanya, a teacher from Item in Bende Local Government Area, said political mobilisation at the grassroots is already high in the area. “Everywhere you go in Item and its environs, you will hear loud political mobilisation. APC and YPP are particularly aggressive here,” he said.

Ebonyi

Even before Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State defected to the All-Progressives Congress (APC) from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) last year; informed observers have noted the party’s relative strength in the southeast state.

Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who was the undisputed leader of APC in the state before the defection of the state governor, is one of the pioneer national leaders of the party. Onu, the current Minister of Science and Technology, was the first Executive Governor of Abia State, when Ebonyi was still part of Abia.

Now that Governor Umahi is in APC with his supporters across the state, it is certain that if the two leaders unite and lead their supporters to work as a team, they stand a very good chance of retaining the state for APC in future elections.

But a source, a pioneer APC member in the state, who pleaded not to be named, confided with The Nation that the challenge would be how to unite supporters of the two leaders. “The situation here in Ebonyi remains dicey. We, who have labored to nurture APC in this state, are yet to be convinced that we are not going to be short-changed at the long run. Remember that as soon as the governor joined our great party, the Buni-led Extraordinary Committee dissolved Ebonyi’s APC’s State Working Committee and handed over the party to the governor. There is something wrong with the way the transition was carried out. So, except the fears of the old members of the party in the state are allayed, very little would be achieved here in Ebonyi State. Ordinarily, with the presence of the executive governor, APC stands a good chance of making Ebonyi a truly APC state if genuine reconciliation is made before the new membership drive,” he said.

Enugu

In Enugu, the exercise is also likely to be interesting because the long term effect of the prolonged internal wrangling in the state chapter that dragged up to late last year (2020) is expected to impact on the outcome of the exercise.

The leaders in the state whose cooperation or otherwise will impact significantly on the exercise include the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, the governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 elections, Senator Ayogu Eze, influential State Chairman of the party, Dr Ben Nwoye, and of course Emperor Chris Baywood Ibe and the former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.

It would be recalled that by late 2020, the crisis in the state chapter of APC had degenerated so much that the national leadership of APC reportedly directed the Enugu State chapter of the party to initiate the process of sanctioning seven of its members who allegedly refused to withdraw matters in court against the party, contrary to the national leadership’s instructions.

APC leadership had on June 25, 2020, passed a resolution, directing all its members across the country to stop instituting court actions and to withdraw cases pending in court so as to explore internal means of sorting out the conflicts.

As at then, the members that still had cases in the court against the party included Okey Ogbodo; Chike Omeje; Rufus Nwagu, Rev. Onuora, Ndubuisi Ani, Chinedu Okosisi and Nonye Okoro.

The State Chairman of the party, Dr Ben Nwoye, after constituting a three-man disciplinary committee, headed by the Enugu East Zonal Vice Chairman, Chief Anike Nwoga, with the State Legal Adviser, Benjamin Nebe as Secretary and Benson Eze as a member, regretted that several efforts made earlier to resolve the issues were unsuccessful. He also said the decision to set up a disciplinary committee was in line with the directive of the national leadership of the party but that affected members would be given fair hearing.

At Southeast APC caucus meeting held at the party secretariat in Enugu on September 2, 2020, and chaired by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu; Nwoye said there was a “newfound unity in the party,” adding that such wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago, “but we must build this house together and all the issues have been resolved and we now have one APC in Enugu State.”

Nwoye also said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama, who he referred to in his speech as “my leader”, Emperor Chris Baywood Ibe, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, and the governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 elections, Senator Ayogu Eze, among others, were not only aware of the development but that they were also party to the reconciliation process.

Anambra:

With the coming together of most of the leaders of Anambra State chapter of All Progressives Congress at the special stakeholders meeting in Awka, earlier this month, informed observers said there may be hope of a more united outing both in the forthcoming registration and revalidation exercise and in the elections proper.

The meeting convened at the instance of the Executive Chairman of the party’s State Caretaker Committee, led by Chief Sir Basil Ejidike (Ikwelle Nnabuenyi), had in attendance the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Andy Ubah, Dr Tony Nwoye, Chief George Moghalu, Nze Chidi Duru, Dr Chidozie Nwankwo, Hon Olisaemeka Onyeka, the Southeast Zonal Youth Leader and Chief Ben Etiabah, among others.

There were also members of the state executive committee, zonal working committee, 21 local government chairmen of the party and the secretaries, chairmen of wards, gubernatorial aspirants and other important stakeholders.

Ejidike, in his welcome speech, said pointedly that the time of ‘blame game’ was over. He added that time has come “to unite and build a virile and enduring party capable of making a loud statement in the state politics, most especially during the 2021 governorship election.”

He listed as challenges of the party, “mistrust among key leaders, funding, non-recognition of the party in government affairs, absence of reward system and adequate visibility.”

In their reactions, the leaders of the party at the meeting pledged to unite in order to take over Anambra State’s Government House.”

For example, Senator Andy Uba in his speech said: “Nobody should see himself as bigger than others. We must see ourselves as equal. We can’t afford to allow the governance fall into the hands of our enemies.”

Former House of Representatives member and APC Governorship Candidate for 2017 Election, Dr Tony Nwoye also towed the line of reconciliation. He said he has forgiven all the people that offended him and called on those he offended to forgive him. On the performance of the party in previous outings, he said: “We must tell ourselves the truth, we didn’t perform well in 2019; we couldn’t win any seat in the house. I don’t want to talk about 2017 because I was directly involved. “Let’s leave acrimony and embrace unity and oneness. We need people and must review our process,” he said.

He also directly called on Dr Ngige to take the party message to Buhari to make the house fertile to take over the state.

Reacting, Dr Ngige assured party members of improvement in the reward system, calling for patience.

If the outcome of the meeting is anything to go by, it seems, Anambra APC, which has all along paraded influential politicians, is set to make impact.

Imo

Imo State is one of the Southeast states that have been governed by APC governments. Since former governor Rochas Okorocha, a pioneer leader of the party, introduced the party to the state, it has enjoyed great followership in the state.

Now still under Governor Hope Uzodimma-led APC government, it is expected that the party’s membership drive is poised to be successful.

Except the opposition parties like the PDP and APGA buckles up further, APC’s prospects in the party will remain very bright. “APC, as a party, has come to stay here in Imo. This state is the home of APC in the Southeast and from here; we are set to grow the party in the whole

of the Southeast,” says Benjamin Ibe, a member of the party in Owerri.”

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