APC Crisis in Cross River: Niger Delta Minister Usani, in midst of the storms
BY: Nsa Gill Calabar
Indications that the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani may have been amongst the masterminds that led to the aborted ward congresses last Saturday in Cross River State has emerged.
Even though a few stakeholders had mentioned his name along with two other party officials at the national level as those who have allegedly formed an albatross to transparent and due process in the conduct of the exercise in the state, Usani, dammed stakeholders and very senior members of the party as he went ahead to hold a controversial congress in his political ward.
Stakeholders in a meeting on Saturday evening after the congress could not hold earlier in the day, insisted that the exercise can only hold through due process and transparent conduct of any committee saddled with such responsibility.
They unanimously passed a vote of no confidence on the committee and further resolved that the NWC of APC should set up a new committee to conduct the congress for the state.
In defiance, the Minister went ahead, at the back of an agreement reached by the stakeholders and held a lone congress in his home political ward at Abanankpai in Nko, Yakurr local government on Sunday, a day after the aborted ward congresses across the 196 wards in the state.
A video making rounds on some social media platforms shows the Minister, Usani amidst tight security in his wards at Abanankpai in Nko, Yakurr local government, addressing the gathering after a young man had announced a purported list of party ward executives that was arrived at by consensus.
“We have held our ward congress without any problems nor violence and anybody that comes here to attack us, it means he is not our party member”, Usani said in the video.
The controversial ward congress conducted by the minister will be the only or lone- congress in the state as there was no other, except an alleged list of persons loyal to the minister and purported to have been “arrived at by a consensus”.
Speaking on the aborted ward congress, Mr. Venatius Ikem, one of the senior party members at the stakeholders meeting argued that “APC congress in the state was postponed due to suspicions that the Leader of the party, Usani Usani, the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs may have compromised the congress committee led by Dr. Stan Ekezie who on arrival acted in a suspicious manner”.
Vena said the National Vice Chairman of the party South-south Ntufam Hilliard Eta, Senator Owan Enoh and some members of the party upon a tip-off got to the hotel premises where the organizing committee members were lodged and demanded the inspection of the congress materials to ensure they were intact.
At the hotel some pre-prepared lists that were suspected to be on hand to compromise the committee and use as congress results for a congress which had not yet held were seized.
The seized materials were seen in a member's car in the premises of the hotel, not with the committee though but as members were able to insist on a proper stakeholders' meeting which later held at the party secretariat on Saturday evening.”
Speaking to newsmen the National Vice Chairman, South-South, Ntufam Hilliard Eta regretted the situation they were facing in the state.
According to him, Stakeholders meeting was to hold by 8.am and many critical stakeholders and privileged Cross Riverians including, former Governor Clement Ebri, Senator Owan Enoh, Chief Okoi Obono Obla, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong and himself among others went to the state secretariat and waited for hours without any information from the committee.
He also revealed that upon a tip-off, they got to know the hotel the committee members were lodging and some party officials were caught with materials believed to be the congress forms for the elections, already filled with names of unknown persons.
Eta condemned the act and described it as “fraudulent and unacceptable by any standard”.
He regretted that the outgoing national chairman, Chief John Oyegun is leaving the party in such fractured state where there are crisis across state chapters in the country.
His words, “It was our expectation that we will be improving on the processes of 2014, having spent about 4 years that we would have, as a party added value to the processes, but what we have found today is that the party that was handed over to chief Oyegun has actually fallen on bad times. And having been a keen watcher of the political history of Nigeria I can tell you that this was what we use to see in PDP.”
He also pointed accusing finger at the National Organising Secretary of the party, Senator Osita Ezunasor for being behind those that were sent to Cross River State to carry out a hatchet job to suit “some selfish interests”.
On his own path, Chief Clement Ebri, a former governor of Cross River state and board of trustees’ member of the party, condemned the national leadership for “not living up to expectation in promoting due process and transparency”.
He explained that up to the eve of congresses, forms meant for aspirants who had paid money to the designated bank accounts were yet to be issued to many of them. According to him, “some party officials were alleged to have hoarded the forms and trying to manipulate a very simple process”.
He called on the committee to do what is expected of them to avoid ugly experience as recorded in Rivers State where blood was shed during a pre-congress meeting.
A state chapter executive and the Vice Chairman, Cross River Central senatorial district of APC, Mr Cletus Obun on Monday said the indefinite suspension ward congresses in the state remains in force. According to him, the congresses, which were to hold last Saturday in the state, were suspended indefinitely following confusions that arose about the alleged bias of the Congress Committee chairman, Dr Stan Ekezie.The congress materials had been put in custody of the Commissioner of Police.
Obun told reporters in Calabar on Monday that “It is a demand from Cross River State that came as a resolution of all stakeholders in the state and it was unanimous that a vote of no confidence be passed on him (Ekezie) and the committee. As well as on the national leadership of the party and that no congresses should hold in Cross River State until the national convention is held.
He explained that “Cross River would only lose the appearance of new executive in the wards, in the local governments and state. The constitution provides for that lacuna. We believe that a new leadership at the national level would help the party in the state to reap the 2019 elections."
"Rather than see this as a negation that would thwart the success of the party, it is indeed a cleaning surgery that is required. We are not going to take Panadol for hernia. It kills the pain but temporarily. We want a permanent solution and that is a surgical operation of Cross River APC and that is to wipe the leadership from top to bottom."
“I am going to be a beneficiary if I remain in office as a Vice Chairman, but it would do this party no good, if we have to keep a perfidious leadership that is antithetical to the aims and objectives of the party and the intent and purpose for which the party was formed and the prospects and potential that this party holds for 2019. Therefore in summary, this party has resolved in Cross River State that the suspension of the conduct of the congresses in Cross River State remains in force”.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mohammed Inuwa Hafiz in his reaction to allegations that the Police may have released the congress materials entrusted on them for safe custody by stakeholders reacted thus: “The stakeholders agreed amongst themselves after their disagreement on Saturday that they will not entrust the congress materials to any of them and brought them to the Police.
“They handed over the materials to the area commander in his office. Even in the night (Sunday) and even after 12 mid night (Monday), up to the time I am talking to you, the area commander has not told me that he has released the materials to anybody, he cannot release the materials without my instruction,” he emphasized.
The CP further said “We prevented blood bath on Saturday and if not for the quick intervention of the Police, what we would have heard today would have been devastating. We thank God for the Police quick intervention.
“What is being alleged by some of them is becoming evident now that some people just wanted to sideline others and we are not politicians, so we are not into their games, ours is to maintain law and order.”