Expectations were high last week, that a substantive chairman of the Cross River State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would emerge. That was not to be as the election billed for November 28, 2017, was postponed. It was not clear what led to the postponement. However, a chieftain of the party who did not want his name mentioned, confided in TNN that the postponement clearly showed that the party was not ready for the election of a substantive chairman.
Another APC stalwart, Chief Wilfred Inah, told TNN that the election was postponed after the leadership of the party held a meeting in Abuja with the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun.
He said since he was not at that meeting, he was not privy to what led to its postponement.
John Ochala, the acting state chairman of the party did not respond to phone calls and text message sent to him on the reason for the sudden cancellation of the election.
The postponement has no doubt sent a wrong signal to many quarters that all may not be well within the party. It is difficult to convince anyone to the contrary, given the fact that since the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani, vacated that position over two years ago, there has been no substantive chairman of the party. John Ochala has been acting since 2015 despite the desire of the party's leaders in the state to have an elected chairman that will effectively run the affairs of the party with his team of elected officials.
Sometime this year, some party members in Obubra tried to upstage John Ochala by picking a new chairman but the leadership of the party swiftly moved in and nipped in the bud what could be described as a 'coup' against Ochala.
The postponement of the November 28 election, as innocuous as it may seem, may undermine the party in the state and underscore its lack of seriousness in conducting its affairs.
Perhaps the shifting of the election may be attributed to the inability to address the prevailing disenchantment and alleged lack cohesion in the party as some leaders and members of the party, especially those who defected from PDP to the party, have complained about being sidelined by older party members.
There were complaints from the senator representing the Central Senatorial district, Owan Enoh, during a stakeholders' meeting held in Calabar some months ago. Enoh said at the meeting that he did not defect from PDP to APC to take anybody's position and as such he and his supporters should be integrated into the party rather than be sidelined. That was a loaded remark, that perhaps, was not lost on all the stakeholders and party members present at that meeting.
In terms of bringing about cohesion, there are talks about three main factions in the party in the state. These are the mainstream APC, the ANPP faction and the PDP faction. Members of the last two factions defected from ANPP and PDP and they are crying for integration.
What APC is doing amounts to exposing its flanks to the ruling PDP in the state. Working at cross-purposes will be one of the party's greatest undoing as 2019 general election approaches unless it retraces its steps and does what is right.
Some may argue that the job a substantive chairman does is not different from what the acting chairman does. But the substantive chairman has more clout to mobilise members of the party to achieve the party's set goals. An acting chairman has limited capacity to assert his authority in performing his duties.
There are also complaints, even by party chieftains in the state, that party members, who were given federal appointments either as ministers or as heads of agencies, were unwilling to pull their resources to oil the machinery of the party. This has had a negative trickle-down effect on the larger party members.
One of the intending contestants for the chairmanship seat, Dr. Mathew Ojong, recently bemoaned how APC has fared poorly at the state level, saying it has been in the doldrums for some years.
“I will stabilize the party and unite all aggrieved members who belong to different factions with the aim of winning the 2019 governorship election in the state for the first time. The current level of indiscipline in the party will be a thing of the past,” he said.
APC must get over with the election of its chairman in the state as quickly as possible in order to have enough time to prepare for an epic battle with the PDP, which is like a behemoth in the state. The party's plan or desire to dislodge PDP from the state won't be a tea party or a mere walk in the park. APC must walk the talk. And the first thing to do to show its seriousness in this regard is to conduct an election to elect a chairman.