It is close to three months now since Governor Ben Ayade joined the APC. But some members of the party are angry that the governor and his men are moving to hijack the party structures.
Mr Ushie Innocent Eneji and some other members of the party are already in court against the APC. This aside, other party members have written petitions to the party on their dissatisfaction over the way the party is being run since the arrival of the governor.
Eneji, an exco member in the state, spoke with TNN.
You are a member of the state exco?
Yes, I am.
What portfolio are you holding?
I am the assistant state welfare officer of the party.
Okay, so why did you go to court against the directive of the party? I am aware that all the political parties usually say no party member should drag their party to court except all avenues of peaceful settlement have been exhausted.
Okay. Let me give you an answer very fast on that. Actually, our congresses took place on the 31st; now the guideline for the congresses has been bridged by the national because they said the appeal committee will begin to sit from 2nd to 6th of this month of August. Now, we never saw any appeal committee coming to Cross River State. It is only about three days ago that they landed and the normal procedure is, if you don’t appeal about seven days, you have no appeal again, you are out of time and since we discovered that the national party are playing a script to push us out so that we will not have access to complain, because from the day the congresses took place, to about three days ago that the committee in Cross Rivers State just landed, you will see that it has even passed three weeks, or it’s about two weeks, and so for them, they were trying to play a smart one. That is why they didn’t follow the timetable or the guidelines of the congress. So I knew all of that. I never saw the national amending or sending memos that they have amend(sic) that timetable, then this people sitting here in Calabar, they are just wasting their time. We are politicians, everybody will want to play a fast one against each other, they know what they are doing, so, there were no committees after the date of the congress, and so we didn’t know what to do than to go to court.
So in going to court, you are also challenging the Gov Buni led convention caretaker committee.
You are also challenging their legitimacy?
If you read APC constitution, article 17, it talks about two committees; it talks about finance committee and publicity committee. There is nothing like extra-ordinary committee in the APC constitution, you understand? There is nothing like that. So those Buni caretaker committee, they are illegal, there is nothing like extra ordinary committee in APC. I can give you the constitution of the party to read, whether you will see anything there in the name of extra ordinary convention and caretaker committee.
You are a member of the state exco, what would you say has happened to the APC since the governor joined the party?
I agree, his joining the party has add(sic) some value into the party, but you know, the governor met a party that we had over close to 200,000 registered members as at the time he joined the party, because we were just doing registrations and the rest. It’s exactly three months since the governor joined; all the promises given to APC members they have not fulfilled one. Rather, we perceived a kind of conqueror, a situation where they want to conquer us or push us the old members out and these are some of the things that are causing the problem. While a lot of us are saying no, the way things are going, I tell you, for instance, the registration exercise that that started since February this year, when they came in the registration was still on. We have been looking for money, Jedy Agba as at that time was the leader of the party, two weeks to when the governor came in, Jedi Agba came to the party secretariat, we held a meeting and we made some appeals that look, our members who are handling the registrations, polling unit by polling unit in various wards across all the LGAs, that we have not been able to pay them any stipends for carrying out that job, to do membership registration. So Jedy promised that okay he was going to do something about it, then it was not up to two weeks, the governor came in. When the governor came in, he had mobilized chairmen of council with money to go and do registration. The old members who have been there on ground, who are saddled with this responsibility, they were trained to do that job, to do registration, those people have not been paid a dime till this moment. The governor is not bothered about that. Our state exco has been handed over to Chief Peter Ojie, he is the one now who issues press releases on behalf of the party. I can forward those messages to you where Peter Ojie will issue press releases on behalf of the party, then what are we doing there as exco? Dissolve us, let us all go home. You don’t dissolve us, Peter Ojie you have your limit; you cannot issue memo on behalf of party. You can issue on behalf of the governor. So, we were stripped of our functions as party exco. When we talk, every other day, they will tell us that we are just at the mercy of the governor. The party was handed over to the governor at Abuja by Buni. They tell us that any day he wants, he will dissolve us. So, it is threat, threat, threat, every day we have been receiving. But I tell you, yes, his coming is, we received him wholeheartedly, you understand? He has added value to us, but there is no proper synergy for us to work, there is no proper way of us doing or having proper integration.
Okay, what are your fears going forward on the future of the party?
No, I am even in court to say, look the party is not even running well, we are doing mistakes every day, we are not following the guideline, the party will bring out guideline today, tomorrow they alter the guideline without even a notice. So every day they are doing mistake. I tell you, until I went to court before they started sending nomination forms to the field, but the exercise has been conducted two weeks back, as I speak to you, even up to Monday this week, people are still in my village moving about with nomination forms. These are things that you should have brought out, give people to fill, give people opportunity to aspire, because the constitution of APC is very clear, it says where consensus fails, you go to the field. But in this case, all those who are interested in running, more especially the old members, they were totally disenfranchised.
So, the way things are going in the party, are you afraid that the party may be destroyed?
Well, if the party is destroyed, it is people who build party, if the party tries to take precautions about their actions and allow due process to follow, I think we are going to have opportunity to correct that mistake and then we can still sit down and discuss, but if they want us to continue in court and test the matter there, well, at the end of the day it becomes a public discourse.
So what are your fears, do you think the governor’s actions will lead to a destruction of the party?
(Cuts in) yes na, yes because there is already an attempt to hijack or there is a hijack already because everything starts from the ward. Now, for instance, as a member of the state exco, if I have interest to re-contest, you have pushed me out, you didn’t allow our people, those who are supposed to contest, maybe who will come to the state during the state congress to vote for me, you have shut all of them out, including myself. So everything begins at the ward, so, the ward congresses in our party is very key, most valuable component in our party. We don’t joke with it. So with what has happened, I can tell you that it is a clear hijack, it is a clear hijack.
In other words, those that came from PDP with the governor to join the APC are destroying the Cross River chapter of the APC?
Yes because if they are not destroying it then they would have allowed due process to be handled by the party. The congresses was done in Government House, the committee that came from Abuja to conduct the congresses did not come to the party’s state secretariat, they were all moved from airport to Government House, from there they returned. As a member of the state exco, I don’t know the faces of those members except on picture, even right now, the appeal committee that just came, they are in Government House, in presidential lodge and you know that there is a strong security to barricade that government house, the presidential lodge. So, how do people go there? So even people who are out there with grievances cannot even access the place. These are some of the problems. You came as an appeal committee, you have not opened up yourself, you are staying in presidential lodge.
What do you really want from your party, what will happen that will make you happy, that will make you to withdraw your case from the court?
No, I do not want a personal thing; I want the right thing to be done. The matter is in court. If the party can come for us to sit down, discuss, if they discuss, we point out those issues and they correct it. For instance, the chapter congresses are forth coming, if they want us to do the right thing, let them put those things, do it transparently for everybody to see, but a situation where they go and put it in Government House again, this thing will continue. But if they repent, the chapter congress that is fort- coming, if they repent and allow the exco to handle the affairs, to form committees, do things in a transparent manner, why not, we will always find a way to resolve our internal party crisis. I know these crisis are common in party politics, but if I see that they are serious, for us to move forward and do things properly, we will settle. I do not need a personal thing.