Speaking the Nations Mind

Can The Fresh Imo APC Congress Stand?

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I will seek the permission of readers to abort the concluding part of an earlier commentary started last week for the latest development in the battle for the soul of the Imo State chapter of the All Progressive Congress, APC. 

The last Thursday edition of the regular back page column plunged into the attempt by the Members of the Imo State House of Assembly, to impeach the Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere. The space allowed wasn’t enough to contain the piece of write up, prompting the division of the publication into Part 1 and Part 2 versions of the work. That of Part 1 was published last week with the second and concluding part slated for today. But the matters arising from the fresh Congress of the ruling party in Imo State could not pass unnoticed for an immediate attention to readers. 

While the final part of the last week’s edition of Agwodinuju, titled “As The Impeachment Bell Rings” will have to wait and observe the scheduled removal of the number two citizen of the state by the state lawmakers, who have entered another stage following the appointment of the seven-man committee to look into the alleged offences of Madumere, the second congresses have induced fresh permutations in the political hemisphere ahead 2019. In the interim, while the outcome of the impeachment ruction is being expected, a post mortem of the latest congresses in the state will assist in decoding how the final shape of the party structure will be after the battle.

A brief recast for those unfamiliar with the high profile schism rocking the APC in Imo State, tells the story of the two powerful political blocs entangled in a bottled war for the soul of the party in the state. Prior to the Congresses, major party members opposed to the desire of the state governor, Anayo Rochas Okorocha to not only use the party platform and foist his Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu as his successor in 2019, also ensure cronies get allocated elective offices, formed an alliance known as the Coalition, under the Imo APC Stakeholders Forum, to torpedo the political prowess of the governor. Already, Okorocha has a well knitted political platform; the Rescue Mission, consisting his appointees and sympathisers of the administration in the state. The governor went further to fan the ambers of discord by naming his group the offensive (agburu) identity, even as his habitual loud positive appraisal of oneself that forced him to claim of possessing the talisman to “retire” few of the eggheads of the Coalition members is being resisted. 

The APC Congresses were the first show of strength between the two warring factions. In the Ward Congress event that was held on 5th May, 2018, the Imo APC Stakeholders, also branded the Allied Forces, brought Okorocha and Rescue Mission followers down to their knees thereby turning the state governor, a complainant. The system continued till the LGA and State Congresses took place. Before the tenure of the former Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun expired, he inaugurated and recognized the Congresses that brought into offices members of the Allied Forces.

There was a twist of fate after the National Convention in Abuja, Sinister signs appeared on the way for the Allied Forces who had been coasting home with successes in the past shows. The exit of Oyegun and entry of the new national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomole as head of the National Working Committee, NWC, became oblique for the Stakeholders. The loss of the National Organizing Secretary position by the Allied Forces arrowhead in the National Exco, Osita Izunaso, a political playmaker in the state further fertilized the lurking dangers as the Okorocha’s sponsored candidate, Emma Ibediro, took over the position in a keenly contested election that was marred with controversy. Though, the dust raised by the manner the election was conducted is yet to be settled as Izunaso is still crying foul play over the shenanigan of the opposing group.

Suffice it to note that when the Okorocha’s camp lost out from the initial congresses, they opted to seek redress in court. The only option available was the Federal High Court in Owerri where they filed a case. The presiding judge, Justice Lewis Allagoa, a week after the Abuja convention while ruling on the matter, nullified the earlier congresses and ordered for a fresh one.

An elated Okorocha was reported to have told his sympathisers at a meeting that a new date will be set aside for the conduct of fresh Congresses. Meanwhile, the Allied Forces went to Appeal Court to challenge the decision of the judge on various counts. 

Expectedly, news filtered in from Government House, Owerri, mid last week that the APC has rescheduled the Congresses for Imo State.  When it became clearer that it would hold, dates for the exercises were announced and conducted.  The event took place without any hindrance.

Reports have it that the aggrieved Allied Forces who had filed an appeal against the judgment of the Fed High Court in Owerri, served the party and petitioned Oshiomole over the matter. But in quick succession, the Congresses took place on July 20, 21 and 23 for Ward, LGA and State respectively. While the Allied Forces shunned the exercise, it became more of a stress free selection event by the political family of the governor. 

The implication of the fresh conduct is the emergence of a parallel Exco at all levels, signalling danger for the party as 2019 election approaches. Reports have it that a sharp disagreement occurred in the NWC of the party when the issue of the fresh Imo state congress was discussed at the party secretariat in Abuja. While majority of the national officers requested for a stay of action since the matter is in court pending the final outcome of the appeal court, grapevine sources inform that Oshiomole and Ibediro opted for a new one which led to the inauguration of a committee for the exercise. 

Going by the legal implications, the fresh Congress matter is subjudice since it is before a court of competent jurisdiction. Without technical trappings employed by legal professionals in the art of the trade, any action taken extra judicially in respect of a matter in court is an illegality. Furthermore when an appeal is filed on a matter, it operates as a stay of execution on the judgment of the court of the first instance. It was also learnt that Notice of pendency of the Motion for injunction pending in suit No FHC/ OW/CS/69/ 2018, Barr Mbagwu Augustine 8 ORS Vs APC & others were also forwarded to the National legal Adviser and the party chairman where the implications of the fresh congress were enumerated by the council to one of the affected parties, Chief Soronnadi .A. Njoku.

Irrespective of the reasons behind the fresh conduct, Oshiomole endorsed and sent officials to supervise, the latest Congresses conducted irrespective of the pendency of the matter in the appellate court. This is within spitting distance to contempt of court and akin to travesty of justice. 

Despite deepening factionalism in Imo APC, the conduct of the fresh Congresses has somewhat made a mockery of the APC constitution as well as a grotesque misrepresentation of the Electoral Act, under which elections in Nigeria hold. 

Irrespective of the claims of the Okorocha’s spin doctors who engage in vacuous interpretations to justify their recent Congress escapades, the fresh event runs in contrast to the Electoral requirement which states that “any internal party elections must be witnessed by INEC; and notice to INEC must be received by INEC 21 days before the elections” 

The new Congress violated the law if the dates are considered. In the notice of the dates of the congresses of APC Imo State signed by Ibediro (National Organizing Secretary of APC) and forwarded to the electoral body has July 16th, while the event started on 20 July. Instead of the mandatory 21 days allowed for the notification to INEC, the fresh Congress had only four days notice.

More so, the fresh conduct had a Kangaroo outlook as it was an outright violation of the party rules concerning Congresses to elect party officials. The APC constitution provides for weekly intervals in the conduct whereas the one that saw to the emergence of Okorocha’s men was done on daily basis without the required provisions of Appeal dates for each of the Congress as enshrined in the APC constitution.

 The earlier Congresses conducted by the Convention committee was at weekly intervals beginning from the ward level with a provision for Appeal. For instance, while May 5 was for the Ward, the LGA and State had May 12 and May 23 respectively, with the required openings for Appeal cases to be heard on May 7, 14 and 25th. But in the fresh Congress, it was July 20 for Ward, July 21 and July 23 for LGA and State respectively. 

It is imperative to note that with the contending forces oiling their arsenal for the next showdown, which is the party primaries to elect the candidates ahead 2019 election, all eyes on the judiciary as the legal fireworks continue in the determination of the authentic Imo State APC Exco. Only time shall tell who laughs last.

Kelechi Mejuobi, an Owerri based journalist is a regular columnist on contemporary issues.

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