Jude Nnamuchi: Between Ben Nwoye, Enugu APC leaders and 2019 election

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Dr. Ben Nwoye, the controversial chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Enugu State would want to be seen as a no-nonsense party administrator who loathes to hold the short end of any stick. He believes that as the headmaster of the school, he is empowered to whip any unruly student into line. He does not brook any opposition, neither does he fancy unsolicited advice, and even more so, he does not care who you may be! He believes in the supremacy of the party, and just like Louis XVI of medieval France who believed that he was indeed the state, Nwoye also believes that he is the party! On a chance encounter I had with him sometime in early 2018, he told me that what informs his draconian style is because “our people need to be handled with iron hand”! Whether this iron fist mechanism has worked would still remain in the realm of personal conjecture because many a member largely attribute the wobbly fortune of the party in the state to the apparent failure of his style. To such people, Dr. Nwoye is more of a problem than a solution; a dissembling demagogue so to speak.

Last week, he stirred the hornets’ nest when he again irreverently took on the former President of the Senate, an elder statesman and a highly respected leader of the party in the nation, Distinguished Senator Ken Nnamani. By the way, Chief Nnamani is the national Vice Chairman of the APC campaign council for the south. Nwoye accused him of anti-party activities, lack of pride in the party’s gubernatorial candidate and duplicity. In his words, Chief Nnamani is guilty of being “APC in Abuja and PDP in Enugu State”. He deprecated Chief Nnamani’s assertion that “a good product markets itself” which he considers to be a veiled reference to the candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the State vis-à-vis the gubernatorial candidate of his party, the APC, in the person of Sen. Ayogu Eze. For this statement, he believes that Chief Nnamani is not proud of the candidate of his own party at the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state. An inverse interpretation is that he has affirmed that the candidate of his party in the forthcoming gubernatorial election is by implication, not a “good market” that can market itself! But this is by the way. The issue is whether Ben has been an asset or a liability to the party in the state.

Before his cross with Chief Nnamani, Nwoye has been having running battle with Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who by virtue of his position as the highest political office holder from the state at the federal level, ought to be the leader of the party in the state. Sometime in 2017, he had called on the President to remove him from office for what he called his crass incompetence. He accused him of varied degrees of anti-party activities including colluding with some DSS officials to threaten his life. Ditto Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku, the Senior Special Assistant to Mr. President, who until recently, was accused of anti-party activities for dragging him to the EFCC over an alleged misappropriation of N20 Million! Chief Onyemuche Nnamani, a former Secretary to the Enugu State Government and one of the major financiers of the party in the state, has been at loggerheads with Dr. Nwoye which crystalized in his summary suspension from the party. Only recently, Nwoye also warned Osita Okechukwu, the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, to desist from his anti-party activities lest he would effectively be seen as the “poster face of failure”; a veiled reference to Okechukwu’s unsuccessful attempt at clinching the Enugu West senatorial ticket of his party for the forthcoming elections. Nwoye’s serial antagonisms against the notable members of APC in the state has remained a major concern among the party stakeholders and many locate such as the major reason why the centre cannot possibly hold for the party in the state. Just few weeks to the much expected general elections, a casual visitor to the state would literally assume that only the PDP exists since there is no visible activity around the structure of APC anywhere in the state. By his style of leadership, he has worked to see the exit of such men like Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, a major player in the politics of the state; Group Captain Joe Orji, former military governor of Gombe state, and a host of others, men who by their pedigree would have given the party a better gravitas in the state politics. For those like Osita Okechukwu, Geoffery Onyeama, Onyemuche Nnamani, Anike Nwoga, Adolphus Ude, etc, they are still in the party but not any longer of the party especially as it concerns the fortunes of the party in the state. To these people, they are only interested in the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. Dr. Nwoye presents an image like the proverbial bad workman that inexplicably quarrels with his tools. Many are tempted to see him as much a problem rather than a solution.

Yet, not a few believe that Dr. Nwoye is just engaging in spineless demagoguery. They accuse him of being a heavier culprit of all the accusations he has laid at the doorstep of all those he has disagreed with given his well-known friendship and romance with the governor of the state who is of the PDP stock. It is easily alleged that sometime in 2017, Dr. Nwoye’s mother’s burial event was literally a PDP affair, both in sponsorship and attendance. They also recall the events immediately following the last local government elections in the state where Dr. Nwoye deliberately filibustered all attempts made by some aggrieved members of APC to challenge the brazen heist foisted on the state by the sham election. Nwoye threatened expulsion of all those who chose the line of civil order to challenge the elections in the courts. As a lawyer, many members of the party found Dr. Nwoye’s stance quite preposterous. As one member of the party in the state would put it: “Nwoye should look at the mirror in his quest at finding wolves within the party, and he would so easily see his face in it”.

Only last week, the factional chairman of the party in the state Deacon Okey Ogbodo directly accused Dr. Nwoye of complicity in the burning of one of the campaign vehicles belonging to the factional gubernatorial candidate of the party in the state, Barr. Tagbo Ogara. Deacon Ogbodo comes from the same community as Chief Nnamani and it is not distant to see that Nwoye’s reaction to Chief Nnamani’s innocuous statement might have derived from a transferred aggression. Deacon Ogbodo ended up querying the putative hope of the party at the forthcoming general elections in the state especially in the face of all these acrimonies, just few days to the crucial elections. He wondered how a “house divided against itself can stand”, a veiled reference to the flat preparations of the party towards the forthcoming elections in the state.

There is no doubt that APC as a party would have posed a great challenge to the ruling PDP in the state had the party been organized, especially against the backdrop of the high profile membership it was able to attract in the last two years. Almost all that matters in the state politics had become a member of the party. But Dr. Nwoye has by his style turned all those natural blessings to natural burden largely due to a curious paralysis of the will. The role of a Chairman includes an ability to mitigate internal party conflicts, and serving as a bulwark for party cohesion; a rallying point for the teeming members of his party. Whether Nwoye has been able to live out this profile would continue to remain a matter for personal conjecture and experience. But I do not find wisdom in the general irreverence of destroying our highly respected leaders in the name of politics. There is a gulf of difference between courage and bravado. Whereas courage is wisdom exhibited with candour, bravado is on the other hand, an empty and foolish swagger. My prayer however is that God should help us that those who should cultivate, do not lay waste. Those who should harvest, do not destroy; those who should guard, do not plunder; and those who should gather, do not scatter.

Dr. Nnamuchi teaches at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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