Imo State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been engulfed in crisis after the state congress. While the party’s National Working Committee, led by the National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, inaugurated Dr. Hillary Eke as the State Chairman, a faction in the state dismissed the National Working Committee’s action as null and void and elected the former Vice Chairman of Owerri Zone, Mr. Chris Oguoma, as the Acting Chairman. In this interview with Correspondent Okodili Ndidi, Oguama insisted that Eke has been suspended and that no congress was held in the state, among other issues. Excerpts

HOW did you emerge as the acting chairman of the party when there was a court order that status quo should remain?

My emergence as the Party’s Acting chairman followed all due processes known to law and especially, the Constitution of our great Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). After several invitations had been extended to the suspended Party Chairman (Hillary Eke) and three other officers to come forward with reasons why disciplinary action as stipulated in the Constitution of our Party should not be taken against them failed, more than two third majority of the party’s State Working Committee sat and passed a vote of no confidence on the erring members who include, Dr. Hilary Ekeh, Deputy Chairman of the Party, Mr. Ugochukwu Nzekwe, Organising Secretary, Mr. Clement Anozie and Publicity Secretary, Engr. Ndubueze Oguchienti.

Their suspension was adequately communicated to the relevant organs of the party, including the National Working Committee. With this suspension, it automatically behooves on me, as the Zonal Chairman of the party for Owerri Zone, to take over as the State Chairman in acting capacity. So, the issue of the party in Imo State being disobedient to court orders does not arise.

What is your reaction on the controversies trailing the congresses in the state and subsequent swearing in of Dr. Hilary Ekeh as the State Chairman of the party?

There was no congress in Imo State. Congresses are not conducted in hiding or in a hurry. It is supposed to be a very open process, where everyone, not just party members, can come out and say, this is what happened. Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Police and other security agencies and journalists are supposed to observe and monitor the process, but this didn’t happen.

The Ward Congresses of the party, which was supposed to give birth to all the other congresses, were botched.

The Hilary Ekeh you said was sworn-in, where is his office? Where is his secretariat? They cannot claim that anybody is harassing them. If they are sure that they are doing what is right and their actions are within the law, then, they should not be hiding like common criminals or juvenile gangsters. They should carry out their actions in the open, like various chapters of our party are doing. Congresses, inauguration and all such things are big occasions and people should know about it when it is happening.

But there is report that they are being harassed?

They cannot claim that they are being harassed. Nobody is harassing any law abiding citizen. If you are doing what is right within the law, you should not be afraid because the governor has sworn to uphold the law of the land and defend the Constitution and that is what he is doing. PDP, APGA, SDP and all the other opposition parties have their party secretariats in the state and nobody is harassing them. If nothing else, the administration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha is renowned for its tolerance and accommodation of opposition and that is the character of our party. This party does not believe in muscling opposition because we were an opposition party, yet, it will be the height of irresponsibility for the government to look on, while any form of illegality is being perpetrated by any group or individual, no matter how highly placed.

Is it true that the State Working Committee which you chair owes its allegiance to the state governor alone?

Governor Rochas Okorocha is the leader of the party in the state and of course in the entire Southeast. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply being mischievous. These people from other Southeast states had the opportunity to produce APC governors in their own states, but they couldn’t because they are not popular among their people. When Governor Okorocha took up this party and began to market it in this part of the country, he was insulted and given all kinds of aliases by the same people who are today running from one office in Abuja to the other trying to hijack the same party.

Okorocha has portrayed the image of our party well before the people. The people of Imo State love the APC because of Okorocha and they will vote for the APC over and over again and that is why those people are desperate to hijack the party, because Governor Okorocha has done so well that getting the ticket of the party is as good as winning the main election. If the governor hasn’t done well, these people won’t be running around wanting to be part of the party.

As a party, we support the governor and we are proud of him because he has represented the party well with the mandate given to him on behalf of the party. However, the governor does not determine what happens in the party. The party is run differently from the state and if we need the assistance or advice of the governor in anything, we will go to him and seek his advice. That does not mean that he controls the party.

Has the party endorsed Uche Nwosu as its governorship candidate?

Uche Nwosu is a member of the party; he is an adult, he is not an ex-convict, and neither is he a lunatic. There is nothing that disqualifies him from contesting for and emerging the governor of Imo State. Instead, that young man possesses attributes any political party will be proud that he is associating with them. We are proud of his achievements, his commitment to the party is awesome and I think he enjoys massive goodwill from the people of Imo State. But he won’t emerge as an automatic candidate of our party. He is eligible, just like many other aspirants who have declared interest to vie for the governorship under our party’s platform. When the time comes, all of them will go through the processes and anybody who emerges will be assured of the party’s full support in the general election.

Can you tell us about the Imo APC coalition?

There is nothing like that in Imo State. There cannot be an authority, on top of another authority. We have one APC in Imo State and every other interest within the APC must subsume itself into the party and if any group of people feels they have become more powerful than the party or that they have the clout to win elections without the party, then, it is a problem.

What is the current relationship between the state chapter of the party and the national leadership?

There is no problem at all. I may not like how the National Chairman and some other national officers of the party had handled issues concerning the party in Imo State and other parts of the country, but they remain our officials till they are removed from the party. If there is any need, I shall communicate with my national chairman and other national officers of the party without hindrance. As long as the overriding interest of the party is concerned, I will cooperate with the party leadership and other members of the NWC, at least till the 25th of this month when most of them are expected to vacate office.

Let me however state it clearly that the National Chairman of the party failed woefully, especially, on the issue of party administration and ensuring that every member of the party is adequately carried along.

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