BY UBON EKANEM, CALABAR – The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Cross River State is making a last ditch effort to resolve internal misgivings and wrangling over allegations of embezzlement and diversion of its presidential campaign funds by some Party’s bigwigs that have put supporters on war path in the State.
Similarly, it is not yet uhuru for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State as the party struggles to extricate itself from court rulings meant to decide the fate of Senator Owan Enoh and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the State.
Already, the PDP has moved to assuage frayed nerves among some supporters with the intervention of Governor Ben Ayade and his promise of addressing their grievances, especially the outstanding welfare issues arising from its recently held Presidential campaign rally in Calabar, the state capital
The PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PDPPCP) headquarters in Abuja is said to have provided huge sums to the local planning committee for logistics and ground preparations ahead of the Party’s presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s rally held in Calabar, the State capital last week.
However, trouble started when some party members raised alarm that the funds have allegedly been tampered with by some chieftains of the party in the state.
An insider at the PDP’s State headquarters in Calabar, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Forefront in confidence that one of those fingered for the underhand deal claimed to have spent about 70 million Naira on furnishing the Party’s Presidential Campaign office located along the Murtala Mohammed Highway in Calabar.
He stated that “the annoying aspect of this ugly scenario is the party stalwart’s alleged arrogance and I-don’t-care posture when called upon to explain his role on the matter by the state Governor, Professor Ben Ayade.”
The PDP chieftain, who had a failed senatorial ambition, reportedly walked out on the State Governor during a meeting that also had in attendance former Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke and other top party bigwigs
Forefront gathered that feeling shortchanged and frustrated by the ugly development, some angry supporters, especially from the northern part of the State, decided to vent their anger on the presidential campaign office, smashing doors and windows, while also freely carting away newly acquired furniture, including chairs, standing fans, tables, computers and laptops.
According to some of the rampaging supporters, who spoke to our correspondents, their action is the only way of extracting compensation for spending nights and days in the open without adequate and proper accommodation arrangements before, during and after the presidential campaign rally.
Sources at the meeting claimed that the PDP top shot, who is at the centre of this financial scam, did not only stop at storming out of the mediation meeting with the governor, but also accused a former Governor of allegedly favouring his wife by appropriating a large chunk of the campaign funds to the ex-first Lady’s support group at the expense of other support groups.
Promise kept by Gov Ayade
Insiders said in keeping with his pledge, Governor Ayade, through the PDP State chapter, has approved the release of some funds to settle what competent sources described as ‘out-of-station and pocket allowances’ of the aggrieved party supporters.
Also, it was reliably gathered that the governor has appealed to all warring parties to sheathe their swords even as he directed that all issues around the alleged misappropriation of funds’ and other sundry matters should be kept in abeyance until after the February 16 and March 2, 2019 elections.
Enoh, Usani tear C-River APC apart
In its fold, the All Progressives Congress (APC) factional leaders and supporters are heating up the State political scene with the fierce contestation over the party’s gubernatorial ticket.
And accusations of sabotage are being thrown at Niger Delta Minister Pastor Usani for allegedly being hands in gloves with Governor Ben Ayade to frustrate the APC and keep the PDP’s flag-bearer in power until 2023.
Though both factions are busy on the campaign trail for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election, insiders admit all is not well as the struggle for supremacy is threatening to boil over just counting hours to the February 16 presidential and National Assembly polls.
Some party faithful lament that the party is being torn apart by self-serving interests of the political gladiators that now flaunt different court declarations and orders in pursuit of their cases.
They hinted that the protracted battle between Enoh and Usani to control the APC’s structure and gain recognition as its flag-bearer in the March 2, 2019 governorship polls has taken a huge toll on the party and its political fortunes in the State.
Consequently, the development has put APC members and supporters in confusion mode with the leader of Usani’s campaign team, Ekpenyong Cobham, insisting that his principal is the recognized candidate by law, while “Owan-Enoh is functioning with a hired crowd.”
He also boasted that their faction is “in control of original APC structures in every polling unit in the state”, adding; “We are very much on ground; we have been campaigning and networking. Whatever Owan- Enoh and his group are doing is not sustainable because it is not supported by the law.”
But in its reaction, the State APC’s campaign council, backed by the national leadership, said Senator Enoh remains the party governorship standard-bearer in Cross River.
Head of the Council, Maurice Effiwat reportedly told Premium Times that; “We don’t have anything to do about it because their action is a nullity; it cannot change what INEC has already done.
Competent sources said the current confusion in the APC family is further heightened with the Court of Appeal throwing out the appeal brought before it by Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Pastor Usani, seeking to upturn a lower court judgment declaring Senator Owan-Enoh as the party’s governorship candidate
Appeal Court ruling
On Thursday, February 14, the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Justice Abdul Aboki, in striking out the suit by Usani, said as it “lacked merit and of no consequence”.
Speaking with journalists in Calabar on the Appeal Court judgment, APC National Vice Chairman, South-South, Ntufam Hilliard Eta said the development means that “Usani is no more seen in the light of contending for the gubernatorial ticket of the APC as the Appeal court ruling takes pre-eminence over the lower court verdict”.
According to him, “the issue of replacement of the Sir John Ochala led executive committee with that of Etim John is also an exercise in futility going by the clarifications made above.”
He however said the party will present a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) concerning the Federal High Court judge in Calabar, who despite available facts, “still went ahead to give his spurious and ‘jankara’ (fake) judgement on the January 11, wherein he made pronouncement that was clear nullity and abuse of court processes.”