The crisis in the South-East zone of the All Progressives Congress (APC) took another turn on Monday as one of the leaders of the party in the zone, Osita Okechukwu, said Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha can leave the party if he so desires.
The upheaval is particularly serious in Imo where local party leaders are up in arms against the governor over the control of the party in the state.
In the series of congresses that led to the constitution of a new state executive for the party in the state, the governor and his adversaries held parallel elections with the national secretariat endorsing the leadership produced by the group opposed to Mr Okorocha.
Addressing journalists before the inauguration of state chairmen of the party at the APC national secretariat in Abuja on Monday, Mr Okechukwu, who was appointed Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) by President Muhammadu Buhari, said the actions and inaction of Mr Okorocha caused APC setback in the last four years in the South-east region.
According to Mr Okechukwu, the recent development where the governor’s camp lost in the party’s congresses followed a plan to reposition the APC to win elections in the South-east.
The governor is displeased over congresses held in the state, leading to speculations he may leave the party as his efforts to get it to overrule his local opponents failed.
But Mr Okechukwu declared on Monday that without Mr Okorocha, the party will win the 2019 general elections, including parliamentary seats and governorship seats in the South-east.
“At least there are more than 60 political parties now, Okorocha is free to join any of his choice. Though, we are not forcing him to leave, what we are saying is we have taken the leadership out of his hands because he was playing God,” he told the journalists.
“He was personalising power, so the majority of the leadership and membership of the APC in the South-east said ‘Thank you, so far so good enough is enough’.
“So what I am just saying is that he was at liberty to leave APC. But let nobody anywhere think that the APC will lose because we have retrieved the party from him. No. APC is the winner as a political party. Mr president is going to get more votes, we are going to win more parliamentary seats, more governorship seats without him.
“In my place when the bird is dancing on the main road, it means there is a drummer in the bush and I am pointing at the drummer of all that is happening in the South-east.
“But luckily, majority, over 90 per cent of the leadership and membership of the APC in the South-east has said enough is enough to our former leader, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.”
When asked to explain what he meant by Mr Okorocha being behind crisis rocking the party in the region, Mr Okechukwu said: “From day one, he kept us where we are in the APC government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because in that meeting where he insisted he must run for residency, he was virtually aware that there is a convention called zoning. He is not a small boy, he is a brilliant person. A brilliant person with high business acumen.
“We thank the people of Imo State, (APC National Organising Secretary, Osita) Izunanso and others, the people we recruited, we retrieved from him. They did so well. They have killed a lion.”
Reacting to Mr Okechukwu’s statement, one of the conveners of APC Restoration Coalition in Imo State, Toe Ekechi, said the VON Director General was only expressing his own opinion.
He said the party in the state would love for the issues to be resolved so everyone can work together towards the success of the party at large.
“He who wears the shoe knows where it is pinching most. Osita Okechukwu is from Enugu State and I am from Imo State. Rochas Okorocha is the governor of Imo State. I think there is joy in heaven when one lost sheep is found.
“We will be most joyous to see our Governor Rochas Owelle Okorocha come back to the fold and decide to work with us as a family to ensure the success of APC in 2019. And that is not taking away the fact that he has the right to make political decision that suits him. But in terms of what we want, we wish that we work together.
“I will not want it to degenerate to that extent, not necessarily in the interest of the party; but more importantly in his own interest and I think he is a smart governor and won’t want to contemplate leaving APC.”
He, however, expressed confidence that even if the governor decides to leave the APC, the party will be sustained in the state.
“The kind of discipline we have in this coalition, we are more than able, prepared to sustain APC in Imo State,” Mr Ekechi said.