Barring any last minute changes, the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress will on Tuesday meet to take a final decision on the list of delegates and candidates for the June 23 national convention.
It was gathered in Abuja on Sunday that this is coming on the heels of tension generated by speculations that the Governor Rochas Okorocha-led Screening Appeals Committee had disqualified the three aspirants vying for positions zoned to the South-East.
The three persons are: the incumbent National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, the National Auditor, George Moghalu and the National Vice-Chairman (South-East), Emma Enekwu.
A top ranking member of the party’s National Working Committee who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said, the Imo State governor disqualified the three persons who had earlier been cleared by the screening committee based on a “frivolous” petition.
The party leader, however, explained that unknown to the governor, the final decision on the list of delegates and contestants remains the prerogative of the NWC.
The source said, “It is unfortunate that the chairman of that committee (Okorocha) doesn’t seem to understand his mandate.
“The appeals committee does not have the power to ban or disqualify anybody. Its assignment is restricted to dealing with appeals emanating from the conduct of the convention but because he has a score to settle he thinks he can disqualify people by fiat.”
However, when our correspondent contacted Emma Eneukwu on the telephone, he said, “It (disqualification) is not true. Does he (Okorocha) have any right to disqualify me? For what! It’s not true.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the APC National Auditor, George Moghalu, told The PUNCH on the telephone “I am not aware of it, besides, the (screening appeals) committee has no such powers.”
When contacted, the Secretary of the APC National Convention Committee, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), told one of our correspondents that the function of the screening appeals sub-committee was limited to reviewing cases of those who were screened out by the screening committee.
He said, “The screening appeals committee is meant to review the cases of those who may have been screened out by the screening committee.”
This, he explained, was to ensure that everyone was given a fair hearing.
In response to a question on the delegates’ list, he said, “We (convention committee) are bound to accept the list forwarded to us by the National Working Committee because it is the NWC that constituted the committees that conducted the congresses which generated the list of delegates.”
The PUNCH recalls that the Governor Rochas Okorocha-led screening appeals panel had announced that about 19 aspirants seeking election into various party positions were disqualified by the screening panel.
Out of this number, 18 of those affected petitioned his committee. He noted that there were petitions against some aspirants to the offices of National Organising Secretary and the National Women Leader.
He told reporters that if his committee upheld the position of the screening committee on the 19 persons, “it means they have been disqualified from contesting the election.”
Okorocha also said, “If there is anybody who has been screened and there is a petition against him, we have the power to uphold his qualification or disqualify him based on the merits of the petition.
“The screening appeal is the final appeal in this case. After this appeal committee, the next appeal will be after election appeal which will come after the convention.
“We have petitions against all other positions except that of the national chairman and national secretary. However, there is a general petition as to whether members of the NWC can be judges in their own case having supervised the congresses and now coming to present themselves for election. We are also looking at that.”
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, confirmed plans by the NWC to hold a meeting on Tuesday, but gave no further details.
“Yes, we are having a meeting,” he said in response to a question on the telephone.
Okorocha can’t stop re-election of S’East NWC officers – Okechukwu
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, has said the Imo State governor lacks the powers to stop the re-election of the three national officers who represent the South-East in the APC NWC.
The South-East caucus of the APC recently endorsed the re-election of the senior party officers, namely: National Vice-Chairman, (South-East), Chief Emma Eneukwu, National Auditor, Chief George Moghalu, and National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso.
Okorocha had kicked against the development, insisting that the positions should be contested during the party’s forthcoming national convention.
Okechukwu said Okorocha could not use his position as the chairman of the appeals sub-committee of the National Convention Screening Committee to disqualify the South-East national officers, as is being speculated among members of the party in the zone.
Insisting that Okorocha would not be able to stop the return of the NWC members, the VON DG said, “I am aware that President Buhari canvassed for a waiver for members of the NWC.
“Secondly, the Aminu Masari Screening Committee didn’t disqualify or recommend disqualification of any of them.
“Therefore, Governor Okorocha knows he has no powers to simulate petitions to disqualify them – you cannot build something out of nothing. It will be unlawful for other members to allow him.”
Okechukwu, who was elected delegate to the convention from the Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State, allayed fears over the June 23 national convention which some feared could end in crisis.
He expressed hope that the parallel congresses recorded in some states would not affect the national convention.
According to him, the contending factions in the states where parallel congresses held are united in their loyalty to Buhari.
Okechukwu said,Copyright “All the tendencies and factions have a common ground, which is the endorsement of Mr. President.
“Mr. President is our common denominator; we are all his supporters, hence, the struggle is for the control of party structure for the 2023 general elections.”