The on-going feud between two factions of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state seems to be a “War-Without-End” as a peace move to reconcile both parties fell flat last weekend. After several weeks of in-fighting, accusations and counter-accusations, a peace meeting was held between leaders of the two factions led by Senator John James Akpanudoedehe and Atueong Don Etiebet.
The meeting which took place at the residence of Group Captain Sam Enwang (retd) last Friday also had in attendance Rt Hon Emmanuel Ekpenyong and Otuekong Sunny Jackson Udoh.
After several hours of meeting, it seemed both parties had reached a middle ground in order to have a ceasefire in the raging war. Pictures surfaced in the social media with key players in the meeting all smiles.
The meeting was expected to be finalized at Don Etiebet’s house the next day with a press conference expected to follow immediately.
Journalists all gathered at the former Minister’s Ewet Housing residence at 11am which the press conference was supposed to take place.
Some minutes before noon, Senator J.J. Akpanudoedehe drove into the residence of Chief Etiebet alongside former House of Reps member, Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong. With them were some members of the All Progressives Congress who are sympathetic to his (Udoedehe’s) cause. Udoedehe went straight into the room for the meeting but his supporters were denied access to the main sitting room where journalists were sitted. This caused an uproar as a drama ensued between the Etiebet’s men and Udoedehe’s supporters. Udoedehe stormed out of the meeting room, told his supporters that there is no cause for alarm. “This is Uyo, Etiebet cannot do me anything. So, don’t panic”, Udoedehe told his supporters and calm was restored.
After several minutes of meeting, Udoedehe again emerged from the meeting room, started addressing the press.
“The two factions agreed on certain things yesterday, but today they are saying different things. We agreed that the state executive of the party be dissolved and he accepted. Now, he (Etiebet) is coming to read a different thing. I cannot be part of this meeting”, Senator Udoedehe said.
The situation became more tensed as Udoedehe addressed the press, rejecting whatever recommendations would be read out by Etiebet. He thereafter stormed out of the venue alongside Emmanuel Ekpenyong and was followed by his supporters. Sam Enwang stayed put with Etiebet and Sunny Jackson.
It was Etiebet’s turn to address the press. He told the press that at Udoedehe’s level as a member of the party’s BOT, his purported expulsion cannot stand. Etiebet said the expulsion could only be ratified at the national level.
“At his status, no war or state executive can expel Senator John James Akpanudoedehe. He can only be removed by the NWC of the APC and the purported suspension is currently at that level”, Etiebet said.
Etiebet, himself a former Minister, alleged that Senator Udoedehe wants Umana Okon Umana, Nsima Ekere, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Ita Enang, Ben Ukpong, and other Federal appointees from Akwa Ibom to be withdrawn so that he could nominate his own supporters for the positions the above mentioned persons are occupying.
“Udoedehe’s grievance is that all the Federal appointments are from our camp. He gave us condition that all the appointments must be withdrawn.
“Udoedehe wanted the state exco to be dissolved but we told him we don’t have powers to dissolve the state exco. But that we can see where there are anomalies and make recommendations”, Etiebet told the press.
He also frowned at a situation where supporters of the key actors in the crisis post several things that won’t help the party on social media.
“A supporter of Udoedehe posted on Facebook that we have begged Udoedehe. People started calling me to say that we went to beg Udoedehe. Yes, we went to beg him because he is a voter”, he said.
After speaking to the press, Etiebet gave out the 2-paged recommendations of the elders of the party to members of the press.
Below are the recommendations:
“That all the elders are committed to resolve all differences in the party amongst all its members, to be united and with total sincerity of purpose to work together to ensure the victory of APC in Akwa Ibom state in all elections.
“That the elders resolved to be guided by the provisions of the constitution of the party in resolving any issues regarding the composition of the state executive committee and other organs of the party in the state.
“That the elders noted the complaints of some members of the party on the federal appointments from the state so far, that the interest of all the legacy parties in the formation of APC was not taken into consideration and they demanded that their interest should be considered as priority in subsequent appointments.
“That the principle of internal democracy must be adopted and adhered to earnestly in the process of nominating party candidates for any elections in the state as imposition shall not be tolerated.
“That the elders noted the purported expulsion of Senator John James Akpanudoedeghe from his ward, the chapter and state excos of the party and resolved to intervene in the spirit of reconciliation as agreed by the elders in the interest of peace, unity and objectives of the party in the state.
“That the elders frowned at the use of violence and the introduction of thuggery into politics and party activities in the state and warned that henceforth such actions shall not be condoned and advised any aggrieved member to exhaust all constitutional means of the party in resolving his/her grievances.
“That the elders also condemned all the newspaper and social media vituperations and foul language of some aggrieved members against party leaders and advised members to accord due respect to their leaders and warned that such behaviours and any anti-party activities shall not be tolerated in future.
“That these recommendations be presented to the enlarged state caucus of the party for consideration.”
Also speaking, Sam Enwang said that the former Junior Minister, Senator Udoedehe started the problem in the party.
“Udoedehe started the problem. What is happening now is what he did before,” he said.
“When he (Udoedehe) came in he used people from outside and made sure that he had the structure of the party. That is why he (Mr. Udoedehe) can afford to tell people that he owns the party,” Mr. Ewang said, apparently referring to how the former minister hijacked the entire APC leadership in the state when the party was newly formed four years ago.
The APC was formed as a result of an alliance in 2013 between the three leading opposition political parties then – the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
In Akwa Ibom, Mr. Ewang led the now defunct ANPP into the APC, while Mr. Udoedehe led the ACN.
In order to hit back at the current APC leadership in the state for daring to expel him, Mr. Udoedehe has proclaimed the “dissolution” of the state Exco of the party and also “appointed” Mr. Ewang to “replace” a former petroleum minister, Don Etiebet, as the chairman of the party caucus in the state.
But it appears Mr. Ewang is not interested in being the caucus chairman.
“For now, all I am interested in is that there must be peace in the party,” Mr. Ewang told the press.
“I am here to make peace between the warring factions so that we could prepare the party for the (2019) elections.”
Asked if he had accepted to take over from Mr. Etiebet as the caucus chairman, Mr. Ewang quipped in, “For now, I have accepted to be the peacemaker.”
He said further, “Let me tell you, Don Etiebet is an old boy of the Holy Family College, Abak. He is a senior old boy. And I am an old boy of the Holy Family College, a place that we revere too much.
“I can’t insult Don Etiebet for any reason, neither will I allow anybody to insult him. Don is a senior citizen.”
Mr. Ewang, however, rejected the expulsion of Mr. Udoedehe from the APC, saying that such action would not stand.
“Udoedehe was the one who made Amadu Attai (the APC chairman in Akwa Ibom). So, who is Amadu Attai? He (Mr. Attai) cannot expel Udoedehe.
“I am in touch with everybody in the party, and we are working out ways to resolve the conflict,” he said.
The media aide of Senator Udoedehe later issued a statement, distancing his principal from the recommendations given out to the press by Etiebet and co.
Udoedehe’s Personal Assistant on Media, Mr. Ata Etuk said in the release thus: “Distinguished Senator John James Akpanudoedehe wishes by this notice, to state a true and factual account of all that transpired during the recently-concluded Peace and Reconciliation meetings between the discordant factions of the All Progressives Congress (APC) factions in Akwa Ibom State.
“The first meeting held on Friday 17th February 2017, at the Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo, residence of Group Captain Sam Ewang (Rtd); and which was attended by Senator Akpanudoedehe; Group Captain Ewang; Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong (Tempo); Atuekong Don Etiebet; Obong Sunny Jackson; and other Party chieftains. In the said meeting, the parties agreed to the dissolution of the State Exco of the Party; the resignation of at least five appointees of the federal government; and the accommodation of the general (and not narrow) interests of party members within the party structure, among other conditions. The meeting ended on a promising note with the resolutions reached, and this hope dictated the scheduling of a ratification meeting the following day, which was slated to be held in the private residence of Atuekong Don Etiebet.
“On the following day (Saturday 18th February, 2017), the same roll-call of dignitaries converged at the appointed venue for the scheduled meeting; but then drama took over. Contrary to commencing the expected ratification exercise, the Atuekong Don Etiebet camp made a volte-face; reneging on the previously agreed dissolution of the State Exco of the Party; as well as refusing to uphold previously agreed conditions. All attempts to prevail on them to reconsider their decision in view of the fact of having agreed to the same terms barely 24 hours earlier, failed, as they stuck to their guns.
“In consequence of what now seemed an intractable breach, Senator Akpanudoedehe granted an interview to members of the Press who had been invited, and registered his disappointment at the turn of affairs. He maintained that the Interim Executive of the Party would stand, as the State Exco of the Party had been dissolved. In separate interviews also granted to the Press at the meeting, Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong (Tempo); and Group Captain Ewang (Rtd) expressed their surprise at the turn around by the Atuekong Etiebet camp. Group Captain Ewang, added that he was more concerned with peace being restored to the Party in the State, than with any political appointment within the Party. Senator Akpanudoedehe, after addresses by both Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong and Group Captain Ewang, walked out of the meeting in the company of Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong in utter disappointment. He stressed while leaving the venue that if he had refused to attend the Peace and Reconciliation Meeting, he would have been branded a headstrong and troublesome Party man, but that his presence at the meeting was proof that he had conceded to every Peace effort, which was eventually frustrated by the Atuekong Etiebet camp”.