Despite several court rulings and interventions by the national body, the lingering crisis in All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State continues unabated.
For the past two years, APC in the state has split into two factions, with both Mr. Godwin Etim John and Sir John Ochala laying claims to the state’s chairmanship position, insisting that both the national body of the party and the court give them recognition.
The recently dissolved National Working Committee (NWC) of APC had, in a statement signed by its then National Publicity Secretary Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu and made available to newsmen in Calabar on June 3, affirmed the Cross River State Executive, led by the late chairman, Dr. Mathew Achigbe, who died in a car crash in November 2018. Achigbe was succeeded by his then Deputy, Sir John Ochala, who has been holding the position in an acting capacity.
He had said, “The party’s position is affirmed by a Court of Appeal judgment delivered on 23rd April 2020, which recognises the Sir John Ochala-led Cross River State Executive as authentic and legitimate.”
The party said, “in a unanimous judgment delivered by Justices Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, Adamu Jauro and Peter Olabisi Ige, the Court of Appeal affirmed the Sir John Ochala-led All Progressives Congress (APC) Cross River State Executive as the authentic and recognised executive in the state.
“The Appeal Court also nullified an earlier ruling by an Abuja High Court for lacking territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit brought by a supposed factional APC executive in Cross River State”.
On the other hand, John insists he is the authentic state chairman of APC, saying the June 25 dissolution of the Adams Oshiomohle-led NWC by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party under the watchful eyes of President Muhammadu Buhari confirms his executive in Cross River.
To further buttress his point, John, during a recent courtesy visit to the state’s Director of Department of Security Services (DSS), Mr. Ilupeju Adebanjo, said he was elected at the May 19, 2018 state congress as the state chairman of APC and “following the unconstitutional tendencies, abuse of the rule of law and reckless actions perpetrated by the former NWC, led by Adams Oshiomohle, which prompted the (NEC) of the party to dissolve it and that gave birth to the Extraordinary Committee.
‘’My office was restored by NEC on 25 June 2020 under the watchful eyes of President Mohammadu Buhari. I was restored to take my office as chairman of APC through the constitution and the National Executive Committee of our great party.”
During the courtesy visit, the DSS’s state Director Adebanjo urged APC to put its house in order, noting that the members of the opposition party in the state should embrace peace and reconciliation as directed by the National Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee.
Adebanjo said he acted professionally while the APC crisis lasted by not taking sides with any of the factions and advised John and his team to reconcile all aggrieved members and carry everybody along so as to provide a credible alternative to the electorate in the state. He reminded them that soon the vacant position for Obudu State Constituency as well as the Senatorial bye-election would be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In another development, John told party members in a statement, “I was really restored to my office as state chairman of APC CRS through the constitution of our great party and the National Executive Committee on 25 June 2020. I will, therefore, be guided by the constitution of the party and any other rules as may be enacted by the National Executive Committee throughout my reign.
“I make bold to say that disagreements abound in a large family and APC is not an exception. In this struggle, therefore, there is no victor no vanquish. Rather, it is a victory of the APC constitution. There is need to note that every society has its rules and regulation, which must be obeyed by all members no matter how highly placed or lowly placed. Failure to which leads to anarchy… We shall therefore not tolerate any act of indiscipline, as we will not fail to use our constitution effectively.
“May I use this opportunity to officially notify our party faithful that INEC is organizing and putting finishing touches for our rerun elections into vacant seats as a result of the demise of late Senator Rose Okoh of the National Assembly and late Hon. Godwin Akwaji of Cross River State House of Assembly all in the North Senatorial District of Cross River State”.
John urged all aspirants and their supporters to “exercise restraint during this period of consultation and other arrangements. I, therefore, admonish them to get acquainted with the present realities in the party and to touch base with the state secretariat of the party at No. 117 Ndidem Usang Iso Road, Calabar, for updates.
“All divisive tendencies should henceforth cease among all members of APC as there are no more factions in APC Cross River State. We are all one indivisible family represented by our symbol, the broom”.
However, the Ochala faction of APC in the state, in a statement by its state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bassey Ita, said, “party men and women should remain calm and law-abiding as nothing regarding the authenticity of the Sir John Ochala leadership of the party has shifted. Our leaders are also solidly behind the Ochala leadership which recently began a robust reconciliation move in the party”.
He said further, “For Etim John and his few ilks to claim leadership is unfortunate. It’s like the story of King Solomon and the ownership of the living child, which was contested by the evil, thieving woman. The tendency of Etim John is a good description of the evil, thieving woman.
“The mass of APC members, the law and conscience support the Ochala leadership and that’s the home truth! They should pray profusely for forgiveness for the pains caused the majority of party members otherwise God will soon visit them”.
Meanwhile, the two factions of the party in the state have headed for Abuja to further consolidate their hold or authenticity, as the National Care Taker Committee of the party is meeting to reconcile various crisis and factions.