The expulsion of Ita Enang, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), former member of the National Assembly and the ex-aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, may have worsened the crisis rocking the party and taken it to a new high.
The party has been torn apart by internal crisis following its factionalisation due to alleged sectional interest and the allegiance of members to key stakeholders and not to the party’s constitution and its ideals, according to observers.
Since 2018, when former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Godswill Akpabio, the immediate past minister of Niger Delta Affairs, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC in August of the same year, the party has not been the same again, checks have shown.
Given that there were other top politicians before his defection to the APC, in his attempt to take control of the party’s structure in the state, which was met with stiff opposition, it became expedient for him to create a faction within the party resulting in the polarisation of the party, a development which was opposed by many including John James Akpan Udoedehe, a former minister of state who later became the interim national secretary of the party. He has since left APC for the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) where he is the party’s governorship flag bearer in the state.
The crisis did not abate and the struggle for the control of the party structure continued until the 2019 elections in which the party lost all the contested positions including the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district for which Akpabio was defeated by the former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom state, Chris Ekpenyong of the PDP.
Fast forward to 2022, the primaries of the party for the election of its governorship candidate was not different from the party’s congress which produced two state executives of the party, one of the factions is still in court while the other faction is believed to have been recognised by the national secretariat of the party.
One of the factions headed by Austine Ekanem as the state chairman who many thought was elected during the party’s congress appears to have taken back seat in the party’s affairs as Stephen Ntokekpo is now calling the shots as the state chairman of the party.
Following the crisis within the party, it was at the risk of not having a governorship candidate in the election beginning next month but this was resolved by the court of Appeal sitting in Abuja which ruled that Akan Udofia is the party’s governorship candidate.
This Court of Appeals decision came after the party’s governorship had lost the case at the Federal High Court in Uyo instituted by Ita Enang who was also a governorship aspirant challenging the outcome of the party’s congress which elected Akan Udofia as its governorship candidate.
According to Ita Enang who has served in both arms of the National Assembly between 1999 and 2015, Akan Udofia is a member of the PDP, adding that Udofia could not have come to fly the party’s ticket describing him as a mole.
As Ita Enang had rejected the ruling of the Court of Appeal and vowing to take the case to the Supreme Court and hoping to get justice, he has been expelled by the party for alleged anti-party activities.
In a letter signed by Stepehen Ntokekpo, Ita Enang’s expulsion was said to have been ratified by the state working committee of the party, a development many analysts say will further weaken the party’s political base going into the elections.
According to the letter which was solely signed by Stephen Ntokekpo and addressed to the ward chairman, APC, Eastern ward 2, Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area where Ita Enang hails from, he “was accused of anti party activities and disobedience of the directives of our great party, the APC.”
“After a free and fair gubernatorial primary election conducted by the party which he lost without showing good spirit of sportsmanship, Ita Enang had engaged in an endless litigation against the candidate who won, and the party.
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“In the process, fully doing the bidding of the PDP to put a cog in the wheel of our progress as a party. The clandestine meetings he holds with the opposition party, the PDP and after such meetings, drumming support for them, are not without any notice by his vigilant ward and chapter officers of our great party.
“Consequently, I write on behalf of the State Working Committee (SWC) to ratify the decision of the disciplinary committee of the APC that Ita Enang be and is hereby expelled from the APC.”
This expulsion appeared to have jolted Ita Enang’s camp which responded swiftly. First, his supporters denied the legitimacy of the expulsion order and secondly by holding Godswill Akpabio responsible for his predicament within the party.
“According to the former lawmaker, he queried: “Why is it that whenever Akpabio goes there is always a problem? Since he came to APC, most people have left the party; since he came; more people have left than new members joining us.
“If you look at the commissioners that joined APC with Akpabio, they have all left our party; I am the spirit, soul and body of the party. We shall not be intimidated to abandon the party,” he told a television station.
Furthermore, stakeholders of the party in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area where Ita Enang hails from were quick to debunk the reported expulsion saying that those behind the move were aliens to APC.
Umoh Ekop, chapter chairman of the party told a news conference in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, that at no time did Ita Enang commit any offence that should warrant an expulsion from the party, describing the alleged expulsion as an insult.
“Ordinarily, we would have allowed the said publication knowing that is meaningless and does not have the weight of distracting the party nor Ita Enang who is the backbone of the party both at the local government and the state.
“For the sake of the public who may be misled by the report, we want to put the record straight that Ita Enang is still a member of the APC Eastern ward 2, Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.’’
Urging those behind the publication to tender an unreserved apology to Ita Enang within 72 hours, the chapter chairman explained that the purported “expulsion was the handiwork of mischief makers and an insult to the entire Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area.”
According to observers, the crisis within the party has adversely affected its ability to launch the governorship campaign in the state less than a month to the next election. This, they say, may likely hurt the party’s fortunes and place it in a disadvantaged position as was the case in previous elections in the state.