Enugu 2023: The intrigues, desperation and macabre dance by politicians
By Tony Edike
Prior to the conduct of the gubernatorial primary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Enugu State, elders of the state including prominent traditional rulers, past governors, past and present National Assembly members, stalwarts and stakeholders of the PDP, opted for a consensus arrangement that would eliminate rancor and ensure that the unity and peace that existed in the ruling party were sustained.
The move was hailed by many within and outside the party and as expected, all the gubernatorial aspirants embraced the wise decision by the stakeholders and elders and committed themselves to the accord which was principally to support one of their own to emerge as the PDP flag bearer. They made a firm promise to abide by the consensus accord and deploy their supporters and resources behind the candidate for a seamless campaign that would guarantee his victory in the general election come February 2023.
To demonstrate their commitment to the accord, most of the aspirants appeared at the venue of the primary election held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium to announce to the delegates their decision to withdraw from the gubernatorial race in favour of one of them, Barrister Peter Mbah from Nkanu East local government area in Enugu East senatorial zone, who had been endorsed by the stakeholders as the state PDP governorship candidate. They were heavily applauded, the primary election went on and Mbah emerged victorious.
But the decision of some former PDP gubernatorial aspirants, who participated fully in the May 25, 2022 primary election, to ditch the pre-primary accords to support any eventual winner from the primary election, has, once again, raised the questions of principle in Nigerian politics.
Politics without principle is the seventh on the list of Seven Social Sins, which Mohandas Gandhi published in his weekly newspaper, Young India, on October 22, 1925. But almost 97 years after, the malaise is not about to wane; at least not in Nigeria where political promises and pacts are made and broken without qualms and shame. This, in deed, is seen as one of the ironies of the Nigerian political contests and leadership. Agreements, pacts and accords are brazenly violated, and in most cases, for selfish reasons.
In Enugu tongues are seriously wagging over how some gubernatorial aspirants on the platform of the PDP from Enugu East Senatorial Zone have made 360 degrees turn from the pacts they signed ahead of the primary election. While some have defected and picked the ticket of other parties, some others were said to be working for other parties while still in the PDP.
Enugu East Senatorial zone, which is predominated by the Nkanu clan, had laid claim to the 2023 governorship slot. They predicated their stake on what they advanced as the zoning principle, which would see the governorship seat rotate to them at the end of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s tenure in May, 2023.
According to them, Enugu East took the first turn at the dawn of the current democratic dispensation in 1999 through their son, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, who handed over to Enugu West-born Sullivan Chime in 2007. In 2015, the incumbent, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who hails from Enugu North Senatorial Zone, was elected, thus completing the cycle.
Consequently, as many as 17 aspirants from Enugu East Zone purchased the governorship nomination form of the PDP, which has been in firm control of the state since 1999 and is therefore seen as the surest path to Enugu’s Lion Building. They were Prof. Bart. Nnaji, Dr. Peter Mbah, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, Senator Gil Nnaji, Rev. Ifeanyi Nwoye, Sir Chinyeaka Ohaa, and Dr. Gabriel Ajah, and Dr. Kingsley Udeh. Others were Prof. Hilary Edeoga, Chief Everest Nnaji, Chief Godwin Ogenyi, Pastor Beloved Dan Anike, Hon. Nwabueze Ugwu, Dr. Josef Onoh, Engr. Erasmus Anike, Prof. Jehu Nnaji, and Dr. Chukwudi Nnaji.
Meanwhile, former Minister of Information, Frank Nweke Jr, left the PDP from the outset to pursue his gubernatorial ambition on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
However, there were also those, primarily the camp of the former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who contested the zoning argument, saying there was never any such arrangement. Citing several examples where people from other zones contested each of the governorship elections since 1999, they contended that since power had gone round, any zone could restart the rotation.
In what many analysts saw as a demonstration of tact and determination, political leaders and traditional rulers of Enugu East Senatorial Zone waded in to moderate the contest among their sons in a way that would ensure that the zone went into the contest for PDP’s ticket and governorship seat as a united house.
A meeting of all the contestants was convoked by the Enugu East Senatorial Zone Traditional Rulers Council at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel on May 19, 2022, a week to the PDP primary. The aspirants came up with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work collectively and to support any one among them picked by Ugwuanyi as his preferred successor.
A copy of the MOU made available to the media, reads in part: “In a determined effort to sustain the peaceful political environment fostered by the consultative administrative style of His Excellency Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and ensure a sustained brotherly and fraternal political zone both before and after the PDP governorship primaries, we the governorship aspirants from the Enugu East Senatorial Zone, hereby collectively and individually commit to the following:
“A campaign devoid of rancour and animosity, devoid of blackmail, sabotage, hate-speech, and any other acts capable of causing discord and negatively impacting the cohesion, peace, and unity of Enugu Senatorial Zone and Enugu State in general.
“A peaceful campaign that ensures every candidate and his supporters are accommodated within the structure of whoever wins the primary nomination.
“Respect for the Governor of Enugu State and acceptance of his choice of a candidate from this group in the best interest of Enugu East Senatorial Zone and Enugu State at large.
“The avoidance of litigation as a result of primaries conducted regardless of who ultimately wins.
“The eventual integration and accommodation of all aspirants‘ interests in any government led by the victorious aspirants from the Enugu East Senatorial Zone”.
The Chairman of the Enugu East Senatorial Zone Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Julius Nnaji of Nike; the Council’s Patron, Igwe Abel Nwobodo; and the Chairmen of the Traditional Rulers Council of each of the six LGAs in the zone also signed as witnesses.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Nkanu East, one of the six LGAs that make up the zone, set up a lobby group, the Nkanu East Leaders Consultative Forum (NELCF), to seek the support of Governor Ugwuanyi, other power blocs and critical stakeholders towards producing the next governor.
Findings show that to avoid conflict of interest, it was agreed that the leader of the group must be one, who nursed no governorship ambition. A former Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, accepted the honour along with the terms and conditions.
The group, it was learnt, went to work citing the LGA’s peculiar backwardness and marginalisation in terms of development and distribution of power within the Enugu East Senatorial Zone.
However, since several Nkanu East sons were vying for the PDP governorship ticket, NELCF also felt the need to bring them together under a pact to support whomever Ugwuanyi chose among them.
The accord was reached at the residence of former Governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo on May 20, 2022 and signed by Dr. Peter Mbah, Chief Everest Nnaji, Rev. Ifeanyi Nwoye, Dr. Gabriel Ajah, and Prof. Bart Nnaji, who had by them jettisoned his leadership of NELCF to join the governorship race, contrary to the earlier understanding.
Other signatories included prominent Nkanu East royal fathers and political leaders, while Senator Nwobodo and Nkanu East Local Government Council Chairman, Hon. Sydney Okechukwu, signed as witnesses.
Ultimately, Governor Ugwuanyi endorsed Dr. Mbah, who hails from Owo in Nkanu East LGA as his successor. Mbah later garnered 790 votes of the 804 valid votes cast during the May 25, 2022 PDP gubernatorial primary to emerge the party’s candidate. His closest rivals, Edeoga and Ohaa, got 9 votes and 3 votes, respectively, while about eight aspirants announced their withdrawal from the race before commencement of voting, citing party supremacy.
Ekweremadu had in press statement by the Director-General of Ikeoha Campaign Organisation, Hon. Charles Ogbo Asogwa, said he wouldn’t participate in the primary. However, in a personally singed statement, he later congratulated Mbah and assured his political structure would work for Mbah’s election as the next governor.
But findings show that some ex-aspirants are yet to get over Mbah’s emergence. Some have reneged on the pacts they willfully signed and their pledge to support the winner of PDP primary election.
For instance, besides signing the May 19 accord at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Chijioke Edeoga equally issued a personally signed statement pledging support to Mbah and loyalty to the PDP.
“Although we were deeply disappointed with the outcome of the primary election, we have accepted the results in the interest of peace and stability of our beloved State.
“In the heat of the moment, numerous concerned persons suggested we take our message and members to a different party.
“However, after giving it a careful and pragmatic thought, we decided to remain in PDP and support the flag bear Barrister Peter Mbah.
“Peter has reached out to us and stretched out a hand of fellowship; we are disposed to support him. I hereby urge all my supporters and the people of Enugu State at large to rally behind Mr. Peter Mbah for the tasks ahead”, Edeoga stated.
But no sooner had he given the assurances than he started hobnobbing with the Labour Party (LP), which ticket he claimed to have eventually secured ahead of Chief Evarest Nnaji, another signatory to the Nike pact and a signatory to Nkanu East LGA accord, who is still pressing on as the “authentic” LP candidate.
Asked during a recent radio phone-in programme monitored in Enugu why he dumped the accord, Edeoga, a former commissioner under Governor Ugwuanyi administration, said he left the PDP, not because of his governorship ticket loss, but because PDP denied the South East the presidential ticket.
But not a few political observers have wondered if Edeoga would have abandoned the PDP for LP had he secured PDP’s gubernatorial ticket. They see it as just another example of politics without principle bedevilling Nigeria politics.
Also, Bart Nnaji, a signatory to the Enugu East zonal and Nkanu East aspirants’ pacts, was reported to have made a dash for LP’s gubernatorial ticket and lost out, an allegation he denied.
However, allegations persist that Nnaji had since pitched his tent with the LP and its candidates while still in the PDP.
“I can tell you on my honour that he was practically in charge of Labour Party’s National and House of Assembly tickets, especially in Enugu East Zone.
“Here was a man, who assured he had no governorship ambition and was given the honour of leading the Nkanu East lobby group, but ended up vying for PDP governorship ticket.
“Even worse is the fact that the same man is working for a candidate in another party and from another local government after the governor and Enugu PDP heeded our pleas and elected an Nkanu East son as the party’s candidate. So, where is the integrity and honour in our politics?” an informed source said.
Instructively, none of them has faulted the conduct of the primary election. Their major grouse has been that they expected to be Ugwuanyi ‘s anointed one.
Meanwhile, as political parties and their candidates hit the town with their campaigns and promises soon, one thing analysts have not stopped pondering over is whether people, who could not honour their pacts and written words, could honour their campaign promises to the people.
Yahaya Bello nominates Primary School Teacher as Kogi APC running mate
The Kogi All Progressives Congress (APC) Guber Candidate, Mr Usmam Ododo, on Sunday unveiled a Primary School Teacher, Salifu Joel, as his running mate for Nov. 11 governorship election.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the running mate is the current Chairman of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), and the Treasurer of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Kogi.
Gov Yahaya Bello, who spoke at the event at the Government House, said that the choice of Mr Joel, a class teacher and unionist as the deputy governorship candidate of the APC, was borne out of the party’s desire to carry every body along in its quest for the development of the state.
Bello assured that he would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the APC won the Nov 11 governorship election in the state.
“APC will follow and abide by all the existing electoral laws to win the Nov 11 election, more so that my administration has performed creditably well in the areas of provision of infrastructure, quality education, healthcare delivery, among others.
“We have shown competence, dedication, and Commitment to Kogi people in terms of performance to also ask for their votes in the next governorship election.
“In this dispensation, we won’t tolerate any politics of bitterness nor condone any act of political violence because Kogi as a state is bigger than any personal interest.
“Politics of ethnicity, religion will never be a barrier and has no place in Kogi, therefore, you should desist from any comment that can put you in trouble tomorrow, ” he warned.
Also, the State’s APC Chairman, Abdullahi Bello, congratulated the Kogi guber candidate and his running mate, and commended the governor for providing good leadership to the party.
He said it was ap and commendable, the choice of the running mate to Ododo, coming from a very critical section of the society as a teacher.
Joel said: “I am short of words for me as a classroom teacher to be nominated as the running mate and deputy governor to the APC guber candidate.”
“When I was first approached, from the bottom of my heart, I joyfully and heartily accepted the position, because it is divine.
“I wish to assure that I will do all I could to ensure that our party becomes victorious in the forthcoming governorship election, ” Joel assured after being picked as the running mate to the Kogi APC gubernatorial candidate.
In their goodwill messages, the National President of TUC, Mr Audu Anaba; Kogi NLC Chairman, Mr Gabriel Amari and the immediate past NLC Chairman, Edoka Onu; commended the governor for choosing one among the labour unions as Ododo’s running mate.
They assured the governor of their total support to mobilise votes for Ododo/Joel ticket to ensure that they emerged the next Governor and Deputy Governor of Kogi State. (NAN)
I was forced to sign Presidential Poll Result — Witness tells PEPC
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Thursday, called his witness to testify before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, sitting in Abuja.
Atiku and his party are challenging the declaration of President Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner of the presidential contest that held on February 25.
At the resumed proceedings of the court, Atiku’s first witness, Capt. Joe Agada, retd, told the court that he served as the State Collation Agent of the PDP in Kogi State, during the general election.
The witness, told the court that he was forced to sign result of the presidential election by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
According to him, the INEC officials, vowed not to give him a copy of the result to take back to his party, unless he signed the document.
Led in evidence by Atiku’s lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, the witness, maintained that result of the presidential election in Kogi State, was rigged.
He told the court that in over 20 polling units he visited, he observed how the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines, were manipulated
He said: “My lords, apart from where I voted, which was at Ogene- Oforachi village in Ogugu Ward in Kogi State, I also served as my party’s State Collation Agent.
“I had a tag and a vehicle with a sticker that identified me as being on election duty. The exemption tag which was issued to me by INEC, allowed me to move around on the election day.
“I had the opportunity of visiting some highlighted polling units in my LGA, even though I did not visit all the polling units.”
While being cross-examined by counsel for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mr. Abdullahi Aliyu, SAN, the witness said it would be correct to say that he observed all the manipulations that took place in Kogi state during the election.
“My lords, I am a witness of truth. I did not visit all the polling units but I was present when BVAS in over 20 PUs were being manipulated across the two Senatorial Districts that I visited.
“I may not be exact, but there are nothing less than 3500 polling units in Kogi State.
“I spent between three to five minutes in each of the polling units that I visited,” the witness added.
Asked if agents of the PDP signed the result sheets, the witness, said: “Yes, our agents signed the Forms EC8A, EC8B and EC8C.
“But they were forced to sign the results, especially in Kogi state, because INEC said they would not give us copies unless we signed.”
Answering questions from one of the lawyers that appeared for President Tinubu, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, the witness, said the PDP had agents in all the polling units in the state.
Asked if as the State Collation Agent of the PDP, he signed the result sheet, he said: “My lords, I was forced to sign the state collection result because without signing, they said they would deny me a copy to take to my party.
“I thereafter protested and also wrote a petition to INEC,” the witness told the court, even as he admitted that he served as State Collation Agent for the PDP in 2015 and also appeared as a witness in the 2019 presidential election dispute between Atiku and former President Muhammadu Buhari.
“In 2015, I refused to sign the result. But at that time, INEC did not deny me a copy to take to my party. But this year, the INEC man insisted that they would not give me a copy unless I signed the result,” Capt. Agada, retd, added.
Soludo’s commissioner, Ezeokenwa emerges new APGA national chairman
A Commissioner in Anambra State, Mr. Sly Ezeokenwa has emerged the new National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Okenwa, a legal practitioner, defeated his co-contestants to emerge victorious in the election that held at the Party’s Regional Secretariat in Awka on Wednesday.
The new APGA National Chairman is the Commissioner for Special Duties under Governor Chukwuma Soludo as well as the National Legal Adviser of APGA.
Shortly after emerging the winner of the keenly-contested election, he was sworn-in alongside the newly elected National Officers of the Party.
Other contestants in the National Chairmanship election include Hon Chief Ben Nwankwo, who is a former House of Representatives member and a 2023 senatorial aspirants for Anambra South; Sir Norbert Obi, who is the immediate-past Chairman of APGA in Anambra State and Barr. Tony Ifeanya, who is the immediate-past Secretary of APGA and Commissioner for Petroleum.
Ezeokenwa took over from the outgone National Chairman, Victor Oye, who had been in the position for the past eight years.
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