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Enugu 2023: The intrigues, desperation and macabre dance by politicians

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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.

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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.

Chief Everest Nnaji and Hon. Chijioke Edeoga battling to grab Enugu Labour Party governorship ticket

The Accords

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.

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“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.

The U-turns

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.

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“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.

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KOGI GUBER: Former Dep. Gov Achuba endorses Muri, urges Kogites to reject Gov. Bello’s violence, 3rd term agenda

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Former Kogi Dep Gov, Hon Simon Achuba

…Says Bello brought his cousin, Ododo of APC, to elongate his grip on Kogi resources

Ahead of the November 11 governorship poll, a former Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Simon Achuba, has declared his support for the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Yakubu Murtala Ajaka.

Achuba, who served under Governor Yahaya Bello, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), told journalists in Abuja at the weekend that he decided to back Ajaka because of his pedigree and capacity to retrieve the state from maladministration.

He charged voters not to be intimidated by the spate of kidnapping and killings that has permeated the state since the commencement of the electioneering.

Also, he tasked the people of Kogi East in particular to desist from causing mayhem against the people because of political gains.

Alhaji Murtala Yakubu Ajaka, Kogi SDP Governorship Candidate

According to him, Governor Bello brought his cousin, Ahmed Ododo, of the APC, to elongate his grip on the resources of Kogi State without any commensurate development.

“If this is allowed to go through, his wife may become our Governor in 2027. God forbid!!!. We call on all well meaning Kogites irrespective of political ethnic and religious divide to rise up and resist the evil seed being plotted in Kogi State.

“It has been 7 years and 8 months of reckless plundering of our state resources without any tangible legacy to show for his two tenures.

“Rather, all legacy projects by his predecessors has been sold off without reinvestment. I know as a matter of fact that about fourteen billion was paid to Kogi State by the Federal Government for a road constructed by his predecessor.

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“Can the successor of Bello expect such legacy fund? It is like daydreaming to think so. He had the opportunity to write his name in gold but turned it down. He will be remembered for bad governance and violence perpetrated in Kogi State.

“Kogites have mastered your tactics and are at the game wisely. The result of the election come November 11 will prove to you that you have so much to learn.

“As you continue to receive decampees, we wish you state the disappointment that follows. Take note that your antics of violence and manipulation not withstanding, this time around will fail.”

He called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to be diligent in the discharge of their functions.

“We wish to call on INEC to be free and ensure that the election is free and fair. Thank God we have BVAS, Glory to God.

“Anywhere there are votes beyond what the BVAS has accredited the agents are expected to protest.

“On the issue of security, we wish to call on the inspector general of police and the chief of army staff to keep a close eye on Kogi.

“When I was a still the deputy governor in 2019, the State House of Assembly raised the alarm over importation of military software. What concerns a civilian government with military software? Sincere then, there has been killings and kidnappings. We cannot continue like that.

“We urge Kogites to face the evil and terminate it. November 11 is by the corner. We urge the people to reject bad administration through the ballots.

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“We call on INEC to check what is happening. I want to ask the youths in Kogi East why have they accepted to be agent of the devil? They should stop destroying the property of their brothers and sisters. The intention of this is to make sure that the votes in Kogi East are suppressed.

“If you endorse it, your children will suffer it . You may enjoy it for now but later you will suffer it. Instead of using the money to develop the state, he has pocketed it. This time the voices of the people will be loud and clear,” he added.

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Tribunal verdict, victory for democracy and Enugu, says Gov Mbah

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Enugu State Governor, Dr Peter Mbah

…extends hands of fellowship to opposition
…restates commitment to campaign promises

Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, has lauded the decision of the Enugu State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which dismissed the petitions of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and the Labour Party (LP) candidates challenging his victory in the March 18, 2023 governorship election, describing the decision as victory for democracy and the people of Enugu State.

Dr. Mbah, who also extended hands of fellowship to the opposition candidates and their political parties, said the task to build Enugu remained a collective one, adding that he was committed to working with all, irrespective of political persuasions.

The tribunal chaired by Justice Kudirat Akano, had earlier in the day dismissed the petitions of the governorship candidate of the PRP, Chris Agu, and the candidate of the LP, Chijioke Edeoga.

Addressing the state, at the Government House, Enugu, Mbah said: “This is another memorable day in the anal of our dear state, as the Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal affirmed the mandate, which you freely gave to us on 18th of March this year.

“This is victory for Ndi Enugu. It is also victory for democracy.

“It is a victory for massive development for Ndi Enugu. It is a victory for exponential growth for Ndi Enugu. It is a victory for Enugu’s greatness. It is a victory for the ban on Monday sit-at-home. It is also victory for our determination to restore water in all your homes in the next 68 days”.

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While thanking God for making the victory possible, Dr. Mbah also commended the tribunal for painstakingly dissecting the petitions and “for coming out with fair and just decision that resonates with Ndi Enugu”.

According to him, “the verdict has further strengthened our confidence in the judiciary as the temple of justice and the last hope of the common man”.

Extending hands of fellowship to his opponents, Mbah said: “There is time for everything under the sun. There is time to strive and time to unite. We all put ourselves forward to serve Ndi Enugu. The people have spoken and the tribunal has also affirmed. If service was the motivation, then it is time to rise above partisanship and come together because there is so much work to be done.

“Our arms are wide open and I beckon on my brothers, who ran this race with us, to join us in the onerous task of building a new Enugu State of our dreams.

“In the same vein, I enjoin all our supporters to be magnanimous in victory. Politics is over. Governance began on 29th May when we were inaugurated. It is time to unite”.

Governor Mbah, who reiterated his resolve to deliver on his campaign promises, further stressed that the tribunal’s decision was an elixir to do more, and urged the people to hold him to account on those promises.

“Once more, I immensely thank the good people of Enugu State, who not only believed in us, but also vested their mandate in us. Above all also above, they have stood by us every step of the way.

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“I want to assure them that I will work for them with every fibre of my being. I stand by every campaign promise I made as espoused in our Statement of Purpose. I also stand by the Citizens Charter that I executed on my first day in office. The Enugu people should hold me to account. I will not let them down”, he concluded.

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BREAKING: Tribunal dismisses Edeoga, LP’s petition, affirms Mbah’s election as Enugu Governor

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Enugu State Governor, Dr. Peter Mbah

…Edeoga’s petition lacks merit

The Enugu State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Enugu has upheld the election of Dr. Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the March 18 election in the state.

Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party (LP) had approached the tribunal to challenge the declaration on the grounds that Mbah wasn’t qualified to stand for the election.

He alleged that he forged his National Youth Service Corps, NYSC certificate and cases of over-voting in Udenu, Nkanu East and Enugu East local government areas.

The Tribunal chaired by Justice Kudirat Murayo Akano dismissed all grounds of petition saying his petition lacked merit.

The panel held that NYSC isn’t a requirement for contesting for the office of the Governor and there’s no where that the NYSC Certificate was attached to the documents Mbah submitted to INEC by the respondent.

On the issue of forging NYSC Certificate, the panel discountenanced all the evidences by the DSS, NYSC official and others because they weren’t in compliance with paragraph 4, sub-section 5D of the evidence act.

Only the witness of the pw26 which was described as a hearsay by the panel and those not help the petitioners and therefore resolved the issue of Certificate Forgery in favour of Mbah.

On the issue of wrong computation of results of the Labour Party in Udenu local government, the panel said they petitioners failed to prove his case and the witnesses they called gave the same report from different polling units and wards and wondered why their testimonies are the same even from different locations.

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The panel also said that the witnesses presented by the Labour Party weren’t duly accredited agents by INEC and makes their testimony invalid.

The panel based on the witnesses from the right agents in 3 polling units, deducted 51 votes from PDP and added same to Labour Party.

The tribunal held that the deduction isn’t enough to Overturn the election of Mbah.

In Amagu polling unit in Nkanu East the panel cancelled the votes for all parties because the witness pw10 proved he was there and the right person.

In the remaining 11 polling units, the tribunal held that the witnesses didn’t sign the result sheet and their witnesses is discountenanced because they can’t prove they were party agents

After resolving all the matter, the tribunal dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.

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