Enugu PDP, court cases and their albatross
It started like a rumour last week that government officials in Enugu State were sneaking out of the state to Abuja over a purported ruling of the Court of Appeal, on a pre-election case filed against Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi by a former Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Chief Ayogu Eze.
The rumour turned out to be true when there was none of the officials within sight in the state. They had all travelled to Abuja for the purpose of the case.
The pre-election suit, which queried the process that led to the emergence of Ugwuanyi in the primary election of the PDP conducted on December 2014, was one among others that have bedeviled the party in the state for some time.
On November 1, 2014 the party then under the leadership of Elder David Aja held a congress where delegates for the governorship primary emerged. The list was reportedly certified by an Abuja High Court, upon which the conduct of primaries for present political office holders began.
But confusion set in along the line when another delegate list supposedly manufactured by the National Working Committee (NWC) was foisted on the Asara A. Asara-led committee for the conduct of the same primary.
The party’s governorship aspirants who were summoned to a pre-primary election meeting where the disclosure was made by the committee had queried the list and refused to submit to the primary held with the contentious list and rather submitted to the primary conducted with the November delegates’ list allegedly certified by the Abuja high court.
Although some of the governorship aspirants who filed cases in court against the development later withdrew them on personal grounds, Ayogu Eze refused to withdraw his case insisting that he “emerged the winner in the governorship primary conducted with the authentic list.” He has since not hidden his quest to be regarded as the “rightful” governorship candidate produced by the party.
The matter was the outcome of the battle for the soul of the party, especially on who produces the delegates between Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and some members of the National Assembly then, and immediate past governor, Sullivan Chime and his lineup that started prior to the 2015 elections.
While the Ekweremadu group outsmarted the Chime group and held their ward congress with the full supervision of the committee of the party from Abuja, the Chime group realising that it was no longer an easy ride reportedly opted for dialogue to enable their members participate in the electoral process.
The development, many said put paid to the aspirations of Chime for Senate after he had undergone the screening of the party. He decided to withdraw for Ekweremadu to continue and this paved way for some members of his group to be absorbed.
Although, the matter has moved from Federal High Court to Appeal Court, it however generated tensions last week in the state, when news filtered that it was billed for ruling.
The development was however compounded by the sacking of two members of the House of Representatives of the state, who allegedly benefited from the contentious delegates list by the Federal Court of Appeal, Abuja, two days earlier.
Justice Okon Abang who sacked Mr. Dennis Agbo (Igbo-eze north/Udenu Federal Constituency) and Mrs. Stella Ngwu (Igbo-etiti/Uzo-Uwani Federal Constituency) said they were not the rightful candidates produced by the PDP at the election.
The court held that they be replaced by Dr Gabriel A. Okafor (Igbo-etiti/Uzo-Uwani) and Chief Chijioke Ugwu (Igbo-eze north/Udenu), being the rightful candidates produced in the election having emerged from the congress the party held on November 1, 2014.
It would be recalled that the Federal High Court had earlier on June 10 sacked Dennis Amadi representing Udi/Ezeagu Federal Constituency and awarded his seat to Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi. The court had reasoned that Amadi was not the candidate of the PDP in the election and asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Certificate of Return to Ozomgbachi.
Amadi is currently hoping on the appeal he filed on the matter. The matter is also connected to the November 1, 2014 delegates’ list.
In the same vein, the court denied Mr. Ikechukwu Ugwuegede from representing Nsukka/ Igboeze South Federal Constituency on the ground that it was Patrick Asadu that was produced by the party. Asadu presently occupies the seat while Ugwuegede is running from one court to another seeking to invalidate the decision of the court.
These issues and the protracted pre-election appeal between former Chime and Chief Alex Obiechina that resonated at the Supreme Court last month have continued to put pressure on the PDP in Enugu.
For about five years when he was denied the ticket of the party and given to the former governor, Obiechina continued to ask the court to pronounce on the matter in the interest of justice, peace and stability of the PDP.
Like the pre-election cases of 2015, he claimed that he won the governorship primary held on January 9, 2011, which reportedly was the date fixed by the party for the process. However, three days after, on January 12, another primary was held at Okpara Square where Chime won.
To Obiechina, who believes that the delay in adjudicating on the matter was one of the low points of the nation’s judiciary, the PDP was wrong in awarding Chime its ticket following the hurried congress, stressing that until the matter was solved, it would continue to unsettle the party.
Although PDP has remained dominant in the state, one thing that the cases in courts among others have caused is that many of those affected and their supporters have stayed away from the activities of the party in the state. Again, a serious gulf has developed in the party since the court ruling, which sacked some of the lawmakers, despite Ugwuanyi’s effort to bring them together.
Some aggrieved members have continued to accuse the national leadership of the party and members described as “greedy and insatiable” of responsible for the crisis in the state.
A stalwart of the party, who did not want his identity disclosed told The Guardian that the “way things are in the party, it is doubtful if the PDP in Enugu can triumph in the 2019 elections with the level of acrimony we are witnessing over these unsettled cases.”
He said: “We were here when some of our party leaders like Jim Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani, Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, Barth Nnaji and many others left the party for the APC; that development to me is something that has dealt a big blow on the PDP and it has its root from the contentions within. Anyhow the issue may be looked upon, what I think is that the PDP has not done its work well especially in the state.
“We have not behaved as if we are a family which we preach, otherwise, how can a matter affecting the party and filed by a member of the party refuse to leave the corridors of the court in five years? I think there is a need to look inwards and ask questions on what has happened to the party and when the question is answered, it will help us move further.”
He however noted that the disposition of governor Ugwuanyi, especially in carrying everybody along in the distribution of amenities if sustained could become the turning point for improved fortunes for the party.
Speaking on the implication of the litigations in the party, especially with the outcome of the 2015 general elections, immediate past Publicity Secretary of the party, Dr Okey Eze, said such was not new to politics.
According to him, “Litigations will always come in any election even the one conducted in your home. Somebody must feel very aggrieved that he/her has been denied one way or the other. Somebody must feel that he can get what he or she is looking for through the justice system and such would not mean that a party is in crisis.
“As far as Enugu PDP is concerned, we have left a very strong party that will always win elections in the state. It is a party that has controlled the state executive, house of Assembly as well as local governments. It is a party that has produced members of the National Assembly. If the litigations you are talking about are from within, then we will worry less, but all I can say is that, there is no amount of litigation that can diminish the fortunes of the party in the state.”