Ebonyi 2023: Odi’s uneasy walk to victory
The just concluded political party primaries across Nigeria may have come and gone but their reverberations have continued to impact on the landscape. The case of Ebonyi State PDP was no less rancorous and tension-soaked. What heightened the anxiety was the sudden changes drastically stopping the statutory delegates from voting. Only the 3-man adhoc delegates were authorized to vote at the exercise nation-wide. And the development shattered the political permutations of many aspirants.
As the build-up to the exercise drew nearer, aspirants struggled to gain upper hand in the composition of the Delegates list. Dates for the State Congress kept changing just as the fixing of the Primary Elections suffered multiple postponements. All these added to the already tensed situation. The administrative haphazardness associated with party politics in Nigeria compounded the whole situation.
In Ebonyi state, about 14 aspirants jostled for the Guber ticket in the PDP. Nine of the aspirants came from Ebonyi North Senatorial District, four from Ebonyi Central and just one aspirant, Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odi hailed from Ebonyi South district.
Front-runners from the North included Dr. Sylvester Ogbaga, Engr. Fide Nwankwo, Dr. Eze Immanuel Eze, Chief Austin Igwe Edeze, Dr. Andrew Sunday Opoke and Prof. Adaeze Nwuzor. In the Central, Sen. Obinna Ogba, Hon. Anayo Edwin, Sen. Igwe Nwagu and Hon. Chris Usulor vied for the slot.
The State PDP Congress held on 7th May elected 3-man delegates from the 171 wards in the state. Then on the 28 and 29 of May, the NWC slated and organized the Primaries for House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and Governorship positions. Curiously, however the NWC purportedly announced the cancellation of the primaries after it had been successfully organised conclusively. A powerful interest group not comfortable with the emergence of Dr. Odi as the Guber candidate in the first exercise peddled their influence and stampeded the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to order fresh primaries.
Following this development, the struggle became protracted and very intriguing. The second exercise, which was organised on 4th and 5th of June 2022, was marred by the absence of INEC officials. It was the statutory duty of the electoral body to monitor the exercise, which it did during the first primaries of June 28 and 29, 2022.
On the 7th of June, a Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki nullified the second primaries and upheld the first one, which produced Odi as the authentic PDP Guber candidate. Odi scored 349 votes to be elected, while Chris Usulor scored 9 votes. Others were: Sylvester Ogbaga- 8 votes, Dr. Andrew Sunday Opoke- 6 votes, Dr Eze Immanuel Eze- one vote, Sen. Paulinus Igwe Nwagu- one vote etc.
But the battle is yet to end. Sen. Obinna Ogba, boasting of his connections in the higher echelons of the party and the backing of the former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, continued to parade himself as the candidate of the PDP in the state, in apparent disobedience of the court order. Arguments relating to zoning come up here and there to undermine Odi’s victory but even Ogba himself is not favoured by such insinuations as he comes from Ebonyi Central and not Ebonyi North where the slot ought to have gone to, if the zoning were to be followed sequentially.
However, it had been made clear from the onset that since all the three Senatorial districts had tasted the Guber position, the second round of the zoning process could start from anywhere. Many pundits had wondered why the party, which has now given the Certificate of Return to Dr. Odi, initially gave out the Certificate to Ogba even when the Federal High Court had nullified Ogba’s election at the second primaries, which was not monitored by INEC?
People had asked whether the PDP National body was disobeying the order of a Court of competent jurisdiction? Or could it be that the Dr Iyorchia Ayu-led NWC can afford to act with such impunity on a matter that is too clear and unambiguous?
The PDP would have no other person to blame if they had continued to dilly-dally on this issue. The danger is that what happened in Zamfara state or even Rivers State) where the APC could not file names of their candidates for the 2019 elections could have befallen Ebonyi PDP. The PDP leadership should always respect the wishes of the Ebonyi members of the party, who elected Dr. Odi and respect the rules of the game including the rule of law instead of pandering to the whims and caprices of the godfathers in Ebonyi PDP. Pride and ego could have destroyed the chances of PDP in Ebonyi, but for the swift rethink by the PDP National Secretariat, which did the needful to save the situation. The report by INEC, which favours Dr. Odi and the subsisting court order, which endorsed the first primaries should have provided enough bases for the party to give Dr. Odi his Certificate of Returns without pandering to the wishes of the party godfather.
Though a new entrant into the politics of the state, Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odi is a stellar business icon, accomplished social enterpreneur and renowned philanthropist.
A graduate of Business Administration from the National Open University of Nigeria, Odi is a self-made man who has made his mark as a highly decorated business tycoon.
He presides over 24 operational companies including Ultimus Holdings, which in 2021 was one of the recipients of the Next Bull Award. His areas of business include Medical Technology Services, Chemicals Production and distribution, oil and gas, Construction/Real Estate and Industries.
The 45-year-old business leader is a graduate of the Lagos Business School. He is a Member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University and the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. In 2021, he was conferred with an honorary Doctorate degree in Strategic Business Management and Corporate Governance and the Honour of Fellowship in Humanitarian Leadership (FHL) by the European-American University in the Republic of Panama.
His companies are in business trading alliances with big time conglomerates such as NASCO, UNILEVER, Guinness, NESTLE and HENKEL. Odi is also an Ambassador of the United Nations and the Organisation of All Military Sports. He hosted all the Service Chiefs of 25 African countries in Lagos in 2021.
In Ebonyi State, his philanthropic gestures have impacted on the lives of the people in the 13 LGAs of the state. He had over 2000 students on his scholarship scheme and has built about 150 houses for indigent citizens in the rural communities. He has said that his goal is to transform Ebonyi state from an agrarian state to the industrial hub of the East. He believes in manpower development and wealth creation as the basis for the ultimate development of the young state.
Emereoko writes from Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.