Sunday, 26th March 2023
Breaking News:

Enugu council poll, the day after

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
09 November 2017   |   3:50 am
It is not an exaggeration that money played a significant part in the election. Those versed in election had indicated that money began to change hands before the primaries last month.

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

The outcome of last Saturday’s local council poll in Enugu State, which showed a landslide victory for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), may have followed a national trajectory of ruling parties clearing all seats in elections conducted by incumbents but it also showed insincerity on the part of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to show commitment to the process.

Many factors were responsible for the outcome of last Saturday local government election in Enugu State, including chiefly the incumbency of the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the general conduct of the exercise by the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC), the role of money in the process, and blackmail or coercion of those that wield influence and power.

The results declared by the ENSIEC have turned to shreds, the prediction of a close race or at worst, a marginal victory for the candidates of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Bookmakers had indeed tipped opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to make an inroad for the first time into Enugu with the election, following the elaborate campaigns the party undertook and the array of political juggernauts that joined it from the PDP. All that turned into mere dreams when the ENSIEC announced the results of the exercise, which gave landslide victory to the PDP.

According to the ENSIEC chairman, Chief Mike Ajogwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), PDP won the entire 17 council chairmanship seats as well as the 260 councillorship posts.

APC and a few other political parties started crying foul even before the announcement of the results alleging deliberate plot to frustrate their supporters and candidates before the election proper and that the plot manifested fully on Saturday when the poll held.

Many who had visited their polling units to perform their civic responsibility could not do so due to the late arrival of voting materials. In several cases, the materials were brought without result sheets. Those who believed that voting in an election where result sheets were absent was mere waste of time refused to vote and returned home. In some places like Igboeze South and Oji River, such development triggered a free for all that left many serious injuries on supporters of political parties.

While the news spread around midday that several places had neither received voting materials nor had access to the result sheets, Ajogwu blamed the development on the Police and Electoral Officers, assigned to various units. He had, after due consultation with his commissioners, extended voting time by one hour which according to him, was to make up for the late arrival of materials.

Incumbency Factor
While candidates of other political parties were literally scratching their heads over campaign finances, those of the PDP escaped the scourge. This was apparent in their campaign posters and billboards, which dotted the nooks and crannies of the state. In most cases, such posters and billboards were adorned with the photographs of Ugwuanyi, as if he was the one running the election.

However, it should not be forgotten that Ugwuanyi and a few stakeholders in the PDP serving in government were the nominators, sponsors and financiers of the candidates, majority of whom transmuted from being care taker committee chairmen, a position they held for two years, to local government chairmanship candidates.

To ensure they emerged and that several other ambitions in the PDP were buried, the governor approved the printing and sale of 17 nomination forms handed over to each of the approved candidates. This did not only deny the party revenues that ordinarily should have accrued from the sale of forms, it ensured that only those wanted by the few in the party got the ticket.

A source stated that only a miracle could have denied the PDP total victory in the election going by the level of resources devoted to it, mobilization and the part played by ENSIEC, whose membership was constituted by the incumbent government.

Ugwuanyi had personally led the campaigns and all his appointees, including over 500 Executive Assistants and Special Assistants scattered in the communities, were given the marching order to deliver their wards and local governments. So to them, whatever could be done to ensure this should be desirable.

Money and APC’s insincerity
Opposition sources said the ENSIEC was used to actualize the desire of the state government and ensure that only those from the plank of the PDP won the election as justification for their membership of the commission and funds released to prosecute the process.

State Chairman of APC, Ben Nwoye, while justifying the extent to which the commission was allegedly compromised, referred to the screening and disqualification of candidates of opposition political parties against those of the ruling party.

He stated that the commission went ahead to disqualify candidates for alleged inability to present tax clearance certificates even when it knew that the law establishing the commission and that of conducting council election did not give it powers to do so.

To him, the development was enough distraction in that “when candidates of the PDP were out there, campaigning, we were at ENSIEC arguing over the powers of the commission to accept and reject candidates. Now they released these candidates less than three days to the election and refused to display list of candidates in the election.”

It is not an exaggeration that money played a significant part in the election. Those versed in election had indicated that money began to change hands before the primaries last month.

A source said told The Guardian, “To gain the acceptance of the stakeholders, the godfathers who nominated the candidates did so by greasing their palms and in certain cases, made compromises to the success of their wishes. I must tell you that staggering amounts were spent to bend the wishes of certain persons.”

It was alleged that while the candidates of the PDP were making financial donations and gift items to the various wards they visited, those of the APC were banking on their goodwill and the self-defeatist tendency that “in the change era, you don’t need to induce a voter to get his support.” Thus while the PDP which flagged off its campaigns earlier were moving into the grassroots, the APC barely toured the council headquarters and disconnected itself from the people.

State Women leader of the APC, Queen Nwankwo, lent credence to this when she attributed the performance of the party to the “poor leadership” of the state executive led by Ben Nwoye. According to her, “leadership failure in the state APC was the cause of the problems in the state,” alleging that, there was “a disconnect between the leadership and the grassroots. The women leader and youth leader, Ikechukwu Oloto, who had mobilized before the election, were methodically left out, leaving the two major organs of mobilization porous, hence the poor performance.”

Beyond the observation of Nwankwo was the insincerity of purpose of the members of the party, especially the “big wigs” which it snatched from the PDP earlier in the year when it held its registration for new members.

These members include former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former governors Jim Nwobodo, Sullivan Chime, former Speaker Eugene Odoh, former Military administrator, Joe Orji, business moguls Baywood Ibeh, Samuel Onyishi and many others.

However, excerpt Chime, Odoh and Ibeh, others never for one day campaigned or attended the rally of the APC held for the local government election anywhere in the state. They avoided the party like a plaque.

On the day the APC was campaigning in Awgu local government, Nwobodo stayed back in his house to join his people to receive Ugwuanyi who was on PDP campaign at Awkunanaw–Amechi, where he commended the style of leadership of the governor. He has also not denied the allegation of nominating the PDP councilor that won the election in his ward.

Nnamani on the other hand, nominated the PDP chairmanship candidate for Enugu South council that won the election against his own APC candidate. In his Amechi uwani ward 2 where he lost election in 2015 to the APGA, he nominated Nnamani Jonathan Chukwudi for councillorship seat that the candidate also lost to the PDP’s candidate. He was nowhere near Amechi on the day of the election.

It was Sullivan Chime who told the National Chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun at Oji River during the conclusion of the party’s campaigns that the problem APC faced in Enugu was the insincerity of its members, saying that “they will shout APC in the morning and shout PDP in the night with the same mouth.”

Nonetheless, Ben Nwoye has said that the APC would contest the outcome of the election at the tribunal when it is set up. He insisted that what happened on November 4 was a charade and desperation to control power at all cost and enjoined residents to reject it.

However, while the APC is gathering its arsenal to challenge the election in the law court, a coalition of 37 political parties led by the state chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr John Nwobodo met and endorsed the outcome, saying it met all required international best practice of an election.

But in a swift reaction, State Chairman of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), dismissed the endorsement as a “ruse”, alleging that the political parties involved never produced any candidate in the election. He challenged them to produce evidence where voting took place with result sheets in the election, accusing them of betraying the confidence of those they lead in the state.

It was gathered that each of the 37 political parties that signed the statement endorsing the election received twenty thousand naira (N20,000) to do so, a development that is now causing ripples among members of the group as majority of them are crying wolf of being used by alleged government officials to achieve a purpose.

However, a PDP stalwart, Nwodo Humphrey, a lawyer, insisted that the outcries over the election were unnecessary as, according to him, “Governor Ugwuanyi has done so well to deserve victory in any competitive exercise in the state. The masses love him and even if we conduct this election several times over, his party, the PDP will emerge victorious.”

It would be recalled that before the election, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations hailed ENSIEC over its level of preparedness for the exercise. The group under the auspices of Network of Civil Society Organisations was in Enugu to observe the polls.

Leader of the group, Comrade Kalu Victor, at a pre-election press briefing, alongside leaders of other civil society groups, said the team had so far observed that ENSIEC was resolute, transparent and committed to conducting a free and fair poll in the state.

“The actions and conducts of ENSIEC, to the best of our knowledge, are so far guided by the State Electoral Laws. We gathered that after due consultations and considerations with relevant stakeholders, especially political parties, with respect to the State Electoral Laws, ENSIEC released the timetable for the election, in which 4th November, 2017 was announced and set aside for the election to be held.