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PDP’s crowded field of aspirants threatening peace in Enugu

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
24 April 2022   |   2:46 am
There are concerns over the growing aspirations by members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu state ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Ike Ekweremadu

There are concerns over the growing aspirations by members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu state ahead of the 2023 general elections.

The concerns stem from the seeming desperation that has accompanied the aspirations of the party men.

Currently, there are only 35 political offices open for contest in the 2023 general elections in Enugu State. These include a governorship seat, three senatorial seats, seven House of Representatives seats and 24 House of Assembly seats.

As of the last count, however, no fewer than 100 people have picked forms in the party alone to vie for the offices. And there are strong indications that with the extension in the date of the sale of form, more members would join the race in the coming weeks.

Findings by The Guardian show that none of the 35 offices up for contest in the coming election is being contested by a single individual in the PDP. When this number is added to those expected to come from other political parties, observers say it suggests that the jostle for political positions in Enugu in 2023 would be intense.

Though contenders in the All Progressives Congress (APC) are yet to kick-start open politicking, the game of wits has started in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) were many aspirants have started picking forms for various positions.

For the PDP, however, no fewer than 20 aspirants have purchased the party’s governorship nomination and expression of interest forms, with the list made up of those you could call serious contenders and pretenders. Those who have purchased their form so far include former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; former Minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji; former senator, Gilbert Nnaji; House of Reps member, Prince Ofor Chukwuegbo; ex-Commissioner for Environment, Chijioke Edoga; Dr Josef Ken Onoh; Mr Godwin Ogenyi; Beloved Dan Anike; Erasmus Anike; Everest Nnaji; GOC Ajah; Peter Mba; Kingsley Ude; Ralph Nwoye; Abraham Nneji; Chinyeaka Ohaa; Prof Jehu Onyekwere; Prof Hilary Edoga, Edward Ubosi and Nwabueze Ugwu.

Curiously, except Ekweremadu, every other person on the list is from Enugu East senatorial zone, apparently in conformity with the notion in the party that the next governor would come from the zone.

Ekweremadu has insisted that there is no subsisting zoning arrangement in the state and that power should go to his Enugu West senatorial zone as the least favoured in the power equation. He has on his side several members of the party who have bought into his argument.

But close watchers of events in the state believe that the number of interests from the Enugu east zone might be a sufficient indication of the direction the governorship pendulum would swing at the end of the day, despite the alleged silence of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

Ugwuanyi is said to be resisting entreaties to make him pronounce the zone that could produce his successor. But sources contend that the governor has since made up his mind on his possible replacement and is secretly working to enthrone the candidate.

While the governorship interests have continued to elicit reactions, interests in other elective positions in the PDP in the state are also numerous. And this development has been raising posers about the true intentions of aspirants.

Currently, it is common to find people clutching different elective forms of the party and making a show of it on the Facebook and WhatsApp platforms. The governor has also remained mute on this development just as there have been wide allegations that he bankrolled the purchase of forms for some aspirants for the various positions.

In the meantime, the growing interests in political offices within the party rank and how the party would remain united in spite of the contentions has put its leadership in the state on its toes. In addition, the insistence by party faithful who have held offices for long, to continue in their positions in 2023 is also said to be unsettling the party and the state in general.

Although most of those concerned are busy perfecting their comeback plans, several areas in the state where positions have been shared on a turn-by-turn basis, are not ready to accept anything less. One of such political areas in Ezeagu local council, in an open letter to the leadership of the party recently, insisted that it was yet to have a shot at the House of Assembly seat among the five other communities making up the area.

It is the same tale for the House of Representatives seat for Oji River/Awgu/Aninri constituency, which is said to have been held for about 12 years by Awgu; the House of Reps seat for Nsukka/Igboeze south is said to have been held by Igboeze south for 16 years as well as some state urban constituency seats, being demanded by non-indigenes who have lived in those places for a long time.

The non-indigenes now mounting pressure on the leadership of the party in the state believe that they should be given the opportunity to represent the urban constituencies in the State Assembly since the rural constituencies are reserved for indigenes, saying it was a way to promote a sense of belonging and enhance democratic practices.

A party source told The Guardian last week that, “this level of aspiration has not happened before. It is like there is no other business people in the PDP Enugu state can do other than politics. Everybody wants to buy a form and it does not matter whether it suits the party or not. I have a feeling that in our usual way, it will be discussed at a round table.”

Only last weekend, hints of the desperation that might have been imported into the political battle in the state by members of the party began to manifest. Some members that attended the local council meetings had left with sordid tales after some paid political thugs invaded the venues of the event. It was gathered that weapons were freely used by the thugs who threw chairs and bottles as members, including women, scaled the walls in an effort to escape to safety with many injured in the process.

The Guardian learned that the meeting held at Nsukka had gone midway when the member, representing Nsukka/ Igboeze south federal constituency, Pat Asadu walked in and an attempt to address the members created a crisis. Asadu had purchased forms to return to the Reps for the fifth time. His introduction in the meeting was received with mixed feelings, especially from those opposed to his return bid and the crisis that ensued ended the meeting abruptly.

When the dust settled, many had either been rushed to the hospital to obtain treatment for their injuries or taken home to be nursed by their loved ones. Of the time of filing this report, the blame game among the leadership of the party in the area over the ugly incident had not ceased.

The situation was the same in Aninri local council. Chinedu Okwu, the member representing Aninri State Constituency in the House of Assembly and many others sustained injuries at the hands of political thugs who invaded the meeting. It was learnt that the crisis broke out from two factions of the party working on different purposes ahead of the coming elections. Freely, they used chairs, bottles and other dangerous objects to inflict injuries on one another.

Governor Ugwuanyi had, however, waded into the Aninri incident two days after and reconciled the aggrieved members. Whether the terms of their agreement are sustainable remains to be seen when the meeting reconvenes next.

Last Saturday night, a House of Assembly aspirant of the party for Enugu south rural, Ogbe Akaolisa allegedly escaped assassination as gunmen reportedly shot at him in the Amaechi community. He was said to be returning from one of his consultations in the area when the gunmen, who apparently had been on his trail, opened fire on him.

Akaolisa escaped with injuries and is currently recuperating in one of the hospitals in the state. The development has, however, elicited worries with many querying the motive behind the attack even when the party was yet to conduct its primary and conclude the sale of nomination forms.

A statement from his political support group stated that “the aspirant’s only sin is that he has expressed interest in vying for and representing his people, Enugu south rural in the Enugu State House of Assembly.

“Ever since picking the PDP form, he has embarked on consultations and courtesy visits to political stakeholders and wards of his people where he shone like a star, expending his personal resources on projects without having the backing of nor strong ties to any political godfather.”

His supporters have called on security agencies to probe the attempt on his life with a view to bringing to book those behind the act, assuring that, “Akaolisa will not be cowed into abandoning the quest to lead his people in the State House of Assembly in 2023. It is a project we are committed to and we will not shirk.”

Speaking on the aspirations and the rising violence, a chieftain of the party, Chief Johnson Ugwuagu said: “I think it is a good development that our members are bracing up to the occasion by expressing their various desires, but we don’t need to kill each other to get there. The beauty of politics is in the platform we have. I know that having the ticket of the PDP is as good as winning the election. It should not however be enough reason for people to resort to violence to achieve it. The umbrella is large enough that those who do not win today can win tomorrow. So, I entreat all to play to the rules so as to continue to put the party on the winning streak,” he said.

Ugwuagu expressed the belief that the PDP would overcome current “travails and still retain the state in 2023,” stressing that the peace and security, that the Ugwuanyi administration had achieved over the years would continue to speak for the party.

He further said that the plethora of aspirations underscores the popularity and acceptance of the party in the state. “This is hugely complimented by the leadership qualities of Ugwuanyi in the provision of amenities that have a direct impact on our people,” he said. 

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