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Poll Shift In Southeast: Respite For Some, Nightmare For Others



• Extended Electioneering Throws Up More Issues 

REGARDLESS of the mixed reactions that trailed the adjustment of timelines for the 2015 general election, the shift has proved a welcome development.

     Not a few commentators agree that things would have gone awry had the nation held onto the dates and rushed into the tensed election. The postponement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has provided not only a reliving vista to the divisive campaigns but also given stakeholders the opportunity to review strategies, refocus attention and assess progress so far. In the South east geopolitical zone, the poll shift provides great respite for the states to entrench positions or re-examine choices.

OHANAEZE NDIGBO: Tenure Palaver Versus Endorsement Brouhaha 

IT is possible that Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo, more than any other group in South East, made most use of the poll shift to douse public suspicion that it was procured to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid. More over, the lingering dispute over the correct term limit of the current executive committee led by Chief Gary Igariwey, received elaborate attention.

    Following concerns and interventions from well-heeled members of socio-cultural groupings, including Ndigbo Lagos, Aka Ikenga, Igbo Delegates’ Assembly and the Council of Traditional Rulers, it was established that the wrangling over duration of tenure was politically motivated, thereby giving the Igariwey team the much needed breather to serve Igbo people. Leaders of Igbo World Assembly (IWA), the umbrella body of the Diaspora Apex organisation, also weighed in. 

     In a statement signed by Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze (USA) and Chief Oliver Nwankwor (Netherlands) Chairman and Secretary General respectively, IWA regretted that Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, who was once highly respected by Ndigbo for being an activist of Zikist Movement and the ‘last politician in that era still standing,’ has taken a turn for the worst. IWA recalled how it had a frank discussion with the first republic minister in December 2014 during which it was agreed that all the issues he presented should be shelved until April 2015. 

   “It was also agreed that the Diaspora Igbo leaders will, in the meantime, set up a Diaspora Reparation Committee to work with you to actualise the goal of the Reparation Committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo of which you (Chief Mbazulike Amaechi) was officially appointed the Chairman and not Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Elders Council,” IWA stated. 

   The Diaspora Ohanaeze leaders noted that Amechi not only reneged on the agreement made with IWA, but also went ahead to deceive and misinform the public. Consequently, IWA declared that Amaechi and his protégé, Chief Ralph Obioha, are not leaders of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and as such do not represent or speak on behalf of the Igbo nation. “Ndigbo did not elect Mbazulike Amaechi and Chief Ralph Obioha; their aim is to destabilise our Igbo nation for personal financial gains. We will not allow them to have their way and cause confusion for the rest of Ndigbo,” IWA added, stressing that the tenure of the current Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo executive is four years. “The new four-year tenure was approved in a documented constitutional amendment for all executives going forward. It is a settled matter. Chief Mbazulike Amaechi does not have the right or authority to form a 23-member Caretaker Committee to run Ohanaeze Ndigbo affairs. Chief Mbazulike Amechi and Chief Ralph Obioha should be seriously sanctioned for trying to introduce disunity and confusion in Igboland”. IWA regretted Ohanaeze’s delay in endorsing President Jonathan saying that the delay gave room for evil men to raise innuendoes.

   Buoyed by that show of solidarity, President General of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Chief Igariwey, addressed a press conference where he convincingly denied that Ohanaeze received N5 billion or any form of inducement as gratification to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan for the rescheduled presidential election. While stressing that the allegation of receiving a bribe from the presidency was baseless, Igariwey maintained that the interest of Nd’Igbo would be more protected if President Jonathan were reelected.    He declared that only Jonathan out of the other presidential candidates would implement the report of the national conference, which he said supported, among other things, the creation of states. 

   Igariwey further explained that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Jonathan, holds the promise of addressing the issue of imbalance in Nigeria’s political structure. Tasking Nd’Igbo on the need for vigilance, the Ohanaeze President General said: “I have to be sincere with you, if Jonathan wins, there is likely going to be trouble and if Buhari wins, there is also likely going to be problem. So, what we should pray to God for now is for Him to save us from this dangerous situation.” He dismissed the crisis over duration of his tenure stressing that there was no friction whatsoever, except that “some individuals who felt they were not getting enough money from us began to create trouble”. Hid words: “What is happening in Ohanaeze is purely money; certain persons want to negotiate on behalf of Ndigbo for 2015 general elections not necessarily for Igbo interest but solely for their selfish interest.”  He added that those parading themselves as members of the Caretaker Committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by first Republic Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi are “impersonators,” insisting that “the tenure of the present executives would last till January 2017”.

ENUGU: Deepening Signs For Unity

THERE are indications that had the election held as earlier scheduled, the bubbly relationship between Governor Sullivan Chime and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) governorship candidate, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, would have snapped. While supporters of Ugwuanyi allege that Chime was busy cornering positions for his relations and cronies, as well as starving the campaign of funds, Chime’s supporters claim that Ugwuanyi’s people were being too secretive and keeping planning and organisation to themselves. 

   Perhaps on account of the extended timeline for the election or effectiveness of the rapprochement in the state chapter of PDP, Chime has joined the campaign train marketing Ugwuanyi with gusto. The governor was upbeat at a campaign rally in Nsukka zone, where he told the people that PDP remains the only viable political party that would guarantee sustenance of democracy dividends in Nigeria. He stressed that, regardless of the change in the dates for the election, PDP will win at both the state and national levels. 

   A further sign of unity in Enugu PDP emerged when the party campaigned in Enugu East Senatorial zone. Former President of Senate, Ken Nnamani and former Governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo, canvassed for votes for the party’s candidates. Nnamani taunted defectors who he called fifth columnists that work for PDP in the daytime and consort with opposition at night. Tasking party faithful on vigilance, the former President of Senate enjoined them not to relent until victory is achieved. He discovered that PDP faithful that left the party and those working against the party from within could spoil things for the party if not checked.   

   Senator Nwobodo noted that PDP had no opposition in the State even as promised that the governorship candidate, Ugwuanyi, would continue with the good works of Governor Chime. If any doubts existed that there was still subdued rift between Chime and Ugwuanyi, such reservations were dispelled when the campaign train hit Enugu North Senatorial Zone.

        Kinsmen of the rival claimant of the PDP governorship ticket, Senator Ayogu Eze, had distanced themselves from his ambition and declared support for Ugwuanyi. As such, when Chime and other party faithful arrived at Nsukka, the cultural zone was united in their support for the PDP candidate. In that disposition and in appreciation of his government’s support to them, the people of Nsukka cultural zone decided to name the Nsukka Township Stadium after Governor Sullivan Chime.

EBONYI: Anyim, Elechi’s Face-off Boiling Over

THE shift in poll dates is proving a nightmare for the people of Ebonyi State. For while the postponement proved a source of respite for others, the state is going through new tensions caused by the escalation of the supremacy battle between Secretary to Government of Federation, (SGF) Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and Governor Martin Elechi. Both powerful men are embroiled in a political fight over who becomes godfather to the next governor of the state. 

   Though the SGF did not push through his preferred candidate for the governorship ticket of PDP, he cashed in on the rejection of Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu’s endorsement to side with Elechi’s estranged deputy governor, Chief David Umahi. Anyim is said to have been holding secret grudges against Elechi, who he accused of sidelining him in the running of the party in the state. 

   The issue of who succeeds the governor in 2015, sources said, provided the SGF the golden opportunity to square up with Elechi. The governor had, while making consultations over his succession plan, thrown up three prospective candidates, including former Deputy Governor, Prof. Chigozie Nkwo Ogbu, immediate past Health Minister, Prof. Chukwu and Chief Umahi. The incumbent governor had predicated his decision to have his successor come from Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone on fairness and equity pointing out that he made that point clear when he discussed the matter with President Jonathan in 2013. However, when he threw up the three prospective candidates to stakeholders, the governor was informed that since Ohaozara zone, from which Prof. Ogbu and Umahi hail have produced a governor in Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu of old Abia State, it was fair to have his successor come from Afikpo. 

    Sources close to the governor disclosed that Elechi was also told that since Ogbu served as deputy governor for eight years and Umahi serving eight years cumulatively in elected capacity as state chairman of PDP and deputy governor, the odds favour Afikpo, which had served only one term as deputy governor, to produce a governor. It was based on these considerations as well as other issues regarding Umahi’s human relationship quotient, the sources added, that informed Elechi’s decision to settle for Prof. Chukwu. 

   But Umahi, whom the Governor had all along been empowering and grooming for the governorship, swore not to have any such reasoning. Ferrying his complaints around to prominent leaders of the party, Umahi got a more than willing ally in Anyim. And the fight ensued.

   As Umahi combined with the SGF to snatch the PDP structure from Elechi, the governor’s loyalists denounced the conspiracy and moved out of PDP to the Labour Party (LP). Through a combination of popular indignation against PDP’s injustice to their governor and the growing anti-PDP sentiment sweeping across the South East, it did not take long for political momentum to swing in favour of LP in Ebonyi such that had the election held as planned, the party would have received the shock of its life. 

   The postponement therefore provided the warring parties with ample opportunity to up its games. Using the Economic and financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as attack dog, the ruling party pounced on Elechi’s loyalists, his cabinet members and the local government system. The local government joint account was sealed while some commissioners were made to undertake frequent trips to the EFCC’s den. Top of that, the members of the state House of Assembly loyal to Umahi and the SGF, renewed their plan to impeach the governor and pave way for the SGF to have the last laugh. But espying an unhealthy treatment to their governor, some Ebonyians under the aegis of Ebonyi Patriotic Coalition, (EPC) called the attention of President Jonathan to the degenerating political situation in the state.    

   In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Dr. George Elebe Nwankwo, Ebonyi Patriots Coalition noted with pain that the state has witnessed unusual belligerence before the election stressing that the use of operatives of EFCC to destabilise the state government, adds a dangerous dimension to the already charged situation. The group recalled how EFCC had in a recent publication sounded a note of warning to politicians to desist from trying to use the commission as a tool for political warfare, explaining that some frivolous petitions on which some operatives of the commission were working on are obviously precipitated by the political power struggle in the state. Part of the statement read: “It is our candid view that the insistence of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) to produce the next governor of Ebonyi State is responsible for the frequent harassment and intimidation of some government functionaries in the state. In recent weeks, the EFCC has played host to officials of Ebonyi State government including council chairmen based on the instigation of very powerful persons in Abuja. We are amazed that despite President Goodluck Jonathan’s avowals that he would not use EFCC or any federal agencies to witch hunt political rivals, the reverse is happening in Ebonyi State”.

It was also gathered that the SGF approached members of the PDP caucus with a plea to consent to the immediate impeachment of Governor Elechi. A highly placed source within the presidency confided in The Guardian that Senator Anyim told the PDP caucus that Elechi was involving himself with programmes of the opposition Labour Party, (LP). “Elechi was inadvertently absent at the meeting though he was invited, but there were some oppositions to the SGF’s letter. But President noted that the time was not right to talk about removing a state governor,” the source added. The source added that even after Mr. President made his remarks on the matter, Anyim told the gathering that it would be hard for PDP to win the election in Ebonyi with the governor’s position. Also Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Mr. Chukwuma Nwazunku, on Wednesday declared the seats of four members of the assembly loyal to Elechi vacant for defecting to Labour Party in the state. 

  The state government is fighting back against the conspiracy of silence in Abuja. Officials of the state government addressed a press conference where it alerted the nation on the cauldron in Ebonyi. At the press conference jointly addressed by the state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Dr. Ben Igwenyi and Commissioner for Commerce, who is also in charge of the Information Ministry, Dr. Ifeanyi Ikeh, the government disclosed that “there is a spate of frivolous petitions against its officials especially those in charge of finance. They said: “In the past three weeks, the State Accountant-General, Mr. Edwin Igbele; the Commissioner for Finance, Barr. Timothy Odaah and the Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Celestine Nwali; have been guests of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The allegations against them being that some Local Government funds which were legitimately spent in 2012 and 2013 were unlawfully spent. These are all lies because the documents are there to speak for themselves. Even without hearing from the above three officers, the Joint Account of the 13 Local Governments was frozen by EFCC contrary to section 34(1) of EFCC Act 2004”. “The Joint Account of Local Governments was frozen when there was no evidence of the money being proceeds of corruption. We have it from grave vine that the Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde was instructed to do what he did by the Secretary to Government of the Federation who is from Ebonyi State. As we address you now, there is another petition from the same group pending at the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) over the same frivolous allegations. We will not be surprised if there is another one pending at the IGP’s office against State Officials all aimed at destabilizing the State Government”.

ABIA: Identity Crisis versus Performance Perception

To Abia State Governor, Theodore Ahamefule Orji, the six weeks shift for the election is ample time to curtail the growing popularity of All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) in the state. Former Diamond Bank director, Dr. Alex Otti and his supporters most of whom defected from the PDP have been giving the ruling party some sleeping nights over the massive crowds that throng their rallies. At the height of the tension between the two political platforms, agents of the state government accused Otti of attending campaign rallies and driving around with fake military escorts. And long after the accusation some unidentified persons clad in military fatigue invaded the APGA governorship candidate’s home in the guise of searching for impersonators. Otti, through his campaign organization raised the alarm that an assassination attempt was planned against the APGA candidate. But despite the disputations over the identity of Otti’s security escorts and those that visited his home, the state chapter of PDP was troubled by the growing characterization of APGA as the Igbo party, a development which it blamed for the rising profile of Otti. Governor T. A. Orji, who is the chairman of South East Governors’ Forum, decided to tackle that ‘blackmail’ when a group of professionals paid a courtesy call on him. 

    The Abia State governor denounced the claims by APGA campaigners that APGA is the only Igbo party contesting the election in the state. He described the claim as a pernicious propaganda calculated to deceive Abia voters. He told his audience that if the assertion had any iota of truth in it, the number of Igbo members of PDP would not be as large as it is. “APGA is not Igbo party; if it is, it will be controlling all five Igbo states. It was only by accident that APGA won in Anambra State. The point’s man, former Governor Peter Obi, has since left APGA for PDP. All those in APGA are people who left PDP; don’t allow them to deceive you by claiming that APGA is Igbo party. PDP is a national party, which has better agenda for Ndigbo than APGA. 

   Of course, APGA adopted President Goodluck Jonathan because it has no alternative. If not, let it field its own candidate and it will fail,” the governor stated. The Abia chief executive disclosed that, contrary to the opinion of critics of his administration, the PDP government in the state has made remarkable achievements despite declining federal allocations. He said his performance would better be appreciated in view of the fact that he did not approach the capital market to raise funds like many of his counterparts who are “believed to have performed wonders.”

    Instead of lacking in vision as he is being accused, Governor Orji contended that his decision to shun the capital market was based on the resolve not to mortgage his successor or encumber him with debt servicing. “I don’t want my successor to share my ugly experience, because I inherited huge debt burden that stagnated the state’s economy from my predecessor,” he asserted. 

Imo: Dousing The Vagabond Forces

DETERMINED to avoid the possibility of cancelling each other out like vagabond forces, both the incumbent, Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, are back to the drawing board. The popular perception in Imo is that Okorocha of the APC and his PDP challenger, Ihedioha; may end up paving the way for the eventual poll victory of the Accord Party (AP) governorship candidate, Dr. Ken Ojiri, if they continue the attacks on each other. Ihedioha had, by employing verbal codes to pooh-pooh Okorocha’s governance style, describing it as simulating the confusion of a construction site. The Speaker insists that programmes initiated by Okorocha have many flaws in both conception and execution. For instance Ihedioha took Okorocha up on his signature programme, which he characterized as the so-called free education policy. Questioning the administration’s scant provision of critical facilities, tools, science equipment and staffing, the PDP flag bearer concluded that the standard of education was on a free-fall in the name of being free. The speaker disclosed that the performance level of Imo students in external examinations has dropped to 46 percent from about 80 percent when Okorocha mounted the saddle. Ihedioha added that the rot is manifest in Imo State University where he said most of the departments, have been de-accredited by the National Universities Commission, (NUC) including law owing to inadequate academic resources and staffing. Employing his trademark jocular fashion, Governor Okorocha said the PDP has been rejected full time by Imo people saying that Okpu agaghi achi Imo, (The cap, in allusion to Ihedioha’s trade mark green cap; cannot rule over Imo). 

     Okorocha, who is also Chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum, disclosed that his track record in office has proved to Imo people that corruption did not allow previous PDP administrations to develop the state. 

Imo State is blessed with very sophisticated voting population and politically aware citizens. The extension of the electioneering period would therefore provide both the electors and the candidates to assess the situation on the ground. The fact that the State is the major battleground of APC and PDP to prove penetration or dominance of the South East raises the stakes so high.

  It is hoped that when come comes to become, the Imo spirit of fairness and excellence would move and declare the winner! For now, there are large fields to cover by all.  

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