NNAMDI MBAWIKE, captures the upsets surrounding the party primaries in Enugu State
The predictions of a high-stakes political battle ahead of the 2019 election, appear to have been corroborated as the outcome of the recent National Assembly Primaries conducted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) separately sprang up surprises in some areas.
In the just concluded primaries conducted by the PDP in the State, a member representing Enugu East in the Senate, Senator Gilbert Nnaji lost to a former governor of the state and founder of the Ebeano political dynasty, Dr Chimaraoke Nnamani.
In the same vein, Hon Chime Oji, a cousin to the immediate past governor, Sullivan Chime representing Enugu North and South Federal Constituency in the National Assembly lost to a former House of Assembly Member, Offor Chukwuegbo.
Surprisingly, the member presently representing Nkanu East and West Federal Constituency, Dr Chukwuemeka Ujam in the National Assembly again lost to Nnoli Nnaji.
The primaries conducted by the APC for National Assembly also sprung up surprises in some areas following the alleged defeat of some founding loyalists of the party by relatively new faces.
However, for those who have been following the political atmosphere of Enugu east senatorial zone, the defeat of Prince Gilbert Nnaji was not viewed as a shocker.
Recall that in 2015, but for the timely intervention of security operatives in the State , social and economic activities would have been grounded to a halt following series of protests that erupted shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Sen. Nnaji the winner of the then March 28, senatorial elections against the popular choice.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that no thousands of aggrieved supporters of Nnamani, who contested then under the platform of the People for Democratic Change(PDC) barricaded the streets of Enugu metropolis and also besieged the Enugu State office of INEC to register their grievances.
Frayed nerves were however calmed when perceived cheated Nnamani on the second day of the protest appeared at the scene. Stunch supporters of the former governor and close followers of the exercise believed that the election was mired in controversies, and that the exercise was allegedly manipulated in favour of Nnaji.
In an open letter to the then Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, the PDC urged the electoral body to probe the complicity of its officials in the malpractices. Many believed that the election was manipulated in Isi-Uzo, Nkanu East and Umuenenwe in Iji-Nike ward, Enugu East LGA.
Nnamani’s supporters and party agents in those areas alleged then that INEC presiding officers refused to display the original result sheets to party polling agents before the commencement of voting as prescribed by the INEC electoral guideline.
Moreover, they alleged that ballot stuffing, refusal of INEC presiding officers to issue duly signed result sheets to party agents, and deliberate delay of counting of votes and collation of results into the night to facilitate the doctoring of results marred the election.
Therefore, it did not come to many as a surprise when Senator Nnamani, who ended speculation on the platform he would use to continue to pursue his political career when he joined the PDP, was announced the
winner of the last Enugu West Senatorial Zone PDP Primaries.
Apart from the fact that Nnamani has remained a grassroots mobiliser and has continued to maintain his political structure, political pundits believe that Nnaji, who has served as Local Government chairman, House of representatives member, and two term senator has taken enough share of the office and should therefore be relieved.
As regards the duo of Chukwuemeka Ujam and Chime Oji, close followers of political happenings in Nkanu East and West and Enugu North and South Federal constituencies believe that the perceived disconnect between them and their people might have played a key role in their defeat.
More so, some believe that they both failed to meet the expectation of people of the zone that sent them to the National Assembly since they were elected hence the need to give chance to others.
In the primaries conducted by the PDP in Igbo Eze South/ Nsukka Federal Constituency, in Enugu State, Dr. Pat. Asadu faced serious opposition but he later clinched the PDP ticket.
Those opposing his return had argued that having spent 16 unbroken years without reported tangible achievements for the people of Igbo Eze South/ Nsukka Federal Constituency, in Enugu State hence the need for him to bow out honourably.
After their meeting at Ibagwa-Aka, headquarters of Igbo – Eze South Local Government Area before the primaries, the Igbo-Eze South Stakeholders Forum in a resolution claimed that if given opportunity
again to return to the National Assembly, the member of the House of Representatives, would be staying 20 unproductive years in the Parliament.
Another Senatorial Primary that evoked surprise and has continued to generate mixed reactions is the one conducted by the APC for Enugu West Senatorial Zone. The director general of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, contested for ticket of the party but to the surprise of many, an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Juliet Ibekaku Nwagwu , was declared winner of the primary.
Protesting against the announced result, Okechukwu in a petition said he had approached the APC primary election appeal panel to “recover his stolen mandate.”
He accused the Enugu State primary election panel, led by Moses Momoh, of “complicity” in the “allocation” of results to Ibekaku-Nwagwu. In the petition entitled, ‘Protest over allocation of votes to Mrs Juliet Ibekaku Nwagwu in Enugu West Senatorial District Primary Election,’ Okechukwu claimed that he got over 15,000 votes.
He said his fear, as one of the founding members of the APC ,particularly in the State is that in the general election, Mrs Ibekaku-Nwagwu lacks the gravitas to win Senator Ekweremadu.
“Earlier before the primary election, news filtered in that Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the incumbent, has vowed that he will make sure that Osita Okechukwu is stopped from making the list. “His reason is that he needs a weaker APC candidate, who will not enjoy the massive support I have among ordinary party members and the general public.
This played out when a large segment of the senator’s supporters jubilated over her (Ibekaku-Nwagwu’s) alleged victory,” Okechukwu added.
Shockingly, aside Osita Okechukwu, many other aspirants who seemed prepared for the National Assembly tickets and had sacrificed immensely for the party in the past could not clinch tickets, a development that many said would seriously affect the chances of APC in the 2019 election for positions in the National Assembly.
Now that the primaries of the two major political parties have come and gone, the question on the lips of many is, will 2019 Senatorial Election replicate another round of surprise? No doubt, posterity will be in a vantage position to answer the question.
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