The Ebonyi State local government election which took place on August 29, 2020, in the 13 local gov-ernment areas and 171 wards across the State may have come and gone but the political intrigues, power play, and tension are still fresh in the minds of those who won and lost.
Having served out their three-year tenures as executive chairmen on May 29, 2020, an election was supposed to held to ensure the seats are not vacant. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state governor in exercising his constitutional power appointed caretaker committees into the local govern-ment areas pending when it was safe for the conduct of elections.
The local government election in the state was earlier scheduled to hold on August 15 but the Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission, (EBSIEC) few days to the election, announced the post-ponement of the election to August 29, 2020.
The chairman of the commission, Barr. Josy Eze who made the announcement while in a meeting with various political parties at Onwe road Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital explained that the reason for shifting the election was as a result of a court order, which restrained the commission from holding the election on the earlier scheduled date.
One of the political parties had gone to court to ask for a window of opportunity to enable them to participate and conduct her own primary election. The commission was served a court order from the state High court restraining her from going ahead to conduct the local government election as earlier scheduled. The Commission had informed the political parties during the briefing that they swore to an oath to abide by the law of the land.
According to Barr Eze; “It is the position of the commission to carry all political parties along. Today we have deemed it necessary to invite you once more and announce to you certain decisions that have to do with the 2020 local government election in Ebonyi state April 20, 2020. Some people asked us whether we are going to give room for fresh primaries and other activities?
“The commission was served a court order from the state high court restraining the commission in the interim from going on to conduct the local government election without and until the commission has issued a revised timetable that will give another opportunity to the claimant in that suit or the party to partake and opportune to have their party primaries conducted. As a powerful commission, We took an oath to abide by the law of the land. We have to obey the court order from a competent court.
“One of the parties have gone to court to ask for a window of opportunity to participate and conduct their own party primaries,” he said.
But the All Progressives Congress (APC) shortly after the briefing by the electoral umpire announced that the party would not participate in the Ebonyi local government election. The state party chairman, Pastor Eze Nwachukwu, said that the decision to boycott the election was irrevocable. According to him, the decision not to participate in the election is due to the improper constitution of the electoral commission and alleged non-compliance with due process in the amended Electoral Law 001.
He said that the party would not hesitate to institute criminal action against anyone that used the par-ty’s name and logo for the election adding that the party had communicated the decision to the Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission, EBSIEC, the police, and other security agencies.
“We wish to reiterate the position of our great party not to participate in the forthcoming Ebonyi Local Government Election slated for April 22. “For the avoidance of doubt, we are not participating in the election, where the Chief Electoral Officer and other members of the commission are allegedly card-carrying members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
”We are not in the race and have not as a political party fielded any candidate for any position in the forthcoming polls. This decision is from the national secretariat of the party,” he said.
But while some political watchers believe that the action of the party was meant to put the validity of the election to test, others believe that the decision to boycott the election was not in the best interest of that party as the party would have used the election to test it’s strength in the state ahead of the 2023 general election.
A political analyst, Barr. Uchenna Emeribe noted that in the last local government election in the state, the APC gave the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a run for their money especially in Ikwo Local Government Area of the state.
Mr. Emeribe opined that having produced a member of the House of Representatives for Ikwo/Ezza South Federal House of Representatives, the local government election would have been a veritable tool to mobilise, engineer, and prepare the minds of the APC supporters in the local government area.
The political analysts noted that the party may have shot themselves on the leg by not participating in the election.
According to him; “to the best of my knowledge and following the political trend in the state, the elec-tion would have been a litmus test for the APC to ascertain the level of its acceptability in the state. They might not run to win following the political trend in the country in which the local government election is conducted by the state’s electoral body that is constituted by the State government.
“With the vigorous campaign of the PDP especially in Ikwo Local Government Area and the visit of the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party PDP Prince Uche Secondus, the PDP in the state seems to have kickstart it’s grassroots Mobilization and sensitization ahead of the 2023 general elec-tions. The party during the campaigns also wooed some members of the APC to its side and should that continue and with the vigor, the party carried its campaign especially in Ikwo Local Government Area, there might be a big crack within the stronghold of the opposition party”.
Not disturbed by the boycott of the major opposition party in the election, chairman of EBSIEC Barr Eze said that he would not join issues with the APC but would rather speak in the court. “I can’t join issues with the APC on the issue of my membership of PDP and as director of the Divine Mandate Campaign Organisation” Eze said.
Confronted with the allegation that the passage of amended state electoral law did not follow due process, Hon Victor Aleke, Ebonyi State House of Assembly Committee chairman on EBSIEC, denied the allegations adding that the bill passed through the normal legislative processes before it was as-sented to by the governor.
The chairman of the Commission went ahead to announced the lifting of ban on campaign activities by the various participating political parties. He announced that thirteen political parties with their acro-nyms as AA, AAC, ADC, ADP, APGA APP, BP, LP, LLPP PDP, PRP, and ZLP would participate in the Elec-tion.
“We have fixed a new date for our local government election and other activities. We are revising the timetable of the election to hold on a new date. Therefore, by the power conferred to the commission, it announces a new date for the 2020 LG election, to hold on Saturday 29th August 2020.
The election which was conducted amidst tight security on the 29th of August 2020 witnessed the overall win of the People’s Democratic Party PDP in the 13 local government areas and 171 wards in the state.
Announcing the result, the EBSIEC chairman and chief returning officer for the local government elec-tion, Mr Jossy Eze said that the commission has ratified the result of the election conducted in 171 wards in the state and PDP once again won the whole seats.
He commended the candidates for their courage to stand election and congratulated them on their victory at the polls, urging them to extend their hand of fellowship to their political opponents.
According to him, the success of the election was the movement of sensitive and non-sensitive materi-als needed for the Election early to enable eligible voters to cast their votes with strict compliance with COVID-19 protocol.
The elections might have ended but the intrigues it is generating are just beginning. The election ac-cording to pundits has set the atmosphere ahead of the 2023 general elections in the state is gradually gathering momentum in the state with the different zone laying claims to the governorship seat of the state.
There seem to be uncertainties on the zone that would have the governorship seat since the three senatorial zones had all had their turns to produce the governor. First, it was Dr. Sam Egwu of the PDP from Ohaukwu in Ebonyi North Senatorial zone who handed over to Chief Martin Elechi from Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi Central. By 2023 the incumbent Governor Chief David Umahi would be completing his 8 years in office.
However, political analysts in the state argue that though there is no written agreement on the zoning formula, it would be right for power to move to Ebonyi North again while others who do not believe in the zoning formula are calling for the support of any credible and competent candidate from any of the political parties.
While in PDP, there has been power play among the major contenders, though they are still keeping it secret, the APC is yet to show any sign of interest ahead of the general election.
The major political stalwarts in the opposition party, minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbon-naya Onu, Chairman Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, Chief Elias Mbam, Chief Austin Edeze, Dr. Paul Okorie, Chief Edward Nkwagu among others seems to been so quiet since the party lost all political position to the PDP in 2019.
Political analysts believe that it is time for the APC to strategies, reconcile aggrieved party members, and set agenda for the party for 2023 but all that seems not to be happening giving credence to the claim by the PDP that there is no opposition party in Ebonyi State. Some political watchers believe that the effect of the 2019 failure is still taking its turn on the party faithful who felt disappointed by the way the party is preparing towards the electioneering process.
Still, while it is not certain who the likely candidate of the APC would be, analysts argue that whoever the party would present would have his hand full in convincing the people of the state for an alterna-tive following the infrastructural development that has taken place in the state in the last five years.
No doubt, the present administration has so much transformed that state that major stalwarts of APC gave him a pass mark.
Just recently, Chief Chaka Nweze and Hon Chinwuba Agwu both political stakeholders of the APC ap-plauded the transformation agenda of the state governor and acknowledged that indeed the state has been transformed from a backward state to one of the fastest-growing state in the country.
They commended the road networks that crisscrossed the length and breadth of the state adding that APC must shop for a credible candidate that would convince the people for the party to make any headway in 2023.
It is expected that stakeholders and stalwarts of the APC should do more by coming back home to reach out to the people than staying in Abuja and believing that magic would happen in 2023.