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UNHOLY ENDORSEMENT OF CANDIDATES MAY TEAR PDP APART

UNHOLY ENDORSEMENT OF CANDIDATES MAY TEAR PDP APART

Barely one month to the ruling People’s Democratic Party(PDP) governorship primary, the controversy that trailed the endorsement of Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi representing Igboeze North and Udenu Federal constituency in the  National Assembly as consensus candidate for the Enugu State governorship in next year’s general election has not abated.

More worrisome is the fact that some aspirants who are not from the Enugu North Senatorial District  where the party zoned the governorship to are also jostling for the job.  It is no longer news that Engr. Anayo Onwuegbu is also in the race, a sign that the choice of Ugwuanyi may not have gone down well with some people. Onwuegbu, who hails from Oji-River in Enugu West Senatorial District contested for the governorship in 2011 election and lost to the incumbent Governor Sullivan Chime during the party primary.

The choice of Ugwuanyi, Chairman House Committee on Marine Transport in Federal  House of Representatives, who did not indicate interest publicly to run for the position prior to his endorsement, does not only elicit resentment across the state but it  may even generate crisis that would tear the party into two.

Former national Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, was quoted as saying that stakeholders and leaders from Nsukka Senatorial Zone of the state prevailed on most of the governorship aspirants to step down for a   three term member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ugwuanyi, to become the  zone’s consensus candidate for the 2015 election because of the determination of the zone to produce the next governor of the state and in order to reduce rancor  and bitterness amongst interested parties and ensure smooth transition of the party.

Aspirants who were present at the meeting were Senator Ayogu Eze, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Eugene Odo; State chairman of the party, Engr.  Vita Abba, Former Deputy Governor of the State, Chief Okechukwu Itanyi, Hon. Pat Asadu;  Amb. Fidel Ayogu, Director General, State Housing Development, Chief Ikeje Asogwa,  Prof. Osita Ogbu; Prince Matthew Agu; Hon. Chinedu Onu and Prof. Simon Ortuanya.

In his own reaction, the presidential aide on National Assembly, Hon Chijioke Edeoga who hailed the endorsement, said the process of Ugwuanyi’s emergence followed a clear path.

He said, “Everybody in the caucus said that Ifeanyi was a good choice.  The fact that the stakeholders in the party had expressed a preference does not stop the PDP primary from going on as scheduled.  Any aspirant, who wants to buy a form, is welcome.  What the zonal caucuses have done is advisory.

“The governor facilitated a situation that would help to discern, to find out where the minds of most of the stakeholders are. The view of the most of the stakeholders will approximate the views of most of the voters.  This is so because the stakeholders are also leaders of most of the voters.

“So if you  bring about 70 of major stakeholders -ex governors, senators, Members of House of Representatives etc and say please let’s decide  together, let’s not generate any acrimony among ourselves, how do we arrive at the person who you want to be our next governor.  That was what governor did.  And things began to evolve.”

Edeoga, who joined Enugu politics in 1989, noted that if Ugwuanyi has not done anything and if he has not touched the lives of his constituents, how come in an unscheduled meeting of 70 leaders of men who have grown above lucre from his zone he emerged a clear preference?

“The people who endorsed him are not pushovers; they are not hungry people.  They include Dr. Okesilieze Nwodo, General Eze, Senators, serving members of the  House of Reps, former ambassadors, a matriarch like  Justina  Eze; seventy great men. He was the best these people chose.  It means there is something about him that has placed him above others,” a former House of Representatives member said.

However, it could be recalled also that after the endorsement by the Nsukka caucus, the Enugu East caucus had their own similar endorsement.

But to register their opposition on the choice of a consensus candidate, some prominent members of the PDP caucus in the state allegedly boycotted a meeting held  few weeks ago to register their disapproval of what they described as the “brazen attempt by one man and a  few people around him to impose an unpopular candidate on the party.” They accused Chime of   being behind the selection of Ugwuanyi.

Among  the prominent party stalwarts, who did not attend the meeting are the  Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo, Senator Fidelis Okoro, Rear Admiral Allison Madueke, Engr. Onwuegbu, former Information Minister, Frank Nweke, former Power Minister, Prof. Barth Nnaji, former Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon Dubem Onyia, Senator Ayogu Eze, former Senate President,  Senator Ken Nnamani, who was out of the  country the day the meeting held, among many other prominent members of the caucus.

AMEN SuperNews gathered that some of the leaders said they would not offer themselves as willing tools for the simple reason of rubber stamping a handpicked candidate of governor’s choice.  Some of them, it was leant, said they could not be fooled by the governor, who alienated himself from the people, for the better part of eight years.

It was equally gathered that those who stayed away from the said meeting were unhappy when they learnt that the first meeting where Ugwuanyi was picked did not give room for those who had contrary view to air it.

One of the PDP leaders from the state was quoted as saying that “some of those who attended the meeting said they were surprised by the haste with which the meeting was conducted and the fact that not a single person was allowed to make  a comment at the meeting, save the motion moved and  seconded by people appointed to do so by the governor himself.”

Meanwhile some of the party elders who boycotted the said Saturday meeting said there was no way they would have attended the meeting when the national body of the party had come out to declare such endorsement by the state chapter of the party illegal and of no effect.

According to one of them, “there is no way I would have joined them to flout the instruction and guideline of the party.  The PDP constitution is superior to any individual in the party, no matter how highly placed.”

But ever since the adoption of Ugwuanyi as a consensus candidate, Senator Ayogu Eze has refused to accept such an endorsement.

Meanwhile some of the aspirants were said to have expressed their deep resentment with what they called a Kangaroo arrangement.

Senator Eze remains the only formidable dissenting voice as others who equally raised abjection in the said meeting appeared to have also chickened out, perhaps because they are scared of losing out entirely in 2015 election.

Eze, who refused to be intimidated by both the governor and some party leaders called a press conference, where he insisted that he was still the candidate to beat for Enugu Government House 2015.

He said, “I have been inundated by calls and personal visits by my supporters who have expressed worry and  outrage  at newspaper report purporting that a  consensus candidate has been anointed for Enugu State 2015 governorship election.  My supporters are particularly worried by the aspect of the story claiming that I have stepped down for the said anointed candidate.  I wish to state clearly and unambiguously that I have and will not step down for any anointed candidate.  I am still squarely in the race for the Enugu Lion Building in the year of our Lord 2015.”

The senate committee chairman on works added: “It is their inalienable right to choose a consensus candidate in the same manner that to my supporters and well wishers I am also consensus candidate.  I look forward to all the consensus candidates of the various interest groups meeting in the field at the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship primaries on November 29, 2014 to test which of the various consensus bloc is numerically stronger.

“Democracy is about elections and the will of the people. Those elements of democracy will be put to test when we arrive to the field for the primaries.  I will gladly accept the outcome of the primaries and go the extra mile to work for the party with resources and whatever it will take to give opponents of the PDP a run for their money. Let me state categorically that my respect for the governor and leader of PDP in Enugu state is not diminished in any way by this development. My loyalty to the party is  unalloyed.”

Eze did not stop at that. Few days after he addressed the press, his campaign organization raised an alarm over the alleged attempt by the Enugu PDP to intimidate its governorship candidate out of the race.

In a statement signed by its Legal Adviser Kingsley Onyeke, the organization disclosed that the party has descended on its candidate for mustering up the courage to reject an attempt to impose a predetermined candidate ahead of governorship primaries.  The statement said; “It has come to our attention that party officials at the local government  and ward levels are being coerced to sign prepared texts which were  shipped down from Enugu alleging that they  support the contrived  consensus candidate of the party.”

But in its reaction, Enugu State PDP however described the allegation as unfounded and mischievous, while warning Senator Eze to stop blackmailing the party.

The chairman of the party in Enugu North Senatorial District, Chief Mike Ejinima, in a statement said Eze should stop weeping up sentiments to realize his governorship aspiration.

While stating that the zone’s  unanimous endorsement of Ugwuanyi as its consensus  candidate had not closed its doors against any  aspirant whose position is contrary to the party’s decision, Ejirima  reminded Eze of the grave  consequences of all his actions against the  interest  of the party in the state. He advised senator Eze and his team to be guided by “our common belief in the supremacy of the party and desist from further acts that could undermine the peace that exists in the party both at the zonal and states level.”

However, the party hierarchy had recently frowned at the undue imposition of candidate on the members.  In a statement issued by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Olise Metuh, PDP expressed a serious frown of disapproval at the incessant gale of endorsements of aspirants by some stakeholders in their states. Metuh stated categorically that it is only the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party that has the sole constitutional right to endorse a candidate contesting under its umbrella.

He said: “the NWC has noted the activities of some persons and groups supporting some aspirants for the 2015 general election at the state level. Whilst the party cannot stop individuals, groups or communities from endorsing persons of their choice, the national leadership wishes to restate in the strongest possible terms that elected party officials at the state, local government and ward levels must remain as un-biased umpires in the nomination process.  For the avoidance of doubt only the NEC, as an organ of the party, can officially endorse a candidate under the PDP constitution.  All party officials at all levels are expected to be guided by this.”

Endorsement, no doubt, is part and parcel of democracy, anywhere in the world, but it becomes undemocratic or unholy when it is done to exclude other aspirants in a political contest.

The party in what seems like double standard has after endorsing President Goodluck Jonathan as its candidate for 2015, asked the state chapters of the party to stop endorsing any of the aspirants for the party’s ticket, thereby creating crises with the party.

Obviously, the crisis PDP wanted to avoid by giving its presidential ticket to President Jonathan may not succeed this time.

Recently, the PDP issued a statement banning state chapters of the party from endorsing aspirants vying for the party’s tickets to contest elective positions in 2015 election.

AMEN SuperNews  gathered that the national secretariat of the party issued the directive following the way by which the state chapters of the party were busy given certain prominent members of the PDP the tickets of the party to avoid risking the challenge that might come from other strong members of the party.

The national secretariat aware that the state governors whom the directive was targeted at would challenge it for endorsing president Jonathan, instead of allowing an open primary, went ahead to say that the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP, its national caucus, governors’ Forum, women’s wing, National Working Committee (NWC) as well as the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party were unanimous in adopting President Jonathan because he has performed creditably well.

The party went ahead to say that the endorsement is taking after the American model where incumbents are not challenged over the ticket of the ruling party hence the signal that others with similar ambitions are not wanted.

Meanwhile before convening the PDP NEC, which formally adopted the endorsement as the decision of the entire party, a lot was said to have taken place to ensure that other prominent members of the party who wanted a return ticket would be accommodated.

Some leaders of the party who were seeking the party nomination to re-contest the position they are currently occupying, were said to have succeeded in getting an assurance of the president to secure the endorsement of the party in their respective states and constituencies.

It was also gathered that those who were said to have demanded for extension of their tenure include the first term governors who wanted automatic ticket, second term governors who are interested in going to the senate as well as ensure they have a say in who succeeds them.

But shortly after party’s NEC made its decision known, several endorsements followed at different levels as many of the first term governors were endorsed as automatic flag bearers of the party, while governors who were seeking to go to the senate were also endorsed for the position.

A PDP stalwart who does not want his name in print told AMEN Supernews that the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Mua’zu had to act fast as it was beginning  to appear like there was not going to be primaries  at all levels of the  party as all candidates were looking for  automatic endorsement.

The problem, however, lies where the interest of the incumbents clash with that of other prominent stakeholders seeking the same seats like in Enugu State where the deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu and Chime are at each other’s throat..

Some governors and Principal officers of the National Assembly like senate president David Mark, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and Senate Leader, Ndoma Egba who were part of the decision to endorse President Jonathan are also involved in the crisis surrounding endorsements and are working round the clock to wriggle themselves  out of it.

Though the PDP in Benue State has endorsed Mark but the fact that he has been there since 1999 is really enough challenge and his opponents are said to be uncomfortable with such development.

Mark, who is being challenged for the ticket of the party by a former Federal permanent secretary does not want to pass through the rigours of bitter rivalry and long drawn litigation and may have asked for the same goodwill extended to Jonathan at the national level when the state chairman of the party, Chief Agbo Emmanuel endorsed him as the party’s candidate.

Agbo, has stated at a gathering called by elders in the zone C Constituency of the state that he was endorsing Mark because of his performance as senator, adding though he is not supposed to take sides as state chairman of the party but that he has to overreach himself in that instance in order to facilitate the return of Mark who he said has performed well in the senate.

But in the case of Ekweremadu, he has a big challenge.  As he warms up to re-contest the Enugu West Senatorial District Seat, Governor Chime  who will be completing  his second term in office in May 29,  2015, has made it clear that he is also running for the senate.

The governor has moved ahead of him to get the endorsement of the state chapter of the party, a situation which spells doom for the aspiration of the deputy senate President to return to the senate.

The tussle between Chime and Ekweremadu has been on for so long.  With the control of the party machinery in Enugu, it would take the intervention of a higher authority to stop the governor from picking the party ticket.

According to sources, Ekweremadu has met with both President Jonathan and the National Chairman of the party to intervene on the matter and prevail on Chime to drop his senatorial ambition.

It was learnt that Chime and Ekweremadu had been invited for a meeting by both President Jonathan and Muazu but the governor who could not shift his ground insisted he was going to Senate.

The tussle between the Deputy Senate President and the Governor may eventually tear the party into two in the state as those who refused to accept the endorsement of Ugwuanyi are perceived as those who are in Ekweremadu’s camp.

However, some of the governors are said to have seen the action of the national leadership of the party not to allow an extension of the endorsement to their levels as a  breach of contract and  are threatening to fight back thereby asking for the review of the one extended to the president.

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