BY VINCENT UJUMADU
THE primaries of the various political parties have come and gone, but the ripples generated by the exercise in most states are yet to fade.
As it stands, there are fears that some people currently parading the certificates of return of their political parties might actually not smell the offices they are aspiring, even if they eventually win the election in 2019.
The reason for this is due to the rancorous primaries that took place in most states, in which many party officials, after milking the aspirants and assuring them of tickets, disappointed them when it mattered most. Without exception, all the major political parties in the South East geopolitical zone had issues with their primaries.
APGA – Many people who participated in the APGA primaries for the state and national assembly seats are grumbling, particularly those who did not succeed. For the three senatorial zones, the most rancorous is Anambra South where Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, Ifeanyi Ubah and Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu fought for the ticket. Despite earlier assurances that Ojukwu’s widow would get the ticket, she lost and her supporters are threatening to work against the party during the main election. Ifeanyi Ubah was even disqualified by the screening committee and so, did not participate at the primary. For disqualifying him, he had vowed to work against APGA in Nnewi, even as there were indications that he had picked the ticket of one of the small parties to enable him play the spoiler’s game.
For the 11 House of Representatives seats and the 30 House of Assembly seats, the horse trading was so pronounced that many aspirants are complaining that they were ripped off by the leadership of the party. For instance, some of the aspirants complained to Saturday Vanguard that following assurances that they would be given tickets for their constituencies, they borrowed money to massage the ego of some party leaders, only to be disappointed in the long run.
In some federal constituencies, aspirants were allegedly asked to cough out as much as N100 million if they wanted automatic ticket, but only few could meet that condition. Even some of them who paid the money were still disappointed at last. The issue of money made the party leadership to jettison the existing zoning arrangement in some constituencies as the ticket went to the highest bidder. By Thursday, it was complaints galore in many constituencies, with some aspirants claiming that they spent more than N50 million without participating in proper primary.
The House of Assembly race was even more tortuous for the aspirants. For instance, there was so much rancor in Anambra East local government, which is Governor Willie Obiano’s constituency, such that APGA members in the areas have vowed to vote against the candidate favoured by the governor.
At a meeting attended by local government and ward officials of the party at Otuocha, the stakeholders decided to send a powerful delegation from all the communities in the constituency to the governor to find out why he was insisting on the reelection of the lawmaker representing the area, Mr. Obianna Emenaka, for the third time, when there was a standing agreement that the position would be rotating among the communities every four years. According to the stakeholders, the said lawmaker had even not been a loyal member of APGA, adding that since his first election in 2011, he had not empowered any member of the party in the area, even when his assistance was sought.
The stakeholders said: “The governor is to blame for what is happening in Anambra East constituency because Honorable Emenaka would not have got the ticket without the support of the governor. But since the governor insisted on imposing Emenaka on us, we will support somebody from another political party and vote for him during the 2019 election. The governor therefore has to choose between the success of APGA in Anambra East and Obianna Emenaka.
“We are aware that Emenaka was not screened by the screening committee and anybody not screened ought not to have got the party’s ticket and since the governor decided to give him the ticket , we should not be blamed for any action we might decide to take.”
Elsewhere in Idemili South constituency, seven House of Assembly aspirants and other stakeholders protested against what they described as imposition of a candidate on them.
Among the protesters was Governor Obiano’s Senior Special Assistant on Youth Mobilization, Mr. Tony-Uche Ezekwelu, who had planned to return to the House after her was removed by the court in the previous House. According to the protesters, the election that brought up the declared candidate, Fabian Ezenwune was inconclusive and wondered why he should be announced winner of the election.
Although the Political Adviser to the governor, Chief Ifeatu Obiokoye assured them that their matter would be looked into, Ezenwune’s name had since been forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
What perhaps annoyed the aspirants most in Anambra State was that their fellow aspirant (names withheld) was the person determining the fate of others because of his closeness to the leadership of APGA.
APC – The situation in Anambra APC was even more worrisome as most of the aspirants were kept in the dark during the party’s primary. Although the panel expected to conduct the exercise did not come to the state on the scheduled date, winners were announced for the three senatorial zones, with Senator Andy Uba, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife and Mrs. Margery Okadigbo as the candidates for Anambra South, Anambra Central and Anambra North respectively.
One of the aspirants, Sir Azuka Okwuosa said APC members and delegates did not see any sensitive materials to be used for the conduct the primary, neither were the venues where the primary would take place at the various wards, made known.
Okwuosa, who vied for the Anambra South ticket with Senator Andy Uba, said there was no iota of truth that he withdrew from the race as claimed by supporters of his opponent.
Just like in APGA, stakeholders of APC in Anambra South insisted on zoning the senatorial seat and reinforced their earlier decision to rotate the senatorial position among the areas in every zone. They also questioned the loyalty of the incumbent senator representing the zone, Senator Andy Uba, to APC, describing him as former President Obasanjo’s right hand man, who is working against the interest of President Muhammadu Buhari. They argued that the zoning principle, which was adopted in sharing political positions in the old Anambra State, was still in practice and would be enforced to the letter during the 2019 election.
According to them, the old Aguata block had taken its turn to represent the zone in the senate for twelve years consecutively, adding that it would be proper for the old Nnewi zone, which includes Ihiala and Ekwusigo, to take its turn from 2019.
Chief Innocent Anumba, a second republic politician, said some elders of the state from the zone, including late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former governor of the state, Senator Onyeabo Obi, former senator for the zone and so many others, took that decision for equity and justice in the senatorial zone.
When the aspirants learnt that some names had already been forwarded to INEC as candidates of APC from Anambra State, they embarked on a peaceful protest to the INEC office in Awka, although they were not allowed into the premises and had to depart after making some noise.
APGA – No fewer than 18 persons aspired to pick the ticket for the governorship, but at the end of the exercise, Chief Ifeanyi Ararume was declared winner, while most of the other aspirants cried foul. One of them, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, who was former governor of the state, had already joined another political party to pursue his ambition of returning to the Imo Government House.
Imo APC – The battle for the governorship ticket is still raging between Governor Rochas Okorocha, who wants to install his son in law, Uche Nwosu by all means and Senator Hope Uzodinma. Incidentally, both Nwosu and Uzodinma are from Orlu zone as Okorocha who would complete his eight years in 2019. High tech politics is on in Imo APC and everybody is waiting to see how the battle would end. Already, both Okorocha and Uzodinma factions of APC had conducted separate primaries, but it is left for INEC to take the final decision on the matter.
Emeka Ihedioha, former Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives picked the PDP ticket. He is from Mbaise and was largely believed to have won the 2015 election before the bandwagon effect of President Buhari was said to have influenced irregularities in the counting of votes.
APC – Senator Ayogu Eze, who contested the ticket of PDP with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in 2015, has picked the ticket of APC. Incidentally, both Ugwuanyi and Eze are from Nsukka zone and although political watchers say PDP is too solid to be dislodged in Enugu State, the entry of Senator Eze is likely to provide a fierce contest in the state, particularly as the APC –controlled federal government would want to have a hold in the Coal City state.
In the meantime, former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani has picked the ticket of PDP for Enugu East senatorial zone to return to the senate where he stayed for four years after leaving office as governor.
Primary in Abia APGA was a tough battle between Dr. Alex Otti and Chief Udensi. Both held parallel primaries, but it appeared the national leadership of APGA was in favour of Otti. For the APC, Chief Ogar and Chief Ikechi Emenike fought for the ticket, but Ogar had the upper hand in the battle.