By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA – Palpable tension has gripped traders at the new auto spare parts market, Nkpor in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, following the sudden cancellation of the election of new executive members of the market association before the commencement of the election proper.
The cancellation of the election was announced during the accreditation stage, by the President of Anambra State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association, ASMATA, Chief Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu.
Although Ekwegbalu declined to address the press shortly after he stopped the election and hurriedly left the venue, Chairman of the electoral committee, Ifeanyi Ibekwe who addressed the traders, disclosed that Ekwegbalu told him that the reason for the sudden stoppage of the election was because the incumbent executive of the market, led by Nze Elysius Umeozokwere who is seeking re-election for a second term in office, went and brought soldiers into the venue.
Ibekwe alleged that at a stage, some of the thugs who accompanied Ekwegbalu to the venue wearing apron with inscriptions ASMATA Task Force even slapped him without giving him reason for the dirty slap.
Also addressing the traders, Nze Umeozokwere said Ekwegbalu called him on phone few days ago and told him to hands off the security aspect during the election because it is ASMATA which is the supervising principal that will provide security on the day of the election but he (Umeozokwere) refused on the ground that it is the responsibility of the chairman of the market leadership to secure the market both before and during the election, as directed by the state government.
Umeozokwere stated that on arrival to the market premises for the election, Ekwegbalu directed him to ask the military personnel to leave the venue but he refused and instead ask Ekwegbalu to do that by himself and consequently, Ekwegbalu chose to cancel the election.
He also accused Ekwugbalu of importing so many thugs which even outnumbered all the security personnel put together, including the police, DSS, Civil Defence, the Army, adding that he could not have allowed those thugs wearing the ASMATA Task Force apron to come into the election venue and disrupt the exercise.
As at the time of filing this report, Ekwegbalu told newsmen on phone that he was in a meeting and as such could not talk to press, except later in the evening.
Efforts to get in touch with Umeozokwere’s rival, Obiorah Ofoleh who few days ago at a declaration rally organized inside the market by Ezenwanwe, his running mate, boasted that he and his line-up were going to defeat Umeozokwere and his own line-up and stop his second term bid because he did not achieve much in terms of market development for the last four years he mounted the saddle, except painting the front gates of the market and displaying flags of some foreign countries.
Ofoleh lamented that other sister markets executive like New Tyre market, Building materials market, Nkpor main market, Old motor spare parts market among others had recorded remarkable achievements during their tenures such as building of new market extensions, purchasing of lands.
The trio of Chijioke Ezenwanwe, Ofoleh’s running mate; Jude Nwagu and J. C. Nwobodo, stakeholders in the market who spoke at a declaration rally organized by Ezenwanwe, few days to the election, insisted that they needed a change at all cost because Umeozokwere’s leadership looked autocratic and did not carry the members along.
Efforts to reach the state Commissioner for Commerce, Trade and Wealth Creation, Uchenna Okafor (a.k.a Wiper) on phone to ascertain the next line of action, whether the election would hold in few days time or caretaker committee constituted or Umeozokwere to continue in office till further notice, proved abortive.