…what happened was a celebrated fraud

...election was transparently conducted – Ebonyi APC Chair

By Peter Okutu, Abakaliki

An All Progressives Congress, APC Gubernatorial aspirant in Ebonyi State, Sen. Julius Ali Ucha, Thursday rejected the Party’s gubernatorial primary election in the State.

The primary election saw the emergence of the Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Hon Francis Nwifuru, as candidate of the party, in the 2023 general elections.

According to the aspirant, what took place at the Pa Ngele Oruta Township Stadium could be described as a celebrated fraud, calling on the leadership of the party to annul it.

His Agent, Mr Iziriga Raymond, who spoke to Vanguard in Abakaliki, said his boss will never be part of an exercise that was riddled with irregularities.

He said, “My name is Iziriga Raymond, am the Sen Julius Ucha’s agent in today’s Governorship primaries of the Ebonyi State APC.

“I’m not satisfied with the process. The primaries held at PA Ngele Oruta Township Stadium Abakaliki, started very well. I mean it was orderly. They began with Abakaliki Local Government Area and everything was smooth until the government officials started manipulating the entire process.

“The delegates were on queue and all of a sudden I saw one Austin Umahi, the younger brother to Governor David Umahi and another person, I think he was an agent to Mrs Rosemary Ofoke Nwogbaga, going from delegate to delegate telling them who to vote for. When I asked, Austin said it was monitoring and I told him this was beyond monitoring.

“Since, I was no longer comfortable with the entire process, I called my Oga (that’s Senator Julius Ali Ucha) to alert him of the situation. I told him that what was happening vwae not what we proposed for. He now came and approached the Chairman of the Electoral Committee, Prof Adebayo. And everything appeared to be orderly again.

“All of a sudden, Umahi’s younger brother (Austin) called one woman from Afikpo and asked him to tell the Chairman of the Electoral Committee to call all delegates from the 13 LGAs out to cast their votes at once. This was the height of it. I shouted and told them that this not how it used to be and that it has never happened in Nigeria. He told me that that is how they want to do it. Then, I told him I won’t be part of it.

“I called my Oga again and he met Austin Umahi, but when he saw there was no heeding to his complaint, he approached the governor, who asked me to explain what happened to him. I told the governor that we won’t welcome. He then said we should go if we don’t welcome it.

“At a time, my boss wanted to address the press, one Commissioner told him he could not talk to the press there. Then, we left.

“I call on the NWC of the party to cancel the primaries. It was fraught with irregularities and we can’t take it. This shows that the government is unpopular and can’t win election in the state. They should have allowed the process to go on without tampering.”

On his part, Sen. Ucha said he was perturbed that the said primary election, which according to him, was fraught with anti-democratic tendencies, took place under the watch of a sitting Governor’.

He said, “While, when I got to the Stadium, I saw 13 boxes-that means one per local government. This infact, was the beginning of the infraction, because that means the full government apparatus were there to witness the process.

“But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that after the Abakaliki Local Government Area, the entire process changed and brought about what my Agent just complained about, a situation where people were now monitoring to know whether delegates were writing the names of aspirants they wanted them to write and drop inside the boxes.

“My Agent raised these observations and came and complained to me. I went to the leader of the Electoral Commission and INEC and said it was not proper; I further complained to the Commissioner of Police in the state and he agreed it was not proper. That was observed..

“But after about 10 minutes, I saw some government officials moving from one local government to another educating them and all of a sudden all the delegates from all the 13 LGAs started trooping out. The entire place became rowdy and you see these government officials writing names of aspirants for the delegates and I observed that you had about 50 to 60 delegates clustered on a ballot box , while the government officials wrote names of aspirants for them.

“I went and complained again. But Austin Umahi was just talking and vibrating. I told him is not how to organise an election. I told him this thing should be done orderly and should appear to have elements democratisation. And what surprised me was that these were happening under the watch of a sitting governor.”

He added, “All of us are from this state and people should be given the opportunity to exercise their franchise. The Electoral Committee was just helpless, because these things happened in their very eyes. So, it is worrisome. O saw government officials writing names of aspirants for delegates.

“Discouraged and sad, I approached the press stand to express my misgivings. The Honourable for Information looked at me and said I can’t talk to the press. I moved to where the governor was seated and told him this wasn’t good, that assuming we were truly your children, would you be sitting watch these things happened. I saw the former governor, Chief Martin Elechi and expressed my worries and said you people are folding your hands and watch the whole world collapsing on your head.

“I told them this is not democracy. What I did was in protest and then I left the stadium, because what was going on was not electoral process.

“This is fraud. Such an election cannot be said to be genuine. It is a celebrated irregularity and I urge the party leadership not to accept it. But if the party decides otherwise, then the party is supreme. My appeal is that the entire process should be annulled.”

In his reaction, the State Chairman of the Party, Chief Stanley Okoro-Emegha, denied the allegation as baseless and unfounded.

According to him, the likes of Ucha had never been happy with the so many progresses recorded by the party in Ebonyi State, under the noble watch of Governor David Umahi. He said he was surprised that Ucha’s allegation came even when the primary election took place transparently on a level playing field, in the glaring eyes of appropriate authorities and party faithful.

He said, “We have had the likes of Ucha, even when we were still in the PDP. There is nothing you do, that will make them happy or meet their standard.

“This is the most transparent election ever conducted. The INEC witnessed it. The Electoral Committee members were here on ground. The Police and every other security agencies were here. Agents of aspirants were here. And my State Working Committee members were all here. No single government official helped any delegate wrote his or her preferred aspirant’s name for him or her. Ucha’s allegation is baseless and unfounded.”

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