All is not well with the Nsukka Local Government chapter, Enugu State of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The discontent in the council area is as a result of the February 29 council election billed for the state. Enugu inaugurated transition committee for councils on December 4 last year when the tenure of elected council chairmen and councilors elapsed.
It was gathered that to reduce acrimony and deepen support for the party and its candidates in the process, the PDP leadership in the state resolved to print and sell only one nomination and expression of interest form for each of the 17 local government areas of the state. The idea was that the party would only sell its nomination form to any aspirant endorsed by its stakeholders in the 17 local government councils so as to prevent members and those interested in contesting offices from electoral expenses until they got the party’s approval.
At Nsukka council, where the immediate past Council Chairman, Patrick Omeje, signaled interest to recontest the position, the arrangement failed to hold as some of the aspirants raised objection to it. They preferred that all interested in the position be allowed to buy the party’s nomination form and undergo the electoral primary to determine the eventual candidate.
Attempts to placate the aspirants to accept the decision of the party failed to yield the required dividend, prompting the intervention of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. At a meeting held with the aspirants and stakeholders from the area at the Government House, Enugu, the governor was said to have preached the need for peace and unity and prayed the aspirants and their supporters to accept the decision of the party in choosing the candidate for the poll.
A mock election was therefore conducted among the aspirants by the stakeholders at the meeting, where Omeje emerged with the highest number of votes. He therefore became the unanimous choice of Nsukka PDP stakeholders for the council election.
Events, however, began to take a different dimension last week, when some of the aspirants who attempted to purchase the nomination form for the election were denied on the guise that the only form for the council area had been sold to Omeje, who was earlier endorsed. A near hell was let loose. Supporters of some of the aspirants had stormed the streets in protest against the party and the anointed candidate, insisting that anything short of making the forms available to all interested in the election was not acceptable.
Apparently to show how determined they were in the quest to right the alleged wrong, the supporters, mainly youths of the area, last Friday trooped to the streets again in protest against Omeje. This time, they bore mock coffins in which they asked that the former council boss should be stopped from re-election, alleging that his first tenure was poorly conducted.
The protesting youths, who took off from Opi, junction were said to be heading towards Orba, hometown of Governor Ugwuanyi, when they were arrested by the police and brought to the State Police Command.
Not yet done, another set of unknown arsonists returned on Friday night and set the Nsukka office of the party on fire, which gutted part of the party’s building completely, including the office of the local government’s party chairman, where documents and other vital materials were kept. PDP chairman in Nsukka, Mr. Fabian Onah, who confirmed the incident, said it was not unconnected with the council election and wondered what those behind the fire outbreak intended to achieve with it.
According to Onah, “The target was my office as everything in my office was destroyed by fire. All the chairs, tables, documents and other office equipment were destroyed”.
Investigation by The Guardian, however, showed that Omeje became the delight of the party’s leaders following the series of projects he embarked upon during his first term in office, including the construction of 72 kilometres road, renovation of the Adada building, and employment of over 1,000 youths among others.
Sources said his approach to governance made him the toast of the people, adding that the council had never witnessed such unprecedented infrastructural improvement in a long time. This was said to have won him a “special place” in the heart of Enugu governor, who insisted he must return to office to do another two years.
There are also other insinuations that the governor seriously desires him to prosecute his alleged senatorial bid in 2023 when he would have left office in the area against the interest of one of the highly placed politicians from the council. The said politician is believed to be the brain behind one of the aspirants in the race for the local government.
Some of the aspirants, however, insist that they decided to agitate to correct an anomaly that was fast eroding the gains of democracy in the area, adding that PDP had jettisoned its justice and fair play in favour of parochial interests.
Among the aspirants are Mr. Chineme Onyeke and Agbo Amos Amadi, who have vowed to fight on till they get justice.
Agbo had told journalists, “I have told my legal team to institute an action in court to address this injustice. I am taking PDP to court not because I hate the party but because I don’t have anyone to speak for me in the party.
“I know that the court of competent jurisdiction is the last hope of the common man. Between now and next week, I know PDP would be served, to know why they refused to sell form to me in an election I am well qualified.
“What is happening in Nsukka Local Government Area is evil and should be condemned in its totality. I am fighting and I am not looking back. I know that the spirit of our ancestors will continue to protect me. God in heaven will continue to protect me to ensure there is justice in Nsukka and at the end, I know there will be justice for the people of Nsukka.
“I want to tell the public and my supporters that it’s time to fight for justice in Enugu State. I am not against the will and wishes of the leaders; I am just against the injustice.”
On his part, Onyeke said, “The party’s leadership absconded with the forms from the national secretariat, Abuja. Is this how to run a political party under democracy in this 21st century? It is this kind of impunity that brought the PDP to its sorry state in Nigeria.
“We have reliable information that the state chairman has taken the forms to where they are calling their cronies to fill the forms. These are people that are daily criticising and demonising President Muhammadu Buhari, alleging that he is a tyrant. Are they not now worse than dictators? This is terrible for democracy in Enugu State. It is terrible for internal democracy in Enugu State chapter of PDP. It is a coup against the Constitution of the PDP.
“I call on the governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to call the state chairman of the party to order and save PDP from grassroots crisis in Nsukka Local Government Area. They should throw open the democratic landscape and desist from imposition of candidates.”
Omeje, however, told The Guardian that he was shocked over what he described as “politics of bitterness being played by a handful of politicians in the area”, stressing that “power belongs to God and he gives it to whoever he wishes and at his own time.
“I don’t play politics of hate and bitterness. They are making daily threats on what they will do. I did not endorse myself or imposed myself on anybody. I followed the rules set out by the party to present myself for the election. I was nominated after the stakeholders voted in my favour before the governor who is who in Nsukka. During my first tenure, I did my best to improve the council. The truth is that I don’t think their problem is the council’s seat; there may be other motives, because I know I excelled while in office and there is evidence on ground to support same.”
Meanwhile, women’s groups from Enugu North Senatorial zone have risen in condemnation of the rising tension created in the area over the soul of the council, even as they condemned those who carried mock coffins.
Led by Mrs. Juliana Ugwu, the women, who marched round Nsukka on Sunday, deplored the “politics of do-or-die” in the area, and appealed to the people to give peace a chance.
Ugwu said: “The mock coffins against the governor was the highest insult ever witnessed in the annals of the history of Nsukka. The perpetrators of the crime have to apologise publicly and retrace their steps and join government policies and programmes. How can sane human beings carry mock coffins against an incumbent governor of a state in the name of politics? We condemn such act and demand public apology from the sponsors and perpetrators of the crime.”
Ugwu recalled that Nsukka stakeholders in a meeting with governor Ugwuanyi unanimously resolved that the immediate past chairman of Nsukka local council, Omeje, be allowed to contest election for a second term. She said it was wrong for some party members, who were present in the meeting, to instigate a crisis, adding that it was not in the interest of the party. She called on the transition committee chairman of Nsukka council, Chinwe Ugwu, to address the issues in Nsukka Local Government Area for peace to reign.