By Kelechi Abonuyo
The general elections in Nigeria were such that would bring enormous hope to Nigerians. Many non-Nigerians believed that everything was turning around for good, which is why the obidient movement (a derivative of obi in Peter Obi) was anchored in many countries of the world.
Obidience became a gratifying important hashtag, which was synonymous to prosperity, safety and happiness. Mr Peter Obi, of the Labour Party, is the standard bearer of this Nigerians’ new hope, which was held out to them by divine providence.
Mr Obi represents everything that would make a pariah and rundown nation great again. Even his political opponents, some of whom are rogues, used his name to succeed. Yet, those who benefit from the present horrible Nigeria system would never allow a new lease of life for Nigerians. And so they devised some dubious means and resisted the progressive change at the polls. The story of what happened before, during and after the general elections of Saturday, February 25, 2023, is now under scrutiny in Nigeria’s judicial court.
In Imo State, people were so optimistic and looked forward to replicating the signposts and the hope that come with the obidient movement and its material implications. However there were keen observers, who predicted the balkanization of Labour Party. This group drew inferences from the legitimacy of the various administrative organs of the party, their lack of merit and vision to deliver victory, their greed as shown by the exorbitant cost of the gubernatorial nomination form, the infiltration of the party by rogues and the general syntax of their body language, which are incongruous to the perceived new Labour Party standards, etc.
The Imo State governorship election, which will come in November, 2023, would be the best opportunity to align the state to a definite path of sanity. And everyone was looking forward to it, with Peter Obi’s Labour Party as the veritable platform. All of a sudden, as predicted by keen observers, everything went bonkers, boom!
Scene 1: Recall that some greedy set of national officers of Labour Party conspired to deliver the governorship ticket to the highest bidder. This was why the Dr Ambrose Onyekwere-led State Executive Committee (SEC) was indecently, unceremoniously sacked, in order to pave the way for the inglorious Comrade FBI Onyekwulusi-led SEC, styled as Caretaker Committee. The arrow heads of this dubious means were the southeast national chairman and the national treasurer of the party. It appeared that the Onyekwere-led SEC and the Barr Julius Abure-led NWC therefore fit their legs in one trouser and scuffled until a high court in Owerri ruled that the status quo should remain, with no chance to the alleged Caretaker Committee (sic).
Act 1: The National Working Committee (NWC) put the Imo State gubernatorial nomination form at an outrageous cost of Twenty-five million naira (₦25,000,000.00). They wanted to cash-out before the curtains closed on the party. It took petitions and public outcry to reverse their greed to Fifteen million naira (₦15,000,000.00), the balance of which NWC never repaid till date.
Act 2: On Saturday, April 15, 2023, this same alleged caretaker committee produced Chief Basil Maduka as its parallel governorship candidate of the Labour Party, at a primary election held at Andrea Hotel, in Owerri North LGA. He pulled 198 votes to defeat other non-participating aspirants. The returning officer was Ms Lilian Sleek.
Scene 2: Recall that in Scene 1, most of the governorship aspirants smelled the coffee and raised alarm on the need to follow a credible process in order to produce an acceptable flag bearer, whose candidacy, in the mould of Peter Obi, would provoke a statewide, massive buy-in. The aspirants, including Late Chief Humphrey Anumudu, were unanimous in their protest. This was why the Onyekwulusi-led caretaker was eventually annulled, notwithstanding the court order against it in Owerri. But instead of promoting the court order on status quo ante, of Justice K.A Ojiako of state high court, Suit No. HOW/219/2023, the NWC formed another: a Steering Committee – which morphed into Labour Party Management Committee, which, by its nature and composition, is alien and unknown to both the electoral act and the party’s constitution. The committee was headed by Prof Aloysius Ukachukwu Awuzie.
Act 1: Prof Awuzie was a sole administrator of sort, who approached his job as a private business, without recourse to members of his team. The management committee sold delegate form at the cost of Five thousand naira (₦5,000.00) and conducted ward congresses, which were to produce the gubernatorial primary delegates. That activity was eventually a shame since it was fraught with violence and malpractices.
Act 2: In the evening of Saturday, April 15, 2023, based on a rogue delegate list, it conducted the primary election that produced Sen Athan Nneji Achonu, who pulled 134 votes to defeat most aspirants present. The returning officer was Mr Alex Otti – the brand new governor-elect of Abia State. The activity was at Landmark Event Centre in Owerri. On that day Prof Awuzie styled himself as the state chairman of Labour Party.
Scene 3: Recall that the Onyekwere-led State Working Committee (SWC) felt bullied from the foregoing and continued to seek redress and interpretation from the court of law. The leadership recognized that there has been confusion in the party and wanted a leeway.
Act 1: With the mindset as the legitimate body and relying on Article 28.3 of the party’s constitution, SEC nominated Rt Hon (Barr) Ike C Ibe as the governorship candidate for the November, 2023, election. This nomination was subsequently ratified by the Congress.
Act 2: With the mindset as the legitimate body, SWC organized and held a separate ward congress to elect governorship primary election delegates. It went on to organize labour party governorship primary deriving its strength from the existing high court order and some relevant provisions of both the electoral act and the Labour Party constitution.
Act 3: In the morning of Saturday, April 15, 2023, based on SWC delegate list, Rt Hon Ike C Ibe secured 155 votes to defeat other aspirants, in an activity that held at the Labour party office: Agwara Plaza. No 115 Wetheral Road, Owerri. The returning officer was Mgbeahuru Emmanuel C.
Scene 4: The NWC has never known any respite. The usurping powers of Mr Lamidi Apapa brought enormous confusion to the national leadership. This has been challenged in the law court, by which Apapa-led NWC has been laid to rest. Some politicians however fell for it. In Imo State Chief Joseph Ikechukwu Ukaegbu fell and consequently lined up with this roguish leadership in order to realize his political ambition.
Act 1: In a sole contest, Chief Joseph Ikechukwu Ukaegbu, a self-styled chieftain of the party, was returned the winner of the governorship primary election held at the Art Nouveau Event Centre, along Owerri-PortHarcourt road. Not much detail is known of the activity.
Before the present political circumstance, labour party members were waiting in the wings to elect their governorship flag bearer from amongst themselves, by themselves and through a democratic process. This great expectation was completely dashed by man-made skirmishes, like landmines, in the party. There is no gain saying that the Labour Party broke untold number of hearts with the unexpected outcome of the primary. Since the conclusion of the charades called party primaries, Imo people looked away, forlorn, in hopeful wait for a reprieve. But now reprieve is in sight.
Rt Hon Ike C Ibe is now head and shoulders above in federal high court seeking a high definition (HD), with a big question on legitimacy of the various groups to produce the party’s authentic, legitimate governorship candidate for the November, 2023. The Federal High Court legal Suit No. FHC/OW/CS/27/2023 poses a big question on the legitimacy of Scene 1, 2 & 4 and their various Acts. The pertinent question now is, which of these bodies, which of these processes possess the relevant credentials to produce a legitimate, authentic candidate? And this is regardless of the credibility of the processes.
The succour that this legal clarification shall bring will form part of the political blank cheque for Imo people to bargain in November, 2023. For one thing, the eventual governorship candidate of the Labour Party shall be determined by the courts, where everything has been consigned to, for the means justifies the end.
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