On February 5, the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja and presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo pulled what looked like a red card in the electoral runs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State, when the court annulled the primary that produced its gubernatorial candidate, Sen. Ayogu Eze.
The court held that Eze was not the rightful candidate that emerged from the party’s October 4 direct primary, held in Enugu.
The judge said Chief George Ogara, who filed the suit, was the rightful candidate that won the primary.
He asked the party leadership to forward his name to replace that of Eze to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He further barred INEC from accepting any other name, except that of Ogara as APC governorship candidate in the March 2 election in the state.
The court held: “Plaintiff’s name is entitled to be forwarded by the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th defendants to the 5th defendant as the candidate of the 2nd and 4th defendant in the 2019 Enugu State governorship election.
“That the direct primary election for governorship aspirants conducted on 4/10/2018, wherein the plaintiff emerged as the winner on 4/10/2018, having scored the highest number of votes cast in the said direct primary election for Enugu State governorship aspirants is consistent with and in compliance with the provisions of Section 87 (3) of the Electoral Act. 2010 (as amended) and Article 20 (iii) of the A11 Progressives Congress Constitution, 2014 (as amended).”
Justice Ekwo then held that the party’s National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, Prof Michael Momoh and the APC, 2nd to 4th defendants’ refusal, neglect and/or failure to forward the name of the plaintiff to the 5th defendant as the candidate of the 4th defendant and INEC’s refusal to publish the name of the plaintiff as APC candidate for the governorship election is contrary to the provisions of Section 87 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Article 20 of APC Constitution.
No sooner was the judgment delivered than Ogara asked his supporters to remain resolute, as the march to the state Government House had begun.
He stated that his campaign programmes that were truncated by the recognition accorded Senator Eze as the winner would be reinvigorated.
Ogara reiterated that he won the direct primary, as he secured 57,675 votes against Eze’s 7,690 votes.
He wondered why the party should dispute the election result that was conducted with the stipulated guidelines in the 260 wards of the state.
Some of Ogara branded campaign buses parked in his campaign office were set ablaze late last year.
On his part, Sen. Eze seemed unperturbed. He believed that the judgment against him was procured by his opponents from other political parties to ensure he did not participate in the election.
He told a large crowd on the evening of the judgment in his campaign office along Ogui Road, who gathered for the inauguration of the campaign council, that efforts were made to ensure that he did not win the party’s ticket, adding that the battle shifted to the courts the moment he won the governorship primary.
“But that is part of the challenges I will have to overcome on my way to victory,” he said.
“That is why we must remove the inept state government. They know that we have what it takes to win the election and have not rested since we got the victory at the polls.”
The embattled governorship candidate described the judgment as “an atrocity”, and ‘a kabukabu” judgment, insisting that it was an ambitious attempt to ensure that he did not proceed with his governorship ambition.
He said: “They have been battling us from the time of conception, the time of birth, the time of crawling, the time of walking and the time of running.”
On the other hand, the PDP said it was not worried over who becomes APC governorship candidate in the state, explaining that the crisis in the party had made it difficult for anybody to know the real candidates.
A statement from the Director of Communications, PDP campaign
organisation in Enugu State, Nana Ogbodo said: “You well know that this election had long been won by His Excellency, Dr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, given the groundswell of approval, support and appreciation of his transformative leadership in the state over the last three and a half years.
“Today’s court judgment only goes to underscore the palpable confusion in the party in the state and has affected every aspect of their existence, including campaigning.”
In The Beginning
WHAT is happening now is part of the long struggle for the soul of APC; a fight that had been on since its establishment.
It has not only factionalised the party, but had also led to many leaving in protest over certain actions they felt were not in their interests.
The matter for the party’s soul reverberated last year, when it attempted a fresh congress for its functionaries in the state.
It was this opportunity that pitched Deacon Okey Ogbodo against Dr. Ben Nwoye on the contest for the chairmanship position. Nwoye was seeking to continue in office.
The process was, however, altered as party officials and members who gathered at the Gymnasium Hall of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium were chased away by thugs, paving way for Ogbodo who mounted the podium to announce himself winner.
The party officials and members had returned to the same venue the next day to continue the congress process and returned Nwoye as the state party chairman, alongside other members of the state executive.
Since then, the party had functioned along parallel lines. Ogbodo, who continued to lay claim to authenticity had approached the Federal High Court in Enugu, where court judgment concurred that the election of Nwoye did not follow laid down rules of the party’s Constitution.
The court, however, refused to grant his request to be declared the ‘authentic chairman of the party,” as well as refused to nullify Nwoye’s election as the authentic state party chairman.
Ogara, who was recognised by the court last week as APC governorship candidate in the state had emerged from the primary conducted by the faction loyal to Ogbodo last year, even without supervision of the electoral committee members from the party’s national headquarters.
Ayogu Eze emerged from the direct primary conducted on October 4, last year by the electoral committee members sent from the party’s national headquarters, led by Prof Moses Momoh.
He had declared the results as follows: George Ogara- 293, Benjamin Eche- 840, Augustine Akubue- 181, Ifeanyi Nwoga- 9821 and Ayogu Eze-53, 967.
He also declared results of the National Assembly primary to include Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Justice Reform, Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu (Enugu West); former Enugu Speaker, Rt. Hon. Eugene Odo (Enugu North) and Lawrence Ezeh (Enugu East).
For the House of Representatives primary, he declared
Udi/Ezeagu- Joe Mamel, Aninri/Awgu/Oji River- Vin Martins Ilo; Enugu East/Isi Uzo- Barr. Kate Nnamani, Nkanu East/Nkanu West- Tony Nwafor, Nsukka/Igbo-Eze South- Ikechukwu Ugwuegede, Igbo-Etiti/Uzo-Uwani- Jonathan Chukwuma, Igbo-Eze North/Udenu- Barth Ugwuoke, Enugu-North/Enugu South- Nelson Maduka.
THE court judgment has thrown fresh crisis and confusion into the party.
Bookmakers strongly believe so, because those contesting various elective positions in the party emerged from primaries conducted by the Prof Moses Momoh-led committee.
A party chieftain, Joe Onah told The Guardian: “With this court ruling, I now believe that our internal crises are being sponsored to ensure that we did not win elections this year in the state.
“Who were the persons that conducted the primary the Federal High Court declared Ogara won? Some desperate persons in the state are afraid of going into elections and that is the challenge of democracy.”
He explained that what has happened to APC in Enugu State signposts that it remains the party to beat in any election in the state. The party is being strengthened by all these.”
Time is, indeed, of essence in the entire scenario. Can Ayogu Eze navigate victory back to his side before the March 2 governorship election and be recognised as APC governorship candidate in the state? The coming days will tell.