The fever of the November 2, 2013 local government chairmanship and councillorship elections in Enugu State has already gripped with the people of the state, irrespective of their political platforms. Indications so far show that about three political parties would be participating in the council elections.
They are the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Ever since the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) released guidelines for the conduct of the election, it has been protest galore within members of the ruling PDP who are crying out over alleged imposition of candidates by a few people who call themselves stakeholders that drop the name of Governor Sullivan Chime as having decided on such imposition.
The PDP in the first instance wielded the big stick by asking their protesting members to shut up or face sanctions. The Enugu State chapter of the PDP threatened to sanction any of its members from the state found accusing the party leadership of imposing certain chairmanship aspirants on the council.
The state’s Publicity Secretary of the party, Dr Okey Eze, who gave the warning, said it was very unfair to accuse the party of imposing certain aspirants as chairmanship candidates when the primary election was not even conducted.
Eze stated that those sponsoring protests against the party leadership were plotting to destabilise the party in the state, warning that they would be ready to face the necessary sanctions as prescribed by the party’s constitution.
He asked the internal protesters to wait for the ward and local government congresses. But even before the wards and local government congresses could come, more serious protests came from local government council areas like Igboeze-North, Udenu and Enugu-South.
In the severe case of Igboeze-North LGA, the 20 ward chairmen and secretaries, including other leaders of the PDP in the local government, rejected an alleged imposition of the incumbent local government council chairman, Mr. Bonaventure Onuh, as candidate of the party for a second term. They rejected what they said was a trumped-up story, that Governor Chime told some stakeholders that he wanted Onuh, the incumbent council boss, to go for a second term.
The furious party members said Governor Chime was not better informed on the issue of “incapability of Mr. Onuh to continue as council chairman” of their area. They chanted songs to say they didn’t want Senator Ayogu Eze representing the area at the Senate, and the incumbent chairman.
Prince Emeka Mama moved a motion that the council be given a free hand to choose their leader other than an imposed candidate. He maintained that actions of “the socalled stakeholders from the council that met with the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Ifeoma Nwobodo, remain null and void.”
The government officials from the council area that were pro-Onuh at that point walked out of the meeting. Despite some protests and walk-outs in some local government areas during the PDP primary, the party quickly rushed into releasing the result of the controversial exercise.
The list of the elected (if not selected) candidates released by the state’s PDP Chairman, Engr. Vita Abba, and Secretary, Mr. Steve Oruruo, showed that 12 of the outgoing council chairmen were re-elected as the party’s standard-bearers while five new entrants were elected.
Some stakeholders in Igboeze-North who are against the candidature of the incumbent chairman, Onuh and who walked out of the primary election told our reporter that they were working on something to upturn Onuh’s purported victory but had not been able to do anything even at the time of filing this report.
Governor Chime even went ahead and commended what he said was the level of understanding, maturity and cooperation exhibited by PDP stakeholders during the primary election of the party in the state.
On the other hand, the APGA raised the alarm on what it said were some acts of suppression, intimidation and use of unlawful tactics by members of the PPD, against APGA, particularly in Isi-Uzo Local Government area of the state. APGA implored President Goodluck Jonathan, the Inspector General of Police, Governor Sullivan Chime and other security chiefs to act on their plight and protect their fundamental rights of association.
The opposition party wondered if belonging to choice political affiliations other than a ruling political party has become a taboo in Nigeria and despised what it called acts of barbarism being employed by the PDP in the build up towards the local government election in the state. APGA gave instances of such repressions to include conspiracy by the PDP to repaint APGA office into PDP colours overnight, threats to its party members and plot to unleash mayhem on them. The opposition party had won councillorship election in Isi-Uzo LGA, two years ago.
Part of the APGA petition stated, “We also bring to your information that since the announcement of this year’s local government election by ENSIEC, the PDP changed its tactics of intimidation to include trumpedup charges and planting of guns in the homes of APGA members. One of APGA’s councillorship aspirants at Eha-Amufu Ward 3, Mr. Ifeanyi Ogbu, was only last weekend granted bail in Enugu after one week incarceration in the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) cell allegedly on a trumped-up charge.
“That at Ihenyi Eha-Amufu Ward 4, one of our members, Toochukwu Odo, was stabbed several times with machetes by some members of the PDP who are cowing him to renounce his membership of the APGA.
As the November 2, 2013 local government elections in Enugu State gather steam, we alert on the impending violence that may be unleashed by the PDP in Isi-Uzo Local Government area polling stations to scare and cow growing APGA supporters from voting for our party on the election day.
“Let us also tell ENSIEC that we will not accept anything short of credible conduct of the council elections. We will not tolerate highjack of electoral materials by the…PDP and we urge the security agencies to protect all and sundry.”
In the same vein, the state chapter of APC says it is considering legal action against ENSIEC over imposition of what it described as “outrageous fee” on chairmen and councillorship aspirants in the forthcoming local government polls in the state. ENSIEC pegged the chairmanship nomination fee at a non-refundable N250, 000, while those contesting for councillorship positions are expected to dole out N50, 000.
APC chieftain, Dr. Ben Nwoye, said that such levy was unconstitutional, insisting that the fee was totally unacceptable to the opposition party. Nwoye argued that such levy was not part of the constitutional requirement for anybody to vie for the positions. He said: “As far as we are concerned, it is not proper, it is pure exploitation. ENSIEC included the levy aspect as economic requirement and not political requirement.”
Nwoye stated that “despite the PDP and ENSIEC antics ahead of the council election”, APC would participate in the polls after sorting out the contentious levy issue legally. He boasted that the party has all it takes to wrestle power from the ruling PDP, both at the national andstate levels.