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Enugu APC And Eze’s Guber Candidature – By Michael Jegede

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Enugu APC And Eze’s Guber Candidature – By Michael Jegede

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At the end of the Enugu State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary election held on October 4, 2018, and conducted by the Prof. Moses Momoh – led electoral committee, a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Works, Senator Ayogu Eze, was declared winner.

Eze, an outspoken politician who represented Enugu North Senatorial District in the Senate between 2007 and 2015, polled a total of 53,967 out of 66,122 votes cast in the direct primary, to clinch the Enugu APC guber ticket. The votes scored by the other four contestants were as follows: George Ogara – 293, Benjamin Eche – 840, Augustin Akubue – 181 and Ifeanyi Nwoga – 9,821.

However, before the official pronouncement of Senator Eze as the winner of the contest by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) appointed electoral panel headed by Prof. Momoh, Ogara and Eche, had declared themselves winners of the guber primary poll at separate events. While Ogara was reported to have been declared winner at the residence of Deacon Okey Ogbodo, a factional chairman of the party in the state, Eche was likewise announced winner at a hotel in the Independence layout area of Enugu.

These different declarations after the Enugu APC gubernatorial primary election, which took place across the 260 wards of the 17 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state, apparently created some tension and confusion. Nonetheless, APC members in the state acknowledged Senator Eze as the authentic guber candidate of the party, having emerged through the primary supervised by the NWC-recognized electoral committee.

While Eche appears to have been silent since Eze was officially declared the legitimate gubernatorial flag bearer of Enugu APC for the 2019 election, the Ogbodo camp has been all-out insisting that their man, Ogara, who got only 293 votes in the primary poll, is the party’s candidate in the state. The Ogbodo-led group even gave a stern warming to Eze, asking him to stop parading himself as the governorship candidate of APC in Enugu State. In a statement he issued in Enugu, Ogbodo maintained that “for the avoidance of doubts, the APC flag bearer in Enugu State is Barrister George Tagbo Ogara.”

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Countering Ogbodo’s remark, the duly elected and recognized chairman of APC in Enugu State, Dr. Ben Nwoye, said: “The winner of the (primary) election as announced by Prof. Momoh was and still remains Senator Ayogu Eze and his emergence has united APC Enugu State more than ever and the popularity of APC in Enugu State has continued to soar as goodwill of Senator Eze has attracted both new members from PDP. They are joining forces to ensure that power is wrestled from the PDP in 2019.

“Senator Ayogu Eze has been given forms by the NWC, both for him and his running mate, which they will be submitting to INEC this week. “For the avoidance of doubt, Ogara was not mentioned anywhere by the NWC and he was not given any forms of any nature as even as an aspirant who was close to winning, let alone emerging as a candidate.”

Nwoye described Ogbodo as an agent of the ruling Peoples Democratic Partly (PDP) in the state who is allowing himself to be used to cause disharmony within the Enugu APC. According to the Enugu APC Chairman, “Okey Ogbodo’s macabre dance is being bankrolled by the PDP as they failed to distort the election to their favour.”

Supporters of the former Enugu North Senator who only recently defected from PDP to APC believe he has all it takes to unseat the incumbent Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of PDP come 2019. Incidentally, Eze was Ugwuanyi’s main contender for the PDP governorship ticket in the 2015 general elections. It is believed that the endorsement of Ugwuanyi who was then a member of House of Representatives, by the then governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, gave him the upper hand he had over Eze who was then a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was more of a battle between Chime and Senator Eze, as Ugwuanyi was the anointed candidate of the then governor.

Today, the same Chime and some other top politicians in Enugu State, who were formerly in PDP like ex-Senate President Ken Nnamani, are now in APC. The strength, stature and caliber of these men, coupled with Eze’s popularity as a grassroots politician, appear to be giving APC members and followers considerable confidence in the party’s ability to win the 2019 guber poll in Enugu State.

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The total acceptability of Eze’s guber candidature among the APC members had been shown prior to the party’s primary election. Convinced that the party stands a better chance of victory at the polls in 2019, with the ex-Red Chamber legislator as its standard bearer, chairmen of the 17 LGAs and ward chairmen of APC in Enugu State, had adopted Senator Eze as their consensus gubernatorial candidate before the party’s primaries. This was why his triumph at the primary election did not come to many as a surprise even though he only joined APC few weeks to the contest. The party members in the state did not hide their preference for him as the best man to fly its flag among all the aspirants for the Enugu APC gubernatorial ticket.

In joining APC, a development which reportedly unsettled PDP, Eze had said: “The leadership style of these people attracted me to the APC. I don’t believe Enugu should remain in opposition because we must continue to make our state better, and we cannot achieve that by remaining in the opposition… I am glad I am now in the APC, it is a new dawn for the people of Enugu; we must deliver the Southeast to APC so that we can enjoy the development strides of the President Buhari-led administration. I will contribute my quota in assisting other APC leaders in the Southeast to deliver Enugu and the entire Southeast to APC.”

Senator Eze had equally vowed that he was not going to work to win the governorship seat alone, but will also campaign spiritedly and vigorously to secure a hundred percent victory for APC, in all the positions to be contested for in Enugu State, during the forthcoming general elections. According to him, “What I’m saying is that our campaign in the state is not for governor alone but for all the elective positions… What we are going to do is politics of score-check; to take all the 24 House of Assembly members  in the state, eight members of the House of Representatives and three senators, so that it will be complete victory.”

 

Michael Jegede, a media professional writes from Abuja

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