Benjamin Nworie writes that Senator Sonni Ogbuoji, representing Eboni South senatorial district is embattled on all sides
Senator Sonni Ogbuoji was the governor ship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Ebonyi State in the 2019 general election. Not only that he lost woefully to the incumbent, David
Umahi, the Senator cannot say with certainty that all is well with his political carrier. For Ogbuoji it seems to be raining trouble from all quarters. He has been disowned by his own party in the
state. APC loyalists see him as the bad omen’ that has brought misfortune for the party.
A coinage ‘Ogbuoji Example’ has since found its way into the common street exchange of the people after he was accused absconding from the state three weeks to the governorship election. The coinage which has gone viral, according to the formulators, is now used to
buttress an unserious candidate in an election. It describes a candidate whose
main target was to grandstand and attract attention.
The Ogbuoji Example connotes unseriousness and mere political jamboree and exercise. Anybody attributed with the ‘Ogbuoji Example knows he or she isn’t in any serious contest to win but to massage his or her political ego.
Ogbuoji’s poor outing in the last governorship election generated mixed feelings among his followers and onlookers. Ogbuoji was said to be loaded with plenty money. He was seen as the only man that had the financial muscle and energy to challenge Umahi. Even at that, it was surprising how Ogbuoji could not penetrate the Presidency and utilize the impact of his APC controlled Federal Government.
It was rumoured that the APC in Ebonyi relied on a plan to announce results that will be written from Abuja and that the election was just a mere formality. This threat rattled and unsettled PDP in the
state. PDP also threatened the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other individual to write their will and be ready to die as anything short of a credible poll won’t be tolerated.
The often touted ‘federal might’ could not be released to him and the
electioneering came and left Ogbuoji as spectator in the game. His followers and supporters looked on in sheer bewilderment.
This ugly development started shortly after the 2015 general election
when Ogbuoji was reelected to represent Ebonyi South Senatorial zone.
After his reelection, he became distant from the state and started absconding from Umahi and PDP events in the state. As early as that time, he was became the being rumoured as a major challenger to Umahi’s second term in 2019.
Having survived a recall protest from his zone, the embattled Senator has been sacked from the Senate by a Federal High court sitting in Abakaliki . The Presiding Judge, Justice Akintola Aluko also ordered him to refund all monies be it salary, allowances or any other
benefit from the position of Senator from the date of his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC to the coffers of government. The Court said it has been sufficiently and tremendously established by credible evidence that Ogbuoji defected to the APC in January 2018 and not January 2017 as he claimed in his defense.
Justice Aluko therefore declared that Ogbuoji “is guilty of unholy political flirting and coquetry which the makers and drafters of the constitution resolved to outlaw by the enactment of section 68(i)g of the constitution.” Though he has appealed the judgment, but the development has turned him intoa
political orphan in the state and he has become a subject of mockery on Ebonyi political environment.
To further worsen his matter, the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abakaliki on May 15 struck out Ogbuoji’s case against Umahi and the PDP. The Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice A. Abdulkarem struck out the petition against Umahi following the motion of withdrawal of the petition filed by Ogbuoji’s counsel, Mr Michheal
Odo, which was not opposed by the counsel to Umahi, Okechukwu Otukwu.
Ogbuoji’s withdrawal of his petition has resurrected mixed feelings in some quarters that Ogbuoji secured the APC governorship ticket, just to lobby for a
ministerial appointment or any other meaningful appointment in Buhari’s administration.
Since after the election, heaps of blame and accusation have been poured on Ogbuoji for allegedly masterminding the poor performance of APC in Ebonyi in the national elections. A group, known as
Ebonyi APC Youths Vanguard explained that the party failed in the Ebonyi state because Ogbuoji allegedly created factions in the party and also used the governorship ticket as a personal enterprise always disagreeing with everybody in the party.
Noting that Ogbuoji was not only a “bad influence but a destructive
element that must be removed if the party must survive in Ebonyi state,” the group noted that it was not unaware of the fact that Ogbuoji had engaged in publicity bliss claiming to have generated over 90,000 votes for President Muhammadu Buhari when he actually lost his ward, local government and senatorial zone in the presidential election.
The President of the group, Chuks Obeh while briefing newsmen further
explained that the failure of APC in Ebonyi state started when Ogbuoji
allegedly did not allow the National and State House of Assembly primaries to hold in his Ebonyi South zone but singlehandedly handpicked his cronies while other candidates who won their primaries in Ebonyi Central and North zones were shortchanged and replaced
Obeh said, “For instance, in Ebonyi Central senatorial zone, President Buhari scored 37,655 votes which was the product and hard work of our National Assembly candidates; Senator Julius Ucha, candidate for APC Ebonyi Central and Comrade Chinedu Ogah, APC Ezza South/Ikwo Federal Constituency. In Ebonyi North, President Buhari got 34,249 votes whereas in Ebonyi South senatorial zone where Senator Ogbuoji is not only a serving senator representing
the zone but also the governorship candidate of the APC, President
Buhari scored only 18,722 votes which is less than half of the votes the President scored in Ebonyi Central Zone.”
Another hard knock came from the Ogbuoji Campaign Council over the
failure of the APC in the state. The Director General of the Campaign
Council, Senator Anthony Agbo alleged that Ogbuoji embezzled the campaign fund meant for Ebonyi state, which made the party not to campaign vigorously during the electioneering. Agbo said that immediately the council was set up by Ogbuoji on Dec. 2, 2018, it swung into action and drew a campaign blueprint which it presented to the APC governorship candidate but regretted that the campaign plan was never put to use.
He added that Ogbuoji shunned all efforts made by the council, stakeholders and party leaders to bring genuine peace and reconciliation among House of Representatives and state assembly candidates whose tickets were changed in Abuja. The council noted
that the irreconcilable differences between Ogbuoji and other major
stakeholders dealt a deadly blow on the party in the state and regretted that all efforts to bring the two leaders to a
reconciliatory talk failed woefully.
Agbo said, “The council sat down to produced a comprehensive and
detailed campaign blueprint which captured activities that were to be carried out at local governments, wards, communities and village levels as well as individual contacts and consultations. This was presented to Ogbuoji who told us that he was so pre-occupied with
arranging issues relating to the election at Abuja level and that we should keep it in view.”
“After the APC primaries in the state, the names of several persons who won the House of Representatives and state house of assembly tickets were changed in Abuja. This generated a very volatile and inflammable situation in the party that later gave rise to multiple litigations. The council made several representations to Ogbuoji and
party leadership in the state for the reversal of the damaging action but the appeal was not heeded. Ogbuoji refused to attend a reconciliation meeting convened twice by former Governor Martin Elechi which was attended by key party leaders.”
“We wish to state categorically that since the inauguration of the council till the last election held on March 9, that the council did not receive any money from the APC governorship candidate or from any person or source. The DG and members used their private vehicles all
through the period. No single financial request presented by the council to Ogbuoji for the purpose of the campaign no matter big or small was ever honoured . The party went into the election with N2,580, 000 released by Ogbuoji on the eve of the election.”
Prior to the 2019 general election, Senator Ogbuoji parted ways
with the PDP when he saw that both his
third term return ticket to the Senate or his governorship ambition were not assured in the PDP. Perhaps, he may have considered that the state governor had earlier declared his seat vacant for the 2019 election.
The development pushed him to the All Progressives Congress, where he later secured the APC’s ticket to run for the governorship election. At that time, the APC became a beautiful bride in Ebonyi politics. Some interested aspirants from the PDP saw the APC as a profitable
alternative and platform to drive their ambition to fruition. However, little did they know that the hope entrusted in the APC would hit the rock due to wrong permutations.
A chieftain of the PDP in the state who defected to the APC to contest
Senatorial election lamented that he left the APC with much disappointment, after noticing that Ogbuoji was nowhere to be found after winning the governorship primary of APC. He recounted how he
made efforts several times to discuss with Ogbuoji and chart new fronts on the election, but such efforts were crippled.