Amby Uneze writes that the All Progressives Congress may not have learnt a lesson from electoral setback suffered in the past, as the current wranglings over who won the party’s ticket to contest in the Imo North Senatorial by-election suggests
The journey to 2019 the general election in Zamfara as it concerns the All Progressives Congress (APC) remains fresh in our memory. Candidates of the APC did not partake in the elections due to internal wrangling among leaders of the party. There were conflicting issues concerning the conduct of the party primaries to pick candidates for various elections. At the end of it all, the Supreme Court ruled that there were no legitimate primaries in Zamfara and as such the party did not participate in the 2019 elections in the state.
It was indeed a lesson to Nigerian politicians for future elections in the country. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in the case of Zamfara, the Commission wrote to the APC leadership to notify it that, due to its inability to conduct its primaries in Zamfara State within the stipulated time as required by law, the party cannot field candidates for the governorship election.
INEC had said it would not allow the APC field candidates in Zamfara because the party did not hold primaries within the stipulated time. Internal wrangling among leaders of the APC in Zamfara led to the inability to hold the primaries within the stipulated time.
Although the APC faction loyal to former Governor Abdulaziz Yari claimed it held congresses and had candidates, the faction loyal to a senator, Kabiru Marafa insisted no primaries held. The party headquarters also said no primaries held but said it adopted consensus candidates within the stipulated time. The case in Zamfara though slightly different from what was seen in the party’s primaries for the vacant senatorial seat for Imo North (Okigwe zone) senatorial district held on the 3rd of September, 2020, but there were similarities.
For the fact that there were two major camps laying claim to have produced the candidate of the party, leaves room for litigation and at the end of the day what would result from it remains uncertain. The two gladiators in the Imo APC debacle are the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma and a former two-term Senator, Chief Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume. No doubt, these are the two elephants struggling to outwit each other and they are all respected leaders in all ramification.
The genesis of the rancour started long before now and one could trace it to the pre 2019 governorship election in the state. Former governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha had wanted his son in-law, Uche Nwosu to succeed him as governor, as such he had a congress of the party that produced Dan Nwafor as the State Chairman of the party. When the former National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole vehemently opposed Okorocha for sponsoring Uche Nwosu, his son in-law to take over from him at all cost, a splinter group known as the APC Consolidation led by former deputy governor, Eze Madumere, T.I.O. Ekechi and Hope Uzodimma (who had just joined the party from PDP) and with solid support from Oshiomhole appointed Prince Marcellinus Nlemigbo (Marcon) as a Caretaker Chairman with a view to get rid of Okorocha’s arrangement.
Though the matter is in court and there is currently hubbub as to who the authentic state chairman of the party is. One of the stakeholders has challenged the position of caretaker committee, insisting that the party’s constitution does not recognize the position of caretaker arrangement. In a letter written last week by Dan Nwafor led exco and addressed to the APC Caretaker Committee/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, he insisted that the court had not sacked him but stated that status quo ante should remain until the matter is finally disposed of.
He further stated, “That the ruling of FCT High Court of 16th July, 2020 did not strip us of our authority as the authentic executive of the party nor does it accord Marcon Nlemigbo any power to act as the State chairman of the party. Our said dissolution and appointment of Marcon Nlemigbo was done before 16th July, 2020 which also made it a nullity and of no effect.”
Another twist to the matter on Imo North Senatorial primaries was revealed by the Chairman of Imo North Senatorial Screening Committee; Dr. Lawrence Chuku while addressing journalists on 7th September, 2020 at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, where he accused the leadership of the party of clearing disqualified aspirants.
The primary election for the Imo North senatorial by-election held on Thursday last week saw the emergence of Mr. Ibezim Frank, who was declared winner by Senator Ajibola Bashir-led-faction of the committee, while Senator Ifeanyi Araraume was declared winner by Mr. Umar Nguma-led faction. Chuku said, “we are the members of the Imo North Senatorial screening committee of the APC, appointed vide letters of appointment dated August 25, 2020 and duly inaugurated at the party’s headquarters on the 26th of August by the acting National Secretary, Senator John James Akpan- Udoedehe.
“Unfortunately, with utmost dismay, we noticed that our report, which cleared five aspirants and has six not cleared for very cogent and verifiable reasons were jettisoned.” Chuku lamented that both the aspirants cleared and those not cleared were allowed to run for the senatorial primary, adding that embarrassingly, one of the aspirants not cleared was being touted as having emerged as one of the winners of the said, “controversial primary election.”
He noted that out of the 11 aspirants, five were cleared by the Committee namely: Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Uchendu Chijioke Mark, Edith Chidinma Uwajimuogu, Bright Nwachukwu and Eze Okoros. Chuku stressed that the six other aspirants that were disqualified for not meeting the basic requirements were: Hon. Matthew Omegara, Achonu Nneji Athan, Ibezim Frank, Uchenna Uba, Onuoha Chijioke Chikwem and Iheanacho Ihim.
He said with Section 11 of the guidelines for the nomination of candidates, the roles and responsibilities of the screening committee, the committee did its job sincerely, honestly and diligently without fear or favour. Chuku said Ibezim who is purported to be one of the possible flag bearers of the party was not cleared to contest the primary election because he did not submit any originals of his educational certificates or properly certified true copies for citing.
He said, he was also not cleared because he presented a statutory declaration of age deposed to by one Emmanuel Ibezim, who happens to be his elder brother, while adding that the statutory age declaration was not signed by the declarant, which rendered the document invalid. Chuku said Ibezim submitted another affidavit, stating the loss of his academic qualification certificates, which was not signed by the deponent, stressing that this also rendered the document invalid.
He added that the said unsigned affidavit did not have a police extract in support, to show that he reported to the law enforcement authority. “Mr. Frank Ibezim submitted the photocopies of his academic certificates which he said were missing namely, WAEC certificate, university degree and NYSC certificate, purportedly certified as true copies of the originals and we made the following observations.
“One person signed a signature on all the photocopies of his certificates and dated them for a fee of N500, as though they were being certified as true copies.
“Nothing written on the academic certificates read ‘certified true copies. Nothing written on them showed who purportedly certified the certificates as true copies. Nothing written on them showed where they were certified in order to prove that the certifier had custody of the originals as required by law.”
Chuku pointed out that Ibezim’s “invalid affidavit” of loss of certificates was dated in 2010 and he has had them for 10 years without signature and neither did he make any attempt to contact the issuing authorities to properly certify them. He said as responsible party loyalists, they are committed to ensuring that the party does the right thing by putting the right foot forward to win the Imo North senatorial by-election.
However, the three members of the Primary Election Committee said to have been set up by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Imo North Senatorial by- election said they declared Senator Araraume winner because the figures from the field on the day of the primaries showed that he actually scored the highest number of votes.
The members of the Electoral Panel who stated this were: Alhaji Umar Nguma, Mohammed Saliu and Prince Ifedi Ejim. The trio while submitting their report from the field at APC National Secretariat in Abuja said they conducted primaries in the 64 Wards in Imo Senatorial District.
Addressing journalists at the APC headquarters, Nguma said it was shocking that people could concoct figures and ask the Primary Election Committee members to sign declaring a certain favoured aspirant winner. He said that as a good Muslim, he would never collect gratification to endorse falsehood. “How could we declare somebody who failed the winner simply because he was being supported by two powerful people in government?” he queried.
Nguma added that it was very clear that Araraume was the choice of the people and that it would be inhuman to deny him victory when he had actually won the primaries based on the figures from the field. He warned that democracy would be in danger if political parties allowed powerful people to be writing results in hotels and government houses only to turn around to force those saddled with the conduct of elections to append their signatures to fake figures. Nguma said that he and his two other colleagues had performed the duty assigned to them and that it was up to the party to take a decision on the way forward.
He said, Araraume polled 22,944 to defeat his closest rival, elder sister to former Senator Ben Uwajumogu, Chidimma Uwajumogu who scored 3,757 votes.
On the other hand, the group led by Senator Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru, declared Ibezim who scored a total of 13, 637 votes to emerge victorious ahead of other aspirants. According to Nguma, Araraume scored the highest votes of 22,944 votes while Chidinma Uwajumogu came a distant second with 3,757 votes.
Nguma also announced votes scored by other aspirants to include, Mark Uchendu, 1877; Frank Ibezim, 1216 and Athan Achonu, 934 votes. Others are Matthew Omegara, 698; Acho Ihim, 212; Bright Nwachukwu, 126; Eze Okoro, 53 and Uchenna Uchewuba, 51 votes. He disclosed that the number of registered voters were 37, 228 while the number of total votes cast was 32,464.
While the Nguma-led group announced Senator Araraume winner of the APC Primaries, the one led by Senator Ajibola Bashiru declared Frank Ibezim winner.
The APC leadership is expected to take a decision on who finally gets the ticket.