PDP to Conduct Fresh Guber Primary in Abia Following Ikonne’s Death

•Atiku, Ikpeazu, Ayu, Otti, Emenike, others mourn 

•He died of multiple cardiac arrests, his family reveals

Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has directed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State to conduct a fresh primary election in the next 14 days to replace its governorship candidate, Professor Uche Eleazar Ikonne, who died yesterday in Abuja.

A statement from Ikonne’s family said he died of “multiple cardiac arrests”.

In directing PDP to replace its governorship candidate, INEC clarified that the deputy governorship candidate of the party could not automatically assume the position of the gubernatorial candidate since the election was yet to start.

INEC National Commissioner on Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, told THISDAY that the party had the opportunity of conducting a fresh primary within 14 days, according to the dictates of the Electoral Act.

Okoye said the 14 days started from the day Ikonne died.

The national commissioner stated, “He (the deputy governorship candidate) can only fly the flag if election has commenced. They have to hold a fresh primary within 14 days of the death and then they submit to INEC.”

The family of Ikonne formally announced the demise of the Abia PDP governorship hopeful yesterday, saying he passed on by 4am at the National Hospital Abuja “after a brief illness”.

In a three paragraph statement, the son of the deceased, Dr. Uche-Ikonne Chikezie, said his late father had shown signs of recovery after receiving, “proper treatment” abroad. Chikezie said his father relapsed in return and eventually succumbed to “multiple cardiac arrests.”

The statement said of Ikonne, “He was recovering after taking proper treatment in the United Kingdom but relapsed a few days ago leading to multiple cardiac arrests for which he didn’t recover from.”

The family spokesman added that “further details and arrangements would be made known to the public after deliberations and meetings are made within the family”.

After months of speculations on the whereabouts of Ikonne, Ikpeazu had finally admitted during a radio programme last week that the governorship hopeful was, “lately indisposed”.

But he had assured the people that the sick candidate was recovering gradually and progressively, adding that he would “return sooner or later”.

Meanwhile, PDP, its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the governor of Abia State, Dr. Ikpeazu Okezie, governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP), Dr. Alex Otti, and other well-meaning Nigerians have sent their condolences over the incident.

Atiku mourns death of Abia governorship candidate

In the statement issued by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, Atiku described Ikonne as an erudite scholar of repute with vast experience in administration, whose contributions in advancing knowledge within the academic community would be appreciated by generations unborn.

He said as a strong member of the PDP, who should have led PDP to victory in the forthcoming general election in Abia State, Ikonne’s death came as a rude shock.

Ikpeazu directed that all flags at Abia State PDP offices should be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for the party’s late standard bearer.

The governor, in a press statement he personally signed, directed that the ruling party should halt all campaign activities at all levels till Monday, January 30.

Ikpeazu, who had anointed Ikonne as his successor, mourned the demise of the governorship candidate, adding, “It is with a heavy heart but total submission to the will of God that we announce the passing of our PDP governorship candidate for the 2023 general election, Prof Eleazar Uchenna Ikonne,.”

The Abia chief executive and leader of the ruling PDP in the state urged all PDP leaders and members “to remain calm as we navigate through this difficult period together.”

Also, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Ikechi Emenike, expressed sadness over the death of the PDP governorship candidate.

In a statement issued in Umuahia, Emenike said he received “the bad news with rude shock.”

He described the death of his fellow governorship contender as “a sad development for Abia State in the ongoing democratic process.”

The National Working Committee (NWC) of PDP directed that the party’s flags at the national secretariat, Abuja, be flown at half-mast in mourning the death of Ikonne.

Its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, in a statement issued yesterday, said Ikonne was an outstanding and committed member of the party who contributed to its continued success in Abia State and in the country.

The main opposition party described Ikonne as a committed patriot, very brilliant academician, seasoned optometrist and excellent administrator, who gave himself to the service of his people and humanity, and for which the people of Abia State were resolved to elect him as governor.

National Chairman of PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, said the party would miss its governorship candidate in Abia State for the 2023 general election.

Ayu, in his statement issued yesterday, described Ikonne’s death as a rude shock. The national chairman said the late politician was a true friend, loving father and devoted husband who valued family over everything else.

The Abia State chapter of PDP said it had also commenced mourning. Vice chairman of the party, Hon Abraham Amah, who is also the acting state publicity secretary, made this known at a press briefing where he read a statement by the ruling party.

Abia State PDP said, “His death is very painful, coming at a time when he was recuperating from illness and had shown great signs and willingness to join us in the second leg of our ward-to-ward tour that is ongoing across the 184 Wards in the 17 Local Government Areas of Abia State.”

Otti also suspended all his campaign activities towards the governorship election in Abia State, owing to the death of Ikonne.

Otti, who is also mourning the death of his campaign council chairman, Chief Nnanna Ngwu, expressed sadness at the news and described the passage of Ikonne as unfortunate.

Otti recalled the last moment he had with Ikonne, where they both shared some “exciting brotherly pleasantries” at a public function, regretting that death has to snatch him away from his family and loved ones.

The LP governorship candidate said in a condolence message issued on his behalf by his media adviser, Ferdinand Ekeoma, “To Learn that Prof. Ikonne has passed on a few days after we prayed and wished him quick recovery and return to the campaign trail, is to say the least very unfortunate, but we cannot question God who decided to call him back home at this time.”

Abia State governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Professor Greg Ibe, also expressed sadness at the death of his fellow contestant. In a statement signed by the director general of his campaign organisation, Longman Nwachukwu, Ibe said saying he received with rude shock, the unfortunate death of the PDP governorship flag bearer.

As a mark of honour to his fellow contestant, the APGA governorship hopeful announced “immediate suspension of all his political activities, including publication of campaign materials and transmission of radio and TV jingles till further notice.”

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