Okigwe Zone Senate; What Manner of Primaries


Can it be said that the cherished Democracy Nigerian is practicing for over 20 years is gradually taking a dive in our beloved country?
I beg to ask the question considering the tinge of drama that characterized the conduct of the Imo North Senatorial District primary election done by the APC. A fresh election for who occupies the Senate Seat of Okigwe zone made vacant by death, holds October 31st, 2020.
The race to produce a replacement for late Benjamin Uwajumogu, the Senator who represented the zone and had  his tenure cut short by death, late last year, has witnessed a topsy-turvy shape, leading to an unprecedented critical juncture where the ruling party; the All Progressive Congress, APC is embroiled in bewildered difficulty of producing the actual winner of the contest.
By the time this commentary was assembled for publication, a clearer picture of who the party has forwarded his or her name to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had not fully emerged. Therefore, I won’t run  foul of professional misconduct or show prejudice to the final decision of the party, suffice it to note that the conduct of the primaries election in the APC to select the flag bearer is raising dust the party lacks the capacity to settle for now.
Based on postulations carried on the social media, a section of the print media has gone public to suggest that Frank Ibezim has been named by the party as flag bearer based on a letter INEC acknowledged from APC. While other quarters in the industry who think the information is apocryphal, are of the view that the APC is yet to confirm who has the mandate even as feelers have it too that either the  name of Ifeanyi Araraume or Chidinma Uwajumogu, the elder sister of the late Senator may have also reached the electoral umpire for consideration. I don’t think I am in a position to name the winner here.
On September 3rd, 2020, not less than seven persons stood for the party’s primary election held in the six LGAs that make up the zone. Among those who spent millions to be part of the exercise are Frank Ibezim, Ifeanyi Araraume, Chidinma Uwajumogu, Acho Ihim and Mark Uchendu. Others were Bright Nwachukwu, Chikwem Onuoha and Athan Achonu.
Indications that a discombobulation would be the trademark of the primaries emerged when the camps involved in the lingering battle for who controls the soul of APC in Imo resurfaced struggle for supremacy.
After a successful ride from birth in late 2013 to 2015 when  it provided the platform that saw Rochas Okorocha gain a second tenure in office, the APC moved smoothly under the control of the Rescue Mission political family propelled by Rochas Okorocha until 2018, schisms crept in to rock the foundation of the party in Imo State.
The breach of peace and cohesion in the state chapter became prominent in 2018, the National Convention of the party in Abuja approached. Leadership struggle over who controls the party led to the creation of two major factions known as Coalition and Agburu (Rescue Mission) political camps.
Two years after the crack was noticed in the rank and file, the partition created has clearly shown a wide gulf, thereby taking a devastating toll on the party in Imo.  It wasn’t surprising that controversy has dogged the primaries to elect the ticket owner of the Okigwe North Senatorial District election.
What resumed the hostilities between the warring factions was the issue of which of the state executive is entitled to conduct the primaries. Before now, the contest for who controlled the party affairs was relegated  when another party was in power after 2019 election as the faction controlled by Dan Nwafor led Exco merely went underground after Emeka Ihedioha, emerged governor. It would be recalled that the failure of Nwafor Exco to back Uzodinma’s emergeance as the governorship candidate of APC led to their dissolution by the Adams Oshiomhole National Working Committee late 2018. In their place, a Caretaker Committee under Marcon Nlemigbo was set up. Uzodinma who emerged governor early this year is part of the Marcon Nlemigbo Caretaker Committee.
Nwafor had gone to court to seek redress over his acclaimed unlawful removal. Despite the outcome of the court decisions, the national body didn’t want to look the way of Nwafor Exco which has the backing of former governor, Okorocha. However, the exit of Oshiomole’s NWC and preparations for the conduct of the Senate Primaries aroused Nwafor’s interest to resume claim of the state party leadership.
As INEC blew the whistle to announce the dates for Okigwe Senate election, his claims became heightened before counter claims from the rival faction dominated proceedings in Imo APC. While the Nlemigbo said it was in charge, Nwafor refuted their claims and issued a caveat against them.
It became a ding, dong affair which saw the APC aspirants confused on who to deal with. Most of the contestants where in limbo on who to relate with before the dying minutes when the National Caretaker Committee wrote INEC about dealing with the Nlemigbo group as the authentic State Exco.
Off all the aspirants, it was observed that only Araraume had the sympathy of the Nwafor group while the remaining was of the Nlemigbo faction.
Ominous developments that commotion would be the outcome of the exercise came up since the Nlemigbo faction advocated for a consensus candidate arrangement while Nwafor group opted for Direct Primaries at separate gatherings. To worsen the development, the Nlemigbo team met and held meeting at Govt House, Owerri while the private hotel of Uche Nwosu, was the venue of the Nwafor group gathering where contrasting views were canvassed.
It was more of a theatre of absurdities on the day of the primaries as most of the contestants organized what seemed to be private Primaries where they declared themselves winners. Before noon of the day, the social media was already abuzz with self-made and arranged primaries each candidate declared himself or herself winner without the presence of the party officials and INEC team mandated to conduct the primaries.
Further to the frenzy of oddities that ravaged the exercise, the team sent from the national party office in Abuja to organize the show fertilized the “American Wonder” brand of party primaries with unsavory acts.
To the chagrin of bystanders who developed interest in the unfolding scenario, the team became divided and came up with two scorecards. From reports, it was gathered that the committee chairman for the primaries came with few other members and declared Ibezim winner while his Secretary and other members said that Araraume won. In the midst of the confusion, Athan Achonu, another aspirant asked his supporters to calm down since they have secured victory based on alleged votes garnered from the wards. Chidinma Uwajumogu was not left out too in the abracadabra. She told who cared to listen that the ticket belongs to her if records of votes counted at the various wards are considered.
Meanwhile, result sheets of different brands comprising multifarious scores started sprouting from available corners in the internet making it difficult for anyone to believe any of the claims.
While the battle for who won raged, information emerged that the aspirant tipped to be the eventual winner, Ibezim, was even disqualified and not permitted to contest the primaries based on the alleged report of the Screening Committee and the Appeal Committee. But party officials denied such reports adding that he was qualified.  Meanwhile, the disqualification story came after the contest. From the foregoing its evidently clear APC is at crossroads over whom to handover the ticket as other aspirants have started consulting lawyers to end the matter in the law court.