The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has a tough nut to crack in Ebonyi State. It has to answer the question of who its validly recognized governorship candidate is between Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odi and Senator Obinna Ogba.
There is a dispute over the validity of the two primaries held on May 28 to 29 that produced Dr Odii and Senator Obinna Ogba on June 4 and 5, 2022.
While Odii emerged in the first primary held on May 28 to 29, 2022 that was monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Senator Ogba has been given a certificate of return by the PDP.
As it is, while Odii insists he was legally elected, Ogba has the PDP’s certificate of return.
The 3-man delegates list used for the first primary was the product of the state PDP Congress of May 7, 2022 which was eventually recognised by the PDP National Working Committee, NWC.
The primaries were authorised by the PDP NWC, were peacefully conducted with the INEC monitoring the exercise in line with the Electoral Guidelines and the 2022 Electoral Act as Odii’s name was thereafter forwarded to INEC on June 10.
However, the national leadership of the PDP in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, cancelled the May 28 and 29 exercise, claiming that the panel that conducted the election was not properly constituted.
Odii approached a Federal High Court in Abakaliki which in a judgement on June 7 upheld his election as the governorship candidate of the PDP.
However, the PDP ignored the judgement, and issued Ogba a certificate of return as the recognised candidate of the party in the state.
I’m the authentic candidate — Ogba
Reacting to the development, Senator Ogba, whose governorship primary election was conducted on June 4 and 5, 2022, told journalists in Abakaliki that he is the authentic governorship candidate of the PDP as he has received the party’s Certificate of Return.
Ogba said: “Certificate of Return has been given to me and the result of our primary election has been accepted by the PDP in Abuja. We have appealed the court case. Court doesn’t belong to anyone but to everybody. They will look at it and know who is at fault. Nobody can take the mandate of our people from the backyard. I am happy with the PDP delegates who expressed their choice of my person.
“The way I defeated him in practical terms is the same way I will defeat him in court.
Ebonyi people shouldn’t be fooled. I am the candidate of PDP for Ebonyi State Governorship in the 2023 general election. The case in court is a pre-election matter. It will get to the Supreme court.
Odi remains the choice of PDP members — Onyike
In a quick counter, the Director of Media & Publicity of Anyi Chuks Campaign Organization, Chief Abia Onyike, called on Senator Ogba to stop deceiving the general public as to his current status after the party’s governorship primaries.
He explained that on June 10, 2022, the National body of the party obeyed the Court Order by forwarding the names of all the candidates elected during the legitimate primaries of May 28 and 29, 2022 to INEC and the processing of their forms had commenced.
In a statement titled: “The time for Truth and Reconciliation has come,” Onyike described “the parallel primaries conducted on June 4 and 5 as an anti-democratic intervention by some powerful forces who were hell-bent on reversing the popular will of the people.
He said: “The ruling of the Federal High Court in Abakaliki on June 7, 2022 restoring the authenticity of the first primaries which elected Dr. Odi was a historic confirmation of the democratic will of Ebonyi PDP cadres as against the dictatorship and imposition by a few godfathers.
“The PDP governorship candidate today is Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odi. He won the primary election conducted by the PDP on 28 and 29 of May, 2022. The 3-man Delegates List used for the primary election was the outcome of the State PDP Congress of 7th May, 2022 which was eventually recognised by the PDP National Working Committee.
“That Primary Election was properly authorized by the PDP NWC and was peacefully conducted with the INEC monitoring the exercise in line with the Electoral Guidelines and the 2022 Electoral Act. An attempt by the opposition to cancel the successfully conducted Primary Election suffered a setback.
“The PDP Governorship Candidate in the person of Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odi is willing and ready to provide leadership and to reconcile the members of the party after the divisions arising from the internal power struggle.
“We appeal to the leaders and members of our great party in the state to embrace the path of maturity and reconciliation at this moment to enable us focus on the common enemy as we gradually approach the 2023 general elections.
“We should quickly recover from the fallouts of the primary elections and close ranks in the interest of our people and the future of the state.”
INEC report affirms Odi
Meanwhile, the INEC has affirmed the May 29, 2022 primary election of the PDP in Ebonyi that produced Dr. Odii as the governorship candidate.
In the report, the Commission said that the governorship primary election of the PDP, held on May 29, 2022 was “successfully held as scheduled.”
The report dated May 30, 2022, was signed by the Head of Department of INEC Elections and Party Monitoring Department (EPM) in Ebonyi State, C. C. Nwodo, Anayo Onyejekwe and Oko Kelechi for the Ebonyi State team while Musa Husunu, Esther Ofoegbu and Abiodun O. Lawal signed as Monitoring Team from the INEC headquarters in Abuja.
In the report, Dr Nwazunku Augustine Alugbala scored one vote, Mr Nwankwo Fidelis Nwibo had one vote, Ogbaga Sylvester got 8 votes, Dr Eze Emmanuel Eze, one vote; Christian Usulor, 9 votes; Chief Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odili scored 349 votes, Dr Andrew Sunday Opoke got six votes and Senator Paulinus Igwe Nwagu, one vote.
The report read in part: “the Peoples Democratic Party organized its governorship primary for the purpose of electing her flag bearer in Ebonyi State. It was held as scheduled on the 29th May, 2022.
“The venue of the Governorship Primary was the PDP State Secretariat along Abakaliki/Enugu Express way. The Primary was jointly monitored by the state and Abuja Teams. The monitoring exercise was coordinated by HOD EPM, INEC, Ebonyi State and the leader of Abuja Team.
“A seven member Electoral Committee was on ground to oversee the conduct of the Primary.”
Members of the Electoral Committee were listed as Chris Okolo, Chairman; Olalekan Rotimi, Secretary; Barnabas O. Kunwa, Cynthia Nana Bala, Comrade Chidi Chidiebere, Mr Joseph Ode and Mrs Joy Odike as members.”
“Though not timeous because of the other levels of primaries earlier held that day before the commencement of the Governorship Primary, it was hitch free. The accreditation and voting process were smooth and devoid of rancour. There was adequate security at the venue of the primary.
“The Governorship Primary was largely held in accordance with the party guidelines for primaries, congresses and conventions. Gender representation and spread was noticed among delegates and one female was on the ballot.
“The outcome/result was generally accepted by delegates present. The governorship primary was generally well organized and could be adjudged to be free, fair and credible. It was orderly, peaceful, transparent and conclusive.”
Based on the INEC report, Dr Odi and his supporters have urged the PDP leadership to issue the winner the certificate of return as the party’s governorship candidate of Ebonyi State. At press time, Vanguard gathered that the PDP had given Odi the certificate of return.