IGBEAKU ORJI reports on the claims and counterclaims over the May 22 governorship primary election of the Abia State chapter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)
T he outcome of the gubernatorial primary election of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Abia State was a big upset in political permutations.
Prior to the exercise, Sir Chikwe Udensi, one of the four gubernatorial aspirants undoubtedly held the ace. Keen followers of Abia politics would attest to the fact that Udensi, through his programmes, both on the social media and conventional radio stations, in the state revived the party in the consciousness of the people. He had a reason for that: He was preparing the ground for his eventual emergence as APGA’s governorship candidate.
He expected that to happen with ease as he envisaged no opposition either from the party apparatchik or from outside. Udensi had singlehandedly inaugurated a welfare/palliative package in all the senatorial districts for the suffering pensioners who are owed several months pensions in the state.
He promised to end their misery permanently if he became governor in 2023. He also embarked on an empowerment programme for petty traders in which beneficiaries vowed to pay him back with their votes.
Callers to his weekly radio programme had prayed and wished he became the governor. In fact, his efforts in Abia APGA had been recognized and noticed by the APGA government of Anambra State. He was appointed a member of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s inauguration committee. But his dream of becoming Abia’s next governor on the platform of APGA has been shattered irredeemably.
It was learnt that all that Udensi did in the name of APGA was without the leadership of the party.
“We were not involved in his programmes. It was his personal affair. He did not carry us along and he kept telling people that the primary election that would produce the governorship candidate is to be conducted by the national Secretariat,” said Abia State chairman of the party, Rev. Augustine Ehiemere.
Ehiemere declared that Udensi lost the ticket of APGA to Prof. Gregory Ibe because he did not consult with party men and delegates. Surprisingly, the man who rang the bell of APGA when no one was there; when the likes of Alex Otti left, came last in the primary with only 12 votes.
He was beaten even by new entrants like Etigwe Uwa, who had initial hitch with clearance. What happened, according to Ehiemere, was that when Udensi saw that the legally constituted and conducted primary election was not going to be in his favour, he bolted from the venue of the exercise and staged his own primary election in another location, where he emerged the governorship candidate.
His words: “While we were still in the process at Kolping Society Conference Centre, the social media was awash with report of Udensi’s emergence as APGA’s governorship candidate.
That is an illegality, a nullity as far as APGA is concerned. The national secretariat of our party sent the Returning Officer, Echezona Etiaba, to conduct the primary in which we all participated and where Prof. Ibe emerged as flag bearer with 283 votes. All the security agencies and INEC were there. So, how will Udensi justify what he did?”
Udensi had in one of his radio programmes few weeks to the party primaries opined that it was common for politicians displaced in other parties to seek refuge in APGA but that it would not be fair for a tenant (a new entrant) to displace the landlord (himself, who had spent time and resources rebuilding the party).
His fear soon materialized as Prof. Ibe, who eventually picked the ticket and Barr. Uwa, the runner up, jumped to APGA from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), respectively when it became clear they stood no chance in the two ahead of the primaries. Udensi expected anyone joining after he literally rebuilt the house to queue behind him, yet he came behind General Ijioma, the third on the line.
Some analysts, who spoke on the fallout of Abia APGA governorship primary election, agreed that politicians are not good students of history. According to them, most politicians are not smart, but mere opportunists. They cited events of 2015, when APGA rose as a movement from obscurity in Abia politics and snatched 11 of the 24 seats in the House of Assembly.
The party also came so close to taking the governorship seat but lost the bid not because the people did not vote for it but primarily because it did not have people to defend the votes. That exposed the limit of mass movement without party structure and stake to defend votes. “In 2022, someone in APGA again wants to be the only cock that crows.
The attitude of it is either me or no one else, has been the undoing of many politicians. They claim the party is supreme but refuse to accept the party’s decision.
At the end of the day they expect every decision and action to revolve around them, no stakeholders, no stalwarts and no structure which outcome is always predictable,” one of the analysts decried. Ehiemere, on his part, said the outcome of the primary election was not surprising because Prof. Ibe spent time and resources to meet the delegates in their various wards and local govern ment areas before the shadow poll.
He added that “even Etigwe Uwa, who was earlier disqualified and later cleared to contest used the little time he had left to come second with 148 votes.” Udensi had alleged that the State Working Committee of the party manipulated the process against him because he rejected the stringent conditions they demanded for their support, including remitting certain amount every month if he became governor.
The party chairman denied the allegation and affirmed Prof. Ibe as the authentic governorship candidate of APGA in Abia State. He warned Udensi to retrace his steps in the calumnious campaign against the party and its leadership.
Reminding Udensi that his unguarded utterances had consequences, Ehiemere said: “It is in the public domain and all over the social media that Sir Chikwe Udensi, who came last with 12 votes in the just concluded APGA gubernatorial primary election held on May 29, is claiming that he won the primary conducted by the party on the said date.
“This assertion by Sir Chikwe Udensi is very misleading, deceiving, fraudulent, false-hearted, ridiculous and a calculated lie from the pit of hell aimed at deceiving the teeming populace of Abia State.”
The APGA chairman was unequivocal that the party has nothing against Udensi’s membership but equally categorical “that for nearly three years now, Sir Chikwe Udensi has never contributed any kobo in running the activities of the party in Abia State, let alone paying the members of the state working committee every month as he deceitfully claimed.”
Ehiemere also accused the Arochukwu born politician of blocking prospective members from joining the party by claiming to be the anointed to fly APGA flag, warning that “the party is ready to wield the big stick against any act of indiscipline and insubordination by any member no matter how highly placed.”
While Udensi has vowed to challenge the outcome of the gubernatorial primary election in court, Ehiemere advised him against such move, describing it not only as an exercise in futility but one that is dead on arrival.