Politics

Ebonyi: Twists and turns of battle for APC senatorial ticket

UCHENNA INYA reports on the travails of Mrs. Ann Agom-Eze over her bid to represent Ebonyi South in the Senate in 2023, which clashed with Governor Dave Umahi’s senatorial ambition

This is certainly not the best of time for Mrs. Ann Agom-Eze, politically. Popularly known as Nwanyibuife, she hails from Owutu Edda, Afikpo South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State but married to Prince Agom-Eze, son of a traditional ruler in Onicha Igboeze, Onicha Local Government Area of the state. The female politician, who retired from the state Ministry of Lands and Survey as a permanent secretary, first bided to represent the people of Ebonyi South Senatorial District in the Senate in2015, when she contested for the position on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) but lost at the party primary election.

Again, she was in the race for the party’s 2023 ticket against Chief Austin Umahi, a former National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor Dave Umahi’s younger brother, who was declared winner of the primary election held at Afikpo North Local Government Area headquarters. Austin Umahi, however withdrew from the race and another primary of the party was held in which Governor Umahi was elected unopposed. Umahi was in the race for the APC presidential ticket, when the first Ebonyi South senatorial primary election was held. However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not publish his name as Ebonyi South senatorial candidate of the party.

This prompted him to approach a Federal High Court in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital to mandate the electoral body to publish his name as a candidate. INEC did not also publish Agom- Eze’s name as the candidate of the party. It was alleged that she also withdrew from the race like Austin Umahi, a claim which she denied. However, she joined the suit, which Umahi filed, asking the court to mandate INEC to publish his name as the senatorial candidate of the party. She sought to be declared the candidate as the second runner up in the first primary that produced Austin Umahi as Ebonyi South senatorial candidate of the APC.

But delivering judgement on the matter, Justice Fatun Riman, ordered a re-run of the party’s primary for the senatorial zone within 14-days. In compliance to the judgement, the party conducted the re-run, within nine days from the date of the judgement and Governor Umahi was declared winner of the exercise. Five persons including Governor Umahi, Austin Umahi, Mrs. Ann Agom-Eze, Mrs. Elizabeth Chukwu and Mrs. Margret Ibiam were announced by the committee that conducted the primary as aspirants for the rescheduled primary but Agom- Eze and Austin Umahi were conspicuously absent. Emmanuel Adebayo, the leader of APC’s committee of the primary declared the governor winner at the end of the exercise. He said Governor Umahi polled a total of 250 votes, while his younger brother got 10 votes. Mrs. Elizabeth Chukwu scored five votes, Mrs. Ibaim (three votes), while Agom-Eze got zero vote.

Umahi, in his acceptance speech, commended the committee for conducting a peaceful and credible primary election. He vowed that APC will sweep the 2023 polls in the state. “APC is rooted in Ebonyi and will surely sweep the electoral stakes at the 2023 general elections,” he said.

Troubles for Agom-Eze

It was clear after the rescheduled primary penultimate weekend that Agom-Eze’s fate in the party hangs in the balance as there were indications that the APC in the state was plotting to suspend her from the party. She has already appealed the judgement of the Federal High Court. She appealed the judgement before the rescheduled primary and obtained a stay of execution but the primary went on. The Appeal court is yet to deliver judgement on the matter. The move to suspend her became rife last week, but was stalled by some members of the party in her Umudomi Ward in Onicha Local Government Area of the state.

A member of the party in the ward, Nwachukwu John, said there was a plot to suspend the female politician “but the people and stakeholders of Onicha Clan have decided that whoever does anything against her constitutional ambition would be regarded as enemy of all.” He added: “Yes, there is a plot to suspend Ann Agom-Eze. The chairman and secretary of Umudomi Ward were invited by the Zonal Chairman (Ebonyi South) of the APC in the presence of others that they should sign a document purporting to suspend her. But they declined and said they would want to first discuss it with the ward executives and stakeholders before taking such a decision.

“Based on that, a meeting was convened, comprising the executives and stakeholders. Some of us were there and we came up with some resolutions, which were based on the fact that the matter in question is still pending in the Appeal Court, Abuja and that we won’t discuss a matter that is still in court as it would be subjudice to court process. We turned down any effort by anybody to coerce anybody from the ward to sign any document against her. “Everybody in this ward is against any move by anybody to do anything against her, especially now that God is paving way for her. In fact, anybody planning to block this lady from pursuing her ambition will become an enemy of Onicha clan. In fact, after the meeting, I posted something on our group WhatsApp. People called and commended us and warned that nobody should do anything to coerce or humiliate her.”

The chairman of APC Umudomi Ward, Ogbonna John Ogboji, confirmed that there was a plot to suspend Agom-Eze, adding that himself and the ward secretary, were summoned to sign the suspension letter. “I don’t think we should have done anything about it now, because the matter is already in court. And I think everything should remain the way it is until the court determines the matter. We are law-abiding party people and I don’t think we can go against the law of the land. And I don’t think such thing will happen in my ward. “Therefore, I don’t think it was wise for me to sign the sus-pension letter because the matter is still pending in court and I will never sign such letter.

I am even of the opinion that we don’t have the legal right to discuss it, let alone sign it. Even if the APC leadership in the state considers that to be sabotage or an act of disobedience, I don’t care because all I know is that I will always do the right thing and allow justice to prevail. “And even if am threatened with removal as ward chairman, by the state APC leadership, I don’t care. This is more so when I’m aware that it was God that put me on this seat; it was not man. All I’m saying is that the right thing should be done. So, I don’t think anybody will remove me until my tenure is over,” Ogboji said.

Reacting to the plot, Mrs. Agom- Eze, said: “I have heard about it. The ward chairman called me and said he was summoned to Abakaliki, where he was informed that there was need for me to be suspended. I think what he told them was that he was going to call a meeting of the ward executives and relay the message to them. “From the report that I saw, eventually the meeting was convened. And even the Vice Chairman (Ebonyi South) had to visit the Umudomi Ward chairman in his village over this very matter. After that, they met and came up with a communique. Before then, they were aware that the matter between the governor and I is in court and they could not do anything to that effect. It’s obvious truth that the governor is behind this move. I was already aware of this plot to remove me before my media interview.

It’s crystal clear that the governor and Ebonyi South Zonal chairman of the APC are behind this. “I call on all my supporters to remain calm and law-abiding. The matter is in court and as lawful people, they shouldn’t do anything that would tantamount to contempt of court. I want them to be mindful of the fact that until the determination of the matter, no action should be taken. I have not committed any crime; I’m just pursuing my constitutional rights.” The state publicity secretary of the party, Chidi Ogbuatu Simbad, however said Mrs. Agom-Eze committed several offences that should warrant her suspension from the party. “She has committed expulsion offences and bridged constitutional norms,” he said.

Umahi absolves

self Governor Umahi, who reacted to the allegation that he was responsible for the move to suspend Agom- Eze from the party, said there is no issue to warrant a plot for her suspension. The governor in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media and Strategy, Chooks Oko, said he wouldn’t have responded to such conjectures except that the mischief makers deviously dragged his good reputation and revered state party officials into their poisonous farce.

The statement read in part: “The attention of the executive governor of Ebonyi State has been drawn to some rumours on the social media, alleging that some executives of the APC in Umudomi, Onicha Local Government area of the state were held hostage in attempt to force them to sign a suspension letter against one Mrs. Ann Agom-Eze, a member of the party in the ward. “Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have responded to such conjectures except that the mischief makers deviously dragged the good reputation of the governor and the revered state party officials into their poisonous farce.

We wish to state categorically that the rumours are both unfounded and totally ill-conceived to create unnecessary tension and foist emotional blackmail on the people. “For the records, neither the state government nor Governor Umahi as a person has any score with the said Mrs. Agom- Eze as to plot her suspension from the ward level of the party. Agom-Eze lost in both the first and the subsequent re-runs of APC primary election for Ebonyi South Senatorial District. Does it not sound totally absurd that Governor Umahi, who won the election should stake the sum of N10 million as alleged by the rumour mongers to secure the suspension of Mrs. Agom-Eze? “The governor is the candidate of the party and the contests that went on does not suggest he has anything to fear from any quarters. So, what should be his interest in getting anybody removed from the party? Governor Umahi, as the leader of the APC family in the state understands that the bigger the party, the greater the impact.

He, therefore, could never have been party to any attempt to diminish the dominating number, strength and influence of the party in the state. “The rumour mongers should, rather than vector unfounded allegations, advise the said Mrs. Agom-Eze and their pay masters to accept the outcome of the election and support the party achieve its certain victory in the state come 2023, rather than sponsoring aspersions against the state party leadership and her Ebonyi South senatorial candidate.

“If Mrs. Agom Eze has any problem with her party ward leaders, she should mend fences with them instead of dragging the state party leadership and the governor of Ebonyi State into it. And for those who delight in spreading fake news, it is pertinent to advise them that the state’s law against cybercrime and fake news is still in force.”

APC finally suspends

Agom-Eze

Meanwhile, Ebonyi South senatorial zone of the party, on Saturday suspended Agom- Eze over alleged gross misconduct. The party took the decision during its meeting at the headquarters of Afikpo North Local Government Area. The chairman of APC Ebonyi South Zone, Ernest Nwazi, moved the motion that Agom-Eze be expelled from the party, citing rebellious and unruly behavior. He added that she fundamentally violated some sections of the party’s constitution. The state chairman of the party, Chief Stanley Emegha, who coincidentally hails from the senatorial district, said Agom-Eze has “rebelliously jeopardized her membership of the party by vehemently violating its constitution, which prohibits any act of dishonesty capable of disparaging the party or its members.” He added: “Agom-Eze has recklessly disparaged herself too by eating back her words in an effort to satisfy her paymasters. How can a woman who voluntarily wrote, signed and submitted her letter of withdrawal from the a senatorial primary that gave the Federal High Court, Abakakili the impetus to order for a fresh election still denies it in a broad daylight? Do you know that she also sworn an affidavit to that effect and all these documents are substantially available, including at the national secretariat. “Out of greed, the same Mrs. Agom-Eze approached the state governor, who also doubles as the candidate of APC for Ebonyi South Senatorial District, Engr. Umahi, to give her a whooping sum of N20 million and a Pedro Jeep. Just because her insatiable appetite for quick riches hit the rock, she decided to embrace the devil (opposition political party). “If not that APC, through its gender inclusive agenda, gave women forms to contest the primaries free of charge, would she ever dreamt of anything because she knows that she cannot even win ordinary ward councillorship. Since her expulsion from the party started in her Umudomi Ward in Onicha Local Government Area; even as the state party chairman, I cannot interfere with the decision because politics is a grassroots engagement. “Since she has been thrown out from the ward, local government area and subsequently the zonal level, what we should be considering now is to look at how to prosecute her in line with our constitution which is supreme. However, we are well schooled in her antics as she is being bankrolled by the opposition party. “Ann Agom-Eze and her cohorts should know that APC Ebonyi State will convincingly deliver all its candidates, including Governor Umahi in the 2023 general election. Her plan to step down for Ama Nnachi at the general poll has since been busted and will remain an exercise in futility.”

Group kicks

Reacting to Agom-Eze’s suspension, a group, Ebonyi South Concerned Citizens, alleged the state government through its agents coerced the vice chairman of Umudomi Ward of the APC, Nwitte John-Eze, to sign a letter, which purportedly suspended and expelled her from the party. According to the group, the same suspension/expulsion letter was last week Wednesday rejected by the ward’s chairman and secretary after they were allegedly held hostage for over 14 hours and later offered N1 million to sign the letter.

The leader of the group, Engr. Ugochukwu Orji, in a statement titled, “Suspension saga about Princess Ann Agom-Eze: A mere fallacy, move that increases Umahi’s desperation,” said suspension of the female politician amounted to cutting corners. “In their continuous bid to actualize their evil plans of suspending Mrs. Ann Nwanyibuife Agom-Eze, the Onicha Local Government Area chairman, Hon Felix Igboke, invited the APC executives of the Umudomi Ward. During the time of hostage at the residence of the chairman in Abakaliki, immediately after the news went viral, they quickly released them and came online to post a statement, denying every allegation against them. “The Umudomi Ward excos were released after their plan of coercing them to sign the suspension letter against Mrs. Ann Agom-Eze.

On Thursday, August 11, in another attempt to cover up their illegal activities of the previous day, they now invited executives from the Umudomi Ward to the state party secretariat in Abakaliki, which ended up in chaos as they finally offered the ward executives N1 million to cover up their logistics.

“It was later revealed that Governor Umahi called the Onicha council chairman and threatened to sack all the appointees from Onicha Igboeze community and the local government area at large, if nothing was done to suspend and expel Mrs. Agom-Eze from the party.” Reacting to the development, the Publicity Secretary of APC in the state, said: “Nobody was held hostage. It was a matter of the people of Umudomi Ward coming together to show displeasure over the non-ethical attitude of their daughter, Ann Agom-Eze.

She has committed expulsion offences and breached constitutional norms of the party.” Also, the Special Assistant on Media and Strategy to Governor Umahi, Okoh, described as baseless and unfounded, the allegation that some people were offered N1 million to sign Agom-Eze’s suspension letter, adding she should approach the party’s leadership and sort herself out.

 

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