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Nigeria Decides 2023: Enugu LP guber: Why we went to court –Odengene campaign

From Jude Chinedu, Enugu

Chief Okey Ezirigwe, the Director General of Capt. Everest Nnaji’s Odengene Governorship Campaign Organization, has opened the lid on the controversies surrounding the gubernatorial primary of the Labour Party and who becomes the authentic standard bearer of the party in Enugu State in 2023.

He revealed why his principal, Nnaji, approached the courts when some individuals in connivance with some party men allegedly sidelined him and announced Chijioke Edeoga as the candidate of the party in the state.

There have been issues over the right candidacy of your party going into the 2023 general elections. So, what actually happened?

What is going on is one that could be described as a regrettable situation because if there was any political party in Enugu State and of course Nigeria in general that needs its house to be in order going into the 2023 general elections, it is the Labour Party. I say this because as you can see, in the emerging political scenario today, there seems to be a sudden pragmatic shift in the political trajectory of this country whereby since 1999 it has been the PDP and some other mega party, that’s, the ruling APC.

The Labour Party has been more or less an invisible political party in Nigeria, but as God would have it, a phenomenal hurricane appears to have crept in, sweeping through the entire political landscape of this country. I’ll call it Hurricane OBIdient. This has given the Labour Party a certain kind of leverage, vent and energy within the mainstream political engagements in Nigeria. Coming down to Enugu where PDP has held the state by the jugular since 1999 and where the state and its people have been under siege of a certain leadership cabal that has held the state down to the extent that today the masses of the people of Enugu State are fed up with the PDP, yearning and hoping the Labour Party puts its house in order and hasten to bell the cat.

Today, something came up by the special grace of God and through the combined forces of nature. The Labour Party bug emerged and you know the centrifugal force driving this Labour Party masses movement is a South Easterner, Mr. Peter Gregory Obi, whose political strongest hold should be Enugu State. That was why one of the candidates, Capt. Everest Nnaji, in his own way, chose to support the OBIdient band by convening the ‘Charity begins at home movement.’ The whole idea is to eliminate the seeming reluctance of some Igbo political elite in championing the cause of the OBIdient movement, Capt. Nnaji in his own way felt that he had to spark in the consciousness of the people, the need for the people of the South East to be at the forefront of this OBIdient movement.

That since diverse groups, diverse creed, diverse ethnic nationalities and of course, the generality of the people of this country, for the first time since the end of the civil war, have found an Igbo man who they feel is pan Nigerian enough and has the capacity to lead this country out of the doldrums, we have found ourselves. That we should make Enugu the strongest political hold of Peter Obi.

So, in the build up to the primaries, my principal, Nnaji, like other interested candidates, met and fulfilled the conditions. He thoroughly read and assimilated the party guidelines. In the party guideline, it was clearly stated that any aspirant wishing to fly the flag of the party would procure the expression of interest form with the sum of N10 million. To be returned as a consensus candidate of the party as the party appears to prefer, N15 million. Capt. Everest Nnaji dutifully met these conditions to be returned as the valid candidate of Labour under the basis of consensus as contained in the party guideline for the nomination of governorship candidate. We trustfully stood by and waited for the LP leadership to conduct an affirmative primary for the validation of Odengene’s candidacy.

We paid into the account of the Labour Party and we received all the forms. We were given the INEC nomination form which the party leadership said was for the nominated consensus candidate. The impression they gave us was that the form was one and for the consensus choice. We filled the form and submitted. While we were waiting for an affirmative congress to affirm the consensus nomination, we started hearing over the radio that one Chijioke Edeoga had been returned as the candidate of the Labour Party in a primary election he conducted in one motel next to his private residence. It was a very awkward situation. We couldn’t understand what it was all about. And when we approached the national leadership of the party, there was no meaningful clarification and, on that basis, we decided to seek redress against an obvious conspiracy, travesty and rape of the electoral process.

Are you saying that your candidate was not informed before the primary election?

Yes, he was not informed. It was secretly executed. How they felt that perfidious exercise was going to fly in the face of the law is what I cannot fathom to imagine. However, in our own covert way, we investigated to know what informed their courage to toe that path of infamy. We approached INEC to ascertain if they observed the fraud called primary and INEC informed us that they were not aware that such primary held. At that point, we realized that it was a pure kangaroo exercise involving Edeoga and some of the people that colluded to cut corners and ridicule the internal democracy of the party and the general election. We, being law abiding people, didn’t want to go their way. We could have as well conducted our own primaries in a like manner. Nnaji is not like them, the career politicians to whom politics is a do-or-die.

We approached the courts. We didn’t have any issues with Edeoga because we didn’t have any contract agreement with him, rather we took the people we had the agreement with to court, that is the party national leadership. We have them as defendants and of course INEC was also joined in the case. We asked the court to compel INEC not to accept the name of Edeoga as the candidate. The honourable judge listened to the arguments we proffered and the reliefs we were seeking and looked at the evidence we provided. The judge agreed with us that we had fulfilled all the conditions for a consensus candidate.

In her judgement, she didn’t award us the first demand we made which is to be returned as the right candidate because according to her, the party didn’t conduct that affirmative congress. She also said that there was no evidence that Edeoga purchased the party form. Long and short of it is that there was a court judgement that there was no primary election by the Labour Party in Enugu State held in August 2022. It also stated that even if such an election took place, it would still be null and void having failed to comply with the provisions of the law. The party was therefore ordered to conduct a fresh primary in the state within a period of 14 days from the period of the order.

That’s an outright annulment of the purported primaries conducted by Chijioke Edeoga. The judge averred that based on evidence before her, the only person who purchased the form and fulfilled all the requirements to emerge the governorship candidate of the Labour Party was Captain Nnaji as there was no evidence that Edeoga paid or purchased the Expression of Interest form. Already, the other candidate, Dr. Dave Nnaji respectfully withdrew and was refunded his N10 million in accordance with the party’s rule.

This means that it was Captain Nnaji that was left as a sole candidate. And now what we are saying is that the honourable judge should have instead ordered the party to conduct that affirmative congress. On the strength of that, we have approached the Appeal Court to further interpret the legal implication of what the high court judge averred in her judgement.

The strongest point they raised in court was that Captain Everest Nnaji did not procure the form with his personal name. And when they raised that issue in court, the judge lambasted them for being so frivolous. The judge said that the issue at hand is that he paid the money and you acknowledged the receipt of the money and issued him with a receipt. What you should be looking at is the form you gave him, who filled it, what name or details are in the filled form? Did he still fill the form with the company name he procured the form as the aspirant?

Don’t you think the rancour in the party will affect the fortunes of Peter Obi in Enugu State?

Certainly, it has a potential of rubbing off on our fortune going forward because the undeniable fact is that in every family, there are persons referred to as black sheep of the family. Their irresponsibility, inanities and profanities always rub off on the integrity of the family. If you have a bad or criminal element in your family, it can hinder your women from getting married or people from holding members of the family in regards. It can expose your family to public opprobrium and ridicule and stigma. That’s what we are currently witnessing in the Labour Party in Enugu State.

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