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[REJOINDER] ENUGU 2023: UGWUANYI, NWODO, UTAZI, OFOR, EDEOGA AND THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST ENUGU STATE

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My attention has been drawn to an article published today (May 19, 2022) online in The Cable . The article written by one nondescript fellow called Godwin Udeh, who obviously is suffering from identity crisis, is ill-intentioned, full of his vain imaginations and can, at best, be described as a potpourri of falsehood, wickedness and divisiveness. The author, obviously, is not from Awgu area. I can swear on my father’s grave on this.

By Malachy Chuma Ochie

His mission, evidently, is to sow seeds of discord, create enmity and bad blood in the State. He also intends to pitch Nkanu against Isi-Uzo. This is lamentable.

That he could not even own up his article of mischief is a mark of his cowardice and inclination for treachery and evil. I have checked out the register of NBA and there’s no entry as Godwin Udeh. Albeit, you are an incorrigible liar; and that underscores the lie you dished out to the public.

The kernel of Godwin Udeh’s ill-fated essay is anchored on the following grounds: that Isi-Uzo is Nsukka and therefore unqualified to contest the governorship of Enugu State; that it will be unconscionable for Gov. Ugwuanyi to contemplate an Isi-Uzo person as his successor; that Chijioke Edeoga is the cousin of the Governor; that the Nwodos of Ukehe, Igbo-Etiti LG are playing a mischievous power game to install their in-law, Chijioke Edeoga, as governor of Enugu State.

Mr. Godwin Udeh, in trying to justify his irresponsibility and supine understanding of the political dynamics of Enugu State, used so many unedifying qualifiers to refer to the Nwodos, Chuka Utazi and any other person that catches his fancy.

He even alluded that Chijioke Edeoga is such a pauper that the aggregate of his salaries as a Commissioner cannot afford a Prado Jeep. Let me address these issues in their outline.

 OF ISI-UZO, ENUGU-EAST ZONE AND NSUKKA

One conversant with the issues raised above would be forgiven if one runs away with the conclusion that Mr. Godwin Udeh is suffering from mental disorder bordering on schizophrenia. His assertion that Isi-Uzo is Nsukka is otiose, idiotic and maniacal.

Enugu State has three senatorial zones namely: Enugu-West, Enugu-East and Enugu-North. The Governorship, since 1999, has rotated among these senatorial zones.

Isi-Uzo is in Enugu-East senatorial zone. For the records, there is no senatorial zone in Nigeria known as or called Nkanu senatorial zone. I recall that recently, prominent Nkanu personalities, somebody like Chief Anike Nwoga and others, have at various times clarified this issue by reiterating the fact that Isi-Uzo is a bonafide LG in Enugu-East Zone; and that no LG in the zone is superior to the other.

Did Isi-Uzo force themselves into Enugu-East? The answer is No! It was Nkanu elders that made the move to excise Isi-Uzo from Nsukka into Enugu-East Senatorial zone on the grounds that they were their lost kiths and kin.

Nkanu had always depended on Isi-Uzo to win elections; why wouldn’t Nkanu reciprocate this gesture, especially when Isi-Uzo is presenting a credible and qualified candidate in Chijioke Edeoga?

Why all of a sudden should the Godwin Udehs of this world rise to trumpet the puerile assumption that Isi-Uzo is no longer in Enugu-East Zone?

Perhaps, Godwin Udeh does not realize that Anioma is Igbo, yet they are ruling in Delta State; the Ikwerres are Igbo but they are in-charge in Rivers State.

Until the Nigerian constitution affirms a new political delineation, Isi-Uzo remains in Enugu-East Senatorial Zone; and to that extent qualifies to enjoy all the benefits thereto including aspiring for the governorship of Enugu State.

 IS CHIJIOKE EDEOGA GOV. UGWUANYI’S COUSIN?

The allegation that Chijioke Edeoga is a cousin to Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is ridiculous. First, both men are from two different senatorial zones; they are from different LGs and have no blood relationship. Please do your background checks and you will find out the lie in this claim.

Therefore, your crass reference to Dr. Okwy Nwodo, Nnia Nwodo, Chuka Utazi, Chris Ofor and Okey Ezea is unfortunate. Whereas the men you set out to malign and impugn are men who have distinguished themselves in various spheres of life and in nation-building, it smacks of disrespect for elders that you could stoop so low in portraying them in the most vile language merely to rationalize your pedantic ideology of nihilism and atavistic inclination towards the annihilation of Isi-Uzo.

Your pity-pat, thumb-sucking and naïve blackmail on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is jaundiced and dead on arrival.

 WHY CHIJIOKE EDEOGA STANDS OUT AMONGST THE REST

For the avoidance of doubt, Ugwuanyi has assured Ndi-Enugu that he would, at the appointed time “select a candidate from Enugu-East who will sustain his multiple legacies of peace, infrastructural development, industrialization and human capital development”.

The Governor would not want anyone with multiple baggage to succeed him. Look at the array of persons you mentioned and tell me which of them is not heavily ensconced in corruption and had been a regular visitor to EFCC, ICPC or Code of Conduct Bureau and other anti-graft agencies.

In other words, it is not Chijioke Edeoga that has unearthed the putrid deeds of these aspirants but like our people say, their day of reckoning has come and their sins have found them out. So, it is not the exposition of the burdens on these men that are necessarily the matter here, but rather people like you whose self-conceited sycophancy incapacitates to make objective analysis of how a combination of negative forces ushered your preferred men into the corridors of power, whereby they stumbled and fumbled with power, not knowing what to do with it.

 FACTS ARE SACROSANCT

I will like to make one more point before I come to another issue you raised in your article (if an article it is): facts are very stubborn things; and they are never silenced by merely wishing them away.

Facts are facts, period  – whether or not they are rooted in the purview of a man you despise. Governor Ugwuanyi cannot be maligned by people like you just because he believes in equity, justice, fairness and competence; neither can Chijioke be castigated because he boasts of immaculate track records far beyond the comprehension of his distant runners-up.

Rather, demagogues and liars like Godwin Udeh are identified against the factual background of the lies they tell; by reference to their lies- and you have them in plenty.

What becomes implicitly clear is that Chijioke Edeoga’s state-wide acceptance and marketability have become your greatest source of headache. But you know what? Our people say that a good product immediately commands extensive market share. That is the truth here.

Thus, your advocacy for the return of Enugu State to Egypt is an obvious call for the return of Hammer House of Horror in Enugu State, the preview of which we saw in the tragedy that befell Chiene I. Chiene few days ago.

It is therefore not surprising that in your article you regurgitated the advocacy for atavism in the state, which in blaming the governor and others, reinforced the fascist link between anti-democratic principles and a grim contempt for the people’s power.  

 CAMPAIGN OF CALUMNY

Your claims that “the devious schemes are being executed using the governor’s name to deceive and intimidate people”… and that “it is worrisome that Edeoga’s campaign activities bear the imprimatur and trappings of connivance with the highest level of authority in the state”, are understandable since they are the generic traits of Isi-Uzo haters, and advocates for the return of anarchy to Enugu State, which you recommend.

What is very clear from the above is that you have fallen into the same ditch as those who are “coming” and “going”, the same “man of the moment” and their cohorts – nothing but words everywhere; words anchored on frustration, failure and despair – “shenanigans”, “zoning”, political machinations”, “mystical forces”, “politically jinxed”, “fatal tumble”.

The only solution in terms of practical strategy is another phrase: “Accept defeat and join the winning team”. I believe you fell into these errors because, even as a lawyer, which you claimed you are, you lacked an adequate understanding of Enugu state’s political dynamics rooted in our history.  

 ALLEGATIONS OF CAMPAIGN OF CALUMNY

Your accusation that Chijioke Edeoga has been conducting his campaign with malignity is pitiable because you know you are lying to yourself.

If any governorship aspirant has conducted his campaigns in civility and openness, that aspirant is Chijioke Edeoga.

Little wonder he has been accepted by the people of Enugu State as the next Governor. Mr. Godwin Udeh, you claim to be from Awgu, but I doubt your citizenship of Awgu LG.

FUNDING CHIJIOKE EDEOGA CAMPAIGN

Finally, it is a measure of your delusion to assume that Chijioke Edeoga cannot afford to conduct his campaign. In your own estimation, he cannot afford a Prado Jeep, not even with his accumulated salaries as a Commissioner. One thing you do not know is that _Ka Isi-Uzo Jee Movement_ is a mass-based movement with men and women of means that are capable of the unexpected.

Chijioke Edeoga has enormous goodwill within and without; his goodwill is almost inexhaustible.

Let me shock you Sir, Chijioke Edeoga has been LG Chairman, Member, National Assembly, Special Adviser to the President and Commissioner.

But even with all these positions, Chijioke Edeoga has only two Prado jeeps, which he got in his two tenures as Commissioner in the state.

Remember, he was former Commissioner for  LG Affairs and later the Commissioner for Environment. Each tenure of Commissionership ended with a Prado jeep.

Any other car in his convoy belongs to his friends and supporters with verifiable ownership. Barack Obama, whose election campaign was massively funded by the American people    should be instructive here. God is not asleep.

 BILLBOARDS

The billboards you refered to are not sponsored by the Government. A closer observation of the billboards will reveal the persons or groups that sponsored them.

Chijioke Edeoga may not be a money bag but has a massive war-chest anchored on his immense public goodwill. 

I am sure you have not read Chijioke Edeoga’s profile. Please try and get a copy. I wish you luck.

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NNPP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, KWANKWASO, EX-GOVERNOR FAYOSE MEET GOVERNOR WIKE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS IN PORT HARCOURT

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GOVERNOR NYESOME WIKE, NNPP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, RABIU KWANKWASO, EX-GOVERNOR OF EKITI STATE, AYO FAYOSE

The Presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, together with a former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, on Friday paid a visit to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike in Port Harcourt.

Though the reason for their meeting is yet to be known, there are speculations that it is connected to the 2023 presidency and also on the forthcoming general elections.

SaharaReporters earlier reported that the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party and former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, also met with Wike, behind closed doors in Port-Harcourt.

Both men, however, did not speak on the purpose of the meeting, as journalists were not granted access.

Obi’s visit comes four days after the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, also met with Governor Wike at about 9pm behind closed doors.

SAHARAREPORTERS

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RIVERS STATE GOVERNORSHIP CANDIDATE PICKS TONTO DIKEH AS RUNNING MATE

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Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh

Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh has announced that she is the running mate to the governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) Rivers State, Tonte Ibraye for the 2023 election.

“I thank Mr. Tonte Ibraye the Governorship Candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) Rivers State for nominating me as his running mate,” Tonto Dikeh said in an Instagram post.

“We are looking forward to investing massively in social protection, creating a social value system for young people, increasing women’s inclusion in our governance system, supporting small businesses and strengthening our traditional institutions to be active players in the drive to bring sustainable development to the good people of Rivers State.

“I am glad to be a proud member of the #RiversRescueMission2023 Please get your PVC and join the movement. You are the Future and The future is now!TonteTonto2023.”

Ibraye won the ADC governorship ticket during the primary elections in early June.

The vice chairman of Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Abuja chapter defeated Dr. Warmeth Wright and Joyce Barida in a primary election organised by the party in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.

Ibraye, an advocate for maternal, newborn, and child health, polled 187 votes out of 188 votes.

A representative of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Emmanuel Isong, who monitored the exercise, described it as free and fair.

Ibraye called for full implementation of the Electoral Act in all processes leading to the general election, especially the enforcement of the provision for electronic transmission of results during the poll.

Addressing the delegates, he said: “One thing I must tell you is that, you have made history today. It will no longer be business as usual.”

“I believe some of you are aware some people will contest and they go to the ruling party to endorse them. I must assure you that I will not use your votes to trade with anyone.”

THE GUARDIAN

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OBI, KWANKWASO YET TO AGREE ON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, RUNNING MATE

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Peter Obi, a former Anambra State governor and LP presidential candidate and Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former Kano State governor and presidential candidate of the NNPP.

The joint panel set up by the Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’s Party to work out an alliance between Rabiu Kwankwaso and Mr Peter Obi has submitted its report for consideration, findings by Saturday PUNCH have revealed.

Kwankwaso, a former Kano State governor and presidential candidate of the NNPP, is said to have a strong followership in the North with his Kwankwasiyya movement, while Obi, a former Anambra State governor and LP presidential candidate, is having an increasing support base among youths in the southern part of the country and the social media.

While it is no longer possible for political parties to merge, in line with Section 81 (2) of the Electoral Act, both presidential candidates are working on a joint ticket with the hope of defeating the ruling All Progressives Congress, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and others in the February 25, 2023 presidential election.

The Section 81 (2) reads, “Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the commission nine months’ notice of their intention to do so before a general election.” Already, the 2023 general elections will commence on February 25, which is less than nine months away.

Kwankwaso in an interview about a week ago confirmed that a committee was set up to work on the alliance and that conversation was ongoing. He said, “We are in talks with Peter Obi and a committee is working to look into how to form a merger between us.

“The merger is important because as you can see, both the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party did not pick their running mates from the South-East.”

As the deadline for the substitution of candidates and running mates for the presidential and National Assembly candidates draws near, there is a mounting anxiety among the supporters of the two candidates over the progress made in the alliance talks.

Meanwhile, the running mate to Obi and director-general of his campaign organisation, Dr Doyin Okupe, confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that the panel had concluded its sitting and talks were ongoing on the way forward.

Okupe said, “A committee was set up before now and the committee has completed its work. There have been informal meetings and third party stakeholders interventions and we have had structured official meetings too.

“In all, we came to two agreements; one is that we are going to work together as political parties in order to achieve this change that we all desire. What we did not agree upon is who would be the president and who would be the vice-president. We didn’t agree on that. But we left it open.”

Asked if the parties would agree on the issue before the deadline for political parties to submit the names of their final running mates, Okupe said, “We are aware of the deadline, and we are working on it. When we adjourned our last meeting, we adjourned sine die. So, if there is a change, we will reconvene. But we are moving on. There is no problem. We have agreed to work together to create a platform for a national coalition, so that objective is still in place.”

Also, the National Chairman, NNPP, Prof Rufai Alkali, told Saturday PUNCH in an interview that the party was engaging with the people and getting support and solidarity from many places.

When asked who would become the candidate and running mate between Kwankwaso and Obi, Alkali said, “Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso is a seasoned politician and he knows the country very well. Certain decisions have to be taken at the appropriate time in a way and manner that would bring more strength and credibility to this journey.”

Asked if a decision had been reached on it, he said, “When we do, you will be among the first to know. No decision yet.”

About the panel’s report, he said, “I am not aware of anything and I am not going to comment on that.”

On the prospect of the NNPP in 2023, Alkali said, “I have been in other parties before the NNPP, and I must say it is amazing. We keep receiving calls from people that are likely to join us and we are making a lot of progress.”

Sources in both the NNPP and LP confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that an influential former President was among those being consulted on the issue.

Kwankwaso in Rivers

The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on Friday received Kwankwaso in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

After losing the PDP presidential primary to Atiku Abubakar and the running mate slot to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Wike, who is said to be aggrieved by the development, has continued to receive high-profile politicians, including Obi who visited him on Thursday.

Meanwhile, both of them were seen in front of the Wike’s residence exchanging pleasantries on Friday. This was about 24-hours after a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, as well as the senate minority caucus led by its leader, Philip Aduda.

The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, also visited Wike on Wednesday, while Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State visited him earlier in the week.

It is believed that the visits have to do with the forthcoming presidential election. All the visits were followed by a closed-door meeting but the outcome had remained unknown.

…19 days to go

Meanwhile, the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission indicates that political parties have until July 15 to withdraw or replace their candidates and their running mates for the presidential and National Assembly elections.

By implication, the presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Obi of the Labour Party and other candidates who submitted interim names for running mates have about 19 days away to submit the final names.

Item six of the timetable read, “Last day for withdrawal by candidate(s)/replacement of withdrawn candidate(s) by political parties for the presidential and National Assembly (elections) is July 15, 2022, while for the governorship and state Houses of Assembly is August 12, 2022. Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2022 provides not later than 90 days to the election.”

The APC and its presidential candidate had been confronted with the possibility of a Muslim/Muslim ticket, given that Tinubu is a Muslim from a Christian-dominated South while his running mate is expected to come from the North, which is dominated by Muslims.

The Christian Association of Nigeria and other groups and individuals vehemently opposed a Muslim/Muslim or Christian/Christian presidential ticket, saying such would be insensitive and rejected by the people.

Voter registration extension

Amid the growing public clamour for the June 30 deadline for the continuous voter registration to be extended, INEC has said it is unable to extend the exercise for now because the matter is already subjudice.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and 185 concerned Nigerians had filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos asking the court for, among other things, an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to extend voter registration by a minimum of three months and take effective measures to ensure that eligible Nigerians are able to register to exercise their right to vote in the 2023 general elections.

Speaking on rumours that the commission had agreed to extend the exercise for 60 days in line with the request of the House of Representatives, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC National Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission had not extended the June 30 deadline.

In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, Oyekanmi said, “INEC has not extended the CVR deadline. What the commission did about two weeks ago when we noticed pressure in particular areas, namely the South-East states, Lagos, Kano, and the Federal Capital Territory, was to send additional 209 INEC Voter Enrollment Devices to those areas to ease the CVR procedure.

“The commission wanted to wait and assess the effect of that action to determine the next step, but that is by the way now because SERAP went to court and tried to stop us from stopping the CVR.

“What the court has said, as part of its order, is that we should not announce any date or end the CVR but come on June 29 to respond to issues raised in the suit filed by SERAP. So now, even if we want to extend, we cannot do anything until we have answered the court and responded robustly to the issues raised in the suit and that would be on June 29. So, we can’t take any action on the CVR until then.”

Also speaking on the issue, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said in an interview on Channels Television on Friday night that the chairman of the commission was disposed to extending the exercise.

He noted that the surge in the number of registrants lately had made the extension inevitable.

He added, “We are going before the Federal High Court on June 29 to put the cards on the table. We are convinced that after we make our arguments, the court will be convinced on the reason why we cannot extend the CVR beyond a certain period.

“But we are convinced, given the enthusiasm of Nigerians and the new resolve of Nigerians to register that an extension is inevitable and the commission is disposed towards extending the period for the CVR but not up to the period that some people are canvassing.”

He said it would be a futile exercise to extend the registration and be unable to print the permanent voter cards of those registered and get them to collect the cards and vote. “So, we are favourably disposed to an extension of the CVR,” he added.

‘Tinubu, best candidate’

The Asiwaju Tinubu Campaign Organisation has described the APC presidential candidate as the most successful leader among all the presidential candidates.

The Director-General of the organisation, Chief Adebayo Shittu, at a press conference in Ibadan on Friday, said apart from being a governor of Lagos State for eight years, Tinubu developed leaders who became vice-president,  governors, senators and many others even after leaving power almost 15 years ago.

According to him, governance is not strange to such a leader and getting competent hands to work with him will also not be an issue.

He added, “He turned Lagos State around when he was there. He raised the internally generated revenue of the state and despite that the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, stopped allocation to the state for two years, the state did not suffer. That is the kind of person we need now.

Speaking about Tinubu’s running mate, Shittu stated that he would pick someone who would help him to win. He added, “We should not place too much emphasis on religion or ethnicity. If you board a plane now, you won’t ask them if the pilot is a Muslim or a Christian or the state of origin. What you would be concerned with is the competence and the experience of the pilot. So, we need to be concerned about competence and not religious beliefs.”

LP as alternative

A presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party in the recently held primaries, Sam Ohuabunwa, has said Obi has widened the options Nigerians could choose from in 2023.

In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, he said, “For a long time, it looked as if we had just two options, but now there seems to be the third option. That widens the democratic space and is giving relief to those who want alternatives.

“Though for now, it is too early to say or make any prediction, we are happy that there is a third option for Nigerians. The two parties are formidable and they cannot be glossed over easily.”

Ohuabunwa, who is the founder and former Chief Executive Officer of Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals and former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, maintained that the APC and PDP presidential primaries were characterised by vote-buying.

“The monetisation of our politics is depressing because at both the APC and PDP primaries, everybody saw the impact of big money. If we thought it was just for the primaries of the leading parties, we also saw smaller parties complain about money and all that. If we leave the primaries and come to the general elections, we see the accusations going on in Ekiti (governorship elections). It is depressing for people like us.”

PUNCH

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