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[ANALYSIS] ENUGU LP GUBER TICKET: Issues, Intrigues, Twists, Way Forward

[ANALYSIS] ENUGU LP GUBER TICKET: Issues, Intrigues, Twists, Way Forward


By Onochie Igwesi

Labour Party was almost nowhere to be seen in the build up to the 2023 political scene before May 27, 2022, when Mr Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State and 2019 PDP Vice Presidential candidate, formally announced his decision to join their fold after exiting the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.


Since that move, the rejected stone, arguably, appears to be the rave of the moment.

Such rapid and geometric growth comes with its attendant issues. It would later go on to reveal itself, first, in the Labour Party Presidential race.

At the Asaba, Delta State, presidential primary election, Mr. Pat Utomi stepped down for Mr Peter Obi to emerge as the party’s sole presidential candidate, unbeknownst to them that a then factional presidential candidate, Jude Ezenwafor, would later go on to challenge the emergence of Obi. However, possibly by divine orchestration, Ezenwafor, after a while, willingly withdrew from the LP presidential ticket claims, citing personal grounds and offered an apology for causing discomfort.


As the campaigns for the 2023 elections draw closer and going by the swelling patronage of the Labour Party by, majorly, Nigerian youths and in recent times, Nigerians from all age brackets, the struggle for who clinches the gubernatorial ticket of the party is almost throwing its different state chapters into serious confusion.

In Enugu State, things are not different as two camps lay claims to being the authentic holder of the party’s governorship ticket.

On one hand is the Chijioke Edeoga camp, and on the other hand, the Evarest Nnaji camp.

Both Edeoga and Nnaji were governorship aspirants in the Peoples Democratic Party. While Nnaji formally announced his decision to withdraw from the PDP guber primaries in the early hours of May 25, 2022, the day the election was conducted, Edeoga participated, coming second with a total of 9 votes.


Many observers have wondered why the duo of Nnaji and Edeoga are re-launching their guber bid using the Labour Party, especially when both of them congratulated the PDP standard bearer, Peter Mbah, and even asked their supporters to channel their support to Mbah.

But the staunch supporters of the two camps wouldn’t hear of that, with the Edeoga camp claiming irregularities in the state PDP primary elections.

On the scramble for the Labour Party ticket, their supporters who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak, had a lot to reveal.


Evarest Nnaji’s camp
On August 4, 2022, a primary election was conducted and it announced Chijioke Edeoga as the winner and governorship candidate of the party in the state.

Speaking on the legality of the exercise, the campaign organization of Nnaji’s camp, in a publicly issued statement through the Director General, Okey Ezirigwe, wondered why Edeoga should “appear as the sole candidate as seen in the amateur videos from the purported primary that produced him”. He went on to emphasize that Nnaji fulfilled all the party guidelines and was issued the INEC nomination form by the party.

In his words “The questions Edeoga should answer are, did Nnaji purchase the Labour Party gubernatorial expression of interest and nomination forms or not? Was he given a waiver after he met the party’s conditions for waiver, and did Nnaji fulfill the requirements for becoming the party’s flag-bearer or not? Was Nnaji at any point disqualified from participating in the primaries he fully paid for and met all conditions to emerge the consensus candidate as contained in the party guidelines? How did he (Edeoga) appear as the sole candidate as seen in the amateur videos from the purported primary that produced him and why was the kangaroo primary secretly held in a beer parlour located at the back of his private residence?

“The purported INEC officials who claimed to have observed the fake election did not emanate from Abuja and INEC had since put a disclaimer. The security agents who attended the purported primary election were proven not to have been officially assigned to observe the process and there was no official memo stating that the party had fixed a primary election between the duo of Edeoga and Nnaji. If the party did, there is no way Nnaji would not be present and the venue would not have been in a beer barn located next to the home of Edeoga”, Ezirigwe stated.

Submitting that at first, Edeoga’s preferred interest was to contest for the Senate, Ezirigwe questioned why the outcome of the party stakeholders meeting held in Lagos and led by Prof. Pat Utomi, wherein it was made public that there were two governorship aspirants of the party in the state, wasn’t adhered to.

Chijioke Edeoga’s camp
Reacting to the claims, a key member of Edeoga’s camp who also spoke on anonymity was perplexed as to “why people believe in lies and folktales than truth and sense of reasonability”.

He wondered why Nnaji was raising the issue “after over one month of the conduct of the Labour Party primary election for its gubernatorial candidate for Enugu State”.

He said: “Labour Party conducted its gubernatorial primary election at the largest hall of Top 10 Hotels by SARS office, Golf Estate, Enugu. The place was chosen for strategic security reasons. Again, is it reasonable to hire a stadium for election involving 85 delegates at 5 per Local Government of the 17 LGAs in Enugu state? The hotel is there, whether beer parlour or not, and is verifiable, as our incoming President, Peter Obi will say.

“The primary election was conducted in line with the guidelines of our Labour Party and that of INEC. The election was by open secret balloting under the supervision of the National Leaders of the party led by the National Deputy Chairman, South East, State Party EXCOs, representatives of NLC, TUC and CSOs, including the Press and Security Agencies, and monitored by INEC according to the Electoral Act of 2022. At the end of voting and sorting, Hon. Barr. Chijioke Jonathan Edeoga emerged victorious with 81 votes, and returned elected and announced by the Returning Officer, Asst. National Secretary of Labour Party. Edeoga’s Certificate of Return was subsequently presented to him by the National Chairman of our great party, Abure, at the party’s headquarters at Abuja”.

Asked why Edeoga participated unopposed in the primaries, he said, “Edeoga was elected unopposed because in an election where there is not more than one aspirant, the only aspirant automatically will be elected unopposed. Just like I said before, the Team for the conduct of the election announced to the delegates that Enugu State made their job easier by having only one aspirant in the name of Hon. Barr. Chijioke Edeoga. In this situation, should we have manufactured more aspirants or faked some? There is therefore no truth in sidelining Nnaji as no one builds anything on nothing. Odengene (Nnaji) wasn’t an aspirant. The delegates couldn’t have voted for anyone based on rumours of Odegene’s aspiration for the LP’s Gubernatorial ticket for Enugu State”.

On the claim by Nnaji’s campaign organization that Edeoga first wanted to run for senate, the source said “Edeoga never aspired for anything like senate, except governorship position, which he believes is a better crown to do good and contribute his quota in building a better society in Enugu State devoid of class, state of origin, religion, including practical good governance”.

While the debate as to who the authentic governorship candidate of the party is continued to rage on, it was alleged that Evarest Nnaji was an agent deployed by Enugu State PDP to destabilize Labour Party, being alarmed and amazed by the wide acceptance of Edeoga’s emergence.

In severally forwarded whatsapp messages shared by Edeoga’s supporters and credited to Comrade Kennedy Iyere, a labour party chieftain and national mobiliser for Peter Obi, it alleged that Nnaji collected 2 billion naira from the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in order to cause crisis in the determination of who becomes the LP governorship candidate in the state.

However, in a swift reaction, Iyere denied making such allegations. Iyere however said that Nnaji will surely emerge as the Governorship candidate of the party, adding that as it stands now, there was no Governorship candidate of the party in Enugu state which Mr. Chijioke Edeoga has been holding claim to.

Speaking during the “Charity Begins At Home” conference of Labour Party in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state, on Saturday, Iyere alleged that three Chieftains from the state were behind the crisis rocking the Labour Party in Enugu state.

Denying the alleged indictment on Nnaji, Iyere said: “Would I have said such a thing? If they say I said such a thing, let them mention one or two persons who belong to that platform.

“There was actually no primary to produce Edeoga. What happened was that after a meeting of key stakeholders in Lagos, it was discovered that Edeoga was not fit to run for the Governorship because Edeoga is a political dependant. He is not grounded politically to fund himself. Edeoga does not have N10 million to even rent an office, he depends on people giving money to him, he doesn’t even have money to take care of the basic things. He lacks financial and moral capabilities, you see the way he hijack rallies organized by others, he can’t organise his own.

“So, in Lagos, we decided there should be another primary election but Capt Evarest Nnaji (Odengene) was deceived out of Enugu without him properly being invited to participate in the primary election after paying all that needed to be paid and filling all the forms. Most people in Labour Party did not know there was a scheduled primary election. The Publicity Secretary of the party in the state didn’t know there was a primary election and he was the one that would have given the notice.

“Nobody’s name is yet with INEC as the Governorship candidate for Labour Party. Evarest Nnaji will be the candidate because another Primary election will be conducted before 17th September and Odengene will win. The matter is in court”, Iyere said.

Way Forward
A public affairs analyst, Orji Ken, who spoke to our correspondent, advised Edeoga, Nnaji and their supporters to thread carefully to avoid a boomerang on the Obidient movement in the state. He cautioned them to hold on till the October 2 date when INEC would publish the final list of governorship candidates in states of the country.

“It is necessary for Chijioke Edeoga and Evarest Nnaji to thread with caution. The PDP is still a strong party in the state and if this squabble continues, it could definitely affect the chances of Peter Obi in Enugu state.

“Why the unnecessary heating up of the polity by both of them? Did they not even congratulate and host the PDP governorship candidate, Peter Mbah to a reception at the end of the primaries and promised to work with him? Why did they renege on that? They should even be worried that this could affect their public view before the electorates. It shows their desperation to be governor, and at any cost.

“While I understand that they both reserve the right to vote and be voted for, they should exercise patience till INEC publishes their own list of candidates for all the positions in the country. Either of them whose name doesn’t make it to the list or feels cheated can then approach the court”.


Contents provided and/or opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of The Pacesetter Frontier Magazine or any employee thereof.

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