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The crisis rocking fold of the governorship aspirants, members and the leadership of Imo State chapter of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) continued on Tuesday with aggrieved contestants still expressing disappointment over the way the resources they committed to secure the ticket turned out in what they alleged to be undemocratic primaries, which produced Senator Ifeanyichukwu Godwin Ararume as the standard bearer of the party in the state.
In the same vein, the leadership of the Imo State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) has accused Ararume of not resigning his position in the party before switching over to APGA to contest for its primary.
In a statement on Tuesday, signed by the state Publicity Secretary of APC, Onwuasoanya F. C. C. Jones, the party regretted that there are grumblings among 14 governorship aspirants of APGA in the state.
The Returning Officer in the said primary that lasted till midnight of Sunday at Kanu Nwankwo Sports Centre, Owerri, which other aspirants claimed they were unaware of, Mrs. Eberechukwu Ejikeme, announced the result, claiming that Ararume scored 583 votes to beat Chief Okey Eze 61 votes, and Frank Nneji got 48 votes, Daniel Kanu 90 votes, Chief Ike C. Ibe, 15 votes, Chief Ikedi Ohakim 27 votes, while Humphrey Anunudu scored 13 votes and Chief Stanley Amuchie 14 votes.
Ejikeme later announced that Chief Uche Onyeagocha had 43 votes, Chief Steve Nwoga 27 votes, Dr. Sam Amadi 11 votes, Chief Nick Opara Ndudu 14 votes and Ziggy Azike also received 14 votes.
Ejikeme declared Araraume winner, “having scored the highest number of votes cast by the delegates drawn from the 27 local government areas of Imo State.”
Ararume’s candidature The Guardian gathered was ratified by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party in Awka, capital of Anambra State, on Monday, October 8.
Some of the aspirants told The Guardian that they were unaware of the primary and subsequent ratification, insisting that they had opted for consensus candidate among them despite that they had congregated at the officially communicated venue of the aborted primary at Aladinma Shopping Hall, Owerri.
In his reaction, one of the aspirants, and a former member of the House of Representatives, Uche Onyeagocha, accused Araraume of organising and declaring himself in a kangaroo primary because he was not accepted to a larger number of accredited delegates and members of the party in the state.
His words: “His plan to declare himself after the kangaroo exercise was apparently to create more confusion in the party, having realised that he has been rejected by party faithful in the state. This is the height of desperation, as all the governorship aspirants in the party have unanimously resolved to present a consensus candidate.”
In his reaction, another aspirant, Ezeh, accused Araraume of destroying the party, adding, “He wants to tear the party apart because of his rabid desperation for power and re- enact the history for which he is known, a serial governorship aspirant in Imo State.”
Ezeh alleged that Ararume used militants, thugs, and supporters to prosecute his aim.
“He declared himself the governorship candidate of APGA after a shambolic balloting officiated by his rented goons which produced a simulated landslide,” he continued the exercise had no single APGA official from the ward to national in attendance. It had no member of the party in attendance; it had no INEC official in attendance.”
In a statement on Monday signed by Amadi, other aspirants aside Ararume, had opted for a consensus candidate among themselves and urged the public to disregard Ararume’s candidature through a process unknown to them.
In a statement by another governorship aspirant released on Tuesday, Nneji faulted the process, saying, “Today, we have heard that APGA has put forward Senator Ifeanyi Ararume’ s name as the winner of its Imo gubernatorial primaries. “As you know, APGA gubernatorial primaries were slated for the 5th of October. When they could not hold that day for reasons unknown to us, they were shifted to the 6th of October. Again the event did not hold on that day. It was shifted to Sunday October 7. We mobilised to the venue and waited for the officials. We didn’t see anyone until nightfall when we dispersed. At about 10pm we got news that the primaries were taking place at a location different from the one earlier advertised. We also learnt that there were no APGA state or national officials in attendance. No other aspirant participated in the said primaries except Senator Ararume and his supporters.
It is unfortunate that our dear party we all believed in has been dragged down to such depths.”
Nneji commended the team that supported him, saying: “I thank everyone who has supported me in my bid to clinch the governorship ticket of APGA, a party which I believed was keenly interested in uplifting the Igbo man, and the Imo man especially, politically and economically. My desire to use my talents and resources to arrest the decline of Imo state is what motivated me to push aside my reservations about running for political office.
“I have lived and worked here for thirty five years, and I know that Imo was better than it is now and that it could be rebuilt to even surpass what it used to be. My political journey began almost two years ago when I decided to develop a Blueprint or Template for the development of Imo state. My intention was to hand the document over to the incoming administration to implement for the benefit of the people
“To this end, I assembled a team, which met in my house almost every weekend for about forty weeks during which they interacted with experts and consultants from various places and organisations, including Ford Foundation. These experts and consultants identified the various problems facing our state and proffered solutions. The areas covered included, health, education, agriculture, revenue generation, pensions, the Civil service, the Judiciary, Job creation, Diaspora engagement, infrastructure and tourism, to mention a few.
“At the end of it all, we came up with a beautiful and comprehensive document, a veritable road map, which if implemented would change Imo State for the better.
Members of the team pointed out that whomever the document was presented to may not implement it at all and would rob Imo people of its benefits and urged me to run for office to implement the Blueprint. That was how I got involved in the governorship race.
“I chose APGA as my vehicle because I believed in its ideals of uplifting the Igbo man. I proceeded to set up my structure and began my campaigns. You all can testify that I worked very hard in this regard.
“I was motivated and impressed by the interest my candidacy generated and its acceptance. Many people told me they were going to join APGA because of me, and indeed the number of APGA members increased after I joined.
I have no doubt that if things had been done properly, and a free and fair selection process had been put in place by the powers that be in APGA, I would have won the primaries given your immense support and goodwill.”
Also, APC did not spare Ararume in the APGA botched primary. Jones’ statement on behalf of the party reads: “ We are appalled at the loud outcries from our brothers and sisters over the disheartening ill treatment meted out to them by the two major opposition parties in the state- APGA and PDP. These outcries range from the most barbaric distortion of democratic norms to the most extortionist and fraudulent act in the name of politics.
“In the PDP, aspirants have continued to cry out over how votes were padded in favour of preselected candidates, while in APGA, there was no semblance of democracy in the processes that led to the emergence of their candidates at all levels. Aspirants were questionably disqualified after they were made to pay millions and even billions of naira in legitimate and illegitmate fees. We got information that waivers were bought at outrageous rates by aspirants, which saw aspirants who had stayed in the party for years disqualified on frivolous grounds while others who joined three weeks before the primaries were allowed to have their way. The case of APGA is clearly a case of putting a political party on sale for the highest bidder buys it off.”
The statement also described PDP in the following words: “In PDP, there are allegations of over voting, dollars exchanging hands and fake delegates smuggled in to cast illegal votes. These made it possible for individuals who had been preselected in Mbutu to be coronated as candidates against the wishes of authentic delegates of that party. No doubt, this situation has left thousands of PDP members genuinely disenchanted, dissatisfied and disgruntled and we sincerely sympathise with them.”
But the director of Ararume’s Campaign Organization, Dr. Vitalis Orikeze Ajumbe, dismissed allegations against his principal with a wave of the hand, opining that his principal was mindful of political and democratic processes as a party man.
Also, an official of Imo PDP governorship standard bearer, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, Oliver Enwerenem, while speaking with The Guardian on Tuesday said, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, observed the democratic processes in his emergence, following the state chairman of the PDP, Charles Ezekwem’s official and unbiased directives. Enwerenem expressed delight that Ihedioha has popular support of the electorate that would lead to his emergence as Imo governor in 2019.