OKEY EZE AND HIS APPARENT DESPERATION IN IMO APGA
Recently, the press carried some publications on the nomination and endorsement of the former Nigerian Minister of Interior Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, as the consensus candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Imo State for the 2015 Imo governorship election. This endorsement was signed by the majority of members of the State Executive Committee of the party.
In reaction, an intending aspirant for the same position, Mr. Okey Eze and his campaign organisation have been sponsoring various publications in the print media describing the endorsement as 'false, undemocratic, unworthy, childish and illegal'.Also, the aspirant and his supporters are trying to drag the name of the beneficiary of the endorsement to the mud in the said media campaign and propaganda.
As a follow up, the Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Chief Tony Mgbeahurike, also issued a press statement trying to associate the party's State Executive Committee with the above position by Mr. Eze and his group.
I have taken my time to look at the constitution of the APGA on nomination of gubernatorial candidate. Part of Article 24 (3) provides that '… where the State Executive Committee identifies a credible and acceptable person, it shall nominate and present such a person for ratification only at the State Congress as governorship candidate of the party. Such ratification shall be approved by the National Executive Committee'.
I have also critically looked at the composition of the State Executive Committee as provided in Article 5 of the same constitution. It could be observed that majority of members of the State Executive Committee endorsed the nomination. It is even said that some of the few members who were not around when the endorsement was signed are pressing that their signatures be included. Those who endorsed the nomination include three out of four serving members of the Imo State House of Assembly who are members of the party in the state, twenty two out of twenty seven local government chairmen of the party, all the Zonal Vice Chairmen, the Deputy Chairman and many other state officers of the party. The greatest irony in the whole exercise is that even the party chairman of Mr. Ezeh's local government area also signed the endorsement.
Till the time of this write-up, none of the above signatories has denied the endorsement or alleged that it is fake. Also the signatories have not alleged that they were compelled to make the endorsement.
Also, during the recent visit of the National Working Committee to Imo State, I heard that the body advised members of the State Working Committee that it would be better for the party in the state to produce a consensus governorship candidate for the 2015 general election.
I was opportune to attend the recent press briefing the state party chairman Barr. Peter Ezeobi made at the state party secretariat on this issue of endorsement of the former Minister of Interior. He categorically stated that the endorsement is perfectly in order and in accordance with both the APGA constitution, national and global democratic best practices. He also refuted the above press statement by the party's state Publicity Secretary saying that the party never authorized it. He also described it as ridiculous and illegal affirming that the endorsement still stands.
Coming to the allegation by Mr. Okey Eze that the endorsement is 'false, undemocratic, unworthy, childish and illegal' the posers to them now are, how is the endorsement false? Is it that the signatories are not existing persons or is it that the signatures were forged? What is undemocratic and illegal about the endorsement? Is it not provided in the APGA constitution? Are people no longer free to express their opinions again as provided in the country's constitution? Was Okey Eze not part of the APGA members who endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan in Awka recently? Also has there not been endorsement of governorship aspirants recently in Enugu State, Ebonyi State etc. Was Martin Agbaso and Rochas Okorocha's candidature not endorsed accordingly? How did Achike Udenwa emerge PDP candidate in 1999? What of Ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim in PPA in the year 2007?
On the other hand, what is childish about the nomination? Does it mean that an endorsement signed by three out of four serving members of the Imo State House of Assembly who are members of the party in the state, twenty two out of twenty seven chairmen of the party in the local government areas, all the Zonal Vice Chairmen, the Deputy Chairman and many other state officers of the party who would also vote in the primary election of the party is childish?
However, from the above media hype from the said aspirant and his group, it is very clear that they are very naïve and inexperienced. Democracy is a game of majority. Therefore, with the majority members of the State Working Committee that signed the endorsement, any person who wants to tell himself the truth will know that they game is lost and won.
Respectfully, from what I have seen of the said endorsement viz-a-viz the APGA Constitution, it is only a process and not an end to it. The process will also need ratification from the State Congress and approval by the leadership of the party at the national level. Also, it has not foreclosed a full blown primary election as provided in the same Article 24 (3) of the same party's constitution.
Then if it is so, why the hullabaloo? Why the blackmail?
It is very unfortunate that in this part of the world, power seekers who do not have any genuine vision and programme to sell to the people only resort to blackmail and image smearing.
However, if Okey Eze thinks that the majority of APGA leaders who did not sign the endorsement exist, he is also very free to get his own endorsement from them.. That is democracy. That is politics. That is the practice. This is better than the blackmail, castigation and show of shame he and his campaign group are exhibiting.
For some time now, I have been following the political activities of Mr. Okey Eze and his group. I have noticed some level of unusual desperation in them. I have seen many of his supporters trying to fight in party events. During the sensitization rally by the Imo State Working Committee of the party to Ezinihitte Mbaise, I noticed Mr. Okey Eze and his supporters parading round the arena of the event while opening prayers were going on. This happened at Central School Itu. The parade also continued while the state chairman of the party was addressing the crowd. It was only mid-way during the State Chairman's address that the aspirant, having moved round the place to his satisfaction, finally took his seat. This action was a very big nuisance to the event. Yet it was ignored. During a similar event previously at Ngor-Okpala, thugs who were wearing branded vests of the governorship aspirant in question were seen running amok the venue of the event chanting war songs. It is being alleged that the thugs are non members of the party hired for the purpose of disrupting the rally in the area. The members of the Imo State Working Committee and other guests at the occasion departed the venue of the event as the thugs refused to stop their chaotic ranting. Furthermore, as at the time of this write-up, the local government chairmen of the party in the three local government areas in Mbaise are still being threatened by persons suspected to be supporters of Mr. Eze for endorsing Capt. Ihenacho as the party's consensus candidate in the state. Out of fear of physical harm, these chairmen are no longer living in their villages.
Many of the supporters of Mr. Okey Eze boast that the former bank worker is very rich. However, the question now is, how did the new comer into the politics of Imo State make his money? There are a lot of people in this state who are very wealthy. Nobody has run away for them.
However, some people have alleged that Mr. Eze is secretly being collectively sponsored with unlimited fund by leaders of the main opposition party at the national level who have seen the former minister as the only viable opposition that can sack its governorship candidate in Imo State. The plan as alleged is to destabilize the party in the state so as to continue causing confusion till the general election is held.
Recently, some members of the Imo State Working Committee of APGA have also confessed on how Mr. Eze told them that his present political aspiration in Imo State is being sponsored by a governor from the western part of Nigeria who is a member of the said main opposition party at the national level.
I am from the same federal constituency with Mr. Ezeh. I have successfully served two deputy governors in this state as media aide. I have helped in educating and enlightening the public on issues of governance and politics the state and the country. I think I am more popular than Okey Eze. I know that even if you give him the ticket for Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Federal Constituency, it will be very difficult for him to win in the general election.
In my place Mbaise, nobody had known much about Okeh Ezeh in the politics of our area except this time he is coming out for governorship under APGA. In 2015, APGA in Imo State will be facing an incumbent governor who is popular, connected, shrewd and has the state fund to spend. On the other side, the party will also face another party that has an incumbent president, Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, ministers, serving senators, former governors and political heavy weighs in Imo politics. Therefore, APGA needs candidates that will match all these opposing forces squarely and not a political greenhorn or a joker.
Before this time, there had been rumours that the leadership and stakeholders of APGA approached and entreated Mr. Okey Ezeh to consider dropping his gubernatorial ambition for Senatorial or House of Representatives slot so that the party would have a consensus candidate for the 2015 governorship election in the state.
Interestingly, Imo State is now more sophisticated and enlightened. It has passed the stage where any 'money-miss-road' will land from the moon like a scavenger to hijack the highly treasured political mandate of the state. The state has come to the stage where leadership should be given to people whose sources of wealth are known, genuine and are ascertainable. We also need men of integrity who do not surround themselves with touts. We need humble and civilized persons with track record, known integrity and background who have been tested with political power at various times and they came out with good results.
On the other hand, from the refute of Mr. Mgbeahuruike's press release by the chairman of the party in the state, it is now very clear that the content of the press statement best qualifies as a personal opinion.
Enough is enough.
Barr Emperor N. Iwuala (Ksc.)