OGBULAFOR'S REPLACEMENT: WHY OBJ, OHAKIM BACK OZICHUKWU
More light has been thrown into the widely reported support for former National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) (South-East), Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu, by the duo of ex-president, Olusegun Obasanjo and Imo State Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim.
The all-powerful Governors' Forum had earlier endorsed the candidature of former National Secretary of the party, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo.
Daily Sun learnt at the weekend that Ohakim broke ranks with the governors when he learnt of the alleged involvement of Nwodo in a bribery scandal in December 2003, and his prosecution by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
Others who were involved with him in the National I.D card scam estimated at $214m were the late minister of internal affairs, Chief Sunday Afolabi, the former Labour and Productivity minister, Alhaji Hussein Akwanga, the then Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ms Turi Akerele, former Minister of state for Internal Affairs, Dr Mohammed Shetta and Sagem S.A representative in Nigeria, Dr Niyi Adelagun. The bribe was distributed by Adelegun, while Nwodo allegedly conspired with him and facilitated the distribution.
They were arrested and detained by the State Security Service (SSS) on December 1, 2003. They were arraigned in Court on December 30, 2003. The matter was reportedly struck out for want of diligent prosecution but was not dismissed, which had raised fears that Nwodo's opponents might exhume it in the future.
The National Identity Card scandal came out into limelight in September 2002 when Obasanjo summoned top officials of Sagem S.A and the DNCR to a meeting over complaints of non-payment by some contractors.
A lead consultant to a political group in Abuja, Independent Forces, Nnadozie Emmanuel, told Daily Sun that the decision by the Governors' Forum to impose Nwodo was 'undemocratic and unacceptable and should be resisted because if the powers that be are uncomfortable with his style of leadership, they might decide to reactivate that matter in court, which might result in his forced resignation just like Vincent Ogbulafor.'
According to him, ' the PDP should turn their attention and search to those candidates who do not have any trace of indictment by any shape, dimension or extent. The South East is eminently blessed with persons who have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields and have no case or allegation of fraud no matter how nebulous. The PDP must not impose a chairman who would automatically become a rubber stamp for fear of being prosecuted,' he said. The group proposed Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (Rtd) and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim.
Ozichukwu served the party as South-East Zonal Secretary for eight unbroken years.
Support for him gained currency when it was learnt that Nwodo was from the same state of Enugu as the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. His endorsement by the Governors' Forum had also drawn flakes from many influential members of the party who were beginning to groan under the dominations of the governors.
Only last week, a former federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), admonished his party members especially the Governors' Forum to put party interest above individual or pedestrian party motivation.
' If our definition of party interest is at variance with party constitution, the PDP Constitution must prevail. The party has a constitution and no one must conduct the party's affairs, outside the provisions of the party,' Agabi explained.