Enugu Goes to Poll amidst Uncertainty

Enugu Goes to Poll amidst Uncertainty

The electorate in Enugu State will file out in 2, 958 polling units on Wednesday, February 23 to elect chairmen and councilors for the 17 local government councils and 260 electoral wards in the state. The state government has declared Wednesday a work-free day to enable residents cast their votes.

“The Enugu State Government wishes to notify the public that Local Government Area election in the state will hold on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. Consequently, the government has declared work-free day from 8am to 4pm to allow the people exercise their suffrage,” the government said in a statement signed by Steve Oruruo, special adviser to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Information on February 20 in Enugu.

But it appears the other political parties are not ready for the election. The main opposition party, All Progressives Congress, APC, is bogged down by internal power play, which will affect their performance in the election. The national secretariat of the party in Abuja just last week issued certificate of return to Ugochukwu Agballa as the substantive state chairman of the party.

While the tussle lasted, the caretaker chairman, Ben Nwoye, submitted a list of the party’s candidates for the council election. Agballa, on return to Enugu from Abuja, declared the Nwoye list illegal and is insisting on Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission, ENSIEC, rescheduling the election to accommodate his own list.

He told APC faithful at the party secretariat last weekend that “Enugu must rise for democracy to thrive. There is no democracy in Enugu State. It’s been a government of cronyism and elitism. On Wednesday, the local government election will not be held; if they go ahead, it will be an exercise in futility.”

He argued that “ENSIEC disenfranchised all our candidates. We had our primaries to elect our chairmanship and councillorship candidates on December 18 and 19, 2021. We submitted the list to ENSIEC, which it accepted. But ENSIEC decided to publish the list submitted by Ben Nwoye, a former suspended Caretaker Chairman of APC. ENSIEC knows Ben Nwoye is no longer the chairman. We had written a series of letters to ENSIEC with an avalanche of evidence to show that I’m the duly elected chairman of the APC in our October 16, 2021 State congress, but ENSIEC, led by Chief Mike Ajogwu, a senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, playing the script of the PDP-led government, and in collaboration with some rogue elements in APC, decided to engage in mischief by excluding APC from the poll. This is what they have been doing in the past, which is why APC has never won any election in the state.”

He enthused, “But good news is that the state executive committee of the party today empowered me to void that election. I have done that before in 2007. They can use ENSIEC, but we have already filed a law suit to void the election. Disenfranchising our candidates and excluding our party, completely negates the 1999 Constitution, which guaranteed our right to contest elections. They made a big mistake.

“Any money spent by ENSIEC in the conduct of the sham election will be reimbursed to the last Kobo to the coffers of Enugu State, or I drag them to the EFCC. We will drag Ajogwu, ENSIEC chairman, to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, and all the foreign embassies in Nigeria. For a senior lawyer like him to collude with anti-democratic forces to sabotage democracy in Enugu State, he will be held accountable.”

The Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, on the other hand, has tasked ENSIEC to conduct a “credible, free and fair local council elections in the state come February 23”. Edwin Alor, chairman of IPAC in Enugu State, told newsmen in Enugu, “The level of apathy our people always show toward elections is not good at all; people should not sit in the comfort of their homes and make complaints from there. ENSIEC, on their part, should ensure that the votes count. This is what will encourage more participation of the electorate in future elections.

“The good news is for us to expect from henceforth, a more virile and viable IPAC that will contribute remarkably to peaceful collaboration of all political parties towards the advancement of good governance and democracy in the state”.
Sources close to the state government insist that the election would go ahead as scheduled, despite Agballa’s new threat.

The government said, “Markets and offices shall be closed and movement of persons and vehicles restricted, except for those on essential duties. All residents legally qualified to vote are therefore encouraged to go to the polls and cast their ballots.”

Presently, PDP rules in all the 17 councils and 260 wards in the state. It is not likely there will be any change this time, given the crisis in APC.

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