Ahead of the 18 March general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State has spoken over confusion surrounding the party’s deputy governorship candidate in the state.
There has been confusion over the authenticity of the APC deputy governorship candidate in the state.
The APC has been campaigning with George Ogara as its deputy governorship candidate in the state, but checks by PREMIUM TIMES on data by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed that Robert Ogbonna Ngwu is the running mate published by the electoral commission in its final list of candidates for the 2023 elections.
Uche Nnaji emerged as the governorship candidate of the APC in Enugu after he won the party’s primary in May, last year.
Although several APC billboards and campaign posters across the state identify Mr Ogara as the deputy governorship candidate of the party in the state, the INEC’s list of candidates recognises Mr Ngwu as the deputy governorship candidate of the party in the state.
While Mr Nnaji was on the INEC list as the APC governorship candidate in the state with serial number 277, Mr Ngwu was identified as his running mate with serial number 278.
But the APC has continued to campaign and insist that Mr Ogara remains the deputy governorship candidate of the party despite not being recognised by INEC ahead of the elections.
Unlike Mr Ogara, Mr Ngwu has not been seen in several campaign rallies organised by the party in the state.
The governorship and State Assembly elections are billed to hold this Saturday.
When contacted, the chairperson of the APC in the state, Ugochukwu Agballah, told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Ogara is the deputy governorship candidate of the party in the state.
Mr Agballah explained that Mr Ngwu was used as “a placeholder” to beat the deadline for submission of running mate to the INEC.
The APC chairperson claimed that Mr Ngwu had withdrawn as the deputy governorship candidate of the party in the state after the party nominated a substantive running mate.
“We have handed over all his (withdrawal) documents to INEC; where he (Ngwu) withdrew and where we replaced him with George Ogara,” he said.
Mr Agballah suggested that it would be “mischievous” if INEC went ahead to publish Mr Ngwu as the deputy governorship candidate of the party in the state.
“Robert (Ngwu) has never claimed the deputy governorship position. He was a placeholder and when we found a (substantive) deputy, he willingly deposed an affidavit of withdrawal and we replaced him with Ogara. We have notified INEC,” he added.
When asked why Mr Ngwu’s name was published in the final list of candidates for the 2023 elections by the INEC, the APC leader said: “If it is still in the list, then it is a typographical error, because they (INEC) have been notified and there is a legal letter to that effect.”
Controversial deputy governorship candidate breaks silence
Mr Ngwu, the controversial deputy governorship candidate, told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday evening that the matter had been decided by a Federal High Court, Enugu on 8 December, last year.
The court, according to Mr Ngwu, ruled that the nomination of Mr Ogara as the APC deputy governorship candidate in Enugu State was “valid and binding.”
“Since 8 December 2022 till date, there is no appeal against the said judgement and the judgement has not been set aside till date,” he said.
On the continued appearance of his name on the INEC list, Mr Ngwu said INEC has since been served with a copy of the court judgement and order.
“INEC is bound to comply with the order of the court,” he insisted.
The INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, did not respond to calls seeking comments from him about the issue.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Mr Okoye, a lawyer, was yet to respond to a WhatsApp message sent to him at exactly 12:49 p.m. on Monday.
A screenshot of the INEC final list where Mr Ngwu’s name appeared was attached to the WhatsApp message to the commission’s spokesperson.
The APC in Enugu State has been enmeshed in a leadership crisis lately, resulting in the splitting of the party into two factions.
A faction of the party led by a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, has been in a lingering disagreement with another faction of the party led by Mr Agballah.
Members of the faction led by Mr Nnamani include Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, former Governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, and a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Eugene Odo.
The faction had accused Mr Agballah and the party’s governorship candidate, Uche Nnaji, of running the party like their “personal businesses.”
The faction repeatedly complained that one of their major grouses was that the Mr Agballah-led faction of the party was fielding its governorship and deputy governorship candidates from the same senatorial district.
Messrs Nnaji and Ngwu hail from Enugu East District.
But Mr Ogara, the deputy governorship candidate adopted by the party in the state, hails from Enugu North District.
Group petitions INEC
In February, a civil society group, the Enugu Good Governance Group, petitioned INEC over what it termed a “fake deputy governorship candidate” of the APC in the state.
In a statement by its National Coordinator, Odinaka Okechukwu, the group asked INEC to sanction the party for “deceiving Enugu people with a fake deputy governorship candidate” different from the candidate approved by the electoral commission.
“On 30th January 2023, INEC published the Amended List of final candidates pursuant to court orders, death, and corrections of errors made by political parties in line with section 287 of the 1999 constitution.
“We observed that the changes did not affect any political party in Enugu, hence Robert Ngwu remains the deputy governorship candidate of the Enugu APC,” the group said.
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It claimed that the APC has continued to parade Mr Ogara as its deputy governorship candidate despite not being published by INEC because the party wants to hide the fact that Messrs Nnaji and Ngwu hail from the same senatorial district.
“We hold that it is fraudulent, ignoble, anti-democratic and must be immediately sanctioned by the INEC,” the group said of Mr Ogara’s deputy governorship candidacy.
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