Odii Flies PDP Governorship Flag in Ebonyi


Benjamin Nworie reports that with the recognition of Ifeanyi Odii as the authentic Governorship flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ebonyi State via a recent Supreme Court ruling, the battle to succeed Governor David Umahi has commenced in earnest

The struggle is over partially. The Peoples Democratic Party, now has an authentic Governorship candidate in the person of Mr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, a Lagos-based philanthropist and successful multi-billion naira business mogul.

Odii contested  the party’s ticket with a two-term Senator and former chairman of PDP in Ebonyi State, Senator Obinna Ogba. It has been a battle of titans, which led to court litigations after the factionalization of the party’s leadership and primaries in the State.

Without Odii, Ogba was at the center stage to knock out all his challengers in the primary. Ogba fought for the ticket of the party using his long-contacts. At a point, it appeared to onlookers that the soul of the party in the State was determined by the highest bidder from the National leadership of the PDP.

At a point also, it appeared that Odii was lavishing his wealth on vein mission. Ogba gave him a sleepless night. The battle started from a Federal High Court in Abakaliki and has finally been laid to rest at the Supreme Court.

To an extent, this verdict has ditched the political prospect of Ogba and all the candidates in his line-up. But they have veritable option. Either Ogba remains in his party or he forms a new alliance with either the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Ben Odoh or even the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Francis Nwifuru or at worst, rest his head politically for now.

The  fragmentation in PDP started after the congresses of the Party in the state which also spilled up to the last primary elections of the party. During the congress, the party was factionalized at the instance of Silas Onu and Tochukwu Okorie as state chairmen of the party. Onu challenged the legality of the emergence of Okorie as the State chairman and won in the Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki. The court ruled that Onu was the valid candidate and winner of the chairmanship election of the Party.

As political aspirations heightened, stakeholders divided themselves along the two factions. The two camps operated in different offices and locations. They also conducted parallel primaries.

While Odii, popularly known as “Anyichuks” emerged the governorship candidate in Onu’s PDP,  Ogba emerged the governorship candidate od Okorie’s faction.

Fortunately or unfortunately, both winners were presented Certificates of Return by the PDP. First, the NWC cancelled the primaries already conducted by Onu where Anyichuks emerged and rescheduled it. In the rescheduled election, the NWC mandated Okorie to preside over it as the authentic chairman. In the election, Ogba emerged and was immediately presented with certificate of return.

Odii approached Abakaliki Federal High Court and got a judgement that nullified the rescheduled elections and ordered that Odii should be given his Certificate of Return, which the party complied to.

At a point, it was confusing who were the authentic candidates for PDP in all the positions but from some indications, it appeared that NWC has finally settled for Odii and all the candidates in his line up. This development also crippled the support base of Okorie’s group, as most of their stakeholders and supporters abandoned him for Odii.

The litigations continued till the Justices of the Supreme Court affirmed that Odii remains the authentic candidate of PDP in Ebonyi State.

The apex court arrived at its decision after setting aside the entire judgment of the Abuja division of the Court Appeal which went in favour of Ogba for being a nullity.

Consequently, the five-member panel of Justices of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Amina Augie unanimously upheld the appeal filed by Odii as meritorious.

Justice Lawal Garba who delivered the lead judgment held that the purported notice of appeal filed by Joseph Obinna Ogba on June 17, 22, which gave rise to the judgment of the lower court was incompetent in law as it was filed without the leave of court.

The apex court held that as a person having interest in a pre-election matter, but who was not made a party to the proceedings, ought to have obtained leave of the trial court to appeal as an interested party.

Justice Augie who agreed with the lead judgment distinguished her judgment in Ujogbo Vs Abba Umaro decision which the lower court relied upon in its decision.

In his reaction, Ogba thanked his supporters and urged them to accept the judgement as act of God.

Ogba, in a reaction by his media aide, Godfrey Chikwere said: “Your emotions and passion are felt, your silence and decorum  as a result of the supreme court pronouncement is loud and clear and will not be taken for granted. Yours has been total support coming from inner love and unquenchable spirit of acceptance”.

“May I therefore use this opportunity to inform you that Distinguished Senator Obinna Ogba after due consultation with his family, associates, you and I will be communicating his political ground and express his political body language over the weekend.

“None of your sacrifices and concerns especially the concerns of Ebonyi people will be taken for granted as we are going to take a stand and communicate the same.

“We will not take for granted that our kind intentions may not always be God’s plan instantly. Therefore, our intention and decision will be inspired by God and not merely by emotions, self and selfish interest. God doesn’t  make mistakes”.

The judgment has elicited mixed reactions in the polity especially as it concerns the fortunes of the party in the 2023 general elections.

A social critic who confided in THISDAY noted Odii’s victory guaranteed PDP defeat in the main election.

He told Odii: “your victory today guarantees PDP defeat in the main election. If a party wants to win election, it makes sure the right candidate wins the primary. This is reminiscent of what happens in Lagos state,  where some political forces close to the ruling party ensure that weak candidates emerge in the opposition parties. That is dexterous politicking. I am sure that PDP won’t be in contention in 2023 election. Maybe APGA and the emerging Labour Party; not PDP.  The party can enjoy ephemeral Supreme Court victory”.

It was also contended that Odii is a novice as far as politics is concerned, and he may not know what governance in a political sector entails. All his life, he has been in the private sector. In Ebonyi State, for instance, his name was barely heard. It was in 2018, preparatory to 2019 general election that he surfaced in political arena.

According to reports, it was the former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Linus Okorie who introduced him to Governor David Umahi, as a successful businessman from the State.

Since then, he became one of the major financiers of Umahi’s re-election in 2019. Though there was unverifiable speculation that Umahi promised him the ticket of Ebonyi South Zone under PDP but was later denied, which caused love-lost between him and Umahi.

However, if not the likes of Ogba and others, Odii was said to have supported power shift to Ebonyi North in the spirit of zoning and rotation. But Ogba and others who hail from Ebonyi Central insisted that they must contest.

This development didn’t go down well with Odii who argued that if Ebonyi Central can contest for the governorship ticket, nothing would stop him from contesting also. Odii even boasted that if Ogba didn’t reverse his decision of contesting, he (Odii) would contest and he would win.

Since the judgement was delivered, there have been jubilations in some quarters in the State over Odii’s victory in the apex court. Certainly, the contest is between Odii of PDP; Odoh of APGA and Nwifuru of APC. They all have bright chances of victory, especially for  Nwifuru.

The disadvantage which Odii has is his zone which will be completing eight years in 2023. Morally or otherwise, there may be a point it will reach and Abakaliki bloc will see his ambition as a “selfish agenda”.

This was the fear nursed in 2014 when arrangement was being made for power to shift to the South. Most people from Abakaliki bloc  started expressing fear that if power got to the South, it may be difficult to take it back from them.

As Odii navigates the trouble waters of politics, it may get to a point that these sentiments may begin to occupy the minds of the people, and obviously change their perceptions against him.

If Ogba had emerged also, he would have suffered the same feat because he hails from the minority clan from Ebonyi Central. Ezza clan which is the majority in the zone would not have supported him to take the chances which would have favoured them anytime rotation is anything to go by. To a large extent, PDP will feature on the election as a mere political exercise for the governorship position but may win some seats in the State and National Assemblies.

Just like some people said, PDP made worst mistake by not intervening on how to respect zoning and rotation arrangement in the state. If the likes of Ogba, Odii and others had accepted to return to their various positions and collectively choose a candidate from Ebonyi North, Izzi clan to be precise, PDP would have clinched the state back from APC without much skin-pain.

Ebonyi state is still crude and parochial in political activism. Politics is traced and connected to all their human activities. Anti-party is best viewed as “drinking or eating in opponents restaurants or hotels” in the State. It was told that one of the reasons for which Umahi sacked one of the Coordinators of his local government areas was that he honoured a “birthday party” of an opponent.

So, as the campaigns are about to start, supporters and onlookers are at red alert to know the dynamism of politics in the State. From the indices so far witnessed, general elections in the state may be bloody and violent ridden.

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