By Chibota Edozie, Enugu
The candidature of Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, House Committee Chairman on Maritime and the consensus candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Enugu State chapter recieved a boost yesterday as the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has declared his support for his candidature, describing him as the “future of Enugu”.
Speaking after he was returned unopposed in the Enugu West Senatorial Zone primaries on Sunday, Senator Ekweremadu urged his supporters to vote for Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who had been earlier endorsed by Governor Sullivan Chime, PDP Enugu State Caucus and other stakeholders as the party’s consensus candidate for theEnugu gubernatorial election in 2015.
“In the spirit of equity, we have all agreed that the governorship should go to Nsukka, so let us support Ugwuanyi”, Ekweremadu affirmed.
“As you can see today, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu has withdrawn from the race; Chinedu Onu has also withdrawn, so I urge all our people to vote for Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi tomorrow (Monday). Peace requires making sacrifices andthat is what they have all done”, the Deputy Senate President added.
On Sunday, Chief Anayo Onwuegbu announced his withdrawal from the gubernatorial primaries in Awgu, venue of the Enugu West senatorial zone, PDP primary elections.
Withdrawing from the race, Onwuegbu said his decision was to stabilize the peace which was gradually returning to the PDP in the State.
It would be recalled that Onwuegbu also contested with Governor Chime for the PDP ticket in the primaries in 2011.
Also on Sunday, in Agwu, Mr. Chinedu Onu announced his decision to withdraw from the guber race.
With this development, Senator Ayogu Eze and Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi are now the two major aspirants for the PDP guber ticket.
But, the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Eugene Odo, and a transport mogul, Evang. Samuel Onyishi, are still in the race as at the time of filling this report.
However, a source told THE CITIZEN that pressures are being mounted on Sen. Eze and other aspirants to step down for Ugwuanyi.
According to the source, “the party stakeholders are working hard to ensure that Ugwuanyi goes into the primaries as a consensus candidate.
“Between today and tomorrow, Monday, when we shall have the primaries, most of the aspirants, if not all, would have stepped down for him”.
With this development, it is becoming clearer that Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is coasting to victory in view of his wide acceptability and the withdrawal of Governor Sullivan Chime from the race for Enugu West Senatorial Zone.
Chime dropped his senatorial ambition in line with the peace accord brokered by President Goodluck Jonathan and leaders of the PDP to reconcile the Governor and the Deputy Senate President.
A reliable source revealed to THE CITIZEN that with the peaceful resolution of the political impasse in the party in the State, which resulted to the uncommon sacrifice and disposition of the Governor to step-down for Senator Ike Ekweremadu to return to the Senate in 2015, grey areasconcerning the victory of the party’s consensus candidate have been addressed amicably.
Ugwuanyi’s emergence has received a lot of commendations and support from party members and individual supporters,support groups and non-political organizations, which is a strong indication that he is widely accepted for the exalted office.
The source added that “the coast is clear now for Hon. Ugwuanyi to emerge victorious in today’s gubernatorial primaries. All other forces against him have been properly addressed”.
“A good pointer is the peaceful conduct of other elective primaries in the state, starting with the State Assembly which was held on November 29, 2014, where all the consensus candidates were returned.”
“Therefore, it is then logical that what transpired in the National Assembly primaries last weekend will be experienced today in the bid to elect Ugwuanyi,” said a source.
Chime and Ekweremadu had been up in political arms over who would represent Enugu West in the Senate, which led tofactions in the party’s leadership in the state – one was led by Chief Ikeji Asogwa and the other by Elder David Aja.
However, when Jonathan waded into the crisis in Enugu,Chime was said to have been advised to allow Ekweremaduto go back to the Senate; while the governor would take charge of producing representatives in the other twosenatorial zones.
In the new development, an agreement was also reached on the harmonization of other interests by the two gladiators that ushered in a peaceful election last Saturday during the House of Assembly primaries where Chief Asogwa and Elder Aja sat side by side to conduct the exercise for the aspirants.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has dedicated his victory to Governor Chime, who he said made personal sacrifices for the return of peace to the party.
According to him, “this is the first time I am being returned unopposed despite all challenges, which means there is God in heaven; He acts when everything is impossible.
“I want to dedicate this victory to Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State; he equally made personal sacrifices to pave way for the peace we have today”, Ekweremadu stated.
Ekweremadu promised to attract more developmental projects to the people, including a Federal Polytechnic as well as job opportunities.
The primary elections for senate representatives had a total number of 299 accredited delegates out of the 315 statutory delegates.
The Returning Officer, Mr. Innocent Agbo, accompanied by the Electoral Officer, Mr. Emma Ogbu had earlier announced that Ekweremadu was the only candidate for the election.
He, however, said that there must be actual voting in line with the party’s constitution.
At the end of voting, Ekweremadu polled 294 votes. Five votes were declared invalid.
At the time of filing this report, the State Executive Committee of the party in the state was in a very emergency meeting, which a source told THE CITIZEN was meant to formally endorce Chief Ikeje Asogwa as the Acting Chairman of the Party in the state.
Those at the meeting include the state governor, Barr Sullivan Chime, Ike Ekweremadu, Chief Ajah, and other members. This it was leant was to forstal any legal lacuna that might affect the gubernatorial primaries of the state on Monday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Gilbert Nnaji Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, and Hon Chukwuka Utazi, former Commissioner for Transport in the state have won the PDP primary to contest the 2015 senatorial election in Enugu state.
Nnaji, representing Enugu-East senatorial zone was returned after he secured 231 votes of the 247 accredited votes.
Nnaji’s opponents in the election, former Minister of Information, Mr Frank Nweke (Jnr) secured two votes, Mrs Ifeoma Nwobodo the former Chief of Staff to Gov. Chime, came last with one vote.
Mr Nwabueze Okafor, National President, Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), secured three votes while Mr Everest Nnaji got two votes.
Utazi secured the ticket for Enugu-North senatorial seat to replace Sen. Ayogu Eze who is contesting the gubernatorial election.
The primary was monitored by Sen. Anthony Manzu who led the PDP NASS election panel and the representatives of INEC.
Three aspirants, Nweke, Nwobodo and Okafor were absent in the primary.
The aspirants, who sources said were aggrieved, held parallel primary in different parts of the senatorial zone in which they emerged the party’s candidates.
In his remarks, Nnaji expressed gratitude to God for the peaceful conduct of the primary and for making it possible for him to win.
He described his election as `a great challenge’ and promised to redouble his efforts to bring democratic dividends to the people of the zone.
“I will never let you down, I will go back and make sure I give good and quality representation to you,’’ he said.