The claims by the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Three-Man Ward Congress Electoral Committee for Enugu State, Prince Vincent Yandev Amaabai, that the exercise was peaceful, are far from the truth, SaharaReporters has learnt.
Amaabai, after monitoring the exercise at Umunevo Ward 02, Ogui Nike, had said the congress was free, fair, and transparent.
SaharaReporters learnt that the exercise was overwhelmingly marred by parallel congresses, manipulations, palpable breaches of guidelines, and violence.
Most notable was the non-availability of the result sheets in all the 260 wards of the state, leading to the recording of results in sheets of paper.
This, it was learnt, fuelled the allegation that the Abuja panel was working with state authorities to submit to the party’s national headquarters doctored results rather than the outcome of the exercise in the fields.
According to the party’s directive and guidelines, the congress was scheduled to take place at 260 ward collation centres in the state at noon with candidates recognised and accredited by the presentation of their forms.
The party members would then vote, using the Option A4 system, with the aspirants with the top three highest scores, one of which must be a woman, declared the winners.
The result in each ward was to be recorded in the presence of all, signed by the officers and an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission, who was also supposed to receive a copy of the results.
But there have been reports that the results of the exercise were compiled by the state officials in a hotel behind the Enugu State Government House in connivance with the Abuja panel, hence the absence of results sheets at the designated venues.
It was however gathered that loyalists of one of the major governorship contenders, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, went ahead to conduct the congress in the 260 wards.
Although the party officials recorded and signed the results on sheets of paper, with the INEC observer signing also, in many cases, the party officials declined to record or sign the results.
“We had no choice but to follow the party’s guidelines to elect the three ad-hoc delegates. Unlike them, our candidates came to the venue with their forms duly identified.
“PDP members voted by queuing behind them. Even where the people sponsored by the other people came out, they were clearly trounced as was the case in Okpanku, the hometown of the Chairman of Aninri LGA, Hon. Benneth Ajah.”
It was, however, gathered that the exercise was marred by violence in some places.
In Awgu, for instance, the Council Chairman, Hon. Pedro allegedly invaded the venue with thugs, who broke the cameras used in recording the exercise and also beat up many party faithful, including the PDP Chairman in Awgu LGA, Hon. Okey Udeh, whose phones were taken away.
Udeh’s phone was however said to have been returned to the Awgu Divisional Police Station, on the condition that it could only be released to him after deleting footage of the ugly incident captured with the phone.
It was gathered that a petition has been formally lodged with the police over the incident.
In Oduma Ward 4, a lawyer and candidate for the three-man ad-hoc delegate, Mr. Ejike Ekpete was attacked by suspected cultists allegedly led by the Deputy Ward Chairman, Mr. Boniface Egwu.
“I had set up the canopies and chairs and was putting finishing touches to the arrangement for the exercise at Oduma Ward 4 when one Boniface Egwu, aka Egwueji led a gang of thugs and cultists to tell me that they had come to deliver an ‘order from above’ that I should leave the venue.
“I told them that I bought a form to contest for the delegate’s position and if they had candidates, they should field them and let the people queue behind the candidates to decide in line with the PDP guidelines.
“They descended on me with dangerous weapons, including machetes and started shooting sporadically in the air. People scampered to safety as the cultists and thugs who were acting on the instruction of the Aninri Local Government Council Chairman, Hon. Benneth Ajah, dismantled the canopies because they were not prepared for any congress. They believed in the one being compiled somewhere in Enugu.
“They also attacked me with one of the canopy poles and as I was struggling to find my way to my car to escape, they gave me a deep machete cut and I lost a lot of blood. I was not the only one wounded or they wanted to kill.
“Thank God I escaped alive, but I am not giving up. We thought Sullivan Chime ended the reign of thuggery, cultism, and political violence, but Enugu appears to have fully returned to the hands of thugs and cultists,” he stated.
Some thugs had allegedly attacked Ekweremadu’s supporters during the April 2022 monthly meeting of the PDP.
Many were left with broken heads and cuts on the head among other serious injuries, leaving many, including the member representing Aninri in the Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Chinedu Okwu (Otaka) hospitalised.
Meanwhile, at Agba Umana Ward, Ezeagu LGA, a House of Assembly aspirant, said to be working for a top government official, who is also aspiring to the House of Representatives, was seen freely wielding a pump-action rifle ahead of a congress to be held after Ekweremadu’s loyalists and the ward had conducted a congress in line with the time appointed by the party.
In Ugbaike, Enugu Ezike, Igboeze North LGA, one Bertrand Ugwu simply identified as an Ekweremadu supporter, sustained deep machete cuts on his head as he was attacked by some suspected personnel of the Enugu State Government Neighbourhood Watch.
He is said to be hospitalised at an undisclosed location.
Some members of the party have alleged that governors have hijacked the PDP with the help of Senator Iyorchia Ayu-led PDP National Working Committee.
Many party chieftains have also expressed worry that the party may witness its worst downfall if the 2023 process is not democratised and made transparent in line with the party’s founding ideals.
Meanwhile, efforts to get the reaction of the state PDP Chairman, Hon Augustine Nnamani, were unsuccessful as he did not answer calls to his mobile line.