By Dr. Samuel Chima Nwosu
I join the good people of Abia State, the Governor, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu PhD, the chairman of the party, Asiforo Okere PhD and all the members of PDP to commiserate with the immediate family of Professor Uchenna Eleazer Ikonne, who until his sudden death Wednesday 25th January 2023 was the gubernatorial flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the March 11th, 2023 gubernatorial election in Abia State.
I pray that God will grant the immediate family of the late erudite professor of optometery as well as all the PDP members in Abia State and beyond the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss and unto his soul, rest in peace in the bosom of the Lord. Amen.
Having paid respect to the departed hero, I wish to draw attention to the fact that the clock of the general elections scheduled for February 25th and March 11th, 2023 for the presidential and national assembly as well as the Governorship and States houses of assembly elections respectively, is ticking. Doubtless, the extant laws made provisions for this kind of eventuality which the PDP as a party finds itself with regards to the demise of its candidate for the gubernatorial election in Abia State.
By virtue of S. 33 of the Electoral Act 2022, upon the death of a candidate, a political party shall within 14 days of the occurrence of death, hold a fresh primary election and shall produce a fresh candidate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). What this implies is that the PDP needs to notify the INEC immediately of the death of its Gubernatorial candidate in Abia State and within 14 days, conduct a fresh gubernatorial primary election in the state in line with its (PDP) constitution and the Electoral Act 2022 to produce a new gubernatorial candidate for the party.
On the status of the Deputy Governorship candidate, there is the need to state here the fact that the nomination of a candidate for deputy governorship terminates upon the death of the gubernatorial candidate before the election in which the deputy governorship candidate was nominated. In consequence, it is not the law nor automatic that the deputy governorship candidate shall be nominated as the Governorship candidate of the party.
By section 187 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 ( as amended), a governorship candidate can only be deemed to be validly nominated if he actually nominates a deputy. Also, a deputy governorship candidate can only be deemed elected if the Governor that actually nominated him wins the election. This later requirement did not happen as the PDP candidate died before the scheduled election.
In the circumstances, the coast is clear for the PDP to nominate another person as it’s candidate for the gubernatorial election in Abia State. And it is on that basis that I urge and appeal to the PDP to consider and nominate it’s replacement for Prof Ikonne from Ukwa area of the Old Aba Division.
As part of the politics and clarifications leading to the choice of Professor Ikonne as the gubernatorial candidate for the PDP, it was agreed or so it seemed, that since the Old Bende Division governed the state for a consecutive period of 16 years, 8 years by HE Orji Uzor Kalu and 8 years by HE T.A Orji, that it was equity that the Old Aba Division also do sixteen years as governor.
The dust generated by the controversy quickly settled leading to the acceptance of
Professor Ikonne as the incoming governor of the state to complete 16 years for the Old Aba Division.
Sadly, nature struck, recalling the Professor to his maker ( may his soul rest in peace) before the election.
The politics which produced Prof Ikonne as the gubernatorial candidate of PDP from Old Aba Division was clearly one of the domination of the weaker group by the stronger group. Otherwise how would it have been justified that an Ngwa man was nominated to succeed an incumbent who is also an Ngwa man from the same Old Aba Division. Old Aba Division which has been agreed should take another shot at the Governorship of Abia State to complete 16years for the Division is made up of two distinct peoples or groups – the Ukwa people and the Ngwa people.
According to the authors of the book, “A Tale of Two Neighbours: A Socio- Political History of the Ukwa and Ngwa Nations”, the Ukwa and Ngwa peoples are two distinct people who have come a long way in their journey through time and history, first as neighbours and now as brothers. (Mark Onyekachi and others, BookSpider Publishers, Lagos, 2022.
Since Ukwa and Ngwa are two distinct peoples comprised and grouped together into the Old Aba Division, equity demanded that the incumbent governor having come from Ngwa block, that the second shot at the Governorship of Abia State from Old Aba Division should come from the Ukwa block of the Old Aba Division. Thus, the gubernatorial position which was ceded to the Umunneato, a sub group or sub block within the Ngwa block of the Old Aba Division and which produced Prof Ikonne was not equitable and fair in the first place. The equity of the situation in the Old Aba Division was that after the Ngwa block had taken it’s turn, it ought to have supported the Ukwa block to also take a turn before it will go to any sub group or sub block in the future. But for superiority of numbers and taking advantage of its occupation of the seat of power as governor, the Ngwa block inequitably emerged as the successor to an Ngwa man, the incumbent governor, to take up the 2nd turn of Old Aba Division in the Governorship of Abia State.
Although the Ukwa people not being able to to find their voice, supported the emergence of Prof. Ikonne from the same Ngwa group where the incumbent governor comes from, it did not go down well with a number of people who murmured, grumbled or spoke in hursh tones for fear of victimisation against the emergence of Prof Ikonne to succeed the incumbent. Even people from Old Bende wondered why the slot was not ceded to the Ukwa block of the Old Aba Division in the interest of equity.
The murmurs and silent protestations also gave credence to the previous lamentations by the Ukwa block to the effect that it’s union with its Ngwa neighbours is always to its (Ukwa people’s ) disadvantage. That when it comes to jointly fighting for anything, then Ukwa-Ngwa gets prominence but when it gets to sharing the booty, Ohangwa becomes the attractive parlance.
Opportunity has struck for this inequity to be redressed. The death of Professor Ikonne, though not a happy incident, has provided an opportunity to right the wrong. The injustice, imbalance and inequity in the union between Ukwas and the Ngwas should be corrected now.
By reason of the foregoing, I appeal to the PDP, particularly the Governor of Abia State who himself is an Ngwa man, to cede the replacement for Prof Ikonne to Ukwa block of the Old Aba Division in the interest of equity.
Ukwa without doubt has every reason to be considered for the position of governor of Abia State. It is the only oil and gas producing area of the state which makes it the cash cow of the state. This is in addition to it being the second of the two groups that make up the Old Aba Division. Hence, it is fit and proper for the second shot on the Governorship of Abia State for the Old Aba Division to be ceded to Ukwa people at this point.
Having made the foregoing analysis, I make further appeal and recommendation that the incumbent governor and the PDP family should look to Ukwa West for the choice of the replacement for Prof Ikonne as PDP gubernatorial candidate for the state. This is because Ukwa East presently occupies the House of Representatives seat for Ukwa and has done so for a consecutive 16 years with the possibility of continuing in the Green Chambers since another Ukwa East man is the flag bearer for the PDP for the same HoR seat Ukwa Federal Constituency in the forthcoming national assembly election.
Ukwa West which is the only oil and gas producing area of the state has men and women of proven loyalty to the incumbent governor and the PDP family that could be considered for the gubernatorial position including Chief Sam Nwogu, immediate past chairman of ASOPADEC and current Commissioner for Environment, Sir Don Ubani, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor in the office of the Deputy Governor, Rt Hon Chinedum Elechi, the Director General of the Campaign Council of the late Prof Ikonne (Uche Ndi Abia Campaign Organisation), Chief Ralph Egbe, former Secretary to Abia State Government, to mention but a few.
I urge the Governor of Abia State and the leader of the PDP in the state, who himself is the senatorial candidate for Abia South wherein Ukwa West is part, and the PDP to choose and nominate it’s replacement candidate for the gubernatorial position from Ukwa West LGA.
Dr S.E.C NWOSU is a
Law Lecturer, Abia State University and Former State Legal Adviser, PDP, Abia State.