All may not be well with the United Progressive Party (UPP), one of the political parties that promise a strong showing at the November 18 governorship election, as it is currently struggling to put a lie to the accusation of bias in the conduct of its primary for the election.
This is because one of the two main contenders for the ticket won by former Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka, Hon. Chudi Offodile has alleged a clear event aimed at favouring the winner.
The UPP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Dike Ogbuehi, described as “barefaced lies when Hon. Chudi Offodile informed the public through many newspaper publications that UPP in Anambra State at any point in time leading to the Primary election conducted what he mischievously referred to as a “hotly contested Local Government Congress in June 2017 in line with Article 10(4) of the UPP Constitution.”
The party explained that, “the UPP held its Governorship Primary Election on Saturday 19th August, 2017 at Awka, Anambra State. Two aspirants namely Hon. Chudi Offodile and Chief Osita Chidoka met the Party’s conditions to participate in the Primary election.”
Adding, “It is important to note that UPP had held its non-election Convention at Awka on Thursday 29th June 2017.
One of the highlights of that Convention that was well attended, monitored by INEC and extensively covered by local and international media is the ratification of the Motion recognising the harmonisation of the Officers of the Party in the 36 States of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as Officers functioning in acting capacities pending our subsequent election convention.
“This ratification at the Convention followed the approval of the appointment of these unelected officers by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great Party.”
The party went further to say that “Chudi Offodile should be honourable enough to inform the public the names of the Electoral Committee members that conducted the so-called “hotly contested Local Government Congress.”
Adding that, “It is normal that before a Local Government Congress is conducted, Ward Congress precedes it. But this unintelligent character made no reference to any Ward Congress that would normally precede a Local Government Congress.”
In trying to clarify the situation, the UPP Publicity Secretary said, “In accordance with the Section of the Constitution of the Party he chose to cite. The truth is that the National Working Committee (NWC), acting on behalf of the National Executive Committee (NEC), gave approval to the Anambra State stakeholders of the Party made up of National Officers of the Party from the State, members of the national Board of Trustees from the State, members of the State Working Committee (SWC), Chairmen of the 21 Local Governments in Anambra State to recommend to the NWC, acting Officers of the 326 Wards in Anambra State for consideration and approval.
“This was done. A few complaints followed the list of the recommended Officers and the complaints that had merit were duly considered and the approved list duly uploaded at the UPP website on Friday 14th July, 2017.
“It is pertinent to state at this point that the UPP had amended its Constitution following due process to the effect that delegates from the Wards to the State Congress shall be statutory delegates made up of the Ward Chairman, Ward Secretary, Ward Treasurer, Ward Woman Leader and Ward Youth Leader.
“Hon. Offodile participated in the Convention where this amendment was made and duly filed with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as required by law. On Thursday the 27th of July, 2017, Hon. Offodile voluntarily procured the Party’s Expression of Interest Form having paid the required fee. He completed and returned same to the Party.
“Himself and interested members of the Party and the general public were already aware of who the delegates of the Party would be at least eight weeks before the State Primary Election was held on Saturday 19th August, 2017.”
He went on to explain that “Hon. Offodile proceeded, again voluntarily, to pay for and collected the Party Nomination Form on Monday 31st July 2017. On Friday 11th August 2017, Hon. Offodile accompanied by Dr. Law Mefor, his campaign aide appeared before the Party’s Screening Committee presided over by our National Secretary, Alhaji Sadeeq Masalla.
“Unknown to the Party, Offodile had sponsored Suit No. CV/2658/17 at the FCT High Court filed on the date of his Screening praying the Court to halt our planned State Congress. The Court in its wisdom, refused to grant an ex parte order but rather ruled on an Order of Court abridging the time for the Defendants to respond to the Originating Summons and that the party should be put on notice, that the scheduled Party’s Primary election should proceed in accordance with the Party guidelines and the Electoral Act and adjourned for the substantive application to be heard on Tuesday 29th August, 2017.
“Hon. Offodile continued with his mischief by instigating a few members of the State Working Committee in Anambra State to lay claims to powers that were not conferred on them by the Party Constitution. They relied on such claims of non-existent powers to address a press conference at Awka suspending the only two aspirants of the party and two other National Officers of the party from Anambra State, including calling off the State Primary election for which due notice had been given to INEC and other preparations/logistics put in place.
“The party leadership acted swiftly by dissolving the acting State Working Committee and reassured the public that the planned State Congress was on course. Hon. Offodile allowed his name to be included among those who were suspended by the Acting State Working Committee only as a facade. Overwhelming members of the acting State Working Committee promptly issued a joint statement to dissociate themselves from the contents of the press conference under reference which obviously ridiculed the party before the public.”
Explaining further, the party said, “On Wednesday 16th August, 2017, the National Chairman of our party, Chief Dr. Chekwas Okorie hosted Hon. Chudi Offodile and Chief Osita Chidoka alongside two of their aides to a breakfast meeting at his Enugu residence. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibilities of these two old-time friends agreeing to approach the Primary Election as friends so that the outcome could be like a UPP family affair without rancor.
“It was agreed that each would abide by the outcome of the Primary Election. On Thursday 17th August, 2017, the Chairman of our great party in Anambra State, Dr. Sylvester Igwilo accompanied by the State Acting Secretary, Mr. Fidelis Okafor with a fairly large contingent of our members in Anambra State to apologize to the party for the embarrassment and inconvenience caused the party and the undeserved damage done to the name and person of the National Chairman, Chief Okorie.
“They promised to address the press upon their return to Awka to make public their apology and the appeal for forgiveness. The National Chairman did not hesitate to pardon them especially after they had confessed to how Hon. Chudi Offodile misled them into carrying out their rebellion against the party and its leadership. On their return to Awka, they addressed a press conference on Friday 18th August 2017.”
It should be recalled however, that Hon Chudi Offodile had announced the resignation of his membership of the UPP shortly after the party primary.
Offodile, who spoke to journalists in Awka, said his decision came after he noticed the level of alleged corruption in the party as perpetuated by the party’s national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie and his co-aspirant, Chief Osita Chidoka.
He said, “I have noted the willful and corrupt manipulation of the party’s delegates’ list by Chief Chekwas Okorie, but it is the display of insensitivity to the life of a party official that died in the primary election that made me to reconsider my membership.
“I hereby resign my membership of the party with effect from today the 21st day of August 2017. I urge all my supporters and all those who believe in the Biafran ideology of equality, freedom and justice to do the same and await further directives.”
Offodile also clarified that it was not true that he nominated an agent for the primary election, saying that he had earlier backed out of the race after he noticed corrupt behaviour on the side of Okorie and Chidoka who connived and doctored the delegates’ list, thereby disenfranchising many members of the party.
“I did not appoint any agent nor did I participate in the primary election. The list of delegates contained strange names, unlike the authentic delegate’s list that has the phone numbers of delegates displayed.
“Besides, how can a political party carry on with a primary election with one of its officers lying stone dead, a victim of corrupt manipulation of delegates’ list.
“I called on the party to call off the accreditation as a mark of respect for the dead officer who was killed performing his duty, but it went ahead with it,” he said.
It is pertinent to state at this point that the UPP had amended its Constitution following due process to the effect that delegates from the Wards to the State Congress shall be statutory delegates made up of the Ward Chairman, Ward Secretary, Ward Treasurer, Ward Woman Leader and Ward Youth Leader. Hon. Offodile participated in the Convention where this amendment was made and duly filed with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as required by law.