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By Eze Nwamadi

The Enugu State governorship candidacy of the Labour Party is at present shrouded in controversy, as three persons lay claims to the governorship ticket.

While Chijioke Edeoga claims to have taken the ticket, information reaching us from reliable sources has it that the ticket has yet to be firmly committed into his hands. Captain Evarestus Nnaji ( Odengene) and Dr. Davidson Nnamani are also laying strong claims to the ticket in their respective ways.

Edeoga reportedly has not paid a dime to the party headquarters for waiver and the forms to even merit his claim which is being noised abroad on social media by his minions. It was said that Edeoga had prior to now said he did not have the financial war-chest to pursue the ticket until Chief Nnia Nwodo dragged him to Peter Obi with who he took the pictures that his boys are circulating on social media.

But it is not Peter Obi that gives governorship tickets. Our informant told us that Nnia Nwodo introduced Chijioke as the candidate of the party to Obi. It was said that Nnia, during the one-year remembrance of Late Joe Nwodo, had also introduced Edeoga to Chief Victor Umeh. What gave Nnia such confidence whereas he had not done the needful at Abuja remained queer.

While Nnia Nwodo and Chijioke Edeoga oiled the party wheels at the state level, they had left the national headquarters where the real game is played unattended. So, Chijioke is evidently unknown to the party headquarters, since he had neither paid the N15 million for the form nor the N10 million for waiver like Davidson Nnamani. All he allegedly did was pay N3 million to Casmir Agbo, the state chairman of the party and the placeholder of the ticket, and that perhaps accounts for while the Enugu flank has serially claimed Edeoga had become the candidate of the party; whereas, the national headquarters had yet to endorse his claims. Agbo and his team at Enugu had met with brickwalls at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja when Edeoga's candidacy received cold feet.

Dr Davidson Nnamani had initially expressed interest in the governorship ticket of the APC prior to the APC primaries. He however had to withdraw when the APC pegged its governorship ticket at the cost of N50 million. Nnamani had met with Kwankwaso, hoping to move to NNPP but was not comfortable with Kwankwaso's haughty disposition and obvious disdain for the Igbo.

He then took a detour to Labour Party. The party was said to have accepted him. He allegedly paid N15 million for the governorship form of the party and N10 million for waiver, making it a total of N25 million. He completed and submitted the forms at the national secretariat of the party on 22nd June, 2022 and now awaits to substitute the placeholder, Barr. Casmir Agbo.

Dr. Nnamani told us in a telephone chat that immediately after the PDP primaries, he met with Chijioke, comforted and encouraged him to move to Labour Party while he himself would look in the direction of NNPP in the hope to realize the Isi-Uzo cause. He said that Chijioke told him he did not have the financial wherewithal to prosecute the Labour ticket. He also said he did call Nnia Nwodo thereafter and told him about his interest in the Labour Party after he had completed the forms, only for Nnia to tell him that Chijioke Edeoga was the candidate of the party and hung up on him.

Dr Nnamani who hails from Ikem in Isi-Uzo Local Government told us that he had even chosen his running mate, Ocho Otobeze, from Aku in Igbo-Etiti Local Government in line with zoning, for while Enugu East Senatorial Zone produces the governor, the deputy is expected to hail from Enugu North. The Party had wanted Nnamani to choose someone from Awgu but he had argued that since he was from Enugu East, his running mate should come from Enugu North, an argument that carried the day. It is alleged that Barr. Agbo and the leadership of the party in Enugu is supporting Chijioke because he paid them N3 million which Dr Nnamani refused or has yet to pay them on demand.

Captain Evarestus Nnaji (Odengene) on his own, says he is the candidate of the party. He said he had been very careful not to create the impression that he muscled the ticket from anyone. Or send wrong signals to Nsukka that he was obfuscating their interest He said that it was the party that offered him the ticket but that it was not something he would hastily jump at.

Odengene said he had to give it a thought and then accepted the offer. He said that technically, Barr. Agbo was the candidate of the party, as the placeholder, and that any other ambition was seeking to replace him. Odengene said that contrary to the claim that Chijioke was the candidate of the party, he was actually the one billed to substitute Agbo Casmir. He said he had even offered to assist Chijioke with the funding for the senate ticket.

Chijioke reportedly warmed up to the offer in the hope that since the senate and presidential election would be held the same day, he might gain from the massive votes that would be cast for Obi. However, Chijioke may be losing out completely should he settle for the ticket. Hon. Oyibo Chukwu from Nkanu West is the Labour Party candidate for Enugu East Senatorial Zone and the INEC portal for the substitution of presidential and national assembly candidates has already been shut down.

What is open for now is the governorship and house of Assembly portal. Odengene spoke with the air of confidence and the knowing finality that he is the candidate of the party. He however is gentle and generous about it as he is disposed to clear whatever bills any of the persons making claims to the ticket might have incurred. Odengene has everything going for him. He has the real war-chest to execute the governorship project and the party will likely look in his direction.

We had put a call to Julius Abure, the National Chairman of Labour Party, to ascertain who the true candidate of the party was. We had asked, "Please we would want you to confirm that Chijioke Edeoga is the Enugu State governorship candidate of your party, Labour Party." He replied thus: "I can't confirm it now. I am in a public place. We will talk later." One begins to wonder whether it would take being out of a public place for the chairman to confirm the candidate of his party, something he should say offhand.

This points to the controversy greeting the governorship candidacy of the party in Enugu State. One thing that is clear is that none of the three aspirants is sure of the ticket presently. While Odengene may have the upper hand, anything can happen between now and 12th August, 2022, being the INEC deadline for the substitution of governorship and House of Assembly candidates.

What we should take away from this development is that Gov. Ugwuanyi has no hand in who becomes the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu State, contrary to insinuations from certain quarters; that Chijioke Edeoga is not the Enugu State Labour Party governorship candidate as is being bandied all over social media platforms; that Odengene and Davidson Nnamani also have strong claims to the ticket as well as Edeoga. Let us see how it pans out between now and 12th August, 2023.

...Eze Nwamadi writes from Enugu. NNL.

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