Edeoga gambles: Investors, lenders beware, by Desmond Odoh

Chijioke Edeoga

For weeks now, Nnia Nwodo and Chijioke Edeoga have been going round luring people to commit their resources to a project to reclaim Chijioke’s mandate through the court. We know how the Nigerian judicial system works and I am not out to say people shouldn’t contribute. But I’m only saying, based on personal experience and my knowledge of Law, that people should look before they leap.

First off, I am a staunch supporter and financier of Nsukka cultural zone and Chijioke Edeoga’s governorship project. I am also an insider. No apologies. But after the PDP governorship primary election in May last year, Edeoga met with us and explained that Dr. Peter Mbah visited and they agreed to work together. On 8th June, he personally signed a statement endorsing Mbah and Enugu people should rally behind him. So, we joined the Mbah team.

To our greatest surprise, Chijioke took his governorship project to the Labour Party (LP) a few days later without the courtesy of pre-informing us. We saw the news like every other person. When confronted, he said his sponsors, the Nwodo family, insisted. We were all angry Many pulled out at that point, but I was among those that decided to give him the benefit of doubt.

We met with Chief Nnia Nwodo, Prof. Bath Nnaji, among others. Nnia said that Enugu North senatorial zone was already locked down for Chijioke, as it was an Nsukka cultural zone project. Prof. Bath Nnaji assured that he would divide Nkanu votes along Amadi and Odenigbo, but on the condition that he would be given a freehand to field only the Odenigbos as candidates for all the National and House of Assembly seats across Enugu East senatorial zone. This, coupled with the further division of Nkanu votes among Peter Mbah, Chief Uche Nnaji, and Mr. Frank Nweke Jr. would undo Dr. Mbah and the PDP in Nkanuland . Then, Edeoga’s deputy would come from Greater Awgu to help dilute PDP’s influence in the area.

Again, it was reckoned that with the Obi effect, plus APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket, the Church would be fully drawn out, and all LP candidates would benefit. And it worked, especially during the 25th. February elections.

Nnia assured he had already secured the cooperation of the security agencies, particularly the Army, using serving and retired Nsukka Generals. This worked well during the governorship election.

So, we all raised millions of naira. Nnia Nwodo sold houses in Lagos and overseas. He was also able to get many to invest in the project based on an established benchmark, depending on the position you are eyeing in the incoming government (Commissioner, Council Chairman, Board Chairman/member, DG/head of state parastatals, etc. and the range of contracts you hope to execute. The buy-in was huge, as the permutations looked great both on paper and in reality.

Those who doubted Chijioke and LP’s chances came begging with their money after the 25th February tsunami that left the PDP with only one out of eight House of Representatives seats. Nnia’s home became a Mecca of sorts and money was flowing in.

I believe Chijioke stood a better chance had the election held on 11th March because everything was already in place – the Obi effect and indoctrination by the Church was still fresh and high, the Catholic priests in Nsukka cultural zone were still determined, etc. However, the shift in date, coupled with the misjudgment that Edeoga would automatically inherit Obi’s goodwill hurt us. Obi didn’t outrightly raise Chijioke’s hand to endorse him. We didn’t face the reality early enough that OBIDIENTS weren’t necessarily LP or Chijioke Edeoga’s fans. In fact, most of them were even PDP members, who believed in Obi. There was also the mixed vibes from the OBEDIENTS, with Aisha Yesufu endorsing Frank Nweke of APGA. Imagine Frank’s 17,000 votes went to LP.

We also didn’t reckon the world of difference between the sentiments that informed people’s choices in the presidential election, which was a national election, and those of the governirship election, which is very local. Many who voted LP in the presidential and National Assembly elections thought it was wrong for Chijioke to succeed his cousin, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Some felt it was not right for Nsukka cultural zone to retain power for another eight years in seeming breach of the power rotation agreement. Although Chijioke hails from Enugu East zone in terms of geopolitics, he did not hide the fact that he was vying on behalf of Nsukka zone. Again, being an in-law of the Nwodos, many saw it as a family business. Many Enugu people and OBIDIENTS hate the idea of another era of godfathers.

Again, the one-week extension exposed the wide gap between Chijioke and Peter Mbah. Chijioke behaved and sounded so incoherent and timid in his public and media outings. Those videos where Mbah’s miscreant media team paired Chijioke and Mbah on critical issues like water, security, etc. were a big blow. Chijioke also gaffed many times. For instance, how could he say he didn’t need a manifesto to govern well? How could he say he had more leadership experience than Peter Obi?

But there is no need to cry over spilt milk. I am actually moved to write this because Chijioke and Nnia Nwodo are on another round of fundraising, getting people to commit their hard-earned money on what they call a mandate recovery project. Personally, I have committed over hard earned N100 million to this project and I am not even among the top investors/donors at all. Some contributed over N300 million. Many of us feel frustrated and some said they feel like committing suicide. Prof. Nnaji is now a shadow of himself financially, as he has spent so much of Geometrics’ funds on the elections. AMCON is at his doorstep, coupled with the issues he had with Nnia on how to share positions.

But more importantly, he probably knows that the premises Nnia and Chijioke are banking on to claim the governorship seat through the tribunal are not solid.

Personally, my conscience will not allow me rest if I keep quiet while people are made to part with their money in these hard times banking to reclaim mandate banking on the issue of Dr. Mbah’s NYSC discharge certificate, which he has even denied. But let’s hypothetically assume it was forged, the tribunal will still rely on the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act in adjudicating on the matter. Regarding submission of forged certificates to INEC, Section 29 (5) provides: “Any aspirant, who participated in the primaries of his political party, who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by his political party’s candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate in relation to his constitutional requirements to contest the election is false, may file a suit at the Federal High Court against that candidate seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false”.

Subsection 29 (6) provides: “Where the Court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit is false only as it relates to constitutional requirements of eligibility, the Court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate and the sponsoring political party and then declare the candidate with the second highest number of valid votes and who satisfies the constitutional requirement as the winner of the election”.

The question then is: Is an NYSC discharge certificate a constitutional requirement to qualify for the office of the governor and to hold public office? Apart from several court rulings such as in the case of Kemi Adeosun, Section 177 expressly provides: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if-
a. he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;
b. he has attained the age of thirty-five years;
c. he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
d. he has been educated up to at least, School Certificate level or its equivalent.”

So, if NYSC discharge certificate is not a constitutional requirement, how do we expect the courts/tribunal to disqualify Peter based on that? By the way what will be Peter Mbah’s motive in forging and submitting an NYSC certificate that he did not need in the first place?

Again, if you come by way of perjury, he can’t be convicted on the pages of newspapers. The police will have to investigate and then charge the matter to court if prima facie is established. The court is the only institution vested with the final say on matters of forgery, not WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media apps. And we know how slowly the wheels of the courts grind.

Even the issue of rigging is neither here nor there. I was among the few dissenting voices that urged our team to allow INEC to announce already collated governorship election results and waylay the PDP in court, but the Nnia Nwodo overruled us. At the end of the day, INEC subtracted the areas where the BVAS malfunctioned in Nkanu East and left the PDP with about 16,000 votes, which was still enough for them to win. So, we forced INEC to prematurely intervene in a matter the tribunal should have done for us better.

Again, after all our expensive propaganda that Nkanu East has only 7,000 registered voters, the facts out there as confirmed by Abuja I-REV during the collation and also still on INEC website is that there are 82,959 registered voters in Nkanu East out of which 33,156 were accredited to vote.

While we busy ourselves with propaganda, we forget that the tribunal will deal with facts. We forget that while we torch-light the PDP, they too will be torch-lighting us. At the tribunal, the PDP will also want us to explain how Chijioke got 12,592 votes in just four Wards in Nsukka LGA (Obukpa, Ihe Nkpunano, and Owerre/Umuoyo Wards); how he got exactly 3,410 votes in each of Ihe and Nkpunano Wards; how we got more than 12,000 votes in UNN alone while students were on election break, etc.

In summary, I am not saying people should not invest in their mandate recovery project. I am only asking lenders and investors (as Nnia calls them) alike to beware. Besides, we can’t claim to have won and still want to raise funds to compromise the judiciary. Is that what Peter Obi represents? Count me out of the huge gamble.

Odoh writes from Enugu

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