Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
House of Assembly aspirants under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State, have alleged plots by the screening committee to disqualify them from participating in the forthcoming primary election of the party.
The aspirants numbering 27, made the allegation at a press conference in Abakaliki on Sunday.
They alleged that the Chairman of the House of Assembly Screening Committee in the state, Mr. Ideato Ideato, had told them shortly after the screening exercise in Abakaliki that they were not cleared on the grounds that they did not pay party dues.
The 27 aspirants stated that they had duly paid their party dues and the party also issued them with receipts of payment.
Spokesperson of the group, Mr. Chukwu Orji, from Ivo Constituency, alleged that Mr. Ideato Ideato “is in connivance with Governor David Umahi to destroy APC in Ebonyi.”
Orji further alleged that Governor Umahi was also secretly working with the opposition Peoples Democratic party (PDP) to ensure the defeat of APC during the election.
He therefore called on the National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu, to call the leader of the party in the state, David Umahi, to order to avoid repeat of what happened to Zamfara state in 2019 in Ebonyi.
The aspirants vowed to sue the party if they were disqualified from contesting the primary election.
“The Chairman of the Screening Committee, one Ideato Ideato, had shortly after our screening in Abakaliki, sent private text messages to 27 of us, saying that we were not cleared because we didn’t pay party dues.
“We wish to state that we duly paid our party dues and receipts issued to us by the party and we are with the receipts.
“There is no reason to disqualify us from contesting the election. We are aware that the Governor already had 24 aspirants he wants to impose on the party but he should allow us to contest and fail if he thinks that his preferred aspirants are more popular than us.
“We call on the national Chairman of the party to intervene and ensure that the right thing is done, because we have strong conviction that Governor Umahi is working with PDP against APC victory ahead of 2023.
“If the party allows Ideato Ideato and Governor David Umahi to screen us out of the contest unduly, we shall be left with no option than to seek redress in court.
“We state unequivocally that we shall challenge our disqualification should the committee be allowed to go ahead to disqualify us,” Orji said.
Mr. Orji also noted that non-payment of party dues is not one of the grounds stipulated in the electoral act for disqualification of aspirants.
Reacting, the APC Chairman, in the State, Stanley Okoro Emegha urged the party’s teaming supporters and the general public to discountenance the allegation that there is plan to disqualify some aspirants for the state house of Assembly.
Emegha stated this in Abakaliki while reacting to what he described as “unfounded allegation being purveyed by saboteurs of the party.”
He said: “While must these few ungracious and unpopular individuals keep smearing the party at all cost. They claimed that the screening committee informed them that they were not cleared based on certain issues which only the committee has the prerogative to decide.
“Instead of interfacing with them, they rather chose to castigate the Governor and myself. What a pity! You know that it is easier to give a dog a name just to kill it than taking responsibility,” the party chairman said.
He advised them to explore legally available windows to seek for redress if they are not comfortable with the committee’s work rather than to discredit his leadership, stakeholders and entire members of the party.
“They also have my support in this regard if they so much wish. They should also remember that the screening committee is not answerable to the state but the National body that constituted it.
“Let me also reiterate my unreserved loyalty to the party’s constitution and will of the people that through the ballot brought me into power last year. Under my watch no party adherent will be short-changed for any reason and I will not condone injustice of any kind despite.
“I represent the interest, unity and peace of our great party faithful and must always ensure that justice is served,” he said.
Mr Emegha urged all aggrieved members to come to the table of dialogue stressing that the greater the numerical strength of a political party the better the chances of winning election in a democratic setting like Nigeria.
“I will not be happy neither will I watch the party we have all invested in to be destroyed over a reconcilable difference,” he added.