By Dickson Okafor
As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) awaits the Apex Court’s verdict on who is the valid candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the December 5 Imo North Senatorial by-election, former Secretary to the State Government, Mark Uchendu, who also aspired for the seat explains why he supports Senator Ifeanyi Ararume over Chief Frank Ibezim. He also spoke on the quest for Nigerian President of Igbo extraction.
Your supporters thought you would switch party when you lost the APC primary for Imo North Senatorial by-election, why did you choose to remain in the APC?
Following the sudden death of my brother, Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogu few months after he was inaugurated for second term, my people expected the ruling party to select someone from Ihitte Uboma to complete Uwajumogu’s term just as it was done in other places even in Onuimo Local Government Area in Okigwe zone when Maurice Ibekwe died while in the National Assembly. Mike Ohia who hails from the same local government area was chosen to complete his tenure in the House of Representatives. So, my constituents saw me as a viable successor for Uwajumogu. Yes, I know that power is not given, but taken. Remember Uwajumogu died few months after he was issued with the Certificate of Return. Therefore, having accepted the outcome of the primary, I called on my coordinators in the six local government areas shortly after Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume was declared winner to work for the victory of APC because I can’t but abide by the party decision.
Sen Ararume and Frank Ibezim are both laying claim to the mandate given the APC; they both claim to be the valid winner of the APC primary, but you support Ararume against Ibezim, Governor Hope Uzodimma’s choice?
I had warned the leadership of my party not to allow this victory to be shortlived.
The fate of the APC hangs in the balance as INEC has said only the court will determine the legitimate winner of the senatorial by-election, what if the PDP candidate is declared winner?
That won’t happen because APC won the election and the only thing under contention is authenticity of the candidate. Frank Ibezim was never a candidate in the Imo North Senatorial by-election. The Court Appeal ruled that the judgment of the lower court should be set aside, but made further order immediately Senator Ifeanyi Ararume served INEC and all the parties to the matter a notice of appeal and application for stay of execution. On the other hand, the High Court in Abuja also ruled the same day that Frank Ibezim presented forged certificate and that he is banned for life from holding public office. This implies that even if INEC goes ahead to obey the Court of Appeal by ignoring the notice of appeal and application for stay of execution by Ararume, it will mean that APC does not have a candidate since as at the last count, Frank Ibezim neither served notice of appeal nor stay of execution of the Federal High Court ruling. However, as long as INEC was properly served notice of appeal and stay of execution, INEC can’t afford to ignore this established court processes. Let’s wait and see. APC will be better for it.
Ibezim presented his certificates to the public recently, how come you insist the certificates are fake?
He has been brandishing forged certificates to earn public sympathy. Let me try to put what transpired in the primary election of APC in a proper perspective. Eleven aspirants bought form and attended the screening of the party, six were disqualified and five of us were cleared. Among those who were disqualified was Frank Ibezim, reason being that he only presented an affidavit of loss of WASC, Degree and NYSC certificates. The Screening Appeal Committee also confirmed this report and till date, he didn’t attempt to clear this ambiguity either through the court or at least display these certificates for the world to see, rather when he was declared winner in an election he wasn’t supposed to participate in, he went ahead to submit a GCE result to INEC. What this means is that he does not possess these certificates. I am aware that most of us here are graduates or at least attended secondary school. So, even if you will put up your GCE result, it must be as a support to your WAEC. He can’t deceive all of us that he lost these certificates in 2010, and in 2020, after ten solid years he was unable to get certified true copy or a replacement and some of us are dancing around this obvious fact. Moreover, Ararume was given the ticket by the governor.
How do you mean?
Let me explain further; as a participant, I knew that all the six LGA representatives were either commissioners, or Special Assistants in Government. They prepared the result and placed Frank 1st, Omegara 2nd, and Ararume 3rd. They were also aware before this time that both Frank and Omegara were disqualified by the screening committee. This implies that in the scale of preference of government, number 1, 2 and 3rd are acceptable to them. Frank knowing full well that he wasn’t qualified, rushed to court through a proxy to obtain court order to sustain his name on the ballot and Ararume got wind of that and joined in the matter, the result brought him in as candidate. And I did not hesitate to call on Okigwe people to shine our eyes and make their choice from 5 qualified aspirants rather, than pushing this dead horse to represent people like us in the Senate.
Once you were in the same political camp with former Governor of Imo State, Sen. Rochas Okorocha under Ararume support group; at what point did you fallout with Governor Uzodimma?
I have always been in the same camp with Sen. Rochas Okorocha, and I did not fall out with Governor Uzodinma, instead we joined hands to ensure APC retained Imo North Senatorial seat after the demise of Uwajumogu. This we have achieved and immediately court pronounces Ararume as the winner, all of us will collapse our political structure into one and work for the interest of APC in Imo and the entire South-East.
Do you foresee a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023?
To produce President of Igbo extraction will depend on the people of South-East. We take delight in running our own people down; majority of our former public officers are in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) net. Does it mean that only Igbo public servants stole public funds? For example, almost all the former governors from South-East were accused of diverting public funds. How can Igbo produce the President in 2023 when virtually all the people who can fund presidential election are facing corruption charges? Who are the people to project Igbo cause including the Presidency if not these men? These ex-governors that are on trial for misappropriation of public funds are the political bigwigs we have in the zone. What are they saying or telling the international community?