New Telegraph

Ikonne: Ikpeazu, Ayu may reach compromise on new candidate

Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, may have reached a compromise for the replacement of the deceased governorship candidate of the party in Abia State, Prof. Uchenna Ikonne. Ikonne died last week in Abuja after a brief illness, necessitating a replacement by the PDP within 14 days.

The PDP had in a statement released last Friday, said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been notified of Ikonne’s passage while February 4 was fixed for fresh governorship primary in the state to choose his replacement. The party, in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said “fresh aspirants are permitted to participate in the current exercise alongside those who contested in the earlier primary.” There has been apprehension that the soured relationship between the National Chairman and the governor might cost PDP Abia State, as Ikpeazu is one of the five governors of the party led by Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who are insisting that Ayu must quit office as national chairman. The National Chairman was not invited at the flag off of PDP governorship campaign in Umuahia, where Prof. Ikonne was given flag as PDP candidate.

The handover of the flag was done by Wike, the duty which was supposed to be performed by Ayu as National Chairman. A source at Government House, Umuahia, however, said the governor and the National Chairman have “very good relationship,” adding that “as soon as Ikonne died, the governor called Ayu immediately. “Ayu and PDP National Secretariat have been very cooperative with His Excellency in choosing the next candidate.”

The source confirmed the report by New Telegraph last week, that four persons have been shortlisted, as possible replacement of Ikonne, whom he said, are from the same local government with the deceased. “It was agreed that his replacement should come from the same local government. Stakeholders from the area will soon meet to pick one person out of the four shortlisted aspirants.

“Why Ikonne was difficult to sell to Abians was because there was no consensus. This time, everyone will be involved in who becomes governorship candidate,” the source added. According to him, the PDP National Secretariat decided to work with Ikpeazu in choosing the next candidate because he has been a stabilising factor in the G-5, and said, “that is why they have not been open adoption of presidential candidate by them.” He admitted that there was attempt to stir disagreement between the governor and the National Chairman in the replacement of Prof. Ikonne, but said the governor warned that nobody should make political capital out of it.

Ikpeazu was absent at the flag off of the PDP governorship campaign in Enugu on Friday, given an impression that he might have quit the Integrity Group. But a statement by Chief John Okiyi Kalu, Director of Strategic Engagement, Abia PDP Campaign Council, explained that the absence was a mark of honour to late Prof. Ikonne. Okiyi-Kalu recalled that the governor had directed that all campaign activities for the party at all levels be suspended until Monday, January 30. According to the statement, “the Enugu event qualifies as a ‘campaign activity’. Governor Ikpeazu is still a principled member of the G-5 and a leader in the PDP. He will continue to attend programmes, within and outside the state, that are not campaign related. “Governor Ikpeazu in particular, every well meaning member of our political family (PDP) and, indeed, Abians in general are not in any mood for any political gathering at this point in time. “However, the governor and government officials are free to attend other events that are not campaign related.”

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