Mrs Uche Ekwunife; a conspiracy of silence!

Mrs Uche EkwunifeThe name ‘Ekwunife’ in her native tongue means ‘don’t say anything’ (or more appropriately; ‘see nothing, say nothing’) and there appears to be a conspiracy of silence surrounding the nomination of Mrs Uche Ekwunife as the PPA gubernatorial candidate for Anambra State. Mrs Ekwunife is a PDP member representing Anocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia in the House of Representatives and still a card carrying member of the PDP. 

Besides the curious manner by which Ekwunife beat Emeka Etiaba who has spent weeks and billions of Naira campaigning for the position despite picking the nomination Forms less than a week before the primary what is more curious is the deafening silence on the part of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at having lost a seat in the National Assembly. 

By law the Speaker of the House of Representatives should immediately declare her seat vacant and call on INEC to conduct a bye-election to fill the vacancy. 

Section 68 (1) (g) of the Nigerian current constitution states a member may vacate his seat if: being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected;

Going by this provision, by becoming a member of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Mrs Uche Ekwunife has ceased to be a member of the People’s Democratic Part (PDP) and should therefore vacate her seat forthwith. 

The silence on the party of the ruling party on Mrs Ekwunife’s situation would not have been entirely surprising if she had moved to the PDP from another party having been witnesses to the hypocrisy of the Nigerian political class.

The nation’s highest legislative chamber had witnessed cross carpeting by elected political office holders in one of the pitfalls of the nation’s democracy.

Senator Satty Gogwin became the first Senator in the present Senate to decamp. Senator Gogwin who made name as the David that slaughtered the Goliath framed political operator, Senator Ibrahim Mantu in the Plateau Central senatorial election decamped from the Action Congress (AC), the party on whose platform he was elected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a direct affront to the subsisting constitutional clause that a legislator who decamps should vacate office.

But on this occasion, it is someone actually moving from the ruling party- one with a vast majority in the House of Representatives, cross-carpeting to a very small and localised political party, one that ironically lost one of is governors, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State to the ruling party, and yet, it is silence all round!

Nigerians will not fail to notice something sinister in this episode. had reported that before Mrs Ekwunife picked up the PPA nomination form, A PDP top shot revealed to us that on Saturday, October 3, 2009, the Chief Whip of the PDP in the National Assembly took Mrs Ekwunife to a meeting with Mr Vincent Ogbulafor, the PDP Chairman. There it was agreed that Mrs Ekwunife should go and pick the nomination Form of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) as a gubernatorial aspirant.

A source opined It was a fall back strategy by some elements in the PDP in view of the uncertainty that trailed  the PDP Primaries and have continued to dodge the emergence of Professor Chukwuma Soludo as the PDP candidate for Next years Anambra State governorship election. 

The source said The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) intends to repeat the deception perfected by Ikedim Ohakim of Imo State in Anambra State should anything untoward happen by anointing Mrs Uche Ekwunife as the next Governor of Anambra State.  The arrangement is that she wins the elction in February 2010 after which she will return to the PDP in Ohakim-like wuruwuru

Recall that Sir Ikedi Ohakim crossed the proverbial political carpet from the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) on which he was elected as Governor of Imo State to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).  Olusegun Obasanjo in a rally at Oweri to welcome Ohakim “back to PDP” termed the cross-carpet as “promises made, promises kept”. 

Whatever the nature of this “promise made”, Nigerian commentators agree that the provision of the 1999 Constitution with regards to cross-carpeting should be adhered to.

As noted above, Section 68 (1) (g) of the Nigerian current constitution states that a legislator that abandoned his political party and moved to another may vacate his seat, Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.

At present, this exception proviso cannot be said to apply to the PPA

Many thus welcomed the President’s proposal that elected executive office holders, notably the President, Governors and their deputies who decamp from the political parties on which they were elected should vacate office.

The bill for an act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 aims to alter among others, section 135 of the Constitution to the extent of stopping a President from decamping from the political party on whose platform he is elected.

A new clause (d) to be implanted after paragraph (c) of Section 135 on the condition under which a President may cease to hold office reads thus:

“(d) he becomes a member of another political party different from the political party which sponsored his election to the office of President.”

A similar provision to bar sitting governors from decamping from the political party on whose platform they were elected to another party is to be implanted in Section 180 of the Constitution which spells out conditions under which a governor may vacate office.

The proposal is to supplement the subsisting provisions in the constitution which presently prohibit elected members of the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly from decamping. The only exception is where there is a crisis in the party.

When Senator Satty Gogwin made his move from the AC to the PDP, Senator Olurunnimbe Mamora, the Deputy Minority Leader and Leader of the AC caucus in the National Assembly cautioned his friend Senator Satty thus:

“The truth is that while I am not saying that a colleague cannot cross over, cross or cannot jump the ship, I am saying that in the constitution as we have it now, the conditions precedent for that have not been complied with.

I am saying that while the constitution is silent on the cross carpeting or jumping of ship by members of the executive, it is not silent on that of members of the National Assembly.”

Pointing to the sack of members of the Plateau State House of Assembly in 2007 following their defection from the PDP to the AC, he said:

“Let me remind your good self that in the same Plateau State in the last dispensation, 14 members of one Party decamped and they lost their seat in that State Assembly. 14 members of PDP in Plateau State decamped and they lost their seats because it is self fulfilling and the Constitution is clear under which condition a member can cross carpet.’

“What the Constitution says in the case of members of the Assembly is; the member shall vacate. It does not say may vacate and to the extent that there is no division in the Action Congress and we all know this. I am saying that we as Senators who are privileged to be in legislative Olympian height, we have a duty not just to our selves but to this country to ensure that we protect the Constitution that we all canvassed to defend,” he submitted.

Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, floored the son of the Anambra state deputy governor, Mr. Emeka Etiaba and others in a congress that was very peaceful and orderly described by Etiaba as a joke. She polled 458 votes to emerge winner while Etiaba scored 220 votes. Dr. Okey Ezeh scored 106 votes to place third. 

Mrs Ekwunife was born in 12/12/1970 and had a BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN ACCOUNTANCY and an MBA.  

She gained notoriety when as Area Manager of Standard Trust Bank, Awka Branch acted as former Anambra Governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s point man and money launderer.

A Bank insider informed that all the billions of Naira Mbadinuju stole from Anambra treasury was deposited in the Bank through Mrs Ekwunife. Sources say her relationship with Mbadinuju went sour when Mbadinuju failed to secure a second term as Anambra governor. Mrs Ekwunife was said to have refused to release the money back to Mbadinuju but rather invested the funds in private estate in her name.

Uche Ekwunife, a former youth corps member in 2000, notoriously dated former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra. She made an incredible fortune as a front for the former governor. She was found to be in possession of N2 billion in her private account, and later resigned from Standard Trust Bank to join politics, with all her loot intact.