The South-East zonal congress of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which was held on Saturday at the Michael Okpara Square in Enugu State, erupted in crisis midway into commencement of voting.
It became a free-for-all as some of the delegates exchanged blows.
Tension had started building up earlier in the day as delegates waited endlessly from 10 am till mid afternoon, but the leaders of the party in the zone, including the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu and the three PDP governors in the zone, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Dave Umahi and Onyechi Ikpeazu of Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia, respectively, did not show up on time.
They later arrived at 3 pm, with explanations from Ekweremadu, who apologized over their lateness, disclosing that it was aimed at resolving all issues to ensure a peaceful congress.
According to him, “the late commencement is in the interest of our people; since yesterday night, we have been meeting to resolve all the issues.
“We are just coming from the Enugu Government House where we had a marathon meeting.”
However, the PDP leaders, who thought they had brought everything under control were wrong as fight ensued over an alleged gang-up against one of the candidates, Mr. Ali Odefa.
Odefa, a former zonal publicity secretary of the party, vied for the position of the zonal vice chairman, which was zoned to his state, Ebonyi.
Reports have it that before the voting kicked off, a petition, which was allegedly written by Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, seeking to disqualify Odefa, threw the congress into a fight.
Supporters of both the Governor and Odefa engaged each other in a free-for-all.
Coincidentally, Odefa is a special assistant to the Governor, a position he insisted Odefa did not resign in line with the party’s constitution before contesting the chairmanship position.
As the fight intensified, a member of the party’s BoT, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and other delegates rushed out of the venue.
Observation showed that most delegates were angered following Umahi’s alleged insistence on backing his younger brother, Mr. Austin Umahi for the position.
As the atmosphere became charged, the Ekweremadu advised against disqualification of any contestant. He said the candidates should be allowed to test their popularities in the field.
After his remarks, Odefa and some of his supporters left the venue, and voting commenced.
An angry delegate from Ebonyi quipped “this is not democracy; he (the Governor) just brought his brother out this morning to run for this position, whereas his brother, Mr. Maxwell Umahi is also the Deputy chairman of the party in Ebonyi.
“This is not democracy at all and it will not help the PDP. Must he disqualify everybody just to take everything.”
Also while speaking to journalists, Odefa insisted that he duly resigned as the Governor’s aide on the 15th of May.
He alleged that while he attempted to explain his own side of the story, thugs imported by the Governor descended on him and his supporters.
Meanwhile, the result as declared produced Austin Umahi as the zonal vice chairman, Casmir Ugwu, zonal secretary, Greg Madu, zonal publicity secretary, among others.