Tension is brewing in Umuihugba Umuodu Community in Owerri municipal over a youth election.
In the last one month, the community has been boiling with allegations bordering on favouritism and subversion of normal procedure in conducting youth election in the community.
Information available to this newspaper indicate that the community apex body known as Umuodu Umuihugba Development Union, UWDU led by Mr.Ferdinand Anoruo who is the President General of the community had allegedly skewed the election process to favour some group of aspirants led by Mr.Osita Udemba to the detriment of another group of aspirants led by Mr. Azuoma Onyealisi.
Both Mr. Udemba and Mr.Onyealisi are vying for the chairmanship seats of the Youth body of the community. Mr.Onyealisi and more than 17 aspirants in his camp had last week opposed modalities of conducting the youth election in the community which it said was tailored to favour Mr.Udemba and aspirants in his camp.
In a petition to the Electoral Committee headed by Barr.Gilbert Ihebom signed by Mr.Onyealisi and more than 18 aspirants, they lamented over the involvement of elders, Village Heads and Kindred Chairmen in the selection of delegates for the youth election of the community.They had stated that the involvement of the Village Heads and Kindred Chairmen was part of a grand ploy by the President General of the community to impose his surrogates including his son as executives of the Youth body.
Part of the letter obtained by this newspaper reads ” We wish to formally to report to you and your members of an attempt and threat by some of our community leaders, village chairmen, and village heads to hijack the youth election delegates list in favour of their adopted aspirants whom they have collected money from and promised to deliver them at all cost in the forthcoming youth election”
“Also we wish to humbly draw your attention to several strange measures introduced for the conduct of the election. It is strange how rules and regulations guiding the youth election over the years were suddenly changed just to favour some group of aspirants in the contest”
“It is also totally strange to us the sudden decision to confer powers to the village heads and chairmen of Villages to write list of delegates for the youth election ” they stated
The aspirants demanded among other things that “Village Heads and Kindred Chairmen having compromised their positions should only observe the electoral proceedings and not to write the list of delegates for the youth election”
It was gathered that the involvement of Village heads and kindred chairmen in choosing delegates for the youth election was a strange development as it such never happened in previous youth elections in the community. The open favouritism of a chairmanship aspirant Osita Udemba and his group of aspirants by some elders led to a stakeholders meeting held at the community hall last Friday.
Despite the protestations of the Onyealisi camp over clear manipulation of modalities of conducting the election which was tailored to suit Mr.Udemba’s camp, the President General and the community leaders turned deaf ears to the pleas and complains of the Onyealisi camp and insisted elections must go on. This led to outrage and a peaceful protest and the intervention of women groups in the community and the Parish priest of St Mulumba Catholic Church who sued for peace and condemned in strong terms the “twisting of modalities of holding the election”
The President General of the community after pressure from the aggrieved youths and stakeholders who intervened in the raging crisis announced the cancellation of the election.
However to the chagrin of all and sundry, he later proceeded holding a “kangaroo election” later in the day under a heavy downpour in the absence of the Electoral committee Chairman and his members and deliberately excluded all the aspirants in Mr.Onyealisi’s camp and declared Mr.Udemba and his son as President and Secretary General of the youth body.
Some aggrieved stakeholders in the community have described the hurriedly conducted election as a “kangaroo exercise” that never complied with procedures and modalities of conducting a youth election in the community. This development has increased tension in the community with the aggrieved aspirants calling for the removal of the President General for displaying bias and gross impunity in his desperation to impose his favoured choice of aspirants including his son as executives of the youth body.
Brandishing placards with several inscription such as “Ferd Anoruo must go” “No more kindred chairman and village Heads in Youth election” the youths condemned the activities of the President General and some elders of the community for exhibiting high level impunity and desperation to subvert the will of the youths of the community who demanded a level playing ground for the conduct of the youth election.
Speaking to the youths as part of his efforts to broker peace, the member representing Owerri Municipal State Constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly and Majority Leader, Hon Lugard Osuji appealed to the youths to remain calm and avoid resorting to violence. He said the peace of the community is paramount and should be preserved at all times.
Youths Elect Onyealisi As Youth Chairman.
However, Youths of the community in their hundreds elected Mr. Azuoma Onyealisi as their choice Chairman of the Youth Body of the community. They went round the streets of Owerri to celebrate the election of Mr. Onyealisi and his new executives on Sunday.
They later marched to the Palace of the Chairman, Owerri Municipal Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Theophilus Uba where they presented the executives and lamented how the youth election process was manipulated to favour a group of aspirants by some elders of the community.