The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has directed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State to conduct a fresh primary election in the next 14 days to replace its governorship candidate, Professor Uche Eleazar Ikonne, who died yesterday in Abuja.
A statement from Ikonne’s family said he died of “multiple cardiac arrests”.
In directing PDP to replace its governorship candidate, INEC clarified that the deputy governorship candidate of the party could not automatically assume the position of the gubernatorial candidate since the election was yet to start.
INEC National Commissioner on Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, told THISDAY that the party had the opportunity of conducting a fresh primary within 14 days, according to the dictates of the Electoral Act.
Okoye said the 14 days started from the day Ikonne died.
The national commissioner stated, “He (the deputy governorship candidate) can only fly the flag if election has commenced. They have to hold a fresh primary within 14 days of the death and then they submit to INEC.”
The family of Ikonne formally announced the demise of the Abia PDP governorship hopeful yesterday, saying he passed on by 4am at the National Hospital Abuja “after a brief illness”.
In a three paragraph statement, the son of the deceased, Dr. Uche-Ikonne Chikezie, said his late father had shown signs of recovery after receiving, “proper treatment” abroad. Chikezie said his father relapsed in return and eventually succumbed to “multiple cardiac arrests.”
The statement said of Ikonne, “He was recovering after taking proper treatment in the United Kingdom but relapsed a few days ago leading to multiple cardiac arrests for which he didn’t recover from.”
The family spokesman added that “further details and arrangements would be made known to the public after deliberations and meetings are made within the family”.
After months of speculations on the whereabouts of Ikonne, Ikpeazu had finally admitted during a radio programme last week that the governorship hopeful was, “lately indisposed”.
But he had assured the people that the sick candidate was recovering gradually and progressively, adding that he would “return sooner or later”.
Meanwhile, PDP, its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the governor of Abia State, Dr. Ikpeazu Okezie, governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP), Dr. Alex Otti, and other well-meaning Nigerians have sent their condolences over the incident.
In the statement issued by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, Atiku described Ikonne as an erudite scholar of repute with vast experience in administration, whose contributions in advancing knowledge within the academic community would be appreciated by generations unborn.
He said as a strong member of the PDP, who should have led PDP to victory in the forthcoming general election in Abia State, Ikonne’s death came as a rude shock.
Ikpeazu directed that all flags at Abia State PDP offices should be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for the party’s late standard bearer.
The governor, in a press statement he personally signed, directed that the ruling party should halt all campaign activities at all levels till Monday, January 30.
Ikpeazu, who had anointed Ikonne as his successor, mourned the demise of the governorship candidate, adding, “It is with a heavy heart but total submission to the will of God that we announce the passing of our PDP governorship candidate for the 2023 general election, Prof Eleazar Uchenna Ikonne,.”
The Abia chief executive and leader of the ruling PDP in the state urged all PDP leaders and members “to remain calm as we navigate through this difficult period together.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ikonne, who hails from Agburuke Nsulu, Isialangwa North Local Government Area, was born on August 15, 1956.
He was married to Uzoamaka, the state solicitor-general and had two male children.
Ikonne, a professor of optometry, was appointed the seventh substantive vice chancellor of the Abia State University, Uturu, after serving as rector, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba.
Several attempts made to get Chikamnayo to comment on the incident were unsuccessful as he could not respond to calls put across to him.
The governorship election in Abia State is scheduled to hold on March 11.