Wednesday, January 27

Ochanja Market boils as electioneering tears traders apart

Ochanja Market boils as electioneering tears traders apart

Ochanja Market traders protesting.

Ochanja Market traders, under the aegis of Ochanja Central Markets Amalgamated Traders Association, OCMATA, have expressed dissatisfaction over the way the leadership of the market is handling the issuance of nomination forms for their forthcoming election, alleging that the market leadership was trying to unjustly disqualify some people to impose an unpopular person on the traders as President-General.

However, it has been revealed that the move to stop some contestants from contesting the upcoming OCMATA election is not necessarily because they are not wanted by the traders, but for reasons not unconnected with their ambition to contest the President-General of all markets in Anambra State in an election that may hold in three years, and therefore, they must be stopped at the Ochanja level.

Also in a separate reaction to the handling of the nomination form for the election in the market, women traders have threatened to strip themselves naked in the market if the leadership of the market goes on to disqualify some candidates because of their popularity in the market.

The traders embarked on a protest to drive home their stand against the market executives, who it is alleged are collaborating with an external trader’s body in the state to deny some aspirants of the position of President General of OCMATA Nomination Forms to contest in the upcoming election, against the constitution of the market.

The women, numbering over 1,000, who spoke to South-East Voice, through their spokesperson, Mrs. Augustina Agwuchukwu and three others, also vowed to boycott and disrupt the election if the leadership conducts it with the exclusion of some of the popular candidates.

The traders displayed placards with inscriptions such as “We say no to disqualification of anybody,” “We will never accept disqualification of any candidate,” “We say no to imposition of President General on Ochanja traders,” “Governor Obiano must hear this,” “Some people are short-changing his government in Ochanja market,” “No external market leadership will impose any leader on the Ochanga traders,” “Non-Ochanja traders should leave us to elect our leaders,” “We don’t want kangaroo election by electoral body,” among others.

They also chanted anti-incumbent executive songs, singing “Ofia must be given forms,” “Ebube Monso has said that Ochanja Market is short-changing Anambra Government as they danced round the market and later retired in one of the market offices upstairs.”

Speaking with South-East Voice, a trader and union leader in the market, Mr. Uzochukwu Okeke, said some of their grievances are attempts by the incumbent market leadership to intimidate and harass them, and foist candidates on them, attempts to deny some popular candidate Nomination Forms, using market vigilantes to sell forms as if they are in war in the market, and connivance with external market leaders to impose members of OCMATA executives on the traders.

He said: “The traders are also not happy with the introduction by the present administration rules that are strange to them, and are not in the constitution of the market, just to disqualify some particular people by denying them Nomination Form. “We don’t want disenfranchisement of any trader, we know whom we want as our leaders. As big as this market is, it does not have any single bank.

“There is no provision for vehicles, they do not want people with vision in the market and they want to disqualify some candidates that can change the face of this market and generate revenues for government.”

However, another member of the market, Mr. Oliver Nwankwo, said that the attempt to stop some aspirants to the seat of the President General is not necessarily about who becomes the Ochanja market leader, but that some people are afraid that once the candidates the traders want step into the leadership of OCMATA, they are automatically in Amalgamated Markets Traders Association Anambra State, AMATAS.

He said some of the contestants in Ochanja Market leadership can conveniently contest and win the AMATAS leadership when the incumbent completes his tenure and because of that, relentless efforts are on to stop such contestants that may have eyes on the leadership of AMATAS. He said: “One of the contestants in the OCMATA election has all it takes to win the election in Ochanja Market and also go ahead to win at AMATAS when the incumbent completes his tenure and, therefore, there is a serious gang up to stop the man, popularly known as Ofia, at the Ochanja Market election level.

“They are also doing the same thing in markets where they feel some candidates are potential threat to the person they want to hand over power to when incumbent AMATAS leadership leaves office.” However, the protesting OCMATA members wondered why the leadership said they will start selling Nomination Forms from 12p.m. to 3p.m. on the agreed day, only for them to change the time to 10a.m. to 12p.m. without informing the market traders.

They said the aim was to quickly sell to their candidates and close sales to give the impression that others, who did not come at that time are no more interested, and therefore cannot contest again.

OCMATA Presdient General reacts

Reacting to some of the allegations against OCMATA leadership, its President General, Chief Fredrick Ezeonyi, said: “Chief Nwbueze Umeh is not qualified to contest the election.”Asked to explain why he is not qualified, he simply said “you will hear the reason within two days. The government has stepped into the matter, you will hear the reason; you will be the one to call me.”

He said they stopped selling Nomination Forms because some people were trying to disrupt the exercise but that the government had stepped in, “and we will all move to Government House, Awka, to resolve the crisis. But I am telling you that Nwabueze is not qualified. The women traders, while speaking through another spokesperson, Mrs Elizabeth Onyekwuluje, wondered why for an election scheduled to hold on January 29, the market leadership was not selling the Nomination Form.

She said: “The market leadership is hoarding the forms because they have plans to sideline some people, but their plan and attempt to sideline some people in the election will fail; we must elect the candidate that we want. “We are aware that one Chief Nwabueze Umeh, popularly known as Ofia, is in the race for the seat of the President General of the market, including others.

“We have not said any of them is our candidate. What we are saying is that every contestant should be given a level playing field to contest; nobody should be denied Nomination Form because we all own this market.”

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