Why Alhaji Shagari picked Dr. Ekwueme is still a mystery and only him can explain. His name was never speculated. Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu was 46 at the time. He was unknown in the political arena. Except for his business profile as an Architect and Town Planner and that he once worked for Esso West Africa, Lagos overseeing the construction and maintenance department of the company, little was known about him in politics. The media over troubled Alhaji Suleiman Takuma, the spokesman of the NPN at that time to give details about Dr. Ekwueme, he was not forthcoming only promising “later”.
After the press conference, the media mocked Dr. Mbadiwe with a headline the following day SHAGARI PICKS EKWUEME BUT “KO IS NOT OK”. The selection of Dr. Ekwueme rattled a lot of politicians in the East Central zone and created party crisis within the NPN. A case in point was in Imo state where the leader of the party, Chief Nnana Kalu suspended Dr. Mbadiwe for alleged anti-party activities. Dr. Mbadiwe had to address the press later during which he asked “WHO IS NNANA KALU, FROM WHERE DID HE DERIVE HIS POLITICAL AUTHORITY, HAVE YOU EVER HEARD WHERE A MESSENGER WILL SUSPEND HIS BOSS, ENOUGH OF THIS POLITICAL RASCALITY”.
The campaign was no doubt hectic especially for Dr. Ekwueme. For he could not mobilise enough people for his party in the East Central in spite of his gospel of reconciliation. He worked hard during the campaign. He spent a lot of money too but unfortunately for him in 1979, the east central zone was the empire of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and in spite of the civil war and fourteen years absence, the emperor was still in command of his empire.
In the July 7 1979 Senate election, THE NPP won all the 10 seats in Imo and Anambra states. In the July 14 1979 election to the House of Representatives, THE NPN had one seat in Anambra as against THE NPP with 28 seats while in Imo states THE NPN had two seats against THE NPP with 28 seats. In the gubernatorial election that followed in Anambra state, Chief James Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, (77) alias Jim Nwobodo defeated Chief Christian Chukwuma Onoh of the NPN. In Imo state, Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe from Avutu of the NPP defeated Dr. Nwakamma Okoro of the NPN in the gubernatorial election
In the Presidential election of August 11 1979, Shehu Shagari of the NPN scored 13.50% of the total votes in Anambra state as against 82.88% of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NPP. In Imo state, Alhaji Shehu Shagari scored 8.80% as against Dr. Azikiwe’s 84.69% for the NPP