Anambra 2021: Yet a long walk for APC, PDP, APGA governorship candidates
It‘s not victory yet in Anambra State. Less than four months to November 6, 2021 governorship election, intrigues and suspense have continued to take the centre stage regarding the authentic candidates in the three leading political parties.
This is threatening the credibility of the coming exercise.
As it is, the governorship primaries that were conducted in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that ordinarily should provide basis for the election proper are now unsettling the parties and raising serious doubts as to whether the will of the electorate would count at the end of the day, going by the desperation that has been introduced into the contest.
Some observers are already in a bet that Anambra may go the way of Imo State in deciding who should be the next governor of the state by the Supreme Court. They have insisted that with the raging controversies and several high court rulings over the rightful candidates produced by the primaries of the leading political parties, the Supreme Court will certainly have a final say should any of the parties eventually win the process as the cases have the potential of getting to the apex court being pre-election cases. It is more so as the combatants are not ready to blink an eye until all legal possibilities are exhausted.
In the ruling APGA in the state, it is still being contemplated how far the trio of former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo, who emerged as candidate from the primary conducted by the Chief Victor Oye leadership of the party; House of Representatives member, Chukwuma Umeoji, who was elected from the primary conducted by Jude Okeke faction as well as Edozien Njoku that emerged as candidate from the faction that he leads in the party, would go to authenticate their candidacy.
In the PDP, a former member of the National Assembly, Dr Ugochukwu Uba who emerged from the primary conducted by Chukwudi Umeaba faction of the party is squaring up former President of Transcorp Plc, Valentine Ozigbo over recognition that is at the mercy of the courts. At the APC, former Senator, Andy Uba is still contending with the party’s aspirants whom he maneuvered to become the “candidate”. The aspirants have refused to accept him as their candidate in the election, despite the stance of some chieftains of the party at the national level.
Last week however, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had attempted to call the truce in the convoluted governorship race when it published the list of candidates of the various political parties that could contest the election.
The list surprisingly contained the name of Umeoji as the flag bearer for the APGA; Andy Uba for the APC while no name was listed for the PDP among others.
That was another window of contention as no sooner were the names published than the combatants headed for the courts in Anambra, to either sustain the list or encumber the Commission from continuing to deal with the names contained in their list, except the one approved by the courts in their favour.
It needed to be seen how counsel to the various contenders from the three political parties swooped on the courts on Monday, July 19, to reverse the INEC list. It was a busy day for Journalists in Awka, as they ran from one court to another in an attempt to obtain orders and counter orders given by the presiding judges about the rightful candidates. One after the other, Soludo, Ozigbo and Uba had run out from the courts clutching various judgments in their favour.
Soludo, who had dragged the trio of Umeoji, Jude Okeke and Edozien Njoku before Justice Peter Okaa over the authentic governorship candidate produced by the APGA got the court’s order in his favour.
Justice Okaa had reaffirmed him as the candidate of the party and ordered the INEC to immediately publish his name, while restraining Umeoji, Okeke and Njoku from claiming to represent the party. Okaa, who described as “meddlesome interlopers” Umeoji, Okeke and Njoku, insisted that Oye remained the authentic National Chairman of the party.
Moments after Soludo got his reprieve, another Federal High Court in Awka, had ordered the INEC to accept and publish Ozigbo as candidate of the PDP for the governorship election.
Ozigbo had on June 30, been presented with certificate of return by the National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus after the governorship primary in Awka. A Federal High Court in Abuja, had on however on Thursday July 15, restrained INEC from publishing his name as the candidate of the party. It was in compliance with the directive that INEC’s portal, which was released on July 16, neither recognized him nor Uba, as the candidate of the party.
At the Federal High Court in Awka, where there was a pending suit, the court declared that it did not order INEC not to publish his name as the candidate of the party having emerged after polling the majority of votes at the party’s primary held at the Prof Dora Akunyili Women Development Center, Awka, on June 26, 2021.
But less than five hours after his loyalists celebrated what they assumed had addressed the issue of the rightful candidate of the party in the election, a State High Court 5, presided over by Justice Obiora Nwabunike handed out another ruling, directing INEC to accept and enlist Uba’s name as candidate of PDP for the November 6, election.
Giving judgment in the substantive suit No: A/230/2021 filed by Uba through his Lawyer, Emeka Nwankwo, against three defendants namely: INEC, PDP and Ozigbo, Justice Nwabunike held that the primary election held by PDP at St. Paul’s University premises was done in line with the subsisting court order of Justice Adeniyi of the Federal High Court, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in Suit No. FCT/AC/774/21.
The suit was filed by Samuel Anyakorah for himself and 21 Local Council Chairmen and Ward executives who were products of the state Congress supervised by Chukwudi Umeaba-led PDP Caretaker Committee on November 28, 2017. The Judge faulted Ozigbo for failing to set aside, vacate or appeal the Justice Adeniyi’s court order.
He dismissed all the preliminary objections filed by Ozigbo and declared that there was only one proper state congress and primary election won by Uba. He therefore, declared that any other result by which Ozigbo was purportedly declared winner was null, void and of no effect for violation of section 25 of the PDP Constitution, Section 87 of the Electoral Act and extant judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and directive of INEC that PDP should use the list of authentic delegates of the party to conduct the primary election.
The court further held that the PDP, having used the court approved list of candidates to conduct the election which Uba won beating 14 other aspirants, PDP should not have purported to conduct another exercise same day declaring Ozigbo the winner of the primary election. He said that the PDP was bound to accept and forward Uba’s name as the party’s candidate for the forthcoming election.
A fresh Twist
IT would appear that the effort to subdue anger that arose from the purported primary conducted by the APC that paved way for Andy Uba’s candidacy have kissed the dust as one of the aggrieved aspirants in the exercise, Chief George Moghalu has asked the court to delist the APC and Uba from the race. The development is the new twist in the circumstances surrounding the controversial primary that many said never held in the state. INEC had last week listed Uba as the candidate of the party.
Moghalu, who was among 14 aspirants who purchased forms to contest the governorship election, specifically asked the court to declare that the APC failed to conduct a valid primary election in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the Electoral Act, the APC’s Constitution and guidelines for election and demanded the sum of N122.5 million damages from the party.
He claimed that the sum of N22.5 million was meant for the refund of payment for the expression of interest form and nomination form.
He also asked the court to order the APC to pay him another sum of N100 million as “exemplary and general damages for the breach of contract to commence and conclude primary election and or breach of Section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and the regulations and guidelines of the political party.”
He had stated that on June 25, 2021, a day to the conclusion of the primary election, he heard that an electoral committee led by the Ogun State Governor, Mr. Dapo Abiodun, would address all aspirants and stakeholders in Anambra at the Hilton Leisure Hotel, Awka.
According to him, the committee promised to conduct a free and fair election, adding that the process would commence with accreditation of voters, actual voting and collation of votes, then announcement of results.
“Shockingly, on June 26, 2021, the said election committee was not seen anywhere in Anambra; no accreditation of voters took place; no voting and collation of votes occurred in all the 326 wards of Anambra State”, Moghalu said.
He added: “The committee only re-appeared the next day in a hotel at Agulu, Anambra State and announced election results it did not conduct, and which fakery was credited to the third defendant (Andy Uba) as the winner of the primary election scheduled for emergence as APC’s candidate in the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State.”
APPARENTLY miffed by the entire scenario, National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralphs Okay Nwosu has asked the INEC to disqualify APC, PDP, APGA and their candidates from the November poll.
Nwosu noted that the three political parties have displayed gross indiscipline and leadership deficit in their processes of conducting their primary elections, adding that the development had made them unfit to participate in the process.
He argued: “These three political parties have shown gross indiscipline and leadership deficits, which manifested in the way they conducted their party primaries ahead of the forthcoming governorship election.
“Going by records, these three political parties should not participate in the process. What happened in APC primary was an ambush. The party opted for a direct primary; but at the end of the day, a candidate emerged without anything like primary taking place anywhere. This is a violation of the APC Constitution and the Electoral Act.
“For APGA, up till now, the party still has three factions; producing three candidates through three different processes. Apart from going contrary to APGA Constitution, APGA also went against the Electoral Act in the conduct of their primaries. So, INEC was right when it said that there was no clear congress that produced delegates for APGA primary.
“For PDP, the story is the same. Every day, the party continues to change techniques of doing their primary. Today, they will say ad hoc delegates; tomorrow, super delegates; the next, nominal delegates. As far as we are concerned, the only party that followed due process in selecting its candidate for the Anambra guber is the ADC.”
IT is still a dicey situation. Several uncertainties are hovering in the air, making it difficult to say where the pendulum will swing in the end, despite the reports that INEC had accepted to abide by the decisions reached on Monday by the Awka High Courts.
An official of the electoral umpire had however admitted that; “conducting elections in Anambra State has always presented a difficult situation for the Commission”, adding that, “we may need to run the election without candidates for some political parties”.
A stalwart of the APGA, Chief Stephen Ike, noted that the way it is; only the courts will determine the candidates that will participate in the election from the three leading political parties.
He told The Guardian in Enugu that “as it happened in Imo State, the Supreme Court will decide who will be the next governor of Anambra State should any of three leading political parties win in the election”.
He stated that last Monday’s pronouncements of courts would not put an end to the contentions, stressing that; “APGA has a running battle in courts over headship that must define whoever becomes the candidate. Ozigbo is enjoying support of PDP national leadership against Uba, while Andy has never been accepted even at the party’s national leadership. Until these things are resolved, you cannot say, who the candidates are for these parties.”