Anambra Guber: Frustration, adulation, platform switch trail INEC deadline
From today, the journey to the November 6, Anambra State gubernatorial poll rolls on a serious note. The switchovers, substitution and collaborations have been finalized.
While Friday July 30, was the last day for withdrawal and substitution of standard-bearers of political parties taking part in the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would after August 6, publish the list of serious contenders excepting those bogged down by litigations.
Analysts had projected that court pronouncements and judicial considerations would determine the processes and personalities to be involved in the governorship poll. Already court decisions have helped to force down surprise switches in the polity, especially among the big parties, the governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
At the threshold of the July 30 deadline for withdrawal/substitution of candidates, voices of Ewu chi muo (O My God) and Arinze Chukwu (Praise God) rang from various political parties and among the circles of support for the candidates.
As the confusion created by conflicting judicial positions continue to dominate discussions in the state, some governorship candidates are full of regrets and lamentation that they are being slowed down, while others are praising God for keeping them out of political bad weather.
Former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, has been encountering great obstacles on his way to fulfilling his aspiration to become governor. Despite the tacit support of the incumbent, Governor Willie Obiano, the path to picking the APGA ticket has been strewn with rocks, fire and pebbles.
For the immediate past President and Chief Executive Officer of Transcorp Plc, Mr. Val Ozigbo, the distraction from rival Senator Ugochukwu Uba, remains a source of worry as INEC has not been able to list any of them on its dashboard for the governorship poll. Similar scenario is playing out within APC, where the camp of Senator Andy Uba, have been left in serious contemplation about what the recent apex court judgement in the Ondo governorship election petition between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and Eyitayo Jegede, entails for their standard-bearer.
Prominent among candidates, whose supporters are singing Alleluia, are Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of Young Progressives Party (UPP) and Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo of African Democratic Congress (ADC).
While other gladiators are busy meeting with lawyers and stakeholders in pursuit of legal interpretation and reconciliation, the YPP candidate is in far away United States, where he is meeting with Anambra indigenes as part of his advocacy for a new Anambra.
Apart from emerging through an unchallenged governorship primary as the sole aspirant, Senator Ifeanyi Uba turned the misfortune of being frustrated out of APGA into favour by joining YPP and winning the Anambra South Senatorial seat in 2019.
The oil magnate, who owns Capital Oil and IfeanyiUba Football Club, believes that he is on the march to clinching the same governorship for which some APGA leaders conspired to deny him the Senatorial ticket.
One other lucky candidate that has been giving all glory to God is former Special Assistant on Technical Matters to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Nze Akachukwu Sullivan Nwankpo. When the leadership of APGA began some curious manouvres over who should and should not fly the party’s flag on the governorship ticket, Nwankpo quietly moved over to ADC.
In an interview with The Guardian, shortly after he was disqualified by the APGA governorship screening committee, Nwankpo disclosed that although Governor Wilie Obiano explained to him his preference for Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, the panel failed to consider the image and constitution of the party in carrying out their functions.
While maintaining that the screening process was unjust to him, Nwankpo declared: “My emergence as candidate of ADC is an act of God. I think God has decided to answer the prayers of NdiAnambra, who are tired and exhausted with the damages being done to their state by political renegades and power jobbers. It is not a compensation to me nor is it a reward for my hard work.”
Unlike Ubah, Nwankpo spurned offers to pick the Senatorial ticket for Anambra South on many occasions, informing all those that have volunteered to sponsor his election to the Red Chamber that, “I am a material for the executive branch of government.”
Nwankpo believes that his journey to becoming the governor of Anambra is divine orchestration, stressing that that informed his determination to uphold family values and peaceful coexistence in the state when he becomes governor next year.
Months before INEC released the timetable for this year’s governorship election in the state, Nwankpo relocated from Abuja to Awka and began the massive campaign for power shift to Anambra South through his ‘Let’s Go South’ initiative.
Sources disclosed that it was on account of the resources and structures that he deployed to the Let’s Go South campaign that influential citizens from the state enjoined him to contest the governorship ticket of APGA.
Although APGA proved too hot for him to handle, amid insinuations that he could be Governor Obiano’s plan B, Nwankpo’s emergence on ADC platform and structures he built during the Let’s Go South campaign seem to be working in his favour.
PDP’s mixed fortune
NOBODY expected the sudden confusion that overtook PDP’s preparations for the election, especially given the party’s resolve to retake the Government House after 16 years’ hiatus.
Like a bolt from the blues, the party held parallel governorship primaries, which threw up two candidates, Ozigbo and Uba from the same Anambra South Senatorial District. The emergence of two rival candidates, which was preceded by the sudden sack of the state executive committee of the party, set off a plethora of court appearances.
For instance, riled by the processes, especially the many litigations in the party, the first runner-up in the PDP governorship primary, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, quit the party.
In a letter to the chairman of his Ogidi ward 2, Idemmili North Local Government Area, Okonkwo listed effect of the confusing judicial positions and general lack of discipline as part of his reason for turning his back on PDP.
In the letter titled, “Notification Of My Resignation From Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),” Okonkwo, who is also the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, stated: “I am writing to formally notify you of my resignation from the PDP with immediate effect. My resignation letter has been long submitted to the PDP Ward Chairman Ogidi 2 in full compliance with the party constitution. My decision to resign has been occasioned by many factors.
“General lack of party discipline, fairness and due process in the conduct of party affairs, apparent manipulation in the conduct of party’s last gubernatorial primaries in Anambra State, never ending, plethora of court cases tearing the party apart, which the national leadership apparently is incapable of addressing.
“This is such that the party runs the risk of not presenting a candidate for the November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State, and unlawful dissolution of the structures of the party in Anambra State from Wards, Local Governments to the State level by the National Working Committee in clear violation of the Party’s constitution and in disobedience to interlocutory Order of FCT court issued on 25th of June, 2021.
“Given my enormous contributions to the growth of PDP in Nigeria and Anambra State in particular, it is with a heavy heart that I write this letter. However, it is a necessary move to afford me chance to further contribute to the development of our dear Anambra State through public service.”
But, a glimmer hope shorn on the party, yesterday when the Court of Appeal restored the state executive committee led by Ndubuisi Nwobu. In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP hailed the appellate court ruling, saying it prepares the ground for a robust campaign.
“The judgement is victory for democracy and the majority of the people of Anambra Sate, who are fully rallying with the PDP and our governorship candidate, Valentine Ozigbo, in their quest to entrench a purposeful government in the state.
“This ruling gives us comfort that the PDP and our candidate, Valentine Ozigbo are on the right side of justice, because the judgment that has just been set aside is the superstructure upon which certain individuals who did not participate in our primary are seeking to distract our party and the people of Anambra state ahead of the election,” the party stated.
It was perhaps in anticipation of the favourable ruling that Ozigbo unveiled his female running mate the day before. Speaking during the event, which held at Oma Event Centre, Mr Ozigbo described Mrs Azuka Enemo as, “a seasoned administrator and educationist, stressing that she would bring her wealth of experience to bear on the mission to realise the Ka Anambra Chawapu developmental strategies.
The PDP candidate disclosed that a competent team of legal experts has been put together to thrash out issues surrounding the emergence of a rival candidate, assuring that “the distractions would soon be in the past.”
He pleaded with party men and women to unite for the victory in the November 6 election, remarking, “This is PDP’s time to shine and produce the Anambra State governor. I cannot overemphasise this.”
To those who felt aggrieved during the primary, Ozigbo apologized, noting that the keenly contested primary was bound to throw up one person as winner, even as he pleaded with “everyone to forgive and unify behind a greater purpose, which is to rescue the destiny of Anambra from the hands of the dysfunctional APGA government.”
Also speaking, the PDP Vice Presidential candidate in the 2019 election, Mr Peter Obi, implored every aggrieved person to let go of the past and forge into the future, noting that, “what is ahead for the PDP is more significant than what is in the past.”
IN the case of APGA, the rival candidates to Soludo, Hon Chukwuma Umeoji, scored what seemed another runaway victory against the mainstream of the party, when an Owerri High Court declared him and as the party’s governorship standard bearer and Jude Okeke as its national chairman.
There were mixed feelings in Awka after the Owerri ruling, which enjoined INEC to deal only with Umeoji as APGA candidate and Okeke as chairman, because the suit was instituted by a member of Ozonkpu Victor Oye’s camp.
But, the music changed on Friday, when from faraway Kano State, the Court of Appeal Kano Division granted Oye leave to appeal against the unusual ruling of Jigawa State High Court that prevented INEC from listing Soludo among the contestants for the November 6 poll.
After dismissing the preliminary objections raised by Garba Aliyu and finding merit in arguments put forward D.D. Dodo SAN, the court granted APGA and Oye leave to appeal against the Jigawa judgment.
Other prayers granted APGA included, accelerated hearing of the Appeal, 24 hours for appellants to file and serve their brief of argument, three days for respondents to respond to appellants’ briefs, weekends inclusive.
The matter was adjourned to August 5 for commencement of hearing. The APC governors are meeting to discuss the various aspects of the apex court ruling as they pertain to Mai Mala Buni’s headship of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party.
While stakeholders like Festus Keyamo SAN express fears that all actions taken by Buni could be successfully litigated upon, others like Ovie Omo Agege, said the fact that Buni does not receive salary vitiates the constitutional impediments against a serving governor holding another office.
Meanwhile, 14 former governorship aspirants, led by Dr. Dozie Nwankwo, have stormed out from the party and pitched tent with African Action Congress (AAC), to ventilate their governorship dream.
How APC resolves the Buni conundrum would determine the fate of their candidate for the Anambra governorship, Senator Andy Uba, because Buni endorsed his nomination forms.