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Anambra guber jigsaw: Shadow parties blossom, as big three wrestle

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Nwankpo

There is an admixture of surprise and relief in Anambra State, as the state grapples with the action-packed buildup to its planned November 6, 2021 governorship election.
   
Suddenly, out of the ashes of the two major contenders-All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-have arisen two former shadow platforms, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Labour Party (LP).
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In attire and name, it is as if fortune or happenstance prepared Akachukwu Nwankpo and Obiora Agbasimelo to take the place of wave-making candidates of APGA and PDP. While Nwankpo, the ADC governorship hopeful adorns an all-white caftan similar to Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, the embattled APGA rival candidate, Agbasimelo, whose second name is Obiora reminds of PDP’s governorship first runner-up, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, who was tipped by bookmakers to win his party’s primary.

New Frontliners
THE standard-bearers of the two parties, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo (ADC) and Obiora Agbasimelo, are already stealing the show and appropriating the fascination of the Anambra electorate. They are also putting their new shine in the limelight to great effect by taunting the embattled big three, namely, APGA, PDP and All Progressives Congress (APC).
 
For instance, speaking to journalists in Awka four days ago, the LP candidate, Agbasimelo, an obvious allusion to APGA and PDP, urged Anambra voters to avoid political parties that attract attention to themselves through convoluted court processes and frivolous litigations. 

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Agbasimelo, who like Soludo, was a banker before turning to politics, is from Ezinifite, the hometown of late Ogene Music maestro, Oliver de Coque. During the interaction with journalists in Awka, he said the election is already throwing up surprises to the relief of NdiAnambra.
  
He stated: “Anambra people have had enough of these crisis-ridden political parties. I believe that the election coming up in November is the appropriate time for us to show maturity and experience in choosing a better political party and a better candidate that can meet the yearning of our people in the cities, towns and villages across the state.”
  
Further, he explained that LP provides a credible alternative to the other stormy platforms that are steeped in crises, adding: “Labour Party (LP) is cool, peaceful and ready to render good governance when elected, unlike other political parties that are engulfed in bewildering crises.”
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While outlining how the crises in the big three parties would continue without end, Agbasimelo said the confusion in those platforms was ordained to happen so that Labour Party can provide political succour to the Anambra people.
   
“What the peace-loving people of Anambra State need from the 2021 governorship election are in two important folds; namely, a younger person like me, who can listen to the people and be available to do the work and not a traveller that spends much time overseas. Secondly, a crisis-free political party that will not waste much-needed resources for providing dividends of democracy on litigations. 
   
“What I am saying is that we, the good people of Anambra State have had enough of these crisis-ridden political parties. I believe that the forthcoming election on November 6 is the appropriate time for us to show maturity and experience in choosing a better political party and a better candidate that can meet the yearning of our people in the cities, towns and villages across the state. 
  
“Let us forget about these other political parties that are known for generating news from court cases for the media instead of generating news about initiating laudable projects and commissioning of completed projects. 
 
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“I chose to run under Labour Party because I want to generate news from projects execution and not from cases in courts. I am sure that my choice is not a bad one. I am also sure Labour Party is the right choice for the electorates.” 
  
On his part, Nze Akachukwu, a former Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Technical Matters, said the new political realities in Anambra State are the making of God. He promised to cure the debilitating election malaise in the state, which robs voters of their will and frustrates transparency.
   
His words: “Let me assure you that the type of madness you see in every election, where ‘big men with money trample on everybody will end with us. I assure you that we will stop that madness.”
 
Promising to build on the foundation already laid by past administrations in the state, the Okija, Ihiala-born politician noted, “so many good things are in Anambra State.”
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“We have a good airport; we have a good network of roads. Lots of things have been done by this current administration; we are going to build on it. We will bring back the resources of Anambra State. We will bring home the ‘big men’ in Anambra State; if I need to kneel before them, I will. If I need to plead with them, I will. Whatever it will take me to bring back the wealth of Anambra State, I will do that as your governor. 
   
“Today, Igbo people all over Nigeria move around with fear, because they have nobody to protect them. I assure you that under this party, we will build a Nigeria that protects the pride of Nd’Igbo. We will respect our neighbours; we will not insult them, because Igbo culture supports the brotherhood availed by neighbourliness. Ndi Igbo will say: ‘Agbata Obi Onye, bu Nwanne ya!” he added.
 
In a veiled contrast of the profile of his former political party, APGA, and the present one, ADC, which is an offshoot of the former, Akachukwu commended Chief Okey Nwosu, (Ikolo Awka), “for being tenacious in doing things that are right.
   
“From the time he was in APGA till today, he has been a founding member of ADC; he has sustained a character of focus and honesty. It is his determined focus that has kept all of us here today.
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“When I started this journey, there were people who never believed my name will appear on the ballot. Some didn’t believe it, because they felt I have no money, some didn’t believe, because they felt I have no connections, and some didn’t believe, because they believe they can steal it. Those who stole it in the first party I went to, will see they have stolen nothing.”
 
Although Nwankpo holds an edge, having been in Anambra, nay Igbo politics much longer, he and Agbasimelo are riding high on the wings of the emerging political climate in the state. While the ADC candidate has set up a high-powered multi-disciplinary committee to screen possible running mates, Agbasimelo of LP doubled down on the Soludo’s shifty fate.
   
Accompanied by his brother, Obiora Agbasimelo presented himself to one of the Nnewi billionaires that endorsed Soludo’s candidacy, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman of Innoson Motor Manufacturing Company. While intimating Chief Chukwuma of the crisis in the so-called big parties, the LP candidate argued that like money, no investor goes to where there is no peace and security. For his effort and courage, the Innoson boss supported the candidate with a Hilux Van to augment his logistics for the approaching electioneering.

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What Happened?
PERHAPS, only people that have been following closely the undulating narratives of Anambra governorship would recognise where the rain started beating the big three political parties.
   
APGA, which had been enmeshed in leadership squabble, started developing complications when in the middle of the preparations for the governorship primary, a splinter group arose and announced the dissolution of the National Executive Committee (NEC), as well as the suspension of the two claimants to the position of national chairman, Ozo Victor Oye and Chief Edozie Njoku. In their place, Chief Jude Okeke assumed office.
 
Falling back on Court orders, both Njoku and Okeke organised separate governorship primaries that threw up two other candidates in addition to Soludo, namely Chief Edozie Njoku and Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, thus investing APGA with the record of being the only political party to produce three governorship candidates for the same election.  

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Bemoaning the impact of multiple litigations on APGA’s fortune, rival national chairman, Edozie Njoku, maintained that despite the different court judgments regarding its leadership, the party was on a steady march to victory in the November 6, 21 governorship poll.
  
On the July 1 ruling by Hon Justice H. A. Nganjiwa of the Awka Federal High Court, which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to recognise his faction, Njoku said the court judgment laid bare the situation of things in APGA.
 
He explained that the court order mandating INEC to accept the nomination of any candidate that emerged from the governorship primary conducted by his faction on June 29, 2021 provides a credible window of opportunity for APGA to participate in the poll.
  
“Gentlemen, recall that the Federal High Court, Awka also granted an order mandating INEC to recognise Chief Edozie Njoku as the authentic National Chairman of APGA. We received the ruling by Justice H. A. Nganjiwa, with great sense of relief.
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“For whatever it is worth, however, our determination, resolve and commitment to ensuring that APGA retains its original progressive ideals do not flounder remains irrevocable. APGA politics must be purged of private intentions masked in dubious public conduct for narrow private advantage,” he stated.
  
The APGA national chairman commended President Muhammad Buhari “for his foresight in empowering the Judiciary with the needed confidence and institutional support to ensure that justice is served to all Nigerians, irrespective of creed, party affiliation or tribal origin.”
  
But despite Njoku’s optimism, another chieftain of the troubled incumbent, party, Okoye Nwabuogo, has asked an Abuja Federal High Court to disqualify Prof. Soludo, as the party’s standard bearer for the November 6, poll.
   
In the originating summons No: FHC/ABJ/CS/596/2021, Nwabuogo is praying the court to set-aside the election and nomination of Prof. Soludo as well as for an order restraining Soludo from parading himself as the validly or duly elected candidate of APGA for the said election.
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According to the plaintiff, APGA failed to give statutory 21 days notice to INEC before it held the special ward congress, where adhoc delegates voted to nominate Soludo as candidate of the party. No hearing date has been fixed by the court.

Meanwhile, Jude Okoye has filed another suit at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, seeking to stop Victor Oye and Edozie Njoku from parading themselves as chairmen of the party and the court to rather declare him the authentic APGA chairman.

PDP
NOTMINDING that it held parallel governorship primaries that produced valentine Ozigbo and Senator Ugochukwu Uba as alternate candidates, PDP suffered another image deficit, when the first runner-up in the primary that threw up Ozigbo, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, renounced the process, as well as the outcome of the straw poll.

Okonkwo contended that from the result announced by the Committee led by the Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, “it is obvious that the outcome of that exercise did not reflect the wishes and desires of the people.”  

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“Obviously, there were a number of serious issues and irregularities regarding the primary election. First, in response to a very late court order barring elected delegates from participating in the primaries, the National Working Committee of the party decided, at the last minute, to limit the voting to a small number of statutory delegates.

“But even with that, the list of the statutory delegates kept changing with no explanation of the criteria used to exclude some hitherto approved delegates while adding new ones, some of whom are not eligible under the party’s constitution.
 
“Perhaps, the most blatant of the irregularities came in the collation of votes. For instance, a total of 218 delegates were accredited for the exercise. The tally of votes cast for the candidates, along with voided votes came to 201.

“A full week after the primary election, nobody has satisfactorily explained what happened to the other 17 votes cast by duly accredited delegates.

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Okonkwo added: ‘We expect those who conducted the election to provide the answer to this obvious discrepancy, particularly given the razor-thin margin of victory of the declared result.”

APC
THE All Progressives Congress (APC) national leadership is yet to make its position known on the controversy trailing the party’s conduct of governorship primary election in the state.
 
While the party’s electoral and appeal committee say there was a valid primary that produced Senator Andy Uba as winner, other 11 aspirants swear that there was no semblance of election on the June 26, 2021 scheduled for the exercise.
  
Under the prevailing circumstances within the big political parties, how it would affect voting preferences towards them on November 6, remains a wild guess.

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