Anambra Guber: Parties, candidates’ fates hang on court cases, crises
• Is Awka Awaiting Ugomba’s Return?
Fluid is the one word that captures the state of things regarding the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election. By the Independent National Election Commission’s (INEC) timelines, the straw polls by the 18 recognised political parties to select their standard-bearers ended on Thursday July 1.
Invariably, by now, the 18 men and women that would fly the flags of those registered parties should have emerged. But, unfortunately that is not so yet. There are crises in the various platforms, especially those considered as major or front row political parties, including the governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
As political parties continue to strategise on how to resolve their internal problems and make a mark in the election, all eyes are set on the substitution window. Consequently, the clear picture as to the real candidates to appear on the ballot in the November 6 poll would emerge on August 6. INEC in its guidelines specified July 30 as the last day for withdrawal and replacement of withdrawn candidates by political parties.
While Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides for the publication of particulars of nominated candidates within seven days of submission by parties, Section 35 stipulates that list of nominated candidates be made public 45 days to the election.
That explains why INEC fixed August 6 as the last day for the submission of nomination forms (EC13B) by political parties. It is therefore after the date that Nigerians, particularly Anambra electorate, would separate the serious contenders from the pretenders cum surrogates.
It is also expected that by August 6, the participating political platforms would have resolved their problems arising from internal contestation for the parties’ tickets as well as reconciled the conflicting expectations of important stakeholders.
Of the notable candidates that have so far emerged, two names stand out on account of their previous involvements in the contest for Anambra State governance seat. They are Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Senator Andy Emmanuel Uba.
It could be on account of the pedigree of these veterans that their parties-APGA and APC- were said to have worked towards the answer by ensuring their emergence as standard bearers. Interestingly, both candidates are enmeshed in internal disputations about the governorship primary that threw them up.
Therefore, how these two top candidates wade through the internal challenges and controversies that surround their emergence would determine who between them would succeed Governor Willie Obiano. For the following are some issues being weighted by Anambra people about their chances.
FOR a brief period of 17 days, Senator Andy Uba occupied the office of Governor of Anambra State in the year 2007. The Supreme Court short his stay with a declaration that as at the time INEC conducted the governorship poll, Mr. Peter Obi, who recovered his mandate from Dr. Chris Ngige, was yet to complete the full term of four years in office. Uba did not seek to controvert or challenge the ruling, but quietly moved out of the Government House.
Ever since, the Uga-born politician has never looked back in his determination to serve Ndi Anambra. He had previously contested on the platform of Labour Party (LP) in 2010 and aspired to return on the platforms of PDP and APC.
Speaking when Senators were seeing him off after the presentation of the 2017 Appropriation bill, President Muhammadu Buhari told Senate President Bukola Saraki, while holding Uba’s hand that, “this is the man to hold Anambra State for us.” Many of those who heard the President’s remark believed that the 2017 governorship contest in Anambra State was the Senator’s to lose.
But, in the home of a prominent APC stakeholder in Abuja, efforts were made to have the 2013 consensus governorship aspirant on the platform of APGA to step down for Uba did not bear fruit. And given the insistence on Anambra North Senatorial District to complete its tenure, a former PDP state chairman, Dr. Tony Nwoye, clinched the APC ticket amid complaints of delegates’ substitution and manipulation of the governorship primary.
Disappointed, Senator Uba, who is fondly called Ugwumba by his admirers, was admonished to wait for 2021, when the pendulum would swing to his Anambra South Senatorial District. It is therefore against that background that as the contest for the APC ticket raged, “Is Awka awaiting Ugomba’s return?” became the refrain among party insiders.
And, just like in 2017, when Uba and Obidigbo were invited to a meeting by Presidency insiders, the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, who was also prevailed upon to respect the zoning arrangement, became a major challenger. It was therefore not surprising that shortly after the Dapo Abiodun-led APC Governorship Primary Election Committee announced Uba as winner that Moghalu led other 13 aspirants to pick holes on the process.
Moghalu, who is also the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), addressed a press conference at the Valencia Hotel, Wuse 2, Abuja. He disclosed that all over the state, neither materials nor personnel arrived in the 326 electoral wards, stressing, “As a result, elections did not hold in any voting centre in Anambra State on Saturday, June 26, 2021.
“Despite this evident reality, the primary Election Committee appointed by the leadership of the party and chaired by the Governor of Ogun State, Prince (Dr.) Dapo Abiodun, went ahead to produce and announce purported results based on nothing other than their fertile imagination and motivated by their private interests and arrangements.
“Perhaps, it is the motivation of those private interests that caused them to produce results so dubious that they have made themselves and our great party the subject of derision across the state and in the country.”
Perhaps on account of the spirited efforts by Moghalu and other 13 aspirants, the Election management and Political Parties Monitoring, (EPM) department of INEC acquiesced in its report that it did not observe any election or collation taking place anywhere in the 326 electoral wards of Anambra State.
Going by INEC’s timetable, the time for conduct of governorship primaries elapsed on Thursday July 1. Consequently, against the backdrop of INEC’s report, especially it relates to the Zamfara State example in 2019, attention in APC has shifted to the Governorship Primary Election Appeal Committee set up by the national leadership.
Although The Guardian gathered that some representations are being made to INEC, available indicators showed that APC would field Senator Uba for the election despite the outcome of the “pressures on the commission to tune down” the EPM’s report.
National Commissioner in charge of Publicity and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, denied any pressure on INEC to alter the observation report, adding that legal practitioners and some political parties have applied and collected the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the reports.
However, a well-placed APC chieftain confided in The Guardian that influential chieftains insist that Uba should fly the party’s flag in the November 6 poll. ‘’They see Uba as the only aspirant capable of prosecuting the governorship election successfully,” he stated, explaining that APC governors are divided on Uba and Moghalu.
Given what is playing out in the mega parties, if Uba goes for the election despite the negative EPM report, the implication would be that he has been primed to win, especially given that he is being backed two powerful individuals that are listed in Forbes among the richest people in Africa.
Moreover, those interested in the 2023 Presidential contest seem to prefer Uba for his capacity to influence things for the party in the general election, as well as give APC a strong presence in Southeast.
Three-Headed APGA, ADC Challenge
IN a space on one week, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) endured no less than four judicial pronouncements, which aided the existence of three factions.
The one ruling that sent tongues wagging was the matter between Sopulu Ezeonwuka and APGA at the Federal High Court Awka, in which the plaintiff/applicant prayed the court in Suit No. FHC/AWK/CS/35/2021, to, among other reliefs, recognise Chief Edozie Njoku as the party’s National Chairman.
The plaintiff also urged the Court presided over by Justice Nganjiwa to grant an order of mandatory injunction in favour of Chief Njoku. However, in his ruling, the Judge noted that since the reliefs sought are same as contained in the main suit, it would amount prejudice if the application were granted.
While the court dismissed Ezeonwuka’s application, the Anambra State High Court presided over by Hon Justice C. C.Okaa, refused to extend the application by counsel to Oye, Patrick Ikwueto SAN, to extend the exparte order it earlier granted restraining Njoku faction from conducting a governorship primary.
The State High Court ruling on June 29, paved the way for the Njoku faction to conduct a governorship primary, which threw up the claimant as winner.
In another court ruling, the APGA faction headed by Jude Okeke vacated the injunction from Ororekpe barring it from conducting a governorship primary or interfering in the running of APGA. From Okeke’s faction, a member of House of Representatives, Hon. Chukwuma Michael Umeoji, was returned as winner of the governorship primary.
As at the time filing this report, APGA is on record as having produced three standard bearers for the November 6 poll. But while each claims that INEC accepted its list of delegates and notice of primary, the faction led by the embattled national chairman, Ozonkpu Victor Oye, had earlier produced the former Governor of Central Bank (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as its candidate.
While Governor Willie Obiano backs the Oye faction, the Njoku faction believes that when ultimately the Court grants it victory in the leadership tussle, it would be easier to negotiate Soludo’s substitution than if Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu were to win the primary.
Sources disclosed that Njoku resisted Ukachukwu’s ploy to surrogate Sopulu Ezeonwuka, stressing that since he once contested election to represent Onitsha North/South Federal Constituency, there is no constitutional barrier against his running for governor of Anambra State.
It was perhaps sensing the convoluted judgements and counter factions in APGA that the former Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, withdrew his membership after a dubious disqualification by the APGA governorship screening committee.
Barely five days after he announced his decision to abide by the screening committee’s verdict, Nwankpo, moved over to the African Democratic Congress (ADC) an offshoot of APGA. It would be recalled that ADC came into being shortly after APGA founder, Chief Chekwas Okorie, stopped Chief Raphs Okey Nwosu, its founder from contesting the 2003 governorship election in the state.
Being a homeboy, Ikolo Awka, rallied round stakeholders and offered Nwankpu the ADC platform to resuscitate the party as a living alternative to APGA as it lays claim to Nkea Bu Nkeanyi (this is our own) payoff.
Speaking when he paid a courtesy call on the ADC National Chairman, Nwosu, Nwankpo expressed his belief that the “the will of God will prevail in Anambra State,” saying that he was ready to join hands with the party leadership to wrestle power from APGA.
“It is only God who makes kings. I pray that the wish of the people will come to pass. Let the will of God prevail in Anambra state. An ADC government will ensure that all Anambra families benefit from their government. We will provide jobs and public services like healthcare. Our great party ADC will have a New Deal with ndi Anambra. It is time to give the voice back to the people,” he declared.
In his remarks, Chief Okey Ralph Nwosu, said it was hard to believe the charades taking place in the governing party as well as the main opposition parties in the state. While decrying the murder of internal democracy in the so-called big parties, the ADC national chairman disclosed that before the coming of Nwankpo, whom he described as man of impeccable character, “many aspirants had approached ADC seeking to buy our nomination forms.
“But, when we look at their public records, which is laden with baggage, we simply ignored them. We have a party with clean bill of health. ADC is not a town union party; it cuts across all ethnic divides, with national outlook. ADC is an alternative that treats everybody the same, not special favours.”
Nwankpo emerged as the party’s standard-bearer on June 30, and joined Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of Young Progressives Party (YPP), the two candidates of PDP, three from APGA and the presumptive APC candidate to contest the governorship.
For PDP, the litigation involving the Chris Uba-led faction, which threw up his elder brother, Dr. Ugochukwu, and the mainstream, revolves around the use of adhoc and automatic delegates, as well as the leadership crisis in the State chapter of the party.
Immediate past President and CEO of Transcorp, Valentine Ozigbo, emerged as winner of the governorship primary of the faction supported by former Governor Peter Obi, which made use of automatic delegates. While Ozigbo received a certificate of return from the National Working Committee (NWC) led by Prince Uche Secondus, Uba did not enjoy such support.
However, as pertains to other candidates, on APGA, APC and PDP, the final decision of who appears on the ballot remains with the Courts.
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