Anambra guber: PDP, APGA replaying old antics
Will transaction politics hold sway in the lead up to the election of Governor Willie Obiano’s successor on November 6, 2021? The poser becomes relevant when viewed against the backdrop of recent court and shock attacks on the platforms of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state.
The surprise court pronouncement on the status of Anambra State executive of PDP brought back memories of previous governorship polls in the state, during which the party presented double candidates for National Assembly. Intriguingly, while the Abuja High Court ruling, which sacked the Ndubuisi Nwobu-led State Working Committee, roiled PDP, APGA repeated similar abracadabra that defined its 2013 screening process that threw up Obiano as standard bearer.
Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who was at the centre of PDP’s macabre dance in court in 2010, as well as APGA’s screening shock of 2013, featured also in the governing party’s style of working towards a predetermined answer.
It could be said that Soludo, who appears to be in the good books of the powers that be in APGA, has learned obedience (politics) through what he suffered in the past 11 years. Would his switch from PDP to APGA take him on a home run this time around? When the former CBN governor declared in 2017, in the course of Obiano’s search for a second term, that Anambra is not broken, many observers believed that the former number one banker was hankering after the infusion of power of incumbency.
In 2013, when he fell by the wayside, preparatory to the governorship election, Soludo was axed for not obtaining a waiver from the party after he moved from PDP. The other strong contender that was also pushed out was Dr. Chike Obidigbo. Obidigbo was also accused by the screening committee of submitting a membership card signed by a former national chairman, Maxi Okwu,
Consequently, as if the 2013 history was intent on repeating itself, APGA has dual claimants to the office of national chairman. And, recalling how Obidigbo ran a parallel campaign and waged an unrelenting legal battle to reclaim the mandate given to APGA on November 17, 2013, would another standard bearer emerge from the Chief Edozie Njoku corner to run as rival candidate?
Internal strife has always featured in APGA’s electoral contests since it dusted Dr. Christopher Nwabueze Ngige, then of PDP, from office in 2006 through Mr. Peter Obi’s legal challenge of the 2003 governorship election at the courts.
It would be recalled that in 2007, when Obi sought to contest in the later botched poll for his second term in office, the issue of whom, between Chief Chekwas Okorie and Sir Victor Umeh, would sign Governor Obi’s nomination form, left every APGA faithful in suspense.
At the end of the day, the leader of APGA, late Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu endorsed Obi’s forms amid political blackmail against then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was accused of stoking the leadership crisis to make way for PDP and Dr. Andy Uba, in Anambra State. The Supreme Court later ruled that Obi was entitled to the full course of his four years in office. That was the origin of Anambra’s off cycle governorship poll.
In 2010, Obi fell back on his track record and Ojukwu’s last wish that he should be allowed a second term in office to win the February 2010 poll. Three years later, amid a rash of disqualifications and obfuscation of the delegates list, Obiano, the preferred candidate was returned with the full force of power of incumbency.
From 2013, APGA continued to work towards a predetermined answer, such that the wife of the late Ikemba Ojukwu, Ambassador Bianca, described the embattled former national chairman of the party as a General without troops, stressing that few persons transformed APGA to their private
ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines).
Disqualifications, fresh factionalisation
BARELY 24 hours after the party’s screening committee disqualified some frontline governorship aspirants ahead of the November governorship election, including Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, Hon Chukwuma Umeoji and Nonso Nwokafor, a fresh crisis sprouted within the APGA National Working Committee (NWC).
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Ikechukwu Chinyere, who disclosed the sacking of Victor Oye, alongside six other chieftains, said those involved were booted out for “anti-party activities, gross misconduct and conduct capable of bringing the party’s image to disrepute, among others.”
Chinyere disclosed that the removal of Oye was part of the resolutions reached at the party’s 114 National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, adding that the party also nullified the underhanded disqualification of five aspirants by Oye and also shifted the party’s gubernatorial primary earlier fixed for June 23, to July 1, 2021.
The five aspirants disqualified by the screening committee before the recent development in the party are, Nze Akachukwu Sullivan Nwankpo, Chukwuma Umeoji, Okafor Smart, Ozoka Ifeanyi, and Nnamdi Dike.
Prior to the sudden change of guards in APGA NWC faction loyal to Oye, both Nwankpo, Umeoji and Nwokafor, said they have appealed against their disqualification, just as the former Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Technical Matters, Nwankpo, obtained an order of court barring APGA from going ahead with the governorship primary pending the determination of the substantive suit.
It would be recalled that the screening committee had given reasons for disqualifying Nwankpo, including, the fact that his membership of APGA is less than 18 months and fell short of the two year mandatory period he needed to qualify to stand for election on the party’s platform. He was also accused of not applying for or obtaining the party’s waiver to seek election in addition to the fact that his nominators fell short of the 2/3 spread of APGA members in the 21 LGA of Anambra state.
Nwankpo told The Guardian that he was not prepared to waste words over what went wrong, but making efforts to right the wrongs and ensure that APGA contests and wins the governorship on November 6, 2021.
Also in a statement to his supporters, Nwankpo urged them “to stay on your duty posts, and continue to work for the success of APGA in the forthcoming election. We are definite that it’s God that makes kings, even at this moment, the will of God will stay supreme.”
In the statement signed by the Director General, Media/Publicity & Strategy, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo Campaign Organisation, Dr. Harris Chuma-Odili, the former presidential aide commended the screening committee “for the diligent exercise, assuring that the report would be transferred to the appeal committee for necessary action.”
WHILE confusion within the Oye camp deepened, a member of the party in Ibeku ward of Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo state, Chimezie Uwakwe, narrated how he was tricked into signing a purported expulsion against Chief Njoku, stressing that his inability to read or write made it impossible for him to know what he was endorsing with his thumbprint.
Uwakwe’s confession was contained in a letter to the party leadership, where he declared: “I did not write or suggest to be written any document referring to the expulsion of Chief Edozie Njoku from APGA as purported in a letter on APGA letterhead dated March 2, 2021 and addressed to nobody in particular.”
There were claims within the party that Oye was sacked because he allegedly withheld the original result from the screening committee and released the one containing the disqualification of five contenders to serve an ulterior motive.
It could not be ascertained whether the new development informed Nwankpo’s decision to approach the court, but new confessions might likely spew out in the days to come before the governorship primary.
PDP’s share of confusion
LIKE a bolt from the blues, the state executive committee of Anambra PDP led by Nwobu was sacked by a High Court sitting in Abuja, which pronounced Ejike Oguebego as the authentic state chairman. Oguebego is said to be a lackey of self-acclaimed political godfather of Anambra State, Chief Chris Uba.
Party insiders rebuffed the shocking court ruling, saying that the state working committee has little to do with the nomination of the party’s aspirants for the governorship poll.
A spokesman of one of the aspirants who spoke to The Guardian in confidence said his principal was not putting any premium on the so-called judgment, adding that “the procurer of the judgment has failed to understand that a lot of water has passed through Onitsha bridge regarding politics of Anambra State.”
In Abuja, virtually all the national officers of PDP declined comments in the belief that doing so would add value to the intendments of the political jobbers behind the move and stir up needless concerns.
Meanwhile, just like in the APGA instance, the factional state chairman of the party, Chukwudi Umeaba, nullified the three-man ward delegates Congress earlier held in the state, noting that a new date for fresh congresses would be announced after due consultations with stakeholders.
He stated: “We need to contact the NEC of our great party to set a new date for the ward congresses that will elect the three-man Adhoc committee for the governorship primary. We will go ahead with the plans for the election.”
It would be recalled that PDP made overtures to its faithful in Anambra urging those with subsisting litigations to withdraw them in the interest of the party and for the reconciliation efforts engineered by the national leadership to take due course.
Close watchers of Anambra politics said it would not be out of place to suggest that some political merchants in the state must have reached out to a strong opposition party (name withheld) to stoke confusion in APGA and PDP, given their spread in the state.
Whatever is playing out in the build up to the November 6, Anambra governorship poll would be clearer in a week’s time when the governorship primaries would be prosecuted.
RESPONDING to his purported sack, Oye declared that; “the so-called Jude Okeke and his cohorts are not officers or financial members of our great party and, therefore, did not have any powers to speak on behalf of the party.”
He added that in accordance with Article 13 of the Constitution of APGA 2019, only the national chairman of the party could convene meetings of NWC, NEC and National Convention, stressing, “as we write, no such meeting had been convened.”
In a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Tex Okechukwu, Oye recalled that “the Supreme Court had made it expressly clear that only the National Convention of a political party could remove the National Chairman of a registered political party.”
Part of the statement titled: “We wish to state without any equivocation as follows: “That the so-called Jude Okeke and his cohorts are not officers or financial members of our great party and, therefore, did not have any powers to speak on behalf of the party….
“That the so-called NEC meeting on AIT was a political hatchet job to create undue tension in the party and misdirect our teeming members. But, it was dead on arrival. That the leadership of the party under Ozonkou Victor Oye is intact and working assiduously to deliver on its governorship primary in Anambra State scheduled for June 23, 2021
“That we are determined to bring the full weight of the law to bear on mischief-makers and their sponsors who are bent on causing disaffection among our members.”