Anambra guber: Silent schemes that shaped PDP, APC primaries
Unknown to many, the battle for 2023 Presidency served as the background to understand the various warps and woofs that propelled the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) governorship primary that took place last Saturday.
Similar pugilism also attended the controversial process within the state chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), where the Minister of Labour and Employment (MoLE), Senator Chris Ngige, himself another former governor of the state, engaged in mind games with Senator Andy Uba.
But, the main show was in the PDP. Forget about the conflicting judicial gymnastics that trailed the use of adhoc delegates, which was but a cheeky attempt by an otiose political godfather to reinvent an old trick. The major battle was waged by powerful surrogates. Number one was the immediate past governor, Mr. Peter Obi, who served as the 2019 Presidential running mate to former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Tagging in the shadow of Obi, was the governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyichukwu Lawrence Ugwuanyi, and erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.
Although 16 aspirants purchased the expression of interest and nomination forms of the party by paying the mandatory N25million, except for the three women; only four were actively involved in a serious contest for the PDP ticket.
These four included Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Senator Uche Ekwunife and Hon. Chris Azubogu.
Results from the PDP primary, which was staged at the Prof. Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre, Awka, seems to validate the fact, because Ozigbo, Okonkwo, Ekwunife and Azubogu collectively polled 174 out of the 199 ballots cast by the statutory/automatic delegates in the election. Only three voided votes were returned.
Senator Ekwunife, who scored 44 votes, bested the other two women in the contest, including the first daughter of Second Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Lady Chidi Onyemelukwe, and Genevieve Ekwochi, who polled 2 and 3 votes respectively.
Apart from bringing her 18 years of active political participation and three times gubernatorial aspiration to bear on the primary, Ekwunife enjoyed the support of Enugu State governor, Ugwuanyi and former SGF, Anyim, who was also a former President of Senate.
Party stalwarts noted that but for the litigation against the State Working Committee (SWC), which was being propelled by Chief Chris Uba, the PDP straw poll would have thrown up a slightly different outcome if the ad hoc delegates were allowed to vote.
However, what would have marred the process cropped up after the collation and announcement of the results. It was discovered that the vote tally did not balance up, which was an indication of a faulty declaration. From the tabulation of the votes polled by the candidates, a difference of 17 out of the total number of accredited voters could not be accounted for.
The aspirants and their votes are as follows: Walter Okeke (2); Chidi Onyemelukwe, (2); Valentine Ozigbo, (62); Uche Ekwunife, (44); Winston Udeh, (12); Godwin Maduka, (5); Obiora Okonkwo, (58); Chris Azubogu, (10) and Genevieve Ekwochi,( 3) making it a total of 198 votes. As discounting the three voided votes, a difference of 17 votes remains in abeyance.
But, announcing the results, Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Phillip Shaibu, said Mr. Ozigbo, who polled 62 votes was the winner of the primary, while the first and second runner-ups, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo and Uche Ekwunife got 58 and 44 votes, respectively.
Stakeholders were nonplussed as to why the Edo State Deputy Governor was the one to make the announcement, especially after the chairman of the Electoral Committee; Dr. Samuel Ortom went to confer with the leader of the party in Southeast, Governor Ugwuanyi.
As at the time of filing this report none of the contestants has indicated an intention to challenge the outcome, even as the second runner up, Ekwunife, who is angling for the governorship running mate, has congratulated the winner.
Ekwunife, while congratulating Ozigbo for his electoral triumph, commended her supporters for identifying with her aspiration and urged them to sustain their hard work towards the overall victory of PDP in the November 6, 2021 poll.
Also, the 2019 Vice Presidential candidate of the party, Obi, observed that the emergence of the immediate past President and Group Chief Executive Oficer of Trans-National Corporation (Transcorp) Plc, Ozigbo, has brought the primary election to a decisive end.
Obi, who was visibly relieved by the outcome, pleaded with other contestants “not to see the conclusion of the gubernatorial primary as the end of the beginning, but rather the beginning of the end.”
The former Anambra governor reminded those that lost that their hard work and sacrifice was still needed to propel PDP to ultimate victory, adding, “I congratulate the PDP family in Anambra State, who has given the state the most peaceful and organised process of choosing a candidate.”
Obi commended the national chairman of the party and the National Working Committee (NWC) for remaining neutral. He admonished PDP in the state and beyond to pull together as a family to embark on “a journey of building a better Anambra State for the future of our children and the true light of the nation.”
Triumph of zoning
MEMBERS of the Southeast Zonal chapter of the party were in a hurry to state that politics is not mathematics, stressing that political arithmetic does not follow the lines of pure science.
Although, the party could not come out to pronounce on zoning, it was obvious that both Obi and the NWC had a last-minute capitulation, especially given the position of 12 aspirants and showing of Dr. Okonkwo from Anambra Central.
Some party faithful disclosed that Obi was involved in last-minute phone calls to delegates intimating them that “it is Val.” It was obvious that the former governor identified with Val Ozigbo, even as he ensured that Ekwunife remained in the race to influence the vote tally from Anambra Central, knowing that the emergence of a governorship candidate from Central will visit him with a deleterious backlash.
A contestant, and one of 12 from Anambra South that signed the statement on zoning, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, while congratulating Ozigbo, pointed out that they are prepared to overlook any shortcoming for the singular reason that a person from Anambra South emerged as standard-bearer.
In a message to his supporters, Okwenna stated: “My dear friends and supporters, last night the PDP primary election was concluded and Mr Valentine Ozigbo was declared the winner. As a party man, I congratulate him for emerging as the candidate of our Party.
“The 2021 Anambra PDP governorship primaries was an unusual one. From the anticipated 3200 delegates, we ended up having 217 people known as super delegates, deciding who will carry the banner of our great party. This disenfranchised a great number of our party members. That the final list of these super delegates wasn’t fully known until we were in the venue was not the best of a process.
“I refused to quit because I usually complete every race, I am into. However, as events were unfolding, I decided to make use of my presence in the race to achieve another end. As a strong advocate for power shift to the South, I joined forces with my colleagues to achieve this with one of us, whose chances were brighter. I thank God that, PDP candidate has gone to Anambra South thereby uniting our party and providing us with better opportunities to win November 6, Governorship elections.”
Okwenna acknowledged the decision by a former state chairman of the party and 2017 governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Tony Nwoye, to withdraw from the as good for the party.
Earlier, another contestant, Emeka Etiaba, announced that the plethora of court cases for and against the holding of the governorship primary as well as the modality, make it impossible for him as a respecter of law, to continue.
APC’s battle of Uba and Ngige
LATE into the night of Thursday, June 21, stakeholders of APC were engaged in a marathon meeting. The meeting, which was ostensibly to harmonise positions and seek a last-minute strategy to avoid recriminations after the governorship primary did not bear any fruit.
What was evident was the power tussle between the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige and Senator Andy Uba, who represented Anambra South District in the Eighth Senate.
While Ngige was interested in the electoral advancement of one of the constants, John Bosco Onunkwo, Uba, insisted that he was the most qualified to fly the party’s flag to victory.
Supported by Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma and a coterie of other national officers of APC, Uba was looking over the challenge posed by the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority, (NIWA), Dr. George Muoghalu, who was supported by the chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum, Engineer David Nweze Umahi.
Whispers of possible Presidential support for Muoghalu was making the rounds in the meeting, according to one of the stakeholders, Uba informed the gathering that he was the only one among them that could curtail the godfather designs of the Minister of Labour.
A source at the meeting, which craved anonymity, disclosed that many party faithful expressed apprehension that anti-party activities that defined the party’s participation in the 2017 governors might reoccur unless a credible process was undertaken.
The Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party had disclosed that the direct method of the election would be used to select its governorship candidate and assured of a level playfield.
Despite the assurances, on the day of the primary, complaints of non-availability of materials at the appointed time reigned. But, explaining that the materials had to arrive late due to logistic challenges, the chairman of the APC Primary Election Committee, Prince Dapo Abiodun while announcing the results said the option A format made it quite easy for the election to proceed.
The Ogun State governor declared that after collation of votes, Senator Uba trounced the other 13 contestants to emerge as the APC governorship standard-bearer.
Governor Abiodun, who made the announcement at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Agulu Lake, Awka in the early hours of yesterday, stated that Uba garnered 230, 201 votes, while Ngige’s preferred aspirant, Onunkwo scored 28, 746 votes. He explained that a total of 348, 490 card-carrying members of the party took part in the election. The second runner-up, Muoghalu, was credited with 18, 596 votes.
But, prior to the release of the results, the Minister of Labour regretted that materials for the election were nowhere to be seen as of 4.25 p.m, and urged the national leadership of APC to cancel the exercise and fix a fresh date.
Ngige pointed out that a postponement would “enable party members across the state to participate, as well as give enough room to the Committee Members to resolve contentious issues raised by aspirants.”
Ngige disclosed that investigation showed that all around the 326 wards of the 21 local government areas of Anambra State, materials for the election were not seen by party faithful that had already gathered by 10 am as announced.
His words: “As a result, most party members have left for home, having waited since 8 a.m. I discussed with your member, Distinguished Senator Ken Nnamani and I’ll advise you to call the Panel Members to shift the exercise to Tuesday, June 29th to also enable you to tidy up some issues raised by aspirants.”
Ngige’s call was followed by an address by 11 aspirants led by Muoghalu, who also called for a new date for the primary, even as they urged the CECPC to terminate the Dapo Abiodun committee.
Muoghalu disclosed that at his Uruagu ward 1 Nnewi, where he sat for hours waiting for the materials, no voting material was seen, adding that the situation was the same in the entire Nnewi North and South council areas.
He said: “The voting materials that were supposed to have been distributed to all the 326 wards in the state as early as 8 a.m. according to the election Committee guidelines, arrived at about 6:45 p.m. this evening. So, how do you expect us to cast our votes?
“l learnt that some people are writing the result somewhere, which did not conform with the free, fair and transparent, the panel promised.
“Let me say authoritatively that no APC primary election took place anywhere in Anambra State. On the final note, we call for the cancellation of the election.”
It was good a thing that both PDP and APC fixed their governorship primary same day. With the outcome of the exercise from both camps, especially the complaints of infraction, it is impossible for kettle to call pot black. While APC and PDP tend to vindicate those who claim the parties represent the two sides of same coin, only the Young Progressives Party (YPP) seems to be home.
If the proceeds of the governorship primaries were anything to go by, particularly the legal entanglements of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the determination of who succeeds Governor Willie Obiano might be by the court.