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Anambra Guber: Tributaries, tribulation of parties as campaign begins

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, (Abuja)
14 August 2021   |   4:19 am
The malaise with the governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) seems to have infected most of the big political parties, as the countdown to the November 6 governorship poll begins.

Doctor Godwin Maduka

The malaise with the governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) seems to have infected most of the big political parties, as the countdown to the November 6 governorship poll begins.

Although all seems to be calm, suspense still fills the air, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to publish the final list of candidates staring for the 18 registered political parties.
Worse hit by the climate of uncertainty are the governing APGA and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Despite what the parties consider as favourable judicial pronouncements, INEC is yet to feature their Candidates-Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Val Ozigbo, respectively- on its website.

The many distractions and contradictions that broke out from across the various political platforms, especially the aura of uncertainty in APGA, have ended up slowing down the momentum of activities in the buildup to the election.  
While the confusion helped to create offshoots of candidates on different platforms, the pain and rigorous litigations in the three major parties, APGA, PDP and All Progressives Congress (APC) increased the tribulations of supporters and stakeholders of the two older parties.

LAST Tuesday, the Court of Appeal, Kano Division, lifted some of the dense cloud surrounding the nomination process in APGA. The court had dismissed the judgment of Jigawa High Court, which declared Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji and Jude Okeke as candidate and national chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the November 6 governorship poll in Anambra State.
According to the appellate court, Jigawa State High Court lacked the substantive and territorial jurisdiction to entertain the matter. It ruled that Ozonkpu Victor Oye remains the national chairman of APGA, stressing also that failure by Okeke and others to join the national chairman and APGA in the suit at Jigawa High Court damaged their case beyond redemption.
APGA, under Oye, insists that Prof Soludo is the duly nominated candidate of the party to contest the governorship poll. And reacting to the Kano Appeal Court judgment, Oye, through the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Tex Okechukwu, described the appeal judgement as a watershed in the nation’s polity.
APGA contended that the ruling is a “judgement against forum shopping, against impostors trying to pervert the course of justice and a judgement against judicial officers desecrating the temple of Justice.” 
Oye gave kudos to the Justices at the Kano Appeal Court, “for their courage, uprightness and commitment to the promotion of justice, equity and fairness.”
However, despite the ruling, INEC has not revised its stance on Chukwuma Umeoji, who was listed as APGA standard-bearer for the election.
Consequently, the APGA national chairman, Oye, pleaded with INEC to do the needful without further delay by enlisting Prof. Soludo as the party’s candidate for the November 6 poll.
Recounting APGA’s tribulations in the build up to the election, Oye recalled how after the primary, “INEC sent a letter to me to come forward to collect the code for uploading of the particulars of our candidate and his deputy. On July 2, in accordance with the Electoral Act and the Timetable of INEC, we uploaded the particulars of our governorship candidate Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and his deputy, Dr. Onyekachi Ibezim.

“Immediately we concluded that, INEC duly acknowledged it. We also submitted the hardcopy at the INEC office and it was duly acknowledged. Section 31(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) states, ‘The Commission shall within seven days of the receipt of the particulars of candidates, published the same in the constituency where the candidate intends to contest the election.”
Oye expressed dismay that although they submitted the particulars of the party’s candidate on July 2 and INEC received and acknowledged it the same day, the commission did not act on it. He contended that going by the stipulations of the Electoral Act, INEC supposed to have published APGA candidate’s name, seven days after receiving it, which is July 9. 
He complained that INEC delayed action on the information supplied to it till July 16, ostensibly to await the dubious judgment from Jigawa High State Court.
Based on the findings of the Court of Appeal Kano, it is now clear that INEC “issued nomination papers and documents to a stranger, and alien to APGA for them to fill and return same day for their names to be filled as APGA candidate.”
Oye stated: “That is unacceptable, it is criminal, it is legally unattainable. INEC owes it as a duty to publish the names of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as our governorship candidate and his deputy, Dr. Onyekachi Ibezim as a matter of responsibility.”
But, while the APGA national chairman was agonising over their tribulations, one of the governorship aspirants, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, joined other disgruntled aspirants to form tributaries of APGA, APC and PDP.
Alongside, Nwankpo, who is now the haymaker in African Democratic Congress (ADC), are Ben Etiaba from APC to Action Alliance (AA), Dr. Godwin Maduka formerly of PDP, now Accord Party (AP) and Dr. Obiora Okonkwo from PDP to Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). These contenders have birthed new platforms on which they hope to cruise to victory on November 6, 2021.

The Tributaries APC/AA (Ife Anambra)
IN a surprise move, Chief Ben Etiaba left APC and mounted the saddle of Action Alliance (AA). Etiaba disclosed that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, the fact that his mother, Dame Virgy Etiaba, happened to be the first female governor of the state did not influence his determination to be governor.

The Chartered Accountant and Management Consultant disclosed that he is in the race to see “if it is possible to serve the people of Anambra and take them out darkness and into light.”

Etiaba contended that he did not join APC and the race for Anambra State governorship just for the sake of it or as a strategy to open doors for national deals. He stressed that he kept away from politics and governance when his mother was deputy governor and governor for the simple reason that he knew ‘a day like this will come.’
“I deliberately prepared myself to run for this office since September 2001; that’s about five years before she became a deputy governor and then governor.
“I also felt if I needed to do this, preparation is key, because we have leaders who are not prepared for office. And if I was going to prepare there is no point preparing through the political route or arena because there are a lot of things wrong with our politics and I didn’t want to use a wrong process as training ground for my ambition. That is why I kept away from politics.”
Expectedly, the question of why he jettisoned APC for AA will always dog his campaigns on the new platform. While acknowledging that he joined APC for the fact that the party has done a lot for Southeast geopolitical zone in terms of infrastructure, Etiaba declared: “I left the APC because the party made a choice and a lot of the aspirants didn’t like the choice.
“We tried to see if we could come together and build a consensus, but that didn’t happen. So, we had to live with the choice the party made.  But, if I say I am coming to serve my people altruistically, it means that that ambition came to a halt the moment; APC couldn’t change their decision. 
“If I was a ‘food is ready politician,’ I would have remained in APC. After all, there are a lot of things I can do in the party besides being governor. But it is not about that; it is about my people and the vision I have. The best thing, then, would be to take it to a new territory to see if it is possible that I achieve my ambition.”
As if to call the bluff of former aspirants that quit the party, APC recently set up a mammoth crowd of prominent players in the states and Federal Government as its Governorship Campaign Council. The sheer clout and number of the big names on the 150-member campaign council is enough to intimidate other candidates.

Although their were subdued murmurs on why the council is headed by Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma instead of his Ebonyi State counterpart, Engineer David Nweze Umahi, who is also the Chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum, it seems the party insists on using ‘seen and unseen forces’ in the election.
PDP/ZLP (Dikeora Idemmili)
IT is hard to talk about PDP’s preparations for Anambra governorship poll without a prodigious mention of Dr. Obiora Okonkwo (Dikeora Idemmili). The Russia-trained Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines ran his campaign for nomination as if it were the main election.
Shortly after the June 26 PDP governorship primary, Okonkwo picked holes on the outcome of the straw poll, which returned him as the first runner up four votes shy of the 62 that was credited to the winner, Mr. Val Ozigbo.
Okonkwo challenged PDP to explain what happened to the unaccounted 17 delegate votes. He alleged that the organisers of the primary ran out of ideas and decided to short-change him by discounting those 17 votes that would have put him in the lead.
Speaking to journalists in Lagos recently, Okonkwo explained that although he saw through the shenanigans of some stakeholders, his supporters insisted that he should take part in the main election and give Anambra people a credible option.
He stated: “I have been in politics as a member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In 2015, I contested for the Senate; there were issues about who was the validly nominated candidate. The court eventually decided that I was the candidate and actually ordered that I should be given the Certificate of Return and sworn in as senator.
“(But) The Appeal Court later ruled otherwise. In 2019, the PDP offered me a ticket to go to the Senate for Anambra Central. I looked at it and felt that my political ambition should be better realised on a platform like the governorship, where you are responsible for your actions. It is a platform, where you take initiatives and carry it out. I offered to work with a candidate that the party would provide.
PDP/ACCORD (Okosisi Orumba)
DR. Godwin Maduka is another big name that ricocheted off PDP, only to berth and create waves on ACCORD Party. Like Dikeora, Maduka, who is also known as Okosisi Orumba, says he intends to reap electoral dividends from the enormous support he has garnered from Anambra grassroots.
He asserted that he did not lose the PDP governorship primary, but that he was schemed out by cabals that wanted to impose their lackey, stressing, “they resorted to undemocratic practice to elect a candidate.”
The pain specialist says he is leveraging on his exploits in medical entrepreneurship in the United States, where owns a skyscraper in Las Vegas, to provide Anambra State with a governor the state direly needs to not only reposition it, but also preserve the wealth and fortunes of the state and enhance its potentials.
As the gladiators fine-tune their strategies and resolve some internal contradictions in their new platforms, the electorate are waiting to hear what tales they would spin, because it is most likely that voters have already made up their minds on how to vote. That is if INEC finds the ground level, security and logistics wise.