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Anambra: How rancorous primaries boost relatively unknown parties

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Valentine Ozigbo

If current developments are anything to go by, then party popularity may not entirely determine the eventual winner of the November 6 governorship election of Anambra State. While the rancorous primaries conducted by the three leading political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC), the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have contributed in enriching the profiles of political parties with notable politicians desirous of the number one slot that joined them, the race, as it is, may hugely be determined on the character and ability of individual contestants.

With the conclusion of the primaries, the rowdy numbers in the three leading parties have given way. Now, parties not originally reckoned with in the state are fast gaining traction as candidates who want to contest on their platform have adopted them as last resort.

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Such political parties as the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Accord Party, Action Alliance, Boot Party, and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), among others have benefitted from the fallout.

At the last count, no fewer than 15 political parties have positioned themselves to contest the election.  The African Democratic Congress (ADC) has snatched the former Presidential aide, Akachukwu Nwankpo to fly its flag after he failed to secure the ticket of the APGA.

Billionaire businessman, Obiora Okonkwo, has moved to the Zenith Labour party (ZLP) as the governorship candidate. Okonkwo was of the PDP and first runner up in the primary. He left after two parallel primaries of the party produced Valentine Ozigbo and Ugochukwu Uba. Another billionaire, Godwin Maduka also moved from the PDP to the Accord Party while Ben Etiaba moved from APC to the Action Alliance.

Sources said residents are anxiously awaiting the final list from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as there are possibilities of some last minute changes that have not been made public.

A party stalwart told The Guardian in Enugu; “It is now an almost open race. It has become an almost unpredictable race despite the advantages of belonging to a known political platform. The bigwigs who joined forces with other political parties carried with them their supporters and followers. They must have consulted before doing so. This is the interesting aspect of this election.”

So far, Sen. Ifeanyi Uba is flying the flag of Young People’s Party (YPP); that of the PDP is Valentine Ozigbo or Ugochulwu Uba; APGA is between Prof Charles Soludo and Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji while Dr Chidozie Nwankwo will be contesting as African Action Congress (AAC) candidate. Also on the list for now are, Azubuike Echetebu for Action People’s Party (APP), Obiora Agbasimelo for Labour Party; Nnamdi Nwanwuo for Peoples Redemption Party (PRP); Obinna Uzor for Social Democratic Party (SDP), Afam Ume-Ezeoke for Action Democratic Party (ADP) and Okeke Chika Jerry for Boot Party (BT).

Uba

Apart from Obiora Okonkwo, all other contestants are from Anambra south senatorial zone. Okonkwo is from Anambra Central and has picked Bessie Balonwu, who hails from the north and an appointee under the Chinwoke Mbadinuju administration as his running mate. Anambra north senatorial zone, where the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano comes from has not presented any governorship candidate.

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Chief Johnson Okam, a chieftain of the PDP, told The Guardian that the emergence of candidates has lent credence to the zoning arrangement for the number one political office in the state.

“I am one of those who have always held the view that in Anambra, there is a need to zone the political offices so as to reduce tension and acrimony. This is because; Anambra is a state where nobody respects you because of your money. Our people like exercising their rights and electoral contests are one of those means they do so. I am not bothered therefore about the number of persons coming from that zone to vie for the office of governor. One thing is however sure and that is, a good number of the candidates have not tasted any political office before now. Does that not tell you that there are those who are jostling to prepare the ground for 2023 when we shall have the National Assembly election? That is the way it is”.

He, however, congratulated the candidates for accepting alternative platforms and refusing to heat up the polity through court actions by insisting on rewriting the anomalies noticed in the primaries conducted by their original party platforms.

The politician noted that the way things are, no effort will be spared by any of the contestants in securing victory, stressing that: “If Governor Willie Obiano is personally leading the APGA campaign team and Senator Uche Ekwunife also leading the PDP campaign team that tells you that it is a battle that will be fought from all fronts.”

The PDP’s forward look
The PDP may have resolved to overcome the deficiencies thrown up by its parallel primaries that produced Ozigbo and Uba with the Court of Appeal ruling last week that restored the Ndubuisi Nwobu led state executive of the party.

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Shortly before the primary in June, a Federal High court Abuja had removed Nwobu and restored authenticity to Ejike Oguebego. Efforts to vacate the order before the primary failed. However, despite the order, both camps conducted their primaries at separate venues.

At the Paul’s University field, Awka, Ugochukwu Uba emerged. At the Women Development Centre (WDC), Awka, Valentine Ozigbo emerged. With the backing of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party for Ozigbo, both men resorted to the court.

On July 16, however, when the INEC published a provisional list of cleared candidates for the election, neither Uba nor Ozigbo made the list. INEC had cited a court order for their exclusion.

Last Monday however, the Court of Appeal, Abuja had reinstated the Nwobu led executive of the party. Nwobu, who announced the return of his executive at the PDP secretariat in Awka, said the Appeal Court judgment had totally brought to an end the issues about the authentic candidate of the party.

While thanking the party’s Board of Trustees members in the state for coming together to support him and working to ensure he returned as chairman, he pledged to sack members who are unwilling to turn away from anti-party activities.

On the reported resignation of a member of the party’s BoT, Senator Joy Emordi, Nwobu said the party was truly worried each time a member, especially a top ranking party official, resigns, assuring that his leadership will not fail to put machinery in place to reach out to its members and woo them back to its fold.

Nwobu, who regretted that some party members got a court order, which they know cannot stand but to disrupt what his executive was doing, said they had made a sacrifice by stepping aside to ensure that a candidate emerged.

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He said they were not surprised about the court order, which removed the Anambra State PDP executive, adding that it started in 2002.

Besides, he promised that the executive and party members would work for Ozigbo to ensure his victory and takeover of Government House in Anambra state.

The restoration has given fresh impetus to the aspiration of Ozigbo, who was produced by the Nwobu-led state executive.

On Monday, a serving senator representing Anambra Central, Uche Ekwunife, was appointed Director General of the party’s campaign committee for the November election.

Ekwunife was among the 16 aspirants that vied for the governorship primary, which Ozigbo won. Her acceptance of the appointment buoyed Ozigbo’s confidence. He said Ekwunife’s acceptance and the reconciliation of some aggrieved interests were an indication that the party was set to take over the state.

He said Anambra State has always been a PDP state with two senators and almost all the members of the House of Assembly and pledged to meet other aspirants that lost the governorship contest in the June primary election for further support.

And APGA’s Soludo gets reprieve?
At the moment, everything seems to be working in favour of former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Soludo and the Victor Oye leadership of the APGA. Various court pronouncements since Soludo’s name was excluded from INEC’s list on July 16 for the election had agreed that he remained the authentic candidate for the party.

His most heartwarming victories had come from the of Courts of Appeal, Awka division, which restored his candidature and that of Kano Division, which nullified the judgment that sacked Oye as the party’s national chairman.

Justice Chioma Nwosu –Iheme had lashed out at Justices Musa Ubale and B.C Iheka of the Jigawa State and Imo State high courts for dabbling into legal disputes surrounding APGA’s November 6 governorship election in clear contravention of territorial jurisdictions.

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She had while dismissing motion for stay of execution of order of court brought by Jude Okeke, a claimant to the office of the national chairman and Chukwuma Umeoji, produced as governorship candidate by Umeoji, also slammed Anambra politicians for going around the country shopping for favourable judgments to facilitate their desperation to participate in the governorship election, instead of appearing before courts with territorial jurisdiction to entertain suits on the election.

Charles Soludo. PHOTO: Gettyimages

She advocated sanctions for the two judges and the lawyers that brought the cases before them from the Nigerian Judicial Commission (NJC).

The development was shortly followed by Tuesday’s August 10 pronouncement of the three-man special panel of the Appeal Court Division, Kano, which declared Okeke and his group as “meddlesome interlopers” and held that the proceedings of the Jigawa High Court which led to the wrongful sack of Oye as the party chairman must not be allowed to stand because it’s untenable and miscarriage of justice.

In a statement made available to The Guardian by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Tex Okechukwu after the judgment, APGA stated that the order of the court has renewed the hope of the people of Nigeria in the judiciary, even as he re-echoed the need for the NJC to discipline some of its members for professional misconduct.

If the Okeke-led faction however makes good its threat to challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court, then the actual governorship candidate and national chairman of the party would remain a matter of conjecture, until it is decided.

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A statement by the faction’s Publicity Secretary, Ikechukwu Chukwunenye obtained by The Guardian expressed confidence in the ability of the Supreme Court to revalidate the candidacy of Umeoji and headship of Okeke in the APGA.

The statement added: “The Supreme Court will gladly remind the Court of Appeal that consistency in its ruling is one of the core pillars of our judicial system and that a Court cannot sit on appeal over itself nor arbitrarily overrule itself.

“The Supreme Court being the highest in the land will indeed have an opportunity to do substantial justice and restore the ticket of Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji as the APGA Governorship candidate and High Chief Jude Okeke as the National Chairman of the party.”

A Chieftain of the party, Ephraim Obasi said: “I think all eyes are focused on the INEC to do the needful and include names that it removed before now due to one reason or the other, so as to know the people running in the election.”

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