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Resolution of NASS election petitions rekindles Anambra 2021 battle

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Jubilant supporters of Hon Dozie Nwankwo (APGA) led by Dr. Sam Osita Oraegbuham after Court of Appeal ruling


Although the Court of Appeal pronouncements last week has put an end to disputations arising from the February 2019 National Assembly polls in Anambra State, the question on the minds of the people is whether the judicial outcomes indicated where the state would be headed in the November 2021 governorship election.

At the resolution of the cases, the Appeal Court refused to sack the Senator representing Anambra Central, Senator Uche Ekwunife of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), based on the appeal and prayers of Senator Victor Umeh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

The appellate court however, agreed with the member representing Njikoka/Anaocha/Dunukofia Federal Constituency, Chief Dozie Nwankwo, of APGA that he, and not Valentine Ayika of PDP, actually won the election.The development, which increased APGA’s seats in the National Assembly (NASS), and decreased PDP’s, which, apart from controlling two of the three senatorial zones in the state, has six out of the 11 House of Representatives’ seats. They include, Oyi/Anyamelum, Awka, Onitsha, Ogbaru, Idemili and Nnewi.

The Young Progressives Party (YPP) occupies the Anambra South Senatorial seat. But while APGA did not win any senatorial seat, it has garnered five federal constituency seats, including Aguata, Ihiala, Orumba, Njikoka/Anaocha/Dunukofia and Anambra East/West.Umeh’s loss is seen as a big blow to APGA, especially in its quest to retain the state beyond 2021. If the pendulum of victory had fallen on its candidate (Umeh), it would not only have deepened APGA’s hold on the Senatorial District, but also altered the negative toga about its acceptability.

In the beginning
From 2002, when APGA secured its first electoral victory through the courts in 2006 with the declaration of Peter Obi as governor, the party has never won any seat in the senatorial elections so far conducted in the state. While, it has held control of executive power, producing Obi’s successor in 2014 with the incumbent, Chief Willie Obiano, the argument has remained whether the party still have capacity to retain the state in 2021.

Sources close to PDP say that Obiano would serve as the last governor to be produced by APGA in the state. That conviction seemingly arose from what had been the inability of the governor to advance the cause of the party since he emerged five years ago.They stressed that APGA has been afflicted with much division and confusion than what the governor inherited, pointing at the leadership crisis that manifested before the last general elections in the country.

At a point, Chief Edozie Njoku, who hails from Imo State emerged the National Chairman of the party.Njoku, first National Vice Chairman (South) of the party, had noted that the convention and his election came as a result of the nullification of the outcome of the meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party held on April 14 in Awka, Anambra State, by a court of competent jurisdiction.

While castigating Chief Victor Oye and his team for allegedly plunging the party into what he called avoidable crisis through chains of anti-party activities, Njoku said: “We need to apologise to all those who were misled and shortchanged before and during the last general elections because we are prepared to heal the wounds.

“APGA is our party. We collectively resolved and agreed that the post of the National Chairman must leave Anambra for another state. With sincere spirit of teamwork, we shall rebuild our party. I must consistently protect the interest of APGA and nobody can push us out of this party.”

Although the nature of his emergence is still being challenged by the Victor Oye faction of the party, so much confusion had arisen in the party over the determination of the Oye faction to “handpick” candidates and allegedly scuttle primaries after many paid heavy sums to secure the expression of interest and nomination forms in the elections.

It got to a point that a group in the name, R-APGA (Reformed All Progressives Grand Alliance) emerged, claiming that it had suspended Oye and his executive.The aspirants, who purchased nomination forms in Imo State for governorship position refused to be pacified even after the elections have been won and lost.

At various fora, they had called for the sack of Oye and demanded full refund of their money, even as they described what happened in the party during the last elections as “daylight robbery.” They also vowed to work against the party until their money was refunded.A similar scenario also played out in Anambra State, when many of those who worked for the re-election of Governor Obi and were promised the party’s tickets, especially in the House of Assembly, were sacrificed.

While the anointed candidates beat some of those who insisted that the primary be conducted in their areas in the process, others are still reeling in confusion how they lost the ticket.As the confusion and crisis lasted, the leadership not only dissolved its Board of Trustees (BOT), two days to their April National Convention in Awka, but also reconstituted the board with old and new members.

Those who had thought the development would usher in a new APGA leadership were disappointed as Oye was returned as National Chairman and Obiano as BoT Chairman, among others. Sources said the dissolution was to satisfy constitutional requirement for convening national convention, adding that what had limited the growth and expansion of the party was the unwillingness of its leaders to allow any member from another state lead the party.

“They have refused that a state that did not produce APGA governor should head the party. They do not see how Anambra State government should be funding someone that is not from the party as party chairman. “That is the problem in APGA and as far as this mentally is not erased, I do not know how the party can truly be a national party,” the source declared.

NASS election outcome, challenges
THERE are concerns that with the series of crises, which have eaten deep into the fabrics of the party and its failure to secure victory in the Anambra Central Senatorial Election Appeal, APGA may finally be losing political control of the state, going forward to 2021 gubernatorial election.It would be recalled that four years ago, when Ekwunife was declared the winner of the election, Umeh snatched ultimate victory from her through a surprising court ruling, barely two years to the end of her tenure, which lasted for only seventeen months.

Coming as an incumbent in the election and from a party that was in control of the state, there was every hope that Umeh was well positioned to return to office, but when the results were collated and declared, Ekwunife floored the former APGA national chairman. While he petitioned the tribunal and lost, Umeh ran to the Court of Appeal, believing that luck might smile on him as before. But instead, his appeal was not only dismissed, but also his defeat by his PDP rival was reaffirmed.

Political pundits think the reversal of fortune would definitely send APGA to the drawing board, knowing that it had lent credence to speculations that APGA had lost bearing and would require an unusual approach to overcome its many challenges.APGA National Publicity Secretary, Ifeatu Obi-Okoye, however thinks differently, contending that there was no cause for alarm, as according to him, the party was focused and would retain power in the state beyond 2021.

Speaking in a telephone discussion with The Guardian, Obi-Okoye said APGA should not be judged by what happened in the court over the Anambra Central Senatorial poll or any other National Assembly election in the state. He said: “APGA has never done well in National Assembly elections. It has never won a senatorial seat in the state. It took the grace of court for Victor Umeh to go to the Senate. We have never won beyond five federal constituency seats. These are no bases to measure the 2021 governorship election, because nothing has changed.

“My belief is that the governorship poll is predicated on different factors and APGA has always leveraged on those factors, which include social, religious, economic and what have you, to sustain itself. “Beyond that, the governor has done very well for APGA to win again. We are on the right course and doing things that have deepened the acceptability of APGA even beyond the state. It does not matter how our opponents perceive us. We have been winning elections without membership at the National Assembly. So nothing has changed as much as we would have loved to retain Umeh’s Senate seat.”

Rampaging PDP
While APGA continues to strategize for the battle ahead, it would not dismiss the incursion of the rampaging PDP, which is gradually gaining acceptance in the state. Since 2006, when the court sacked Dr. Chris Ngige (then of PDP) from office as governor, PDP’s quest to return to power had remained a wild dream, as it continually ended up behind APGA in governorship polls.

The party had also dominated National Assembly polls, until in the last general elections, when it lost the Anambra South Senatorial seat previously occupied by Andy Uba to Ifeanyi Uba of YPP. Internal crisis had chiefly militated against PDP’s desire to regain the governor’s seat in the state. But in the race to 2021, which is already gathering steam, Anambra PDP appears resolute to retake the Agu-Awka Government House. Recently what almost stoked fresh crisis in the state chapter ahead of the election was resolved following a stakeholders’ meeting convened by the PDP Southeast Zonal leadership.

The state chapter had erupted after a zonal meeting in Enugu, where the zonal chairman, Austin Umahi, announced the party’s intention to abolish zoning for the governorship election.Umahi had stated, “PDP will go for the best candidate in the election, irrespective of his Senatorial zone as a way of restoring the state to the party; the candidate may even come from the zone of the incumbent governor.”But no sooner had the pronouncement been made than party members rose in arms, describing him as “an agent paid to rob PDP of victory in the election and create confusion to the advantage of the ruling APGA.”

Apparently realizing the damage he had caused by the position, Umahi had summoned a stakeholders’ meeting for the first time since he emerged the zonal chairman in Awka, where he allayed fears and expressed commitment to work harmoniously. Those who attended the meeting include, High Chief Ben Obi, Prof ABC Nwosu, frontline industrialist, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, who received commendations for standing with the party; Chief Chuma Nzeribe, Chris Azubogu, Enyioha Ugochukwu Okeke, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, and Emeka Etiaba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria among others.
 
Meanwhile, apparently to give impetus and galvanize more support for the PDP in the election, a Political Pressure group, the Independent Leaders Forum (ILF) has vowed to create conducive environment to accommodate the youths in the state for the party.Spokesman of the group Mr. Obinna Okafor, explained that the platform was created to productively engage the rising number of vibrant youths, whom politicians use and dump after elections in the state.


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