Aspirants in the governorship election in Anambra State slated for November 16, are now up in arms to outdo each other in the primaries for the governorship ticket of their respective parties
| By Olu Ojewale | Sep. 9, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
BARELY three months to the governorship election in Anambra State slated for November 16, the political atmosphere in the state is gathering momentum. Already some of the major political parties have conducted primaries in which their flag bearers have emerged. But the election is itself a kennel that is going to have wider implications for the parties involved. Hence, Governor Peter Obi, the incumbent governor of the state, said at the recently concluded Guild of Editors conference held in Asaba, Delta State, that it would be a do-or-die affair.
That statement is already manifesting in the way candidates have emerged for the election. To consolidate his grip on the state, Governor Obi is said to have drafted Willie Obiano, a retired banker, to the race two weeks before the primaries of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, which was held on Monday, August 26. Little wonder then that Obiano the party’s candidate. But this did not please Victor Umeh, national chairman of the party, who had preferred Charles Soludo, former governor of the Central Bank, who was disqualified by the party’s screening committee.
The screening panel had disqualified six aspirants, five of who are from Anambra North, the zone, which Obi insists must produce his successor. This has created fears that the recent peace accord reached between Obi and Umeh has collapsed and that the development could start another round of struggle for the soul of the party in the state. The party’s national chairman had supported Soludo because of his impressive performance when he contested against Obi in 2010 on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Umeh felt that Soludo, with his impressive credentials would beat any candidate presented by the opposition, especially given the fact he only lost to the governor in the previous election by a slim margin.
“The national chairman wanted Soludo because he believes that he (Soludo) has the credentials, stature and charisma to defeat anyone in the November election. He is aware that the former Central Bank governor came second behind Obi in the 2010 election and that, but for the division in the PDP, he would have won that election considering the number of votes Obi got,” an aide to Umeh was quoted as saying. According to the Umeh group, Obiano is an outsider who does “not have the political value to win an election in the state against any candidate. He does not have a name that can win an election. He is also seen as a man who could starve the party and its men of funds.”
The choice of Obiano, sources close to the party in Anambra, said had created a deep fear in the APGA that it might lose in November. Besides, the Anambra North Senatorial zone was said to have moved against Obiano, saying that Obi had reneged on his promise to the zone that he would support whoever they collectively selected for the governorship ticket. The opposition against Obi’s nominee was said to have been prompted by the letter of Chike Obidigbo, one of the disqualified aspirants. Obidigbo was said to have complained in his letter to the leaders of Anambra North Senatorial zone, chronicling how Obi took all the aspirants through the rigours of selecting a consensus candidate and recommending same to him for support, but latter jettisoned the zone’s choice for his own preferred candidate. Obiano had polled a total of 817 votes to clinch the party’s ticket from a total of 1072 delegates who participated in the congress. There were seven aspirants cleared to contest for the ticket by the party’s screening panel headed by Tayo Sowunmi, but two of them withdrew from the race.
The opposition said it had discovered that “Obiano has not been in the party for more than two weeks before his anointing when others were disqualified for such rationale.” Members of the opposition promised to press their case and get justice. But it is also being feared that it could lead to another dark days in the party. Before the Appeal Court ruling in July this year, Obi and Umeh had been at loggerheads over the running of the affairs of the party. Upon his reinstatement as national chairman of APGA, the court also ruled that there should be a return to the status quo. This was interpreted to mean that all those elected with Umeh at all levels should return to their positions. Most of the elected party officials had pitched their tents with Umeh during the crisis and they returned determined to take their pound of flesh from Obi. It is not yet clear whether that will be possible now that everyone is trying to make peace ahead of the local government and governorship election slated for October and November respectively. The feud between Obi and Umeh had dated back to April 2011, when the party’s chairman fell out with the governor over Umeh’s demand that local government elections should be conducted in the state to give the party a grassroots base and empower party officials. The request did not go down well with Obi as Sylvester Nwobu-Alor, the governor’s uncle, responded to Umeh’s demand by saying the party needed to be restructured and Umeh stripped of his chairmanship.
Obi appears to have taken a different route this time. Speaking through Ben Obi, his senior special assistant, SSA, on inter party affairs, he urged Ndigbo to see the APGA as their property which they should be using to negotiate for their rights in the country. Addressing reporters in Awka, Obi said the North and the West had the PDP and the APC respectively as their own platforms, and the Igbos would be shooting themselves in the foot if they allowed the APGA to die. He said that Governor Obi’s performance was enough credentials for the party to make inroads in other South East and South-South states, warning that if Ndigbo failed to use the APGA platform to advance their cause, they would be making a very grave political mistake.
“It is unfortunate that our people have refused to understand what is going on in the Nigerian politics. In the country today, if a tribe does not have a solid base, there is no way its people can make it. The North has its base and the West has its base and it is only Igbo land that is up for grabs which is dangerous. It is more worrisome when Igbos are used to fight their fellow Igbos and it is high time the people realised that belonging to the APGA and voting for the APGA governor would give them a better identity,” he said, adding that the spirit of the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, former APGA leader, would continue to haunt them if they continued to fight themselves and refuse to unite ahead of the forthcoming governorship election, which he said, would be a test case for them.
Indeed, losing Anambra State would be a very painful experience for the party. Already, the party has lost Imo State to the newly registered All Progressives Congress, APC, through the defection of Governor Rochas Okorocha who rode on the back of the party to get the governorship seat. He has since dumped the party in favour of the APC.
But it is not only the APGA that is being threatened over the Anambra State governorship election. The do-or-die attitude of the PDP candidates is equally causing some problems in the state. What is more intriguing in the PDP is that two different candidates have emerged to contest the governorship election on the platform of the party. The PDP crisis in the state is made more fascinating in that one of the factions is recognised by the independent Electoral Commission, INEC, while the other only enjoys the support of the PDP leadership. Both factions conducted their primaries in Awka, the state capital, on Saturday, August 24, where their respective candidates emerged.
The Ken Emeakayi-led faction of the state’s executive committee, which has the backing of the PDP hierarchy, conducted an election won by Tony Nwoye, a former student leader. Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State led the committee that supervised the poll. According to Shema’s report, Nwoye scored 498 votes to beat Nicholas Ukachukwu who scored 357 votes and Alex Obiogolu, who came third with 13 votes. The report said 14 aspirants participated in the congress in which 916 delegates voted. The result of the election was ratified by the party’s national secretariat.
However, a parallel congress conducted by the Ejike Oguebego faction, declared Andy Uba, a senator, as the winner and by extension, the party’s flag bearer, for the same governorship election. Incidentally, the Oguebego faction is the one recognised by the INEC. Apparently worried by the non recognition by his party as the authentic candidate, Uba went to court. On Wednesday August 28, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, ordered the PDP and the INEC to recognise Uba as winner of the party’s primaries. But Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the PDP, on Wednesday, August 28, gave the certificate of return to Nwoye as the party’s flag bearer.
In his submission, Uba had told the court presided over by Justice H.A. Nganjiwa, that the primaries that produced him as the candidate followed the laid down regulations and procedures. Joined in the suit as defendants are the national leadership of the PDP and the INEC. The suit was filed before last weekend’s primaries. Oguebego, Gilbert Okoye, state secretary of the PDP, and Chucks Okoye, legal adviser, sued for themselves and on behalf of the state executive committee of the PDP. in his ruling, Nganjiwa ordered that the result of the primaries conducted by the Oguebego executive, where Uba emerged as the candidate, should be upheld, pending the hearing and determination of the suit by the applicants.
“The first and second defendants are to forthwith comply with the order of this honourable court made on the 26th of August, 2013,” the judge said. Prior to the ruling, the court gave an exparte order restraining both the INEC and the PDP from dealing with the Ken Emeakayi faction, pending the hearing of the main application. The court then adjourned to Friday, 30.
At the time the court case was being heard, the Uba brothers, Andy and Chris, were expected to appear before the leadership of the PDP, but they did not show up. Also summoned alongside the Uba brothers were Benji Udeozor and Tonia Nwankwo, but none of them honoured the invitation. They were to explain why they conducted a parallel congress of the party on Saturday, August 24, through which Andy Uba emerged as the PDP candidate. For daring to hold a parallel congress, the PDP announced their suspension from the party on Thursday, August 29.
Both gladiators are sticking to their guns. After collecting the certificate of return from the party, Nwoye, 38, sent a salvo to his former associate: “He knows he is an impostor. There were no parallel primaries. You don’t call that primaries because it was a fraud. How can someone claim to have emerged in a parallel election? Who were the delegates that elected him? Did he sit down with his brother to write results? Where did he get the ballot papers from? The National Executive Council of the party is equal to the task. What is at stake is not party chairmanship. INEC has no power to conduct the election. It can only observe and the Electoral Act is clear on that.”
However, Nwoye promised to reconcile the party before the governorship election and held out an olive branch to his opponents, saying “We shall go and mobilise ahead of the election and reconcile with our party members. On November 16, we shall make PDP proud. For those who contested with us, let us work together; Anambra is a PDP state. It doesn’t pay for our party to be in opposition.” Prominent among those who participated in the primaries that elected Nwoye the party’s candidate were Ike Ekweremadu, deputy Senate president, governors Martin Elechi and Theodore Orji, of Ebonyi and Abia states; Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker, House of Representatives; Hope Uzodinma, a senator and Vincent Ogbulafor, former national chairman of the PDP.
For Andy Ubah, it was the second time that he would win the party’s ticket in three attempts. He was the party’s candidate in 2007 and went on to win the governorship election. He was sworn-in as governor, but only for 17 days before the Supreme Court asked him to step down because Governor Peter Obi’s tenure had not elapsed. His attempt to automatically take over from Obi after the first term on account of his 2007 mandate, failed both at party and court levels. He lost the party’s ticket in 2010 to Soludo, who was the preferred candidate.
This time, it is apparent that Andy Ubah does not enjoy the support of the party leadership. But reports say he has the backing of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, under whom he served as an aide. Scheming him out of contention for the party ticket in Anambra State, observers say, would further polarise the relationship between Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan.
Perhaps, in order to avoid the type of crisis rocking the APGA and the PDP, the APC reversed its earlier decision to adopt Chris Ngige as its governorship candidate for Anambra State. It said the party’s primaries would now be held on September 2, to pick the party’s flag bearer for the November 16, election. The decision was said to have been prompted by the two leading contenders-Ngige and Godwin Ezemo, who went on rallies in Awka on Wednesday, not to step down for each other.
Governor Okorocha, who led the Ngige rally, said the primaries was aimed at fulfilling all righteousness, but expressed optimism that Ngige would emerge the APC flag bearer in the state. Annie Okonkwo, another governorship who collapsed his structure into that of Ngige, told the campaign rally that he had been chosen as the leader of Ngige’s campaign organisation for the governorship election. This gladdened Okorocha, who said: “I am very proud of Senator Annie Okonkwo who, I know, controls about 80 percent of the APC structure, but has agreed to step down for Ngige. Though he had prepared a wonderful blueprint for the development of Anambra State if he wins the race, he decided to step down for Senator Ngige because he knows that two of them cannot be governor at the same time.”
In his speech, Ngige said there was no more division in the APC. His words: “There is no longer Annie Okonkwo group; there is no longer Ngige group and very soon, there won’t be Ezemo group. He said that if he returns to the Government House after the November 16 election, there would be free education and free health services in the state.
During his own campaign at the Marble Arch Hotel in the town, Ezemo insisted that there must be primaries for the aspirants, but he was prepared to work with whoever wins if he loses. According to him, what he frowned at was imposition of a candidate on the people of Anambra State. Nevertheless, there were strong indications that Ngige, because of his track record when he first governed the state in 2003, would be the eventual candidate of the party. A good number of analysts have also tipped him to win the race.
Ifeanyi Ubah, a business man, had no such hurdle to scale as he emerged the Labour Party’s candidate for state governorship election on Wednesday. In the party’s primary election held at Emmaus House, Awka, and conducted by Dan Iwanyanwu, chairman of the National Working Committee of the party, Ubah emerged victorious with the unanimous votes of the 1,137 delegates. Before the election started, Iwanyanwu told the delegates that three aspirants had paid and collected nomination forms, but that at the end of the time given for the return of nomination forms and fees, only Ifeanyi Ubah returned his form with the fee, thereby making him the only candidate for the election. Nonetheless, he said that going by the constitution of the party, the primary election must still go ahead for the one aspirant and could be done according to Article 24 of the party’s constitution that stipulates “either by voice votes, show of hand or secret ballot, whichever the national chairman may decide to adopt.” Consequently, Iwanyanwu adopted the show of hand and called for those in support of the aspirant to show their hands and affirm with a voice vote. All the delegates thus raised their hands in affirmation, thereby giving Ifeanyi Ubah a unanimous victory.
In his acceptance speech, the oil magnate remarked that Anambra State had failed in almost all the sectors despite the present government’s claims of developing all sectors simultaneously. If elected governor, he said his priority would be to stop insecurity in the state by creating jobs. “Let me make a point clear, I have no godfather; what I have is father God the Almighty. Anambra must change by force, whether they like it or not. It is not about me, it is about Ndi Anambra this time around. I want to tell you that by electing me to be your candidate for the forthcoming election in Anambra State, I will not fail Ndi Anambra and by the grace of God I will not fail Nigeria. One of my priorities if I am elected governor of Anambra State is to chase away insecurity; we are going to create jobs and bring what we call employment revolution in Anambra State,” he said.
As Anambra people are bracing up in preparation for the governorship election, they are also probably mindful of the local council election slated for October 14. That, perhaps, may be used to measure what to expect in the governorship election a month later. But analysts say the Anambra electorate is politically enlightened, and will this time around, go for the best gubernatorial candidate. According to an observer, “not even the amount of money a candidate has or the amount he or she will be willing to distribute, will influence his or her chances of victory as many people will collect the money and still vote for a candidate they believe is more credible.” A note of warning to the moneybag contestants, no doubt. Besides, it is also believed that the candidate who enjoys the backing of the governor stands a better chance than other contestants, but from the look of things, an upset is possible given the uncompromising stance of the gladiators in the contest and doggedness of some of them.