A Race of the Titans

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Ngige

The battle for the governorship seat in Anambra State has begun and except the AGPA and the PDP, put their crisis-ridden house in order, the race will be a contest between the Labour Party and the APC

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Sep. 30, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE stage is now set for the November 16, governorship election in Anambra. Participating political parties have submitted the names of their candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as required by law. But internal crisis bedevilling some of the major political parties in the gubernatorial election shows that the race to government house, Awka, is going to be tough.

Uba
Uba

Though about eight parties are vying for the exalted position, only four are considered to be strong contenders. They are: Willie Obiano of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; Senator Chris Ngige, All Progressives Congress, APC, Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, Labour Party, LP and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, which is mired in controversy over its authentic gubernatorial candidate.

The PDP has two factions in the state, and each faction flaunts a gubernatorial candidate.  The Ejike Oguebego faction produced Senator Andy Uba as its gubernatorial candidate while the Ken Emeakayi-led group has Tony Nwoye, a former students’ union activist, as its gubernatorial candidate. The national leadership of the PDP recognises the faction of the party led by Emeakayi, and by extension, Nwoye, as the party’s authentic candidate, but the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, identifies with Oguebego as leader of the state chapter of the party.

The issue of the authentic candidate of the PDP is before different courts in the country even as the deadline for the submission of names of candidates for the gubernatorial election ended on September 17. Already, Bamanga Tukur, PDP national chairman, has forwarded Nwoye’s name to the INEC as the party’s authentic candidate for the election. This development, no doubt, is a minus for the party as the date of the election draws near.

Meanwhile, several PDP chieftains in the state are said to have left the party and joined other parties.  For instance, Tessy Ezechukwu, former state woman leader and several other female members of the party were conspicuously present at the recent gubernatorial primary of the LP held at Emmaus House, Awka, where Ubah emerged flag-bearer of the party.

Obiano
Obiano

Kate Nwaegwu, a former member of the PDP, said she left the PDP because of the seeming intractable leadership tussle within the state chapter of the party. “Since I joined the PDP, I have not made any head way politically.  All of us in the PDP have nothing to show all these years and it is because Chris Uba wants to continue to dictate what happens in the party. This is why some of us are now looking out to other parties where we can realise our dreams,” she said.

The PDP is not the only party in crisis. The APGA is also embroiled in the same situation.  Several days after the Victor Umeh-led faction of the party picked Obiano as its flag-bearer, another faction of the party led by Maxi Okwu, elected Chike Obidigbo, as its candidate for the same election. Both Obiano and Obidigbo hail from Anambra North Senatorial zone.  Incidentally, Governor Peter Obi is believed to have insisted that his successor must come from this zone. This is against the backdrop that the zone is yet to produce a governor since the state was created 22 years ago by former military President Ibrahim Babangida.

Although APGA controls power in Anambra state, the lingering leadership crisis in the party is likely to affect its performance in the gubernatorial election. From all indications, Governor Obi is ambivalent towards the resolution of the leadership crisis bedevilling the party. Jude Okwuli, a member of the party in Enugu state, had instituted a suit at an Enugu High Court, challenging the procedure adopted in the election of February 2011 which elected Umeh for a second term in office as national chairman of the party.

Specifically, Okwuli told the court that Umeh emerged through a voice vote instead of the secret ballot as provided for in the party’s constitution.  The court presided over by Innocent Umezulike, the state’s chief judge, had earlier in the year, nullified Umeh’s election and that of other members of the National Working Committee of the party elected along with him on the ground that due process was not followed in the conduct of the election, The judge subsequently ordered for of a fresh convention to elect members of the NWC in accordance with the party’s laid down rules and procedures.

Obi
Obi

A national convention of the party held in Awka on April 8, and singlehandedly sponsored by Governor Obi, elected new members of the NWC, with Okwu as the party’s national chairman. Ironically, it was the same day that an Appeal Court sitting in Enugu re-instated Umeh as the party’s national chairman.

Meanwhile, Okwuli has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling of the Court of Appeal.  Conversely, Okwu has asked an Abuja High Court to declare him the authentic national chairman of APGA on the basis of the outcome of the Awka convention. Though Governor Obi had, at several occasions, feigned ignorance of both cases in court, yet not a few accuse him of funding the litigations aimed at throwing Umeh out as the party’s national chairman.

It was in the midst of these litigations that Charles Chukwuma Soludo, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, allegedly reconciled Governor Obi with Umeh.  The former governor of the apex bank was reportedly promised the gubernatorial ticket of the party, but was inexplicably disqualified at the gubernatorial screening stage.

The picture on the ground in Anambra shows that APGA is not speaking with one voice and it might be difficult, if not impossible for the party to retain power in the state beyond 2014, despite possessing the power of incumbency.

The case is different in the APC, where the party elected Senator Ngige as its flag-bearer. No doubt, Ngige is a charismatic politician.  He was governor of the state from May 2003 to April 2006.  And during those years, he was largely harassed and hounded by his political godfather, Chris Uba, to the extent that he was abducted by policemen who allegedly acted on the instruction of the godfather. Ngige, who contested and won the 2003 gubernatorial election on the platform of the PDP, left office in April 2006, following a court ruling that he never won that election in the first place. It gave the electoral victory to Peter Obi of APGA. But before then, he had delivered a large chunk of dividends of democracy to his people.

Ubah
Ubah

His exemplary performance as governor was largely responsible for his winning the election in 2011 to represent Anambra Central Senatorial district in the upper legislative house on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Today, as a member of the APC, a mega opposition party, the question is whether his popularity is still intact.

The major issue confronting Ngige is how to explain to the Anambra electorate the reason behind the recent deportation by Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state, of some Ndigbo of Anambra extraction to Onitsha, on the basis that they were destitute. Nevertheless, Senator Ngige’s goodwill built over the years, as well as the support of his candidature by some notable politicians in the state, may likely contribute in giving him an edge over his opponents.

Like Ngige, Ubah the flag-bearer of LP, is in the race without internal crisis in his party. He left APGA for his new party after he was convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that the party would ditch him at the last moment. A multi-billionaire businessman with tentacles in oil and gas, Ubah’s greatest assets are his spirit of philanthropy, courage and determination to succeed in whatever he lays his hands on. He has re-energised the party in the 326 wards that make up the state, providing logistics and the wherewithal for the party to function effectively at the state level.

Nwoye
Nwoye

His foundation has given scores of university scholarships to indigent students from the state.  This is in addition to providing healthcare to hundreds of Anambra people.  He has promised to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in the state as well as provide security to drive investments in the state if elected governor.  He believes that if he can use his private funds to transform the lives of hundreds of people in the state, he would use public funds judiciously to take the teeming masses away from the throes of unemployment, poverty, disease and squalor. But he is a political neophte compared to Ngige.

As the election draws closer, except the PDP and the APGA take proactive measures to resolve the festering leadership crisis in their respective parties, the battle for the control of government house Awka, would be between the APC and the LP.

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