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Anambra’s ‘home for all’ absurdities

*Confusion trails PDP primaries

By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor, Emmanuel Aziken, Vincent Ujumadu

IT is perhaps reflective of the State’s slogan “Home for All” that all  sorts of characters are today deeply embedded in Anambra’s political terrain. However, as Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah noted last Wednesday when he suspended his gubernatorial campaigns, the ugly and destructive ones have taken over.

By the confession of almost all the political gladiators in the state that was once reckoned for its numerous intellectual prodigies, Anambra today represents the ugly face of Ndigbo, nay Nigeria. A state that threw up Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Chike Obi, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, among other greats, is today being traded as a pawn by half baked, some secondary school drop outs.

It was apparently reflective of the lack of moral political balance in the state that the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had to recruit governors from neighbouring states to conduct the party’s gubernatorial primaries.

Chief Vincent Ogbulafor PDP Chairman
Chief Vincent Ogbulafor PDP Chairman

After last Monday’s botched ward congresses, Governor Gabriel Suswam from the neighbouring Benue State who headed the Congress Committee gave the indigenes a tongue lash.

“Is it not a shame that I had to bring 326 people from Benue State to conduct ward congresses here? It is a shame for any person from Anambra. It is a big shame,” the Benue State governor was quoted as saying in his review of the marred congresses.

He, too, is already being mired by the ugliness of the politics of Anambra State as some of the aspirants are insisting that the list which was eventually read out was a product of one of the godfathers of the party in the state. Among the streaks that have won Anambra its profile in political infamy is the instability in governance. The state is the only one in the federation to have nurtured five governors in the last ten years of democratic rule.

The first governor, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadiniju held the loft from 1999 to 2003, Dr. Chris Ngige, June 2003 to March 2006; Mr. Peter Obi March 2006 to November 6, 2006 when he was impeached by a faction of the Anambra State House of Assembly.

He was replaced by his deputy, Dame Virgina Etiaba who returned power to Obi on February 9, 2009 after the Court of Appeal annulled the impeachment. Obi was again in the saddle until May 29, 2007 when Dr. Andy Uba took office upon his election as governor in the April 2007 election. Uba, however, lasted only ten days as his tenure was cut short by the Supreme Court judgment which ruled that Obi’s tenure was to last till 2010.

The list of five governors is excluding Dr. Okey Udeh who allegedly took office for minutes or hours after Dr. Ngige was kidnapped in July 2003. Now, ahead of the scheduled February 10 gubernatorial election, there is every indication that Anambra is set to raise that infamous record. Governor Peter Obi who against all odds was inaugurated in 2006 on the ticket of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, ends his term in office next March.

PDP chairman Vincent Ogbulafor; Prof.  Chukwuma Soludo and Senator  Annie Okonkwo
PDP chairman Vincent Ogbulafor; Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Senator Annie Okonkwo

Remarkably, he stepped into office three years after the conduct of the gubernatorial election in April 2003. His desire for a second term is now ensnared by deep political intrigues that recently culminated in his faction of APGA losing its judicially recognised stamp of authority at the INEC headquarters.

Anambra’s sordid tale of political villainy is generally considered to be fanned by local political godfathers promoted by outside interests, notably in the national secretariat of the PDP.

Governor Chinwoke Mbadiniju a former political aide to Vice-president Alex Ekwueme was the first PDP governor of the State who governed between 1999 and 2003.  Mbadinuju’s time in office was repeatedly punctuated with political firefight with his alleged godfather, Sir Emeka Offor, with whom he later fell out with.

By December 2002 while all his other colleagues from the PDP were returned as the party’s gubernatorial candidates, Mbadiniju was denied the ticket, not least because of internal fractions within the party.

His record of performance was not characteristically different from that of many of the other non performing governors, but what made his situation worse was the fact that schools in Anambra State were closed down for almost a year – it was that bad.

However, a coalition of political and business interests who held him hostage for most of his tenure forced him out of the party into the Alliance for Democracy, AD, on whose platform he lost his re-election bid in the 2003.

His successor was Dr. Chris Ngige, a medical doctor and former senior civil servant who subsumed his refined intellect into the sly political machine of Chief Chris Uba. While Offor was busy fighting Mbadiniju to a standstill, Chief Chris Uba with the help of his brother, Dr. Andy Uba, who was then President Obasanjo’s special assistant on domestic matters, quietly usurped his role as political godfather.

Uba at less than forty years became the most idolised political godfather in the land after the 2003 elections. He, by several accounts, sponsored Governor Ngige, all members of the National Assembly and State House of Assembly into office. Unlike Offor or maybe learning from Offor’s frustrations with Mbadiniju, Uba was more diligent in ensuring the permanent loyalty of Ngige.

Besides a ritual oath, an undated resignation letter signed by Ngige was kept in Uba’s custody. The Ngige-Uba drama was, however, to unfold when the new governor, despite his security cordon, was allegedly kidnapped in July. His undated resignation letter was about being produced when Vice-president Atiku Abubakar in the absence of President Obasanjo stepped in to halt the nauseating drama.

Had Obasanjo been in town it is doubtful if Ngige would have survived. Ngige survived as governor but his person and government were to be repeatedly attacked by elements allegedly linked to Chris Uba.

Nullifying election
While he held office, part of the Government House was burnt with policemen watching, his convoy was attacked among other provocations. Chief Chris Uba was to later confess that he helped rig Ngige into office and was ecstatic when the Court of Appeal gave him his heart desire on March 16, 2006 when it nullified his election as governor.

Obi, the croaky voiced governor, who took over the following day held a lot of promise for the State. However, he was politically harassed by the State House of Assembly which was wholly dominated by the PDP.

After seven months in office, Obi was finally impeached by a faction of the House of Assembly on November 2, 2006 and promptly replaced the following day by his deputy, Mrs. Etiaba.  Even the body language of Madam Etiaba suggested that the new governor could do with a long absence of Obi.

His impeachment was generally believed to help weaken him and prepare the ground for a PDP governor to take over. Obi, however, fought back and was returned back to power on February 9, 2007 after the Supreme Court decreed his impeachment as illegal. Obi did not contest the 2007 gubernatorial election as he took the ground breaking motion to the Supreme Court to determine the duration of his tenure.

While he was in court, Andy Uba easily coasted home to victory on the PDP ticket, beating Ngige who flew the AC ticket and Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, who decamped from the PDP to fly the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, ticket.

Uba stayed barely two weeks in office before the Supreme Court upheld Obi’s submission that his four year tenure was from 2006 to 2010. The court’s declaration remarkably was mute on the validity of the election that brought Uba to power as governor. Some in Uba’s camp interpreted the judgment to mean that Uba would remain governor-in-waiting till 2010.

Their hope was to be undercut by the declaration of the Anambra Election Petition Tribunal which apparently kowtowing to the Supreme Court judgment nullified Uba’s election. Uba, however, took the case further and challenged the declaration at the Court of Appeal, Enugu which on February 19, 2009 upturned the declaration of the tribunal and in its declaration affirmed that the election was proper.

In the meantime a number of gubernatorial hopefuls in Anambra who were oiling their machines to contest the 2010 gubernatorial received the news as a setback. Among them was Ukachukwu who had returned to the PDP. Others including former political associates of Andy Uba like Senator Annie Okonkwo were also busy setting up campaign structures to contest the election.

Meanwhile, Uba to the chagrin of the Justices of the Supreme Court had made three abortive motions for the apex court to revisit its June 14, 2007 judgment that sacked him from office.

Uba’s motions were, however, believed to have fallen foul of constitutional provisions which make the Court of Appeal the final court on issues pertaining to gubernatorial elections. Apparently realizing his futility in getting the Supreme Court to give him a consequential judgment enthroning him as governor, Uba beat a retreat to the Court of Appeal two months ago.

Uba’s motion was for a consequential declaration that he should be declared governor-in-waiting. The import was that there should be no election, an issue that several of the gubernatorial hopefuls disagreed with. Among them was Ukachukwu who now went to the Supreme Court to seek a declaration that INEC be compelled to hold the gubernatorial elections in Anambra.

The apex court in its judgment last Monday delivered by Justice Dahiru Musdapher dismissed the motion declaring that it lacked jurisdiction on the issue. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal which was supposed to give judgment on Uba’s application last Monday in deference to the Supreme Court deferred its judgment. The court is now scheduled to give judgment on October 19.

Within the Andy Uba camp there is much enthusiasm that the court would follow its earlier stance when it declared the election that first brought Dr. Uba to power valid. The implications of the October 19 judgment are weighty for the political soul of Anambra. The hold Dr. Uba had over the state chapter of the PDP and the national secretariat during the Obasanjo years are now much weakened.

It is alleged in political circles that the current national chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor has some unstated grudges against Uba and is as such determined to frustrate his efforts.

Indeed, against expectations, the Ogbulafor national executive had earlier this year handed over the state structure of the party to Chief Chris Uba, who even though a junior brother to Andy, is considered to be his serious rival. Chief Chris Uba’s candidate for governor was said to be Uchenna Emodi, the factional chairman of the state chapter loyal to him but between Emodi and Charles Soludo, Chris Uba may have to end up making up his mind.

The conduct of the PDP gubernatorial primaries was said to be characterised by much violence and disorder a point Senator Obiorah made in his decision to opt out. “It is wrong to say people should be ashamed of the situation in Anambra State. Rather, the organisers of the charade should be ashamed of themselves. Up till now, no result has been released.

What is available is the list of the so-called delegates and there is nothing for the appeal committee to rely on. I keep saying it that marginalization can only cease when people are allowed to elect their leaders. A fair process must be adopted, otherwise we are heading back to the era of destruction of property,” Obiorah told newsmen last Wednesday as he opted out.

Senator Obiorah’s accusation follows repeated allegations by some of the contestants that the gubernatorial primaries had been turned into a money spinning venture by some national officers of the PDP who it is alleged were poised to sell the ticket to the highest bidder. Meanwhile the political intrigues continue even outside the PDP with Obi and his former soul-mate, Emeka Etiaba, confronting each other in a game of intrigues.

Etiaba is a son of Obi’s deputy. He apparently has no scruples fighting it out with his mother’s boss. That is only part of the Anambra story of political oddities.
The underground maneouvering by some stakeholders in the PDP in Anambra State with the backings of some external power brokers in Abuja expectedly disrupted the party’s congress for the election of a candidate for the February 6, 2010 gubernatorial election.

The over 900 delegates elected from the September 28 ward congresses of the party held in the 21 local government areas as well as the statutory delegates had converged in Awka for the primary election billed to hold last Friday and were full of expectations but unknown to them the congress would not be held after all, courtesy of a last minute order of an Anambra State High court.

Surprisingly, as the delegates were being conveyed to the Women Development Centre, Awka venue of the state congress where hundreds of heavily armed mobile policemen and operatives of State Security Service (SSS) had condoned off as early as 6 am to ensure that non-delegates have no access to the venue, news filtered in that an Aguata High Court sitting at Ekwulobia had issued an interim order restraining the PDP, its national chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor and chairman of the Anambra State PDP Electoral Panel and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Oladimeji Bankole from conducting the primary election.

One Mr. Probity Adibe, believed to be acting on behalf of a prominent governorship aspirant, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, had in a suit number AG/92/MISC440/09 filed before Justice B.A. Nwankwo, obtained an interim injunction restraining the party from holding any state congress for the primary election of the PDP fixed for October 2, 2009 for the election of its gubernatorial candidate.

The court also restrained the respondents or their agents from convening any congress whatsoever on October 2 or any other date, pending the determination of the motion on notice filed by the plaintiff.

In a prompt response to the court order, Bankole, flanked by members of the electoral panel, addressed a joint press conference with the Anambra Congress Appeal committee headed by Wakilin Adamawa, Alhaji Hassan Adamu, announcing their decision to suspend the election on the strength of the court order.

Bankole who formally received the report of the appeal committee from Adamu as a prelude to the conduct of the primary election, said as a chief law officer of the federation and in line with President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s adherence to rule of law and due process, compliance to the rule of law must be followed.

He declared that the committee would not proceed with the election as scheduled until further directive was received from the National Secretariat of the party.

He acknowledged that the court order by some aspirants and stakeholders who alleged widespread irregularities in the ward congress held earlier was served through a substituted service and that the party’s legal advisers were already doing something about it. “So until then, we wait because due process and respect to courts must be followed.

For the records, the venue for the election is ready and we are standing by until the election is held,” said Bankole at a news briefing held at about 10 am Friday.
Some governorship aspirants and their supporters who were hanging around the Barnhill Resort, Awka waiting for further directives from Abuja through the electoral panel were shocked to see Bankole and members of his panel vacating their rooms at about 1.30 pm.

Before the aspirants could ascertain what was happening, Bankole and his members boarded their vehicles and left for Enugu airport from where they took a flight back to Abuja. The House of Representatives Speaker was said to have told some officials of the party before leaving that the presidency directed members of the electoral panel to return to Abuja.

As the news of their departure spread to the congress venue, delegates who were conveyed in about six luxury buses to an area close to the Women Development Centre were returned to their hotels, from where they later dispersed.

The development, however, caused serious anxiety among the aspirants and the congress delegates some of who rained curses on the aspirant who “arrested the conducted of the primary through court orders.”

This group which is said to be backing Professor Chukwuma Soludo to clinch the PDP ticket, allegedly initiated the legal action to halt the election which if conducted, according to observers, would have seen to the emergence of Chief Chris Uba’s  favoured candidate, Engr. Bethram Dim from Uga in Aguata Local Government.

The choice of Dim was announced to the delegates majority of who were camped at Choice Hotel, Awka late Thursday night and as learnt the camp of the acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics (Uba) was thrown into confusion, as about 20 other contestants from the camp who were hopeful of clinching the ticket since they control at least 70 percent of the delegates, felt highly disappointed.

Although it was late for any of them to raise any objection few hours to the primary election, some of them were said to have announced to the delegates their decision to withdraw from the race. Even though majority was not comfortable with Dim’s choice, they had to play along in demonstration of their loyalty to the godfather.

But some of them have continued to grumble aloud over the development just as they expressed fears that PDP might lose the February 6 poll to another party if a credible candidate was not given the ticket.

Sunday Vanguard learnt from the final list of delegates approved for the suspended congress that Chief Chris Uba, whose camp was in control of the state party machinery in the last few months following its endorsement by the National Working Committee, produced about 70 percent of the 981 delegates, leaving the remaining 30 percent to other contestants including Soludo, Annie Okonkwo and Nicholas Ukachukwu.

It was gathered that while Ukachukwu, an Abuja based businessman and former member of House of Representatives produced a good number of delegates next to Uba’s, the former Central Bank governor who is a new entrant into the governorship contest, only got few delegates from his Aguata local government while Senator Okonkwo reportedly lost out in the delegates’ hunt.

Uba was said to have produced over 600 delegates and was comfortably positioned to produce the candidate should the primary hold, but following the two-day deliberations by the Hassan Adamu led Congress Appeal Panel on the 1,357 petitions sent to it, 285 delegates believed to have earlier emerged from Uba’s camp were changed and shared among Ukachukwu and Soludo.

Even at that, observers said, the duo could not muster enough delegates that could give them the party’s ticket.  This, however, forced the duo to seek legal option through which they aborted the primary election slated for Friday.

The Appeal Panel revealed that only six out of the 47 aspirants appeared before it to defend their case as contained in the numerous petitions forwarded and they were duly heard in addition to 39 witnesses.  According to Alhaji Adamu, while 174 petitions were found have merit and duly upheld, the remaining 1,183 petitions failed owing to lack of proof.

The panel therefore recommended that the congress should be held in accordance with the list of delegates submitted by the Ward Congress Committee led by Benue State governor, Suswan, but insisted that 285 delegates must be changed.

Bankole accepted the recommendation saying that it would conduct the State Congress in line with the decision of the appeal panel whenever the legal tussle was settled. “We appreciate the situation in Anambra State and that is why the PDP has made it clear to everybody in the state and outside that we must to the right thing to the satisfaction of all,” Bankole told a news conference where he announced the indefinite suspension of the congress on Friday.

It is four months to the 2010 governorship election in Anambra State and the major political parties expected to field candidates that would produce the next governor of the state are still to get their acts together. Indeed the major parties the people are looking up to for the election are just the PDP, APGA, PPA and AC and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.

But it is in the PDP as a party with large followership in the state and APGA, as the party in power that have given the people so much cause for concern.

For instance, one of the governorship aspirants, Senator Annie Okonkwo, who spoke through Chief Felix Oli, the director-general of his campaign organization, said the list being brandished in the state was not the list of those who won at the congress. “It’s a surprise that a governor of a state could allow himself to be used to do this.

With this, how can PDP win in Anambra? With this PDP should be counted as a dead party. The only way to save the party is by canceling the exercise. We totally reject the list. I’m surprised that ministers, senators, house members could allow themselves to do this. They removed names of those who won, including me. I’m badly disappointed.

“How can somebody who was not elected as a delegate be allowed to participate in the primaries? With what has happened, how can these people who were elected and denied have the courage to canvas for votes for PDP to win elections in this state? In the field, we saw some people as officials.

Things actually went well. But in the end, we saw a different list that was submitted to the appeal panel. The president should intervene to save Anambra State; otherwise, there will be anarchy in the state,” Senator Okonkwo said.

These arguments arose because it was obvious that whichever group that won majority of the delegates was as good as having won the governorship. As a result of the intrigues, the party is back to square one and how the struggle for the soul of the party would end is not yet known.

A member of House of Representatives, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife who is also a member of PDP, but recently picked a governorship form from PPA, said it was because of what she saw coming that made her take the decision she took. She explained that as somebody who believes in doing things the right way, it was difficult to be part of the shameless attitude being put up by some people in PDP.

For APGA, despite the fact that Governor Peter Obi has reinvigorated the party and injected funds into it to ensure effective operation in readiness for the 2010 election, rumours are rife that the governor might be contesting for the election on the platform of a coalition of political parties that recently endorsed him for second tenure.

The situation in PPA is still cloudy as various interest groups are positioning themselves to take firm control of the party before the primaries. An attempt by the party recently to conduct state congress ended in chaos and since then, there had been claims and counter claims over who is in charge.

Today’s Anambra in brief
*Total number of aspirants: 47
*PDP primaries suspended indefinitely
*1,357 petitions filed
*Six out of the 47 aspirants appeared before petition panel
*174 petitions were found to have merit and duly upheld
*1,183 petitions, thrown out
*Speaker Dimeji Bankole in charge
*Governor Suswan of Benue State brought in
*326 people from Benue state to conduct ward congresses
*Total number of delegates for primaries:  981
*Governor Suswan insists 285 delegates must be changed
*APGA, PPA in disarray
*AC unstable


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