THE entire nation, and indeed the whole world continue to watch with keen interest as events unfold in Anambra, a state of the South-East geo-political zone noted for its famous indigenes, many of whom any nation of the world would be proud of. Any nation in the world would also be happy to have its legion of self-made millionaires, but it is unlikely that same could be said of the stateâ€™s unique political turf.
Presently at issue is the governorship candidacy of the ruling PDP in the state for next yearâ€™s governorship elections, billed to hold in February. Former governor of the Central Bank, Professor Chukwuma Soludo has emerged the partyâ€™s choice, but the manner of his emergence is still generating ripples.
Initially the party thought a candidate would emerge through internal democracy by way of the partyâ€™s primaries, but other shenanigans deployed by various interest groups foiled that.
At the end ofÂ ward congresses conducted by a committee headed by Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, the state congress committee headed by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole could not take the baton in what was otherwise a relay race; a court injunction stopped him and his committee from going further.
Meanwhile, the deadline by INEC, for the submission of partiesâ€™ list of contestants loomed, even though there was a window till December through which substitutions could be made.
Somehow, the party opted not to take any of the suggestions towards making advantage of this window, and instead called a meeting of the governorship aspirants and other stakeholders in Abuja, where it was announced that Professor Soludo and Senator Emma Anosike would be the governorship candidate and running mate respectively. This generated immediate uproar among the aspirants, some 47 of them, with many vowing to oppose the Soludo nomination with all the vehemence they could muster.
Kidnap of Soludoâ€™s dad
While Professor Soludo and the party hierarchy were busy trying to convince the other aspirants to accept their fate, Soludoâ€™s father, Pa Simeon was abducted from the family home in Isuofia and spirited to an unknown destination. The crime, hours after it was committed, became political. State Police Commissioner, Philemon Leha invited the stormy petrel of Anambra politics, Chief Chris Uba, apparently in connection with the kidnap.
Early last week, Chief Chris Uba, and 23 gubernatorial aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state were quizzed by the police over the kidnap of Pa Simeon Soludo. Leha said Uba made a statement along with the 23 governorship aspirants and submitted video clips of the stakeholdersâ€™ meeting held on the day Soludoâ€™s father was kidnapped.
â€œI donâ€™t have anything to tell you (media) now except to say that Chief Uba because of the invitation we extended to him made a statement.â€
In any case, the kidnap saga may have petered out as Pa Soludo regained his freedom night of last Wednesday, after the family had allegedly paid a ransom of N10 million.
23 aspirants renew fight against Soludo
Last Wednesday too, 23 of the aspirants vowed not to accept Soludoâ€™s candidature, unless a proper primary election was conducted for the party in the state.
The aspirants operating under the aegis of Integrity Group, said at a news conference in Enugu, that despite the â€œfrivolous allegationâ€ that they masterminded the kidnap of Soludoâ€™s father, Mr. Simeon, culminating in their invitation by the police, they would not be cowed to accept the â€œimposition of Soludo and Senator Emma Anosikeâ€ as the partyâ€™s flagbearers for the coming governorship poll.
Speaking through Chief Chuma Nwafor and Princess Kate Egwu, the group said the rally held in Awka,Â upon which the police hinged their alleged culpability in the kidnap was basically to chart a new course for the party, which they noted has been in disarray since the â€œimposition of Soludoâ€ on them.
It should be noted that the 23 aspirantsâ€™ stand came on the heels of a court order obtained by Uba from an Enugu High Court, granting him leave to enforce his fundamental rights.
Uba, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, approached the court through his lawyer, complaining that his rights to personal liberty under the constitution was in jeopardy of being infringed upon,Â following his purported invitation by the Anambra State police command over the kidnap.
In granting the application, the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike,Â said â€œthe leave so granted shall act as a stay of all actions or matters connected with or related to the complaint of the applicantâ€. The court adjourned further hearing in the matter till today, November 10.
Uba vows to stop Soludo
In the interview, Chief Uba restated his opposition to the Soludo candidacy, and vowed to resist the ambition of the man whom he called his â€œfriend.â€ His words: â€œWe became friends before he was made chief economic adviser to President Obasanjo. We continued as friends when he was CBN governor.
It was when he now said he wanted to be governor of Anambra State that I said â€˜noâ€™. I asked him why he wanted to be governor, he said Anambra State â€™s budget is nothing, but that he needed the governorship badly because of â€˜immunityâ€™.
â€œI told him that Anambra State has gone through many political problems; that people are no longer comfortable with imposition, but Soludo believes that once few people meet and give him the mandate, it is over and I told him such thing is no longer possible and not in the interest of our state. If this is why he is accusing me of kidnapping his father, then it is unfortunate.
â€œAt the recent rally, the state executive of our party in Anambra said â€˜noâ€™ to the illegality of Soludoâ€™s imposition. No amount of blackmail or intimidation can stop the opposition until the party corrects this Soludo mistake. By the way, Soludo is not a member of the PDP. What is his contribution to the well-being of our great party? Nothing.â€
$10m bribe allegation
However, in an interview published by several newspapers last Monday, Chief Uba alleged that he was being roped into the kidnap saga on account of a bribe offer of $10 million made by Professor Soludo to facilitate his attainment of the governorship, but which he rejected.
â€œAfter losing the bid for a second tenure as CBN governor, he started approaching people to buy them off. In my case, he offered me $10 million which I rejected. He offered me the money for me to endorse him and ensure he becomes the governor in 2010. I rejected the money in my house here in Abuja and felt insulted. By the way, where did he get 10 million U.S. Dollars from?â€ he queried.
But the former central banker dismissed the allegation, and, still insisting Uba masterminded his dadâ€™s kidnap, asked why he would offer Uba any money. He asked: â€œIs the offer of $10 million part of the ransom for the kidnap or what?â€ In addition, one of Soludoâ€™s aides, Leo Chiegboka, said in a statement that his legal team was compiling the various libelous statements made against him by Uba and would respond appropriately. He described the allegation by Uba that Soludo was in the governorship race because of immunity granted governors under the 1999 constitution as childish.
â€œImmunity from what? Soludo is neither the subject of any criminal investigation nor is he being prosecuted, and so what immunity is Chris Ubaâ€™s rambling about,â€ he asked.
Uba suspended from Anambra PDP
As last week closed, it would seem that the party machinery has engaged the gears to checkmate Uba and ensure Soludo prevails. National Chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor dissolved the executive committee of the party in Anambra, and named a caretaker committee in its place. Before then, a day earlier, the state Disciplinary Committee of the party unanimously passed a vote of no confidence on Chief Chris Uba for â€œhis unruly behaviourâ€ in recent times.
Rising from an emergency meeting at the party secretariat in Awka, the state capital, at the weekend, members unanimously agreed to expel the self-acclaimed political godfather for bringing the party to disrepute.Â According to them, a letter to that effect had been forwarded to the partyâ€™s National Headquarters, Abuja, for ratification.
The decision to expel Uba came after 18 members voted for his expulsion, three against and two abstained.
Now that Uba has been suspended from the party by his state executive, and the same executive dissolved by the national chairman, will Uba, who claims to still be in charge be able to stop Soludo? The next few weeks will tell.