IN 1979, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, then the flag bearer of the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, failed the screening exercise of the then electoral umpire, FEDECO, for allegedly not paying his taxes as at when due, a requirement by the 1979 Constitution of the country.
It was widely believed that the fallout was master-minded by Zik’s political adversaries and rivals in the other parties.
The reason was simple: To cause him embarrassment and put a wedge, albeit temporary, to his ambition and soaring popularity. It took a team of lawyers who hurriedly put up a brilliant representation on behalf of both the famed Zik and his party for FEDECO to reinstate him to contest the election which eventually ushered in the Second Republic.
Reminiscent of the Nnamdi Azikiwe saga of 1979, the media has been awash in the past few days with report of the three-man panel set up by the leadership of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, to screen its 13 gubernatorial aspirants in Anambra State preparatory to the governorship election in the state scheduled for November 16.
Six aspirants allegedly failed the party’s screening exercise. Among them are Chinedu Idigo, Henry Obaze, Chike Obidigbo, Tony Nnacheta, Emmanuel Nweke and Professor Chukwuma Soludo. Reasons adduced for their disqualification range from non-presentation of evidence of availability of campaign fund, tax clearance certificate to issues as miniscule as voter’s card.
Of all these aspirants, Soludo’s disqualification was greeted with both surprise and outrage by observers of political developments in that state. Specifically, it was said to be in the spirit of zoning being championed by Governor Peter Obi, even though another source attributed it to an alleged EFCC investigation pending on him.
This makes the motive more suspicious. Otherwise, since when has pending investigation on someone become a criteria for judging and screening election candidates. Not even at the level of INEC should Nigerians be hearing such an incongruous reason.
Sections 177 and 182 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria as amended give insight into either what qualifies or disqualifies an individual from contesting a governorship election in a state in the country. None of the reasons given by APGA fall into any of the provisions of the Constitution.
It is also clear in the Constitution as in other statutes of the country, that pending investigation on someone does not amount to sentence.
That being the case, APGA must have misfired by inadvertently “convicting” Soludo, even without being tried by a court of law. It is a sad story, an untidy and reprehensible development. There is no other way to explain the party’s floppy action. Can a political party go outside the provisions of the Constitution to impose a disqualification as critical as this on its aspirants.
Must everything dirty be brought into politics? This development and the incongruous reasons given by APGA goes to affirm the rumour that the party’s leadership is doing the bidding of someone else, probably the “the Oga at the top”. This is because there is a glaring difference between rain flood and the water that was ordinarily poured out on the ground.
One Igbo adage says that a bird dancing by the road side obviously has evil spirits beating drums for it. It is both unnecessary and irrelevant to ascribe the traducement of Soludo’s governorship interest to Umeh and his colleagues in APGA as this will amount to vain glorification. Afterall, they are merely dancing to the tune of the music being supplied by evil spirits from the bush.
Beyond the reasons given by the APGA screening panel, one could discern an apparent intrigue contrived in some quarters outside Anambra to play Soludo out of the governorship race so that others will have a field day.
When Soludo dumped PDP for APGA some weeks ago, many saw the move not only as being audacious, but also as the most ideal and auspicious thing to do. There was excitement within and outside the party. He was seen as having come to lift the party out of relegation and extinction. The general belief that holds sway in Anambra, even till date, is that APGA might be singing its last political song if it fails to clinch the Anambra guber election in November.
Among the general masses and the elites in the state, therefore, Soludo is seen as the candidate to beat, and a good brand if APGA is serious about retaining Anambra Government House after Obi. Besides, he was considered as a foremost achiever who would certainly consolidate on the gains of the previous administrations in the state.
But in politics, one plus one is not usually two. Soludo has maintained a soaring popularity in the state ever since he stepped into politics in 2009, a development which has always been seen as a threat by his rivals, even beyond the shores of Anambra. For this class of people, they would not stand the idea of a Soludo that is best in academics, best in national and international reach and now also best in politics.
Theodore Orji was in detention when he contested and won the Abia guber seat in 2007. Iyiola Omisore maneuvered his way out of detention to be sworn in as a senator, having won the election earlier from prison custody. EFCC made Chimaroke Nnamani to forfeit his Rainbow Net Telecom and radio station to the government and still found himself in the Senate.
Even other notable politicians in Anambra in particular, and across the country generally, who have been arraigned by the EFCC, and whose cases are pending in different law courts have not only been enjoying their freedom, but are also into one political activity or the other, including engaging in election contests
With these examples, it is not difficult to locate the indirect ban, so to speak, imposed on Soludo by APGA between antagonists of his towering stature and sibling rivalries from within and outside the state.
One thing is certain: whether he fails to contest his disqualification or refuses to run, it is not yet uhuru for all those who appear to be beneficiaries of the unfortunate fallout. The implications are diverse. Beyond reason, the issue of Anambra North zone agenda being championed by the incumbent governor looks and sounds childish. Is it guaranteed that the north will win after Soludo’s exit?
This is because PDP, Labour party and APC are still there, and will likely be presenting formidable candidates from the zones other than north. The probable issue signposted here also is that even at the national level, the imperative is for PDP to be encouraged to disqualify President Goodluck Johnathan on the same irrational basis of zoning since it is in the party’s constitution.
Whatever is the case, November 16, 2013 is far but almost around the corner, and Anambrarians will soon be greeted with the dawn of the intrigues that have been so contrived all this while to ridicule the entire Igboland, certainly not Soludo.
The important thing here is that Soludo has offered to serve his people. He was not rejected by the people but by those who manipulated the levers of political machinery to shut him out of the guber race, thereby denying Ndi Anambra the opportunity of moving beyond their present entrapment and shallow developmental foundation.
Mr. PASCAL OKE, a medical practitioneer, wrote from Lagos.