By Nnamdi Ojiego
FOUR months to the November 6, 2021, governorship election in Anambra State, old front runners have given way to new champions.
Following high level legal battles within the state chapters of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the African Democratic Congress (ADC) has emerged as frontrunner in the election.
Among the three big parties-APGA, APC and PDP, the situation of things appear most complicated. In APC, despite attempts by the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), to reconcile aggrieved governorship aspirants, courts cases have been filed to challenge the return of Senator Andy Uba as the winner of the APC primary on June 26, 2021.
It would be recalled that on the day of the governorship primary, one of the top contenders, Dr. George Moghalu, shouted out to Nigerians, stressing that materials and personnel for the intra-party election could not be seen at any of the 326 electoral wards of the state.
Moghalu, who is also the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), later led 11 other aspirants to address a joint press conference in Awka, the state capital and Abuja, on what he called the rape of internal democracy by the APC Governorship Primary Election Committee led by Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
He was emphatic that “in a few locations in the state, election materials arrived late in the evening, after both voters and officials had dispersed and long past the time, when it was possible to conduct even a semblance of an election.”
According to Moghalu, “Despite this evident reality, the primary Election Committee appointed by the leadership of the party and chaired by the Governor of Ogun State, Prince (Dr.) Dapo Abiodun, went ahead to produce and announce purported results based on nothing other than their fertile imagination and motivated by their private interests and arrangements.”
Moghalu swore that he would “do everything within my abilities and the law, to ensure that the travesty orchaestrated by Gov. Abiodun and his team will not stand. There is no way the party could accept a fictitious result when it was obvious no election was held anywhere.”
Shortly after Moghalu’s declaration of legal war against the emergence of Senator Uba, the Federal High Court, Awka, received a suit filled by Comrade Maxwell Okoye, through his counsel, Mr. B. O. Okemmadu.
Okoye prayed the court to grant an order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from “admitting or publishing the name of Uba” as the governorship candidate of APC for the election.
Justice H. A. Nganjiwa, while ruling on the motion, said the 1st and 3rd respondents, APC and INEC, “should and must maintain the status quo in the interest of Justice and must not accept, publish or cause to admit the 2nd respondent (Dr. Andy Uba), as the candidate of APC” in the gubernatorial election pending the hearing of the substantive suit.
PDP conducted a parallel primary election which produced Senator Ugochukwu Uba and Mr. Valentine Ozigbo as winners. Although the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) has identified with Ozigbo as the party’s gubernatorial candidate, some disenfranchised statutory and ad hoc delegates are kicking against the process that threw up the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Transnational Corporation Plc, Ozigbo.
In a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP NWC disclosed that it was getting ready to pursue a winning campaign, stressing that its flag bearer, Ozigbo, is about the most popular candidate to be on the ballot.
PDP urged its members and supporters, especially people of Anambra State to disregard any persons claiming to be the party’s flag-bearer, saying they are propelled by forces of disunity. It recalled that as the party’s authentic candidate, Ozigbo received his certificate of return from PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, on June 30, 2021, after his victory was certified by the party’s NWC.
The PDP national leadership described the former Transcorp Plc boss as an accomplished professional that “possesses all the leadership qualities desired by Ndi Anambra in their collective quest to rescue their state from misrule and reposition her for greater productivity.”
But despite the clarification by PDP NWC, the Uba brothers and other party faithful insist that the election of Ozigbo did not conform with the provisions of the party’s constitution. They added that Ozigbo’s emergence was also riddled with fraud.
First runner-up in the primary held at the Dora Akunyili Women’s Development Centre, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, alleged that the organisers of the primary continued to manipulate the delegate list by adding and replacing names at will. Okonkwo, who is also the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, regretted that even after juggling names, the collation of the votes failed to explain the whereabouts of 17 votes, insisting that delegates and votes cast for him were cleverly left out to produce a thin margin of four votes between his 58 votes and Ozigbo’s 62.
Apart from Okonkwo, the disenfranchised statutory and adhoc delegates are said to be spoiling for legal war as they claim that the governorship primary was conducted in breach of Article 25 (1) of the PDP constitution.
The litigants maintain that Article 25(1) listed the categories of officers to take part in a state congress, stressing that the PDP Constitution, which established the State Congress as an organ of the party also stipulated voting at the party’s primary election as the basic constitutional mandate.
The disenfranchised delegates are citing the Supreme Court judgement delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour in the matter of Uzodinma vs. Izunaso in 2011, as the basis of their assurance that the party may not field a candidate for the November 6 governorship poll.
In that landmark judgment, the then Supreme Court Justice declared: “The court will never allow a political party to act arbitrarily or as it likes. Political parties must obey their own constitution, and once this is done, there would be orderliness, and this would be good for politics and the country.”
Self-acclaimed political godfather of Anambra State and member of PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Chris Uba, has sworn to fight the case to the highest court in the land, even as he insists that his elder brother, Ugochukwu, is the authentic governorship candidate of the party.
What this means is that PDP would be explaining in court why it had to use super delegates instead of statutory and adhoc delegates, two-thirds majority of which would have elected the party’s governorship flag bearer for the election.
In APGA, although the party chose the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, as its flagbearer, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) picked holes in the process that threw him up. INEC, through its Commissioner for Voter Education and Mobilisation, Festus Okoye, said that like the Zamfara State APC example, it did not meet the 21-days mandatory notification of the commission before it conducted the primary.
Add to that, a splinter group headed by Jude Okoye, sacked the national chairman, Victor Oye, for failing to fulfil the INEC regulation and thereby endangering the party’s participation in the governorship election. The Okoye faction later organised another primary in which a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, emerged as winner.
As if that is not enough, the Chief Edozie Njoku faction that had been in court against Oye, obtained a Court order that recognised its right to conduct a governorship primary and elected Njoku as its flagbearer. He told reporters that it is his faction that would enable APGA feature in the election, when the court finally delivers judgment in his case against Oye’s emergence as national chairman.
As things stand in Anambra State today, if the election holds tomorrow, Nze Akachukwu Sullivan Nwankpo stands out as the most likely candidate to succeed the outgoing governor, Chief Willie Obiano in office. The emergence of Nwankpo, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Assistant on Technical Matters, as the ADC governorship candidate, sounds as a rehash of the rejected stone that became the pillar.
Nwankpo, who recently accepted the party’s nomination of Mr. Law Ughamadu, a pastor, as his running mate, moved swiftly from being a victim of APGA’s internal bickering to a beneficiary of the crises in the three mega parties-APGA, APC and PDP.
The former Presidential aide had various times belonged to PDP and APGA. Ever since he emerged as ADC governorship candidate, the party has come alive in Anambra State as the possible alternative to APGA.
National Chairman of the party, Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, was also a founding member of APGA. He left when leaders of the party imposed Mr. Peter Obi as the party’s governorship candidate in 2003. Now, with the trouble in APGA, a lot of disaffected members who are kicking against the tradition of imposition have decided to identify with ADC en masse.
Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo commended Nwosu for being steadfast, saying that his insistence that things should be done the proper way has paved way for Anambra people to have a governor of their making. In line with Nwankpo’s campaign promise, billboards bearing such messages as ‘Anambra Families First’, ‘Give the Voice Back to the People’ are springing up at strategic junctions by volunteer sponsors.
In his acceptance speech shortly after his nomination, the ADC candidate said he was manipulated out of APGA after Governor Obiano had publicly praised him for being a good man.
Nwankpo stated: “When I started this journey there are people who never believed my name will appear on the ballot paper. “Some didn’t believe it because they felt I have no money, some didn’t believe it because they felt I have no connection, and some didn’t believe it because they believe they can steal it. Those who stole it in the first party I went to, will see they have stolen nothing.”
He assured that after being sworn in as governor, he would restore family values and protect the life and property of every person in the state by encouraging good neighbourliness and harmonious inter-personal relationships.
Will protest votes and Nwankpo/Ughamadu’s goodwill help ADC supplant APGA and win the Anambra State governorship seat come November 6? The journey is just beginning.