It would take more than political sagacity and understanding of political arithmetic to predict the outcome of the forthcoming Anambra State gubernatorial polls, which comes up in three weeks’ time.
Careful observation shows that forces at play are adopting curious strategies, even as some shadowy non-state actors raise apprehension that the ballot might not hold.
As the big parties deploy their strengths, one big question on the lips of watchers of the build-up to the November 6, 2021 ballot, is whether the Anambra electorate has a mind of their own and are able to make independent choices.
The changing times have elicited changing approach by the contending parties. From offshore campaigns to ‘snatching’ of political actors from opposing platforms, the perceived elephantine candidates are currently entangled in serious battles. They are raking muck and splashing it on their rivals.
As attacks and counter-attacks by the frontline candidates continue, especially against the background of operations of the so-called ‘unknown gunmen,’ suggestion for a slight postponement of the election date was mooted during a recent meeting between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Abuja.
The fact that most of the parties, aside the incumbent All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), are yet to flag off their electioneering campaign, barely three weeks to the election, adds to the sense of despondency in the state.
But for the insistence of other stakeholders, the suggestion for the postponement of the governorship by at least two weeks would have been considered by INEC during an emergency meeting with IPAC.
It was gathered that the National Chairman of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, had, after explaining the implications of the orgy of violence and unexplained killings in the state on voter turn out, pleaded with INEC to consider a slight shift in date to sit out the return of normalcy.
But the YPP and other parties were said to have mounted vigorous arguments in opposition to the suggested postponement, stressing that the election should be allowed to go on so as not to provide room for a constitutional impasse.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, after commiserating with the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Obiora Agbasimelo, who was kidnapped, disclosed how he personally engaged the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police Force for urgent and further intervention.
Yakubu, however, observed the sloppy approach by the parties to the election, even as he lamented that only five political parties had uploaded particulars of their voting agents as of Friday, October 8, 2021.
He urged the remaining 13 political parties that were yet to comply with the commission’s guidelines to endeavour to upload the required details in the next two weeks, as stipulated in the commission’s guideline for the Anambra State Governorship Election.
Yakubu warned that failure by any party to upload the details of the voting agents on the commission’s portal would entail the disqualification of the party’s agents from participating in the voting process.
The INEC chairman, who briefed the party leaders on his commission’s preparedness to conduct the election as well as security concerns, commended the party leaders for finding time to attend the emergency meeting at short notice.
IPAC chairman, Dr. Leonard Nzenwa, who responded on behalf of other members, thanked the INEC chairman for the commission’s assurances and readiness to go ahead with the Anambra governorship poll.
He said it was gratifying to note that INEC was determined to employ biometric verification of voters, alongside the electronic transmission of results, but threatened that his party, African Action Congress (AAC), could only continue participating in the election if the security of life was guaranteed in Anambra State.
MANY Anambra citizens believe that forces both from within and outside the state were very much engaged in the search for Governor Willie Obiano’s successor. Being a very strategic state in the Southeast, Anambra is seen as being key to the overall voter behaviour of the zone in 2023. Where the Federal Government stands remains a recurring question in the state as various implements and strategies of power are being furled here and there.
A former President of Nigeria Civil Service Union, Comrade Fidelis Edeh, told The Guardian that “one needs to see what plays out in Enugu State Congress today, to predict how Anambra will go.”
In Enugu State, there was a sudden crossover of politicians from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC, in a manner similar to what continues to play out in Anambra, which culminated in the defection of Deputy Governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke, from APGA to the governing party.
Based on the volume and networth of defectors from APGA and PDP to APC ever since Senator Andy Uba emerged the party’s standard-bearer, amid controversies over the governorship primary, political actors have been wondering in muffled tones where the federal might stands. Could it be that the Federal Government is favouring APC against APGA or that Governor Obiano is involved in an intricate web of conspiracy to either sacrifice Prof. Chukwuma Soludo or undermine Uba’s candidacy?
While the power play among the incumbents continue, APC supporters were thrown into confusion when Uba was dragged to court over the school certificate he uploaded on his nomination form to INEC for the election.
Joined in the suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/1211/2021, filed on October 8, 2021 at Federal High Court, Abuja, as respondents are APC, INEC and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC).
The plaintiff/applicants in the suit averred in the affidavit in support of their claims that the Form EC9 submitted by the APC and Uba (1st and 2nd respondents) to the 3rd respondent (INEC) was riddled with false information.
“The Senior School Certificate Examination May/June 1974 Statement of Result purportedly issued by Union Secondary School, Awkunanaw, Enugu, Enugu State, under the Enugu State School System and allegedly bearing the name of Uba Emmanuel Nnamdi with Candidate Number 05465/089, is false.
“For instance, in 1974 when Uba left secondary school, the WAEC (4th respondent) did not conduct Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), ‘but only commenced the conduct of Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) sometimes in 1988 under the 6-3-3-4 System of Education adopted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria,’ the affidavit in support of the Originating Summons stated.
The plaintiff/applicant also argued that WAEC conducted General Certificate of Education (GCE) in May/June 1974 up to 1978, stressing that those facts were at variance with the Senior School Certificate Examination May/June 1974 Statement of Result purportedly issued by Union Secondary School, Awkunanaw, Enugu, Enugu State under the Enugu State School System that was allegedly submitted by Ubah.
Picking further holes on the school certificate, the applicants pointed out that whilst Uba falsely claimed that the examination was conducted under the Enugu State school system in 1974, Enugu State was created in 1991.
They added: “Enugu State was not yet created in 1974 when the 2nd Respondent (Uba) left secondary school, but was created in August 1991. The purported Senior School Certificate Examination May/June 1974 Statement of Result purportedly issued by Union Secondary School Awkunanaw, Enugu, Enugu State under the Enugu State School System and allegedly submitted by Uba to INEC in Form EC9 as qualifying him to contest the 2021 Anambra State gubernatorial election is false.”
The plaintiff/applicant, who is a political party taking part in the November 6 poll, therefore prayed the court to determine whether WAEC (4th respondent) or any other examination body conducted Senior School Certificate Examination in May/June 1974 at Union Secondary School, Awkunanaw, Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria for Uba with Examination Candidate Number 05465/089, as envisaged by Section 182(1)(j) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and Section 3195) & (6) of the amended Electoral Act, 2011.
Also, the plaintiff prayed the court to determine “whether the 4th Respondent (WAEC) through Union Secondary School, Awkunanaw, Enugu, Enugu State under the Enugu State School System, validly issued a Senior School Certificate Examination May/June 1974 to Uba Emmanuel Nnamdi with candidate number 05465/089.”
They also beseeched the court to declare as follows: “That the Senior School Certificate Examination, May/June 1974 Statement of Result allegedly issued by WAEC through Union Secondary School, Awkunanaw, Enugu, Enugu State to Uba Emmanuel Nnamdi with candidate number 05465/089 submitted by the 1st and 2nd Respondents to the 3rd Respondent for the 2021 Anambra State gubernatorial election is false.
“A declaration that the West African Examination Council (WAEC) did not conduct Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) in May/June 1974, but conducted the General Certificate of Education (GCE) in May/June 1974.”
While asking the court for an order disqualifying Uba from contesting the 2021 Anambra State gubernatorial election for allegedly giving false information to INEC, the party further sought a declaration that the 1st and 2nd Respondent’s act of allegedly “submitting to the 3rd Respondent, a Senior School Certificate Examination, May/June 1974 Statement of Result purportedly issued by the 4th Respondent through Union Secondary School, Awkunanaw, Enugu, Enugu State to Uba Emmanuel Nnamdi …constitutes giving false information to the 3rd Respondent and a breach of Section 182(1)(j) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended as well as Section 31(6) of the Electoral Act as amended.”
Despite the unceasing celebration of Uba’s political prowess that has enabled the cross over of many elected and prominent political stakeholders to APC, the loud of silence by the members of the federal cabinet accentuates the suspense surrounding the preparedness of APC to win the November 6 poll.
Obiano’s Soludo Project
THE moment INEC released its guidelines for the Anambra State governorship ballot, pundits expressed the belief that the election was easily Prof. Soludo’s to lose, given that Governor Obiano did not leave anyone in doubt that the former CBN governor was his preferred candidate.
But clouds of doubt began to gather around the feasibility of the governor’s project, when his wife, Osodieme Ebele Obiano, was said not to be favourably disposed to having the former top banker succeed her husband.
Names, including that of Chief Stanley Uzokwu, were bandied as the possible alternative being pushed by Mrs Obiano to fly the APGA flag. However, as aspirants purchased nomination forms and Stanley’s name was not among them, it was believed that fakery attended the postulations.
But matters took a turn for the worse when after the APGA governorship primary, a certain Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji emerged as a rival candidate from a splinter faction, which announced not only the suspension of Soludo but also the dissolution of the APGA Board of Trustees (BoT).
Although many, particularly Ozonkpu Victor Oye, dismissed the Umeoji antics as a storm in the teacup, the party hierarchy and Governor Obiano became apprehensive when the straying Umeoji travelled to Birnin Kudu in Jigawa State and resurfaced in Maitama office of INEC with a State High Court judgment declaring him the validly nominated candidate as well as an order mandating the commission to recognise Umeoji as the APGA governorship candidate.
As Umeoji generated headlines with his giant killer profile, information began to circulate, disclosing that Governor Obiano entered into a deal with APC and Presidency’s political playmakers in 2017. Part of the deal was said to be the effect that the governor would not try to implant a successor if he was supported to win a second term.
Yet, even as the claims continue to make the rounds, sources disclosed that after a huge contribution to President Buhari’s second term in 2019, Governor Obiano struck a strong bond of friendship with the President.
To add to the perceived newfound love by Obiano with the Presidency, Soludo was appointed into the President’s economic advisory team, which was also said to have been enhanced by the demise of the former Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari.
With all the news flying about the purported understanding with Obiano, the appeal by Umeoji against the Court of Appeal ruling that quashed his listing by INEC and upheld Soludo’s nomination raised fresh apprehensions that danger was not yet averted.
To compound matters, at the height of high profile killings in Anambra State, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, told state House Correspondents that the Federal Government would not mind considering a state of emergency in the state to protect democratic order.
Obiano’s supporters went to town with the narrative that the APC administration wants to capture Anambra State by fire and fury, even as a chieftain of APC, Osita Okechukwu, used the opportunity of the verbal exchanges between Anambra State government and Malami to remind APGA to explore the possibility of fusing into APC.
Stung by the ominous implications of a state of emergency on his determined effort to deliver Soludo as his successor, Obiano rushed to the Presidential Villa, where after conferring with President Buhari, he announced with relief that nothing of such was on the cards.
The ease with which the governor secured an audience with President Buhari threw up fresh suggestions that he (Obiano) might be in a buxom political relationship regarding the Anambra State governorship.
To push the narrative in his favour further, the Supreme Court dismissed Umeoji’s appeal and affirmed Soludo’s candidacy, even as the court warned politicians to desist from forum shopping, an observation some commentators saw as an indirect rebuke of APC chieftains funding Umeoji’s legal theatrics.
However, the apex court ruling did not shut all windows to the existing disputation with APGA, because the matter between Ozonkpu Victor Oye and Chief Edozie Njoku, whom Jude Okeke faction claimed was suspended from office as the authentic national chairman of the party, was left hanging.
Both Oye and Njoku factions celebrated the judgment of the Supreme Court, ascribing same to victory for their cause and vindication for their belief that truth would prevail.
In fact, despite last Thursday’s judgment of the Supreme Court, three different factions of the party are still laying claim to its leadership. While the Oye faction has been savouring the judgment, the Jude Okeke faction remains resolute on installing Umeoji as governor, while the Edozie Njoku was still routing for Nicholas Ukachukwu’s candidature.
Each of the factions, The Guardian gathered, was not hiding its intention to work against APGA in the forthcoming election if it eventually schemed out.
As such, just like the Oye faction, both the Okeke and Njoku factions were also happy with the judgment of the apex court.
Reacting to the judgment, the factional National Publicity Secretary of Okeke-led APGA, Ikechukwu Chukwunyere, argued that the Supreme Court did not nullify Okeke’s chairmanship position. “What the Supreme Court nullified was the judgment of the Kano Court of Appeal on the basis that issues of political party leadership tussle is non-justiciable,” he said.
He noted that the said Kano Court of Appeal did not make Okeke chairman, stressing that the Supreme Court did not nullify the NEC meeting decision that appointed him (Okeke) as the chairman of APGA.
“The Supreme Court declared that issues of political party squabbles are non-justiciable hence did not declare Victor Oye as Chairman of APGA and neither did the Court of Appeal, Kano Division.
“The Deputy National Chairman of the Party, Alhaji Rabiu Aliyu has conceded to the chairmanship of the party of Chief Jude Okeke in line with the decision of the Supreme Court that internal party squabbles of political parties are non-justiciable and can only be resolved by political parties.
“The removal of Edozie Njoku from office by NEC of our party still remains valid as this issue of his removal was never decided by the court and still remains unchallenged,” Chukwunyere said.
Similarly, the camp of Njoku, which was joined by the Supreme Court as an interested party, contended that Njoku remains the authentic national chairman of APGA since the Jigawa State High Court judgment, which declared Okeke as the national chairman, but which the Supreme Court dismissed, was about a case instituted against his faction rather than Oye.
According to Njoku, Oye was not a party to the judgment of the Jigawa State High court, arguing that Okeke sued him and got an order removing him as the national chairman of APGA and went to Jigawa State High court to legalise his action, stressing that the Supreme Court verdict has vindicated him.
He disclosed that with the present position, the Justice A.R. Mohammed-led Federal High Court Abuja, which was mandated to conclude his application for the Order of Mandamus against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seeking to recognise him as the authentic national chairman could now move ahead and conclude the matter.
Edozie said the judge made it clear to the parties to return to the status quo, an interpretation he contended places him as the authentic national chairman, pending the completion of action compelling INEC to recognise him.
The confusion generated by the claims and counter-claims by the three factions has turned ADC into a beautiful bride, as there were indications that the three factions of APGA were good to go with ADC on agreed terms.
The earlier pronouncement by INEC that it did not recognise the emergence of Soludo candidacy was said to have pushed the leadership of APGA into adopting a ‘Plan B’, which was to support the ADC candidate, Akachukwu Nwankpo.
A chieftain of APGA in the state, who did not want his name mentioned, confirmed that talks were ongoing between a faction APGA and ADC, stressing that the only grey area between the two parties was that APGA wants 60:40 ratio formula while ADC insists on 50:50 equitable share of appointive and elective positions.
The impeccable source contended: “APGA appears to want to redeem its image by associating with ADC, a party formed and sponsored by the former APGA founder, Chief Ralphs OkeyNwosu, who was seemingly robbed in the 2002 governorship primary won by the new entrant, Peter Obi, who eventually became the governor.
“Nwosu has not been compensated, awarded a contract or given party patronage as one of the founders and major sponsor of APGA from the onset. Obiano was foisted on APGA; so he does not know the antecedents of APGA and the party’s benefactors.
“These wrongs meted to Nwosu and Akankpo appear to be weighing or holding APGA down which sees the ADC as part of its cleansing.
PDP’s Offshore Campaign
SHRUGGING off the loss of some of its elected representatives to APC, PDP took its campaign to Asaba, Delta State, where Anambra indigenes resident there endorsed its standard-bearer, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo. Ozigbo used the opportunity to declare his plans to explore bilateral cooperation between Delta and Anambra if elected governor.
The PDP governorship hopeful, who participated in a successful town hall event hosted by a support group, Friends of Val Ozigbo, in the Delta State capital, noted that Anambra and Delta States are dependent on each other for economic reasons, assuring that he would expand bilateral relations to maximise their economic potential.
In a statement by Aziza Uko, Media Aide to Ozigbo, said the event, which was held at Crescendo Events Centre, had over 600 in attendance, including dignitaries like a federal lawmaker, Hon Obinna Chidoka; a former deputy governorship candidate in Anambra, Lady Chidi Onyemelukwe; and several directors in the State PDP Campaign Council for 2021.
While endorsing Ozigbo, the Chairman of the Igbo Forum in Asaba, Chief Chinedu Obodo, said that Ozigbo, the immediate past President and Group CEO of Transcorp Plc, had excelled everywhere he worked and is best positioned to replicate the same in Anambra State.
Chief Obodo was quoted as saying, “We singled out Valentine Ozigbo from other candidates because we need a new Anambra and the PDP candidate has shown enough to provide it.
“This election provides us with the opportunity to tell ourselves the bitter truth that we need somebody with proven integrity to lead us to the Promised Land, and that person is Mr Valentine Ozigbo.
“The welfare of Igbo people lies in Anambra State. If Anambra gets it right, Igboland will experience transformation. Ndi Igbo in Delta State wants Ozigbo to take over the helm of affairs because his Ka Anambra Chawapu Manifesto has the keys to unlock the potentials of the state.”
PDP has been struck by defections of some party big wigs immediately after the party’s primary, starting with the current ZLP flagbearer, Okonkwo, federal lawmakers like Senator Stella Oduah, Chris Azubogu among others.
Some eminent members of the party had mooted the idea of reaching out to the ZLP candidate to see how the PDP traditional voting bloc could be preserve, even as others expressed reservations that such a move would bear positive fruits three weeks to the election.
Violence, Finger Pointing
Obiano caused a stir when he absented the Southeast Governors’ Forum meeting with the region’s religious and political stakeholders over the deteriorating security situation in the zone, especially in Anambra State.
The governor accused an unnamed state governor of fuelling the insecurity in Anambra State, alleging that those sponsoring the killings were doing so in an effort to snatch the state. Obiano further declared that he did not want to sit at a table or in the same room with those who were causing a crisis in his state.
Many who heard him claimed that the Anambra governor’s accusing fingers were trained towards his southern neighbour that belongs to APC, just as the APC governorship standard bearer, Uba, accused the governor of ineptitude, alleging that the situation simply overwhelmed the capacity of the governor to govern.
Joining the fray, the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), tasked APC and APGA to come clean on the issue of who was sponsoring the pockets of violence and killings.
In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Afam Dozie Ofomata, the ZLP Campaign Council noted that “after a critical review of the rising insecurity situation in Anambra State, (we) demand that the embattled APGA and APC should come clean on their roles on the upsurge of violence ahead of the November 6 governorship election.
“The ZLP notes that intelligence, even in the public space, places a burden on APGA and APC, as political parties, to speak up regarding their alleged connections with the wave of attacks ahead of polls.”
ZLP stated that being in control of the apparatus of power at the state and federal levels, APGA and APC “bear the onus to explain their roles in the dire situation in the state, particularly since it became clear that the electoral tide is not flowing in their favour.
“It is obvious that APGA and APC are unsettled with uncompromising consensus by NdiAnambra to elect the ZLP candidate, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, whose popularity has continued to soar as the coalition flag bearer for the November election, given his practical credentials to rescue the state from the current misrule of APGA.”
Count Us Out
Against the backdrop of insinuations that it held a clandestine meeting with the APC standard bearer to create fear and panic so as to elicit wide-scale voter apathy, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) said it has no business with politicians.
IPOB, while denying reports that it was working cahoots with the candidate of APC, Senator Andy Uba, to tilt the balance of power in favour of the party, flatly denied any such arrangement.
In a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, IPOB declared: “We have no interest in Anambra State governorship election. We didn’t have any discussion with Andy Uba on the Anambra election.
“Andy Uba and his likes should leave IPOB out of their politics. Again, Andy Uba could not have possibly accessed the leadership of IPOB. He should therefore stop using IPOB to get cheap popularity.”
With the spate of things in Anambra State, it is not possible to gauge the mood of voters regarding the direction of their preferred candidates, but it is apparent that unless wise counsel prevails, the election if it holds, will return a winner by a very narrow margin and scant voter turnout.
The religious adherence of the people to the stay at home order by IPOB points to the possibility that no election mantra may scare away potential voters. That reality must have informed Senator Ifeanyi Ubah’s call on the authorities to review the case of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who is due to appear in court on October 21, 2021, exactly two weeks to the poll.