I have nothing against the number of aspirants that spring up in Anambra as soon as a governorship election is around the corner. With so many rich people, who do not know what to do with their money, it is only to be expected. After all, it is believed that the same scenario would play out if and whenever the rest of Nigeria decides to zone the presidency to the South-East. So, there is no harm in getting a foretaste of that future from the Anambra of today. After all, what does Billionaire A have, which makes him want to aspire for public office, that Billionaire B does not have?
In a state where many private individuals and businessmen command larger convoys than the state governor and have more police details attached to them than the sitting governor can ever dream of, it is not uncommon to think you can also purchase the governorship. Afterall, money is talking! And, sincerely speaking, it is not even a strictly Anambra phenomenon.
However, there seems to be a curse that goes with gubernatorial elections in Anambra State. But, lest Anambrarians conclude that their state is cursed, I’d prefer to refer to the situation as a jinx. So, Anambra is not cursed, it’s just jinxed.
That is the only meaning one can seem to make of the dizzying political drama that has trailed virtually all the major parties, as they seek to choose their respective flagbearers for November’s governorship election in the state.
Not even the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), is spared this madness. Having lost Imo, with Gov. Rochas Okorocha, joining the newly-registered All Progressives Congress (APC), APGA is back to its original one state (Anambra), where it is now desperately trying to retain power. Incidentally, this is also a state that the PDP desperately wants to capture back into its fold – having first governed it through Chinwoke Mbadinuju and the controversial Chris Ngige tenure. Of course, Ngige has told everyone who cares to listen that he has unfinished business at the Awka Government House.
Of course, all these are genuine and legitimate ambitions. What does not, however, appear too legitimate is the way the different camps are going about choosing their eventual flagbearers.
On this score, it would appear, all the parties are being dogged by old demons. There are too many rich and influential people in the race, who just can’t understand why they cannot use money or contacts to swing things in their favour – irrespective of what the ground norm says.
APGA, which only just managed to paper over the huge cracks that had almost torn the party to shreds a few weeks ago cannot sincerely go to sleep, on account of having chosen a candidate – in the person of Chief Willie Obiano. For one, two of its frontline aspirants are unhappy. Former transport minister, Prince John Emeka, withdrew from the contest on the ground that the process was deliberately skewed to favour Obiano.
Hon. Uche Ekwunife, who has since congratulated Obiano, continued to complain that she was never allowed to see the list of accredited delegates to even know where and how to canvass for votes. Of course, a few days to the primaries, the likes of former Central Bank governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, had been disqualified in rather controversial circumstances.
In the APC, a certain Godwin Ezeemo, has refused to accept the choice of Ngige as concensus candidate. The APC, following in the tradition of the ACN (and the AD and UPN before it), had decided to bypass the unnecessary cost of forcing aspirants to run election-before-election primaries by picking a consensus candidate. It settled for Ngige, whom many, both within and outside the party, believe can possible give APC its best shot at the governorship. But Ezeemo is crying foul and imposition.
He is insisting on having a proper primary conducted. Incidentally, he is alleged to have held his conference at the same hotel where Ngige was held hostage in a toilet by Chris Uba’s goons in those troubled days of his aborted governorship. Luckily, I cannot confirm this right now, and would, therefore, not make any conclusions. I also encourage you, dear readers, not to draw any conclusions either. Or link anything to anybody, sponsoring anybody to destabilise anybody. All we should know for now is that, like the APGA, the APC is also having a few sleepless nights over its choice of flagbearer.
In the PDP, the case is even worse. In fact, something tells me the party is working its way back to the Amaechi/Omehia situation, whereby it hoisted Celestine Omehia, as the party’s candidate in Rivers State, even when every legal and circumstantial evidence indicated that Rotimi Amaechi won the ticket. That was how the Supreme Court ultimately over-ruled PDP to declare Amaechi governor, even when he did not, as it were, contest the election.
Today, PDP has two governorship candidates in Anambra – Tony Nwoye and Andy Uba. The fact that the party leadership, under Bamanga Tukur, has chosen to recognise Nwoye as its flagbearer does not in any way change the fact.
Of course, I don’t want readers to get mischievous and begin to think that PDP is in a mess today because it does not want to make a crony of former president Obasanjo governor. Or to think that the people, said to be behind this alleged position, are dropping the name of President Goodluck Jonathan. That is not true. What is true, however, is that the last time the PDP tried something like this, it burnt its own fingers. But then, being a party that is given to self-destructing, burning its own fingers may not be something the PDP would take seriously. But that’s just by the way.
Yes, the party has the power to present its candidates for elections but the laws governing elections in the country also specify how such candidates must emerge. For instance, the process of their emergence must be superintended over by the relevant party executive committee (in this instant, the state exco) and with the electoral commission, observing the proceedings. But we should make haste to add that an exco, in this context, is not an exco unless it is recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The problem now is: While Tony Nwoye is by every stretch of the laws qualified to fly the PDP flag, INEC is of the opinion that the faction of the PDP that produced him is not the recognised faction – that probably explains why INEC refused to attend the Nwoye group primaries supervised by Gov. Ibrahim Shema of Katsina. Andy Uba, on the other hand, was produced by the faction recognised by INEC but which the PDP leadership is not happy with.
Of course, the PDP national headquarters has the right to say it does not recognise the Ejike Oguebego state exco or that it is only ready to work with the Ken Emeakayi group but it must first of all vacate the court order, endorsing the former group. Unfortunately, like everything PDP, the party ignored the court order and went ahead to back the Emeakayi group to organise a parallel congress, the result of which it has now upheld.
But it is only instructive that Dr. Obinna Uzor (Gocuz), a lawyer and businessman, who was one of the frontrunners for the party’s ticket and who appears to have sympathy for the faction backed by the party leaders in Abuja, still pulled out of the Emeakayi congress on the ground that it was illegal to go on in disregard of the subsisting court order. But his appeared to have been a lone voice that would come back to haunt the party later.
So, for now, PDP is again working towards the 2007 Rivers situation. It could even be worse. It could land itself in the Imo situation whereby the party would totally lose out. In Imo, INEC and the law stopped PDP from substituting Ifeanyi Araraume, who should legally have been the PDP candidate but the party stubbornly refused to back him. Instead, it subtly encouraged its members and supporters to vote for Ikedi Ohakim, then of the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA). In the end, Ohakim won and the PDP lost Imo, even though Ohakim would later dump the PPA and return to PDP.
Now, I see a situation whereby PDP would lose Anambra again. But unlike in Imo where they could do deal with PPA’s Ohakim, the chances are thin in Anambra. There cannot be any deal with APGA – which would be sounding its own death knell if it agrees to any such deal.
For one, Anambra is the last and only base of APGA. So, selling its soul to PDP in Anambra would effectively mark the end of the party. Besides APGA, there is the Ngige and his APC. But while Ngige remains very formidable, his APC is not the type of party PDP would risk, going into any cross-carpet deal with. The Tinubu gang is too smart for the PDP. In the event of any such deal to grab power, the APC is bound to ultimately outsmart the PDP. So, APC is out of it.
That would then leave Labour Party’s Ifeanyi Ubah. Incidentally, there is not a great deal that any PDP candidate can sincerely claim to have over the Capital Oil boss. For one, of all the governorship hopefuls, Ifeanyi Ubah is believed to have the biggest presence so far. While the others are busy, scheming for their party’s tickets, believing that campaign would only start after the ticket may have been secured, Ifeanyi Ubah, who left APGA a few months ago, has since gone to the grassroots, covering every town and village in the state and even reaching out to Anambrarians outside the state.
Whatever the young businessman lacks in political experience and brinkmanship, he has made up for with his enthusiasm and commitment. Those who are dismissing him today might actually be doing so at their own peril. We are waiting. And watching. And this is even as APGA is gearing up for the battle of its life.