Anambra 2017: Andy Uba shows strength in APC, Ngige considers contest
• Obiano Fights Obi’s Shadows
• PDP Defectors Invade UPP
The politics of 2019 as it pertains to Southeast geopolitical zone have started casting some dense shadows on Anambra State. In fact, much of what is playing out within the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), United Progressive Party (UPP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), could be traced to strategic considerations for 2019.
Conversely, if it were in police circles, what happened in Uga, Aguata local government council of Anambra State, penultimate Friday, could be described as a show of force. But, being a political event, it stood out as a potent trigger to what is sure to manifest within the fold of APC in the days leading to the November 18, 2017 Anambra State governorship election.
The boldness with which the Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial district in the Senate, Dr. Andy Uba, unleashed logistic support for APC chieftains in the 21 council areas and three zonal offices in the state, showed the steps of a man sure of his destination.
While other aspirants are said to be waiting for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to publish the notice for the governorship election, Uba stepped up his game in a show of strength that reinforces the belief in some circles that he had been tipped to fly the APC flag for the November 18 electoral combat.
By the schedule of activities for the gubernatorial election, INEC is supposed to release notice for the election by July 21, while electioneering commences by August 18. Governorship primaries are expected to begin around July 22 and last till September 2, 2017.
Escalating Intrigues In APC
Although some voices of complaint arose shortly after the show of strength by Senator Uba, who voluntarily vacated the governorship seat after seventeen days stint in 2007, it is debatable if he flouted any regulation or beat INEC’s gun.
But what became clear is that immediately the report of what happened in Uga filtered into the state capital and around the state, it exacerbated the intrigues surrounding who gets the APC ticket, as well as, what is stylishly referred to as November 18 eviction from Agu Awka.
What Senator Uba demonstrated was his capacity to prosecute the November 18 governorship with vim and vigour. By donating 30 buses to different cadres of the party functionaries ranging from chairmen of 21 local council, three senatorial zonal chairmen and six members of the State Working Committee, he was overtly challenging the foot soldiers not to see logistics as a possible excuse for failure.
While promising to extend the strategic gesture to chairmen of the 326 wards of the state, the Senator said he has all it takes to deny Governor Willie Obiano a second term mandate. In 2007, former governor Peter Obi, who was elected on the platform of APGA, was impeached from office on very controversial circumstances.
During the period of his contrived ouster, INEC under Professor Maurice Iwu, conducted the governorship election, which threw up Dr. Andy Uba as governor. Although Obi’s deputy, Dame Virgy Etiaba, was in office, she could not throw any weight about to stay the course of the election.
Apart from challenging his wrongful impeachment, Obi did not participate in the governorship poll. But immediately his impeachment was set aside, he approached the Apex Court to interpret Section 180 of the Constitution, regarding the tenure span of a state governor.
The case was decided in favour of Obi as the then Chief Justice, Kastina Alu, who read the ruling declared that INEC should not have conducted another election when the incumbent was yet to complete his four year-mandate.
It should be noted also, that it was based on the extant provisions of the constitution that necessitated the staggering of the governorship poll in Anambra State, following Obi’s successful prosecution of his election petition against erstwhile Governor Chris Ngige in 2006.
But barely one year into his reclaimed mandate, Obi was impeached and another governorship poll held without cognizance of his four year tenure. It was the general perception in Anambra that Obi’s impeachment, as well as, the attempted abduction of Ngige were ostensibly undertaken by Senator Uba’s younger brother, Chief Chris Uba, to pave way for the eventual emergence of Andy.
In the forthcoming governorship poll, Senator Uba is set again to confront another APGA incumbent governor and he believes that his political pedigree, means and following, supporters, admirers, patrons etc etc would turn the tide in his favour.
Senator Uba did not hide his ire towards the recalcitrance of his younger brother, which were erroneously being traced to him by virtue of the fact that he was at that time the Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Domestic Affairs.
That political quarrel and distaste for the unconventional political style of his younger brother, was said to be one of the major reasons why the Senator defected to APC, because while he found himself within the Senator Ahmed Makarfi camp of divided PDP, his sibling, who is also the self acclaimed political godfather of Anambra State, is entrenched in the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction.
But although Andy is confident that his defection to the national ruling party affords him freedom from his brother’s vitriolic politics, his recent gestures of financial support to APC in the state has thrown up new challenges. First, during the party membership registration, the Senator assisted the party with N30m to facilitate the registration process at the various wards in the state.
However, shortly after he made the recent donation of vehicles, general apprehension arose among the more than twelve governorship aspirants in the party. While some of his rivals recalled how President Muhammadu Buhari had hinted that Uba was being looked upon to hold Anambra for the party, others wondered whether the governorship ticket was for the highest bidder.
But the astounding response to Uba’s donation of campaign vehicles to APC chieftains was the about face by the Minister of Employment and Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige. Ngige stormed the venue of meeting between the Jim Nwobodo committee and aspirants in Abuja, which was three days after the Senator’s gesture.
Announcing his decision to participate in the November 18 poll, Ngige qualified his ambition with the condition that “if the powers that be” allows him. The issue of whether the 2010 governorship candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which is one of the legacy parties in the formation of APC, would contest the governorship or not has been a subject of intense speculations.
Sources disclosed to The Guardian that it was in anticipation that Ngige might try to seek the governorship ticket again, that former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, gave his tacit support to Senator Uba. In addition to Tinubu’s support, former President Obasanjo is said to have also expressed support for Andy Uba.
Having learnt of Obasanjo’s support for Uba’s governorship ambition, Tinubu was said to have thrown his weight behind the Senator in a bid to requite Ngige’s solidarity with Malam Nasir El-Rufai, who spearheaded opposition to Asiwaju’s ambition to be General Buhari’s running mate in 2015.
And as if to prove those associating him with lack of steady loyalty right, by joining the governorship, Ngige unwittingly abandoned his long term supporter and ally, Chief Barth Nwibe. It is generally held in Anambra that the bulk of APC party structure rests on Ngige and that whoever he supports was sure of clinching the ticket.
However, with Ngige’s change of mind, party stalwarts have started kicking, saying that the party leadership in the state did not reflect the fact that new entrants increased the stature of the party. Although Senator Uba did not query the composition of the State Working Committee before dispensing with his largesse, concerns are being raised as to the competence of the state chairman, Mr. Emeka Ezeibe, to lead APC to victory.
Apart from being accused of ineptitude and lack of political exposure, the chairman is also alleged to be Ngige’s lackey, imposed on the party to do just the bidding of the minister. On his part, Ngige is accused of planting Ezeibe as party chairman from Anambra South to pave way for his eventual emergence as flag bearer.
Exacerbation Of Zoning
Unwittingly, fears of possible emergence of Andy Uba as APC flag bearer and re-entry of Ngige into the governorship contest have exacerbated the zoning controversy. While supporters of Ngige claim the fact that state party chairman hails from Anambra South predicates that the governorship cannot come from same zone, others query why Anambra Central, from where Ngige hails should not provide party chairman since it was the only zone that has produced governors for more than two terms.
Supporters of Dr. Chike Obidigbo, who is believed to enjoy the backing of some elements in the Presidency, have maintained that the only way for APC to strike a winning strategy was to select the governorship candidate from Anambra north, where the incumbent hails.
Both Anambra Union led by former Minister of Health, Prof. Alphonsus B. C. Nwosu and Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo, Anambra State chapter, have in recent times endorsed zoning as basis of governorship selection to stem the tide of violence and waste of resources.
Anambra Ohanaeze chairman, Okeke Ogene, explained that since zoning has worked for Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo by throwing Chief Nnia Nwodo as President General, it should be adopted by states to ensure that money bags and political jobbers do not buy up elective offices for their private economic and social aggrandizement.
Against that contentious background, or perhaps, in a calculated bid to excise Ngige’s governorship ambition, some party stalwarts in the state are said to be working on a formular that would leave the field open for only governorship aspirants from Anambra North and South.
But while Anambra north parades two prominent aspirants, Dr. Obidigbo and the member representing Anambra west in the House of Representatives, Dr. Tony Nwoye as the incumbent, Obiano; Anambra South has Senator Uba, Chief Nwibe and Dr. George Muoghalu. Proponents of the approach believe it is the best way to manage the governorship primary to avert bitter recriminations.
Yet raising the zoning narrative to a new level, Governor Willie Obiano, played host to traditional rulers in the state for a two-day seminar, where the endorsement of zoning as strategic road map for curbing political rascality, would be discussed. The programme, which spanned June 14 and 15, 2017, had the theme: ‘Political Power Zoning for Peaceful Elections and Inclusive Democracy in Anambra State.’ Declared open by Governor Obiano, former special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on inter-party dialogue, Senator Ben Ndi Obi, delivered the keynote address, even as Prof Onuorah Nwuneli moderated the session.
Chairman of the seminar committee, Igwe S.I. Okafor (Ogene Okpuno), said the seminar became necessary in view of the forthcoming election in the state, noting that traditional rulers were in the best position to create platforms to make elections free, fair, credible, rancour-free and peaceful.
“The confused and riotous atmosphere experienced during election wil be eliminated with the introduction and practice of political power zoning,” he added.
But condemning the attempt to politicize the traditional institution, Publicity Secretary of United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr. Uchenna Amaku, said Governor Obiano has continued to drive the state down a precipice of political distemper, stressing that instigating the traditional rulers to zone political offices was the height of political desperation.
Amaku contended that while it is the responsibility of political parties to adopt strategies to enhance their electoral chances, asking traditional rulers to champion zoning is not only in bad taste, but likely to engender social disharmony and inter-communal hate in the state.
“Governor Obiano pushed the House of Assembly to peg a levy on political billboards at N9m, now the governor has decided to shift the goalpost once again in a game he is competing by using revered traditional rulers to choose where the governor of Anambra should come from. This amounts to a civilian coup against the right of the people to elect their leaders. It is an affront against democracy,” the UPP publicity secretary declared.
PDP Defectors Ruffle UPP
FOLLOWING speculations that the Apex Court may not rule on the leadership tussle between Makarfi and Sheriff Camps before nominations and primaries, PDP faithful with eyes on the governorship have relocated to the United Progressive Party (UPP).
First to join UPP was the member that represented Awka North in the House of Representatives, Chudi Offodile, Awulu Awka. Offodile, who is the author of ‘The Politics Of Biafra and Future Of Nigeria’, has declared his intention to contest the governorship, stressing that he was coming to ventilate the Biafran ideology through the UPP.
But although Offodile joined UPP without fanfare, the entry of immediate past Minister of Aviation and former Corps Marshal of Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mazi Osita Chidoka let off a storm in the state. Chidoka’s “formal declaration to and obtaining of party card of UPP, last Wednesday at Obinagu village, attracted a lot of political bigwigs within and outside the state.
Sources within Obosi confided in The Guardian that Chidoka’s entry into UPP was a prelude to the eventual mass defection of other PDP stalwarts from the Makarfi camp in the Southeast if the apex court ruling goes in favour of Sheriff.
Perhaps, on account of the speculated entry of others, including the Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, former President of Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim, as well as, the loud ceremonies that attended Chidoka’s entry, there are subdued murmurs within UPP, suggesting that the PDP big men may encounter great difficulties in their takeover bid.
There is nothing to suggest that the national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie has entered into a political deal with the PDP defectors, but the bold entry of former Aviation minister has set tongues wagging.
Eminent stalwart of the party and convener of Movement for the Voice of Democracy (MOVERS), Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, told Chidoka that he cannot join UPP just for the sake of contesting governorship, stressing that PDP members, particularly from the Southeast have not humbled themselves to purge their politics of pomposity and belief that money is the main key to political leadership.
Okonkwo stated: “When you come with PDP rascality, you are not a disciplined politician. And this is what we must weed out in politics; if Igbo will have a rethink and to now focus our politics on how to derive the greater good and mobilization for national agenda.”
Obiano Fights Obi’s Shadows
There seems to be a string of legal frustrations for the incumbent governor, particularly the intra-party dispute between claimants of the authentic National Working Committee of APGA. Chief Victor Oye, who was brought by former national chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh, was suspended by some members of the NWC, and in his place selected former National chairman of ALGON, Ozo Okafor.
Before Okafor died under mysterious circumstances, Oye made bold effort to quash his suspension in court. While the case lasted, the same members of NWC selected former Imo State governorship candidate of the party, Chief Martin Agbaso. Sensing that Governor Obiano may move in with his power of incumbency to disorganise the plot, the NWC members, who are believed to be loyal to Umeh, went to court and secured a mandamus compelling INEC and the Police to recognise and deal with Agbaso as the authentic national chairman of APGA.
However, in a bid to ensure that the APGA crisis does not rub off negatively on his second term ambition, Obiano was said to have sent an emissary to meet with Agbaso, ostensibly to arrange a meeting where issues could be resolved amicably, to avert any harm to APGA’s electoral fortunes.
But Obiano’s emissary was said to have received reliable information from sources in Owerri that his principal should perish the idea of reaching out to Agbaso, stressing that the new national chairman was working in cahoots with former Governor Obi.
Armed with that information, Governor Obiano hired prominent Lagos Lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, Ken Mozie and eight other senior advocates to vacate the order of mandamus against INEC and Police. With a huge budget for the legal pugilism, Governor Obiano has decided to be his own man and fight the political battle of his life.
Although the long adjournment of Oye’s case puts APGA and Obiano’s candidacy on a cliff hanger, sources in Awka told The Guardian that the governor was very optimistic that he would run with APGA, stressing that the governor is banking on the possibility that APC would not get it right in selecting its flag bearer.
As the date for primary election draws near, it would be seen who actually would make it to the finish line, before the crunchy governorship in November 18. How far would APC electoral henchmen go in Anambra State?
Who would be the ultimate godfather, between Tinubu, Obasanjo and the cabal? Will Obasanjo’s tongue-in-cheek endorsement of Igbo presidency in 2019 presage a good outing for APC in Anambra State or would Ndi Anambra show that they are in control of their political destiny?