• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Ubah and the syndrome of anointed candidates

Ubah and the syndrome of anointed candidates

Every politically conscious citizen of Anambra State knows that Senator Ifeanyi Ubah is seized with the ambition of becoming the next governor of the state in 2026. What no one seems to know is what developmental ideas Ubah, who presently represents Anambra South Zone in the Senate, has about governing the state. Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, who often looks vacuous, has not professed any socio-economic vision for the state. If indeed the controversial politician has sat down to think through a development framework, he has not shared it with the public.

But whereas the Nnewi-born citizen has been wanting on governance perspectives, he has shown notable capacity in political advertisement and mobilisation.

Ubah’s restlessness over the first citizen’s job, which he had failed to clinch in two previous attempts, has seen him busy coupling and inaugurating all sorts of support groups across the state. Whether as a strategy to make their task easier or as an article of their faith in the rule of power, the senator’s managers and canvassers tell you unapologetically that their principal is the anointed governor come 2026. This posturing is amplified by the loud logos of the senator on social media. If the basis of the boast is unclear to anyone, then it means you’re unable to factor in Ubah’s recent photo opportunity with the President, Bola Tinubu, during a visit to Aso Rock Villa on April 3, 2024; his strategic closeness to Senate President Godswill Akpabio; and APC Chairman Umar Ganduje’s personal attendance of Ubah’s empowerment scheme at Nnewi on March 18, 2024.

But this card of the heir apparent, supposedly an ace, is an explosive game, often with damning consequences. By its very nature, the concept of a superior candidate to whom other aspirants, nilly-willy, must bow generates backlash. It ends up stigmatising the perceived beneficiary.

The history of the Anambra State governorship is decidedly that of progressive politics rooted in social justice. This is so, given Christianity’s influence on Anambra society. Added to a cosmopolitan outlook, the principle of fundamental freedoms is widely shared. Consequently, the arrogance of the anointed candidate is resented and resisted as much. Subscribers to this palace mentality have mostly lived to regret their effrontery.

In the originally planned transition from the Babangida dictatorship, slated to end in October 1990, Ben Ossy Umunna, chosen by a group of power brokers, failed to gain traction before the race even began. Despite the visibility afforded by his position as Chairman of Rangers Football Club, he was a non-starter. For the extended transition program’s gubernatorial election in December 1991, popular opinion favoured Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife. However, a more disruptive element of Nigerian politics emerged with the candidacy of Mr. Okey Odunze in the Social Democratic Party primaries. The selection process was marred by corruption, resulting in suspiciously easy victories for Odunze. Believing their victory to be inevitable despite widespread public disapproval, Odunze and his supporters became complacent. The political elite intervened to avert this crisis, and through the National Electoral Commission, disqualified the compromised candidates. Ezeife was subsequently elected governor.

The power speculators would appear to be more daring at each new turn, but so would the resolve of Ndi Anambra not to surrender.

As the transition programme of the general Sani Abacha junta appeared to gather steam in 1997, Joy Emodi, a member of the Congress of National Consensus (CNC), was touted as having been endorsed by Aso Rock to become the next governor of Anambra State. Mercifully, it was said that the deal had been done and sealed by the wife of the ruling general, not the dictator himself. And the candidate herself began to parade as governor in waiting. The first indication of rejection of the plot came in the form of trivialization. A rush of female aspirants was suddenly noticed in the five political parties of the era. And the explanation was none other than that Aso Rock vowed a female governor for Anambra State without personalisation, so it could be any of them. However, the bluff was more firmly called with the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), a major political party with powerful sponsors at the Villa, pressing on in the governorship race. And the female governor-in-waiting never became a deputy governor to this day.

At the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1998/1999, the PDP was the dominant party in Anambra State. But the loss of power in the 2003 election started with the attempted imposition of a gubernatorial candidate in 1998. Professor Alphonsus Nwosu was believed to have an understanding with the state leadership of the party to emerge as the governorship candidate. The perception instigated a crisis in the party, which itself produced the climate for Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju to bulldoze his way as the eventual candidate. Predictably, the contradictions of Mbadinuju’s stormy ascension snowballed into the quest for a political alternative in 2003.

Months before the April 19, 2003 election, it was common knowledge that APGA’s Peter Obi would win in a fair contest. It was also common knowledge that a band of power speculators headed by a so-called godfather were hellbent to foist their choice as governor. APGA won handsomely but was declared a loser in a show of national shame called the 2003 general election. The Obasanjo presidency deployed a climate of intimidation to suppress outcries of electoral fraud, oblivious to the limits of temporal power. With the invocation of divine intervention, however, things fell apart in the usurper leadership, allowing the successful prosecution of Obi’s election petition.

Restoration of the APGA-Peter Obi mandate was a watershed in Anambra’s, nay, Nigeria’s political history. It was a feat that shocked the rice and sauce wing of Nigeria’s political class, which had made a religion of incumbency politics. Although humiliated, these traditional career politicians were not about to give up. They fought back first with the jungle impeachment of Peter Obi in November 2006, and then with Andy Ubah’s wretched, 17-day governorship, as well as subsequent attempts to reverse the Supreme Court judgement of June 15, 2007 upholding Obi’s four-year tenure. Ndi Anambra were united in resisting Ubah’s imposition on them as governor because the very idea was insulting, enslaving, and anti-development. Conceding Ubah’s power delusions would have amounted to a betrayal of their Christian civilization. Still not learning the lesson that power comes from God, not from presidential connection or transactional politics, Ubah got no sympathy when his purported nomination as APC candidate in Anambra’s 2022 governorship poll was invalidated by the courts.

Senator Ifeanyi Ubah seems unmindful of the mood of Ndi Anambra. The people are clamouring for the continuation of the Soludo administration’s modernization, infrastructure development, and frugal spending. While acknowledging Ubah’s right to run for governorship, many wonder what he intends to bring to the table. Displaying little enthusiasm for discussing development issues, how would he engage Ndi Anambra in governance conversations? Some question what assures that his past actions will not be taken into account in the governorship race. Surely, scrutinising the backgrounds of aspiring leaders is a legitimate public exercise. The controversies arising from his business deals with two prominent kinsmen are in the public domain and quite revealing. Additionally, there is the unresolved issue of the Nnewi Diocesan Cathedral building, which was abandoned for many years despite Ubah’s grand promises. A leader should be someone who can be trusted, not someone who habitually breaks agreements. Analysts believe that Ubah’s governorship ambition is caught between a compulsive desire for electoral candidacy and the pursuit of power through anointed candidates.

Indeed, the first shot against the plot of the crown prince may have been fired from the APC itself. In the New Telegraph story of January 10, 2024, with the caption “We’ll Not Allow Strangers to Destabilise Anambra APC’s George Moghalu, the man who shattered Senator Andy Ubah’s triumphalist toga of the ultimate candidate, hinted at the attitude of old brigade members towards new members of the party, such as Ifeanyi Ubah, clinching the governorship ticket. To the question, “The 2025 governorship election in Anambra State is more than two years away, but some people who recently joined the party (APC) are being tipped as candidates already,” Moghalu responded: “That’s what I call desperation. Someone just left his or her former party to join another party just for the selfish purpose of getting the ticket. What that implies is that those people have not come into the APC to help build the party but just to contest elections.”

If the sensitivity towards spoilsport candidates can be so much felt at the party level, the consciousness promises to graduate into a movement with the Anambra voting public in the main election.