Barring unforseen circumstances, on November 6, 2021, Anambra State citizens will go to the polls to elect a new governor, and this is just five months away. Despite the short time remaining for the exercise to take place, there seems to be some hitches to overcome before a smooth election can be conducted.
As at June 15, less than one month for the political parties to conduct and forward the names of their candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the various political parties in the race, especially the most notable among them do not seem to be prepared for the conduct of the primaries at all. This is as a result of political squabbles dogging its leadership, which may have emanated from action of the political parties.
Peoples Democratic Party
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is one of the prominent political parties in the state. It first clinched power in the state in 1999, and again in 2003, but was removed by the court in 2006, with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) replacing it. Several attempts by the party to return to the Anambra State Government House has been unfruitful, not because it’s popularity in the state has waned, but because there have always been infighting among its members every election year.
During the buildup to the forthcoming 2021 governorship election, there have been unbelievable synergy among the party’s bigwigs, including the aspirants, to the level that political pundits believe that if the cooperation is sustained, the party will not fail to clinch the governorship seat in the state. To make matters good for the PDP, the state leadership of the party, led by Mr Ndubuisi Nwobu has tried to remain neutral in the affairs of the party, despite the many camps created by governorship aspirants of the party and the temptation to endorse one of them.
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But the same thing being feared by political watchers came calling recently with the rumoured sacking of the Nwobu-led executive committee by an Abuja High Court. This was quickly debunked by Nwobu at a press conference he addressed. Nwobu said: “Our attention has been drawn to a court judgement delivered via zoom, which purportedly sacked this executive. We want to tell you there is nothing of such, and it can not stand. I want to tell you that there was another judgment on 24 May 2018, by one Justice AO Musa of the FCT High Court. That judgement clearly stated the process in which we emerged, and it stated that we fulfilled all the processes, and we were duly elected. We have taken notice of the efforts of political merchants and in a short while, those who are bent on being fifth columnists will hear from us.”
Despite the attacks on its facilities, the INEC has shown that it is willing to ensure smooth conduct of election in Anambra State. Though the commission recognises that attacks on its facilities have undoubtedly become a national emergency which may alter its plans for the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, it has assured all stakeholders that the election would hold. Though the commission noted that so far, not less than 10 of the commission’s facilities in Akwa Ibom, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Anambra have been attacked by arsonists, this would not hamper the conduct of the election. The INEC had in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Festus Okoye said two stores housing electoral materials, 376 generating sets and seven utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux) were completely burnt in the coordinated attack on its state headquarters in Awka. He said: “In what is a major blow to our preparations for the governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021, two stores housing electoral materials were burnt down
He stated that so far, there have been no leadership problems in the state chapter of the party, adding that Mr Ejike Oguebego, who was referred to as the new chairman by the Abuja High Court judgement said to have been delivered via Zoom, has been loyal to the leadership of the party.
Just days after he debunked the judgement, a new chairman of the party resumed work in a separate party secretariat in Awka, just a few meters from the one occupied by Nwobu. The factional chairman who turned out to be, Mr Chukwudi Umeaba while addressing journalists quickly announced the annulment of the election of a three-man Adhoc delegates held by the Nwobu-led faction, which was concluded a day after. He said: “Based on the above (his reinstatement), I, Hon. Chukwudi Umeaba, the acting chairman caretaker committee of PDP, Anambra State working in concert with the terms of reference and the powers of my office will make pronouncements. I hereby suspend the ward congress of 9th June to elect a three-man Adhoc committee for the governorship primary.
I will contact the NEC of our great party to give me a new date for the ward congresses that will elect the three-man Adhoc committee for the governorship primary.” He urged the party members to keep calm and look forward to new developments that his leadership will bring out to ensure growth of the party in the state. He insisted that the primary election will go on as planned, and will not be truncated by the change in leadership.
The development has since given the impression that the party may have returned to its old rancorous ways which has cost it elections in the past. Political analysts say the fight, which has just started may lead to a crisis that will engulf the party, polarizing it, to the benefit of other political parties. The recent move a source said is the handiwork of the acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics, Chief Chris Uba. The source said: “He is working for his brother, Ugochukwu Uba. He wants to give the ticket of the party to his brother. It is his stock in trade to divide the party for his personal gain, but this time, his major aim is to use the leadership of the party to favour his brother, Ugochukwu.”
All Progressives Grand Alliance
The PDP is not the only party in crisis, the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is also experiencing turbulence. In previous election, APGA is known to have benefited from the division among PDP members, so just when some of its (APGA) members were already rejoicing that their party would take advantage of the crisis in the PDP to win the election, it has now emerged that all is not well with APGA.
It started weekend when a story of the disqualification of some of its top governorship aspirants filtered in. The party later confirmed the rumours, announcing the disqualification of five of its governorship aspirants. A press release signed by Barr Ifeanyi Mbaeri, the National Organizing Secretary of the party confirmed it. The aspirants disqualified are: Hon Chuma Umeoji, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, Cater Dike Umeh, Hon Nonso Smart and Ozoka Odera Ifeanyi. Meanwhile, those cleared are; Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Damian Okolo, ThankGod Ibe and Ezenwankwo Okwudili.
Even though the party gave reasons for its action, it was believed that the disqualification was a ploy to clear the way for Prof Soludo, while those cleared were only left to give the party’s primary election the semblance of a contest, as the aspirants cleared alongside Prof. Soludo are not known to pose any threat to him. While Uzoka was disqualified for being less than 18 months old in the party, being a registered voter in Abuja instead of Anambra and not also receiving waiver nor applying for it, Nonso Okafor was disqualified for insorbordination, and that such action casts doubt on his person and loyalty as an aspirant in the party.
Carter Dike was disqualified for the same reason as Okafor, and also for being unsuitable to be a candidate of the party, while Umeoji who is known to be Prof Soludo’s main challenger was accused of inconsistent age declaration, doubtful financial status of his nominators and being insorbordinate to the party. Another aspirant, Nwankpo was also disqualified for being less than 18 months in the party and also not applying for, or obtaining waiver from the party.
The party had advised that any of the aspirants who feels aggrieved can appeal their disqualification, and the supporters of the disqualified aspirants have already begun making noise about the action of the party, but no one envisaged the twist that may follow it. On Tuesday, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APGA convened and announced the sack of the National Chairman of the party, Dr Victor Oye and another factional National Chairman, Edozie Njoku. In their place, Chief Jude Okeke was named as a replacement. The NEC gave the reason for their sack as involving themselves in anti-party activities.
In what gave a hint to the reason for their action, the NEC also suspended a member of the House of Representatives, Hon Chinedu Obidigwe who is known to be a staunch supporter of Prof Soludo. It also annulled the disqualification of the five governorship aspirants, while calling on members of the public to discountenance their disqualification.
Reacting to the news of his removal, Chief Victor Oye has denied that he was sacked by the party, saying that those who announced his sack were not known to the party. Oye who spoke to THISDAY on phone said, “It is what we see in every primary election, so no shaking. If this were in a civilized country, they will be arrested and jailed. There is a procedure and you have to give INEC a notice to be able to convene a NEC. I don’t know them. These people do not exist and I’m surprised that people are giving it publicity. What they did is media sack. Those people do not exist and they should be dealt with,” Oye said. Be that as it may, those who are conversant with political party administration already believe that the rancour in the party is big enough to cost it the governorship seat.
All Progressives Congress
Though there are no squabbles in the party currently, the party’s members are hopeful that they may use the unity currently being experienced in the party to win the governorship contest in the state.
But a top ranking member of the party who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity said the party is not also spared of squabbles. The source said, “Right now, there is also suspicion by some aspirants of the party that a a certain aspirant has been pencilled down by the powers that be, for the ticket of the party. Senator Andy Uba’s name has come up repeatedly as being favoured for the ticket of the party by the hierarchy of the party. This has not gone down well with other aspirants, but so far, they have been able to manage it well,” the source said.
The proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has recently announced through its leader, Nnamdi Kanu that the group would not support the conduct of the governorship election in the state. Though the group did not state how it would ensure the election does not hold, but the recent attacks on police facilities and INEC offices many believe may be the handiwork of the group and one of its tactics to ensure that the election does not hold.
Recently, there was an attack on the headquarters of the commission in the state. Even though security agencies applauded themselves for successfully repealing the attackers, a warehouse which contains hundreds of power generating sets belonging to the commission was razed down, while operational vehicles and the collation centre were also completely burnt down. Some of these may form part of the challenges for the election. But a governorship aspirant of the APGA and former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo in a previous interview with THISDAY said he has no fears that despite such attacks, that the election would hold.
He said that even in far North-east where there is a situation akin to war as occasioned by banditry and insurgency, elections have severally been held without hitches. He added that the fact that Anambra governorship election is a lone election even makes it better and would give the electoral commission the opportunity to fully focus on ensuring security by demanding adequate security from the Federal Government to ensure that the election was prosecuted successfully.
Meanwhile, despite the attacks on its facilities, the INEC has shown that it is willing to ensure smooth conduct of election in Anambra State. Though the commission recognises that attacks on its facilities have undoubtedly become a national emergency which may alter its plans for the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, it has assured all stakeholders that the election would hold.
Though the commission noted that so far, not less than 10 of the commission’s facilities in Akwa Ibom, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Anambra have been attacked by arsonists, this would not hamper the conduct of the election. The INEC had in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Festus Okoye said two stores housing electoral materials, 376 generating sets and seven utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux) were completely burnt in the coordinated attack on its state headquarters in Awka. He said: “In what is a major blow to our preparations for the governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021, two stores housing electoral materials were burnt down.
“New and old (but serviceable) electric generating machines numbering 376 for all the Electoral Wards and the extra numbers for backup were completely burnt. The electric generators were recently relocated from the Local Government Areas (LGAs) to the State HQ in the belief that it is more secure than the LGA offices. Similarly, as part of the Commission’s proactive measures to ensure the success of the governorship election later this year, about 50% of the non-sensitive materials required for the November 6, 2021 governorship election already delivered to the state have also been lost in the fire. In addition, seven utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux) were burnt,” Mr Okoye said.
But speaking last Wednesday, the chairman of the commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu INEC was not only preparing strongly for the Anambra election, but also for Ekiti and Osun States, whose dates of election he has already announced. The INEC said: “Looking to the near future, the Commission is preparing to conduct the remaining off-season end of tenure elections ahead of the 2023 general election. Already, activities listed in the timetable for the Anambra State Governorship election are being implemented, as well as those of the FCT Area Council election holding on 12th February 2022.
“In the sequence of off-season elections, the Ekiti and Osun State Governorship elections are holding next year. In keeping with our policy of announcing the dates of elections in advance to enable early and effective preparations by all concerned, the Commission has approved that the Ekiti State Governorship election will hold on Saturday 18th June 2022 while the Osun State Governorship election will hold one month later on Saturday 16th July 2022. The detailed Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the two elections have been uploaded on the Commission’s website and social media platforms. We implore political parties and aspirants to ensure rancour-free primaries and thereafter conduct peaceful electioneering campaigns.”
With such strong assurances, there is renewed hope about the success of the forthcoming polls.Speaking with THISDAY, a political analyst, Mr Benard Ndueze expressed hope that the Anambra election would be concluded without hitches if the INEC and the Federal Government have the determination to conduct it. He said: “In 2017, didn’t these separatists swear that there will not be election? Was there an election or not? The good thing is that it is an election that will be conducted in just one state,so the INEC has the power to demand for security logistics that could help them achieve the best in their job. The worst that can happen is that there will be voters’ aparthy, but if that happens, it will still not prevent a winner emerging. The person who polls the highest vote from among the few voters will still be declared the winner, so long as the spread that fulfils the constitutional requirement is there,” Ndueze said.
As the date of the election draws close, it is expected that before July, the political parties may have been done with their primary elections, and the real candidates standing for each of the political parties would be clearer. In PDP, 16 aspirants have been cleared by the party to slug it out at the primary election which holds on June 26. The All Progressives Congress had earlier announced June 26 too as it’s date for the governorship primary. The party has about 10 notable names running to.clinch it’s ticket. In APGA, the party earlier choose June 23 for the primaries, which would happen between Soludo and four other aspirants. But owing to the squabbles, a faction of the party has fixed July, 1, and has agreed to conduct the election for all aspirants who paid for the form. Only time will tell how the election would go.
David-Chyddy Eleke writes that with just five months to the Anambra State governorship election, there seem to be increasing controversies dogging the process, both on the part of the participating political parties and the electoral umpire