The eighteen registered political parties are bidding for the Anambra state November 6 governorship polls but the leading parties are still confronted with legal tussles to settle the issue of who picks their ticket.
The three major political parties in the state – All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- are enmeshed in legal intra party legal battles, which have remained a source of worry to all including the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Thus the INEC at a stakeholders meeting in Awka last week, cried to the judiciary “to expedite action towards resolving the litigations to avoid confusing them and the electorate.”
As at press time, APGA has three persons, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji and Mr Edozie Njoku, laying claims to the party ticket.
Similarly, PDP produced two candidates, Mr Valentine Ozigbo and Senator Ugochukwu Uba, while APC has only one candidate, Senator Andy Uba, whose emergence is still generating concerns among the party faithful. All are in legal tussles which probably may not end before the poll.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) is waxing strong in the state in terms of membership strength. This could be why the party had many governorship aspirants in the 2021 primary poll. 14 persons bought its expression of interest and nomination forms. They were all cleared and participated on the APC direct primary held on June 26, 2021 where Senator Andy Uba emerged as standard flag bearer.
However, 11 out of the 14 aspirants including Chief George Moghalu, the Managing Director/CEO of the National Inland Waterways Authority, alleged that the poll never held and should be postponed to a later date.
Senator Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, equally supported the calls for cancellation of the primary, insisting that he was disfranchised because it was not held anywhere in the state.
A committee setup to broker peace in the party, however, upheld the primary election conducted by Ogun state Governor, Dapo Abiodun. The committee equally tried to reach out to other aggrieved members of the party.
The state chairman of the party, Chief Basil Ejidike and his exco also upheld the outcome of the poll and urged all to support Uba for victoryof APC on the November poll. Despite this, two of the aggrieved governorship aspirants, George Moghalu and Maxwell Okoye have instituted legal actions challenging its outcome and candidate.
Three other aspirants, Dr Chidozie Nwankwo, Chief Ben. Etiaba and Geoffrey Onyejegbu dumped the party to other political parties. Nwankwo is currently the candidate of Action Alliance Congress (AAC), Etiaba is flying the ticket of Action Alliance (AA), while Onyejegbu’s new political platform is still unconfirmed.
A major stakeholder in the Anambra politics who would not want to be named in print said “Whether the litigations would affect the chances of Uba and APC in the main election is left to the voters because both leadership of the party and INEC recognise the candidate.”
He went down memory lane, “Besides, APC experienced similar crisis in the 2013 poll when its stakeholders announced Ngige as candidate. The development was kicked against by a major financier of the party, Mr Godwin Ezeemo, who insisted that primary must be held.
“A direct primary was eventually held and Ngige won. Not satisfied over the outcome of the party primary, Ezeemo left the party to fly the ticket of Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA).
Obiano won the election, Tony Nwoye of PDP came second, Ngige/APC came third, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah of Labour Party (fourth), and Ezeemo of PPA (fifth).
“On 2017 guber poll, Hon. Tony Nwoye became the party candidate. Some aspirants also kicked against it and reportedly fought against the interest of the party. At the end, Obiano won, Tony Nwoye of APC came second despite the crisis. Political observers believed that the main challenge confronting the party is acceptance not who flies its ticket.
“Hence it failed to produce a House of Assembly member in 2019 poll compared to 2011 when one of its merger, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) won a Senatorial seat (Senator Ngige of Anambra Central), two House of Representative seats and 8 House of Assembly seats”, he said.
Since 2006 the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost grip of power in Anambra state, it has not been able to go into a governorship poll without factions and internal bickering.
Perhaps, an exception was the 2007 governorship election purportedly won by Senator Andy Uba as its candidate.
Some PDP chieftains in Anambra said, “The fight to control the sole of the party was among the chief reasons it lost Anambra 2010 guber poll where Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo was its candidate. It is usually between the executives loyal to Chief Chris Uba, Anambra State acclaimed political godfather and the structure supported by the National leadership of the party.Interestingly, it comes to play mostly during election time.”
They recalled that in Anambra state 2013 poll, precisely, PDP had two candidates, Tony Nwoye and Senator Andy Uba. Nwoye won in a primary conducted by the National leadership of the party which accorded recognision to Ken. Emeakayi led faction. Sen. Uba won under Chief Ejike Oguebego state leadership.
“Although the national leadership disowned Oguebego group, it was recognised by the INEC due to court judgement obtained. However, few days to the election, the national leadership of PDP/Emeakayi triumphed. Nwoye/PDP came second in the election despite the internal distractions.
“In 2017 governorship poll, Oseloka Obaze won in the primary conducted by the National leadership of the party, and was presented with the ticket and flag. This, however, sparked crisis in the party. Some of the contestants in the primary like Ifeanyi Ubah (now a senator), Hon. Anayo Nnebe and others dumped the party to APGA. The National Leadership of the party slashed Emeakayi with four years suspension.
“In a reaction, Emeakayi and his supporters, in a rally on October, a month to the gubernatorial poll, also dumped the party and adopted Obiano of APGA for the election. At last, PDP candidate came third position in the poll.”
Fast forward to the 2021 governorship poll which some.people said “appeared not to be different from the party’s history.
Few days to the primary, Chris Uba’s loyalists (Chukwudi Umeaba faction) got judgement that sacked the state leadership of the party led by Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu. The National leadership stepped in, and conducted the election using automatic delegates.
Mr Valentine Ozigbo, a business mogul, won the primary organised by PDP National leadership, while Senator Ugochukwu Uba, Chris’s elder brother, got the faction’s ticket. Interestingly, both bought forms from the same Uche Secondus led national leadership. INEC cited litigation as why it was yet to publish either of its candidate.
Ozigbo had won some of the legal battles just as the state party executive had been restored by an Abuja division of Court of Appeal. Uba had also won some mostly at High Court level. The hall is now in the court of INEC.
Ozigbo said he “has also reached out to other 15 contestants in the primary, yet two, Chief Obiora Okonkwo and Dr Godwin Maduka have gone to fly other party tickets.” Okonkwo is currently the candidate of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) while Maduka is holding the flag of Accord party (A).
PDP loyalists agreed that “the party remains a party to be reckoned with in the state. They have two out of three senators in the state, eight out of eleven House of Rep. seats, and six house of Assembly members. Court would definitely determine its final candidate.”
APGASince 2006, APGA and its standard flag bearer, Mr Peter Obi, retired PDP in Anambra politics through Supreme Court, it has been penetrating the nooks and crannies of the state. It boasts of existing structures across 326 electoral wards and 21 Council Areas where the party members lead as transition committee (TC) Chairmen and Councilors.
A member of the party who volunteered information on the strength of APGA in Anambra said, “Some if not the whole Traditional rulers, Traditional Prime Ministers (Onowu), Youth leaders and the President Generals (PG) of the 181 communities are allegedly loyal or sympathisers to the party because they were not only certified by the government in power but still enjoying certain favour from them.”
For 30 legislative seats in the state House of Assembly, APGA has twenty-four members while PDP has the remaining six.
Consequent upon her membership structure and popularity, APGA recorded about 20 governorship aspirants for 2021 poll. But only nine managed to purchase its expression of interest and nomination forms. Four were eventually cleared to contest the primary poll under Chief Victor Ike Oye led National leadership.
As the APGA guber primary under Oye was ongoing on June 23, a faction which emerged on June 15 with Chief Jude Okeke as its Acting National Chairman, sacked one of the aspirants, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo. Okeke, Blueprint learnt, has been a National Vice Chairman (South) of Edozie Njoku led faction. It sacked both Njoku and Ike Oye, as well as suspended some of the party chieftains.
Okeke’s leadership “further announced postponement of the APGA primary to July 1, extended date for sales of forms, and cleared the five governorship aspirants previously disqualified by Oye. They were Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, Hon. Nonso Smart Okafor, Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, Hon. Carter Dike Umeh, and Ozoka Odera Ifeanyi. Soludo, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) later won the primary conducted on June 23 by Oye faction. Umeoji, member currently representing Aguata Federal Constituency at National Assembly, on July 1, became the flag bearer of Okeke’s faction.
June 30, Njoku, in another APGA primary emerged unopposed candidate of his faction. The Imo state born politician, who had been playing active partisan politics in Anambra state for about 20 years, had been in court with Oye’s leadership. He was National Vice Chairman (South) under Oye until May 31, 2019 when he emerged as National Chairman in a parallel National Convention held at Owerri Imo state.
Oye was reelected for a second term as a National Chairman in another one conducted same day at Awka. Bar. Mic Adams became Acting National Chairman of a third faction of APGA same year.
However, only Oye, Okeke and Njoku leaderships produced candidates for the 2021 Anambra state gubernatorial poll. Adams had none. “In a twist of fate, INEC), which although still retains Oye’s name as National Chairman of APGA on its websites, published Umeoji’s name as APGA guber candidate, citing court judgement. INEC, towards the August 6 deadline for nomination, also accepted the nomination forms filled by APGA with Umeoji as candidate and Prof. Lilian Orogbu as running-mate.
Umeoji/Okeke faction is being favoured by a judgement obtained from Jigawa High Court which Tuesday August 10 was upturned by Kano state division of Court of Appeal.
Stakeholders are of the view that “it’s now incumbent on INEC to accept and publish Soludo as the party candidate or not. Some APGA chieftains including officials, government appointees and legislators are said to be supporting Umeoji secretly.”
Observers of the unfolding events said Oye faction is backed by governor Obiano, Senator Victor Umeh (former National Chairman of the party) and others. Njoku is allegedly rooting for Prince Nickolas Ukachukwu, a former House of Representative member as a replacement to himself if he had succeeded in getting INEC publish his name. There are other litigations confronting the party across Federal and state High courts and courts of Appeal nationwide.
Obiano, Board of Trustees Chairman/National leader of APGA, in an attempt to reconcile the warring factions, inaugurated a reconciliatory committee headed by Senator Umeh. The committee last week succeeded in reconciling Adams faction to work with them.
The Umeh Committee claimed that it had “reconciled all the contestants and other aggrieved members of the party with an exception of Umeoji and Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo. Umeh said, “My committee was confident that it will reconcile with Umeoji and others, and go in for the election with Soludo as candidate of APGA. He affirmed that Nwankpo would likely return after the poll.
Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, a former aide to erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan, is currently the standard bearer of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) for the November 6 poll.
Similar events in APGA
Umeh’s belief that APGA would later triumph in the forthcoming election with Soludo as its candidate lies with the court. Soludo’s fate is likened to pasts events in the party.
For instance, the founder of APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie was replaced by Umeh after legal tussles. As the party battled to produce a governorship candidate in Anambra state for 2013, an Enugu state High Court sacked Umeh.
Umeh and his faction went to Enugu Division of Court of Appeal. Maxi Okwu emerged as Interim National Chairman of APGA loyal to the then governor Peter Obi.
Okwu was subsequently elected as National Chairman on April 2013. Another faction led by the governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state teamed up with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to form the All Progressive Congress (APC).
As Umeh’s mandate was restored by Court of Appeal, Obi abandoned Okwu. The governor’s faction settled for Obiano as candidate while Okwu elected Chief Chike Obidigbo as candidate.
All attempts to upturn Obi/Obiano/Umeh faction became fruitless at the Supreme Court. APGA/Obiano further won the November 16, 2013 governorship poll after defeating the governorship candidates of PDP, Hon. Tony Nwoye, Senator Chris Ngige of APC, and twenty others.
Then in 2016 when Obiano was nursing an ambition for a second term, Chief Victor Ike Oye emerged as the party National Chairman. Then on October 5, 2016, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party sacked him with the emergence of Ozo Nwabueze Okafor as the Acting National Chairman.
Okafor, a former National Vice Chairman (South East) of APGA, won and lost some legal battles affirming his leadership as the authentic National Chairman of APGA until his death on January 8, 2017, aged 47. On January 30, 2017, the faction appointed Ochudo Martin Agbaso, a political heavyweight in Imo state, to replace the departed Okafor.
The faction produced Chief Igwebuike Hygers as governorship candidate to rock horn with gov. Willie Obiano over the soul of APGA for Anambra state November 18, 2017 poll. Obiano was recognised by INEC during the governorship election.
He subsequently defeated Tony Nwoye of APC, Oseloka Obaze of PDP and 34 candidates of other political parties. On July 2018, the Supreme Court reaffirmed Oye as the National Chairman of APGA.