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Anambra 2021: APGA, PDP and the infamous path to familiar game of rancour

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The whistle for the November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State is fully blown with ward congresses dusted by political Parties and primary elections already ongoing. What is new however is that the two leading political Parties in the contest, APGA and PDP are, again towing the ignoble but familiar paths of litigations, rancour and factionalizations which has become quadrennial ritual. Consequently, pundits fear that all these would inevitably bring about parallel congresses that could throw-up factional candidates writes correspondents; SUNDAY ELOM and PHIL OKOSE.

APGA, PDP: Curse of familiar tactics, litigations and contentious leadership tussles?

Since the return of democracy in 1999, the first most prominent feature of Anambra politics is that it has always been a transactional game of who gets what? When and at what cost? This started with the emergence of ChinwokeMbadinuju as Governor of the State in 1999 and the subsequent antsy by the self-acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics, Chief Chris Uba (popularly known as Eselu) to control his then political godson-governor and majoirty of the resources accruable to the State from the centre.

Contesting under the PDP, Mbadinuju with the supports and cash-handy syndrome of his acclaimed political god-fathers had defeated his then APP opponent, Prof. ABC Nwosu to become the first democratically-elected governor of the State. But a combination of factors such as his fall-out with his estranged godfathers and a high-wire Abuja favouritism politics combined to deny him a second term in 2003 as the State he managed was in a very bad shape with upaid wages to workers and schools shut down following an industrial action that lasted for over a year.

The then acclaimed godfather, Chris Uba later opted for the current Labour and Productivity Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige to replace Mbadinuju who had come under severe criticisms following the rots he tolerated in the system- preferring to service his self-acclaimed millionaire benefactors. Barely two months after being sworn into office, Ngige, who was still battling for legitimacy following a litigation by APGA’s Peter Obi for ‘stealing’ the later’s mandate was suspected to have already made a volte-face on Uba, leading to his abduction on July 10, 2003 by armed police men in what was widely condemned as the first civilian coup since the return of democratic governance in Nigeria. 

It is incontesable that Ngige, within the short period he held sway in Agu Awka was able to break away from his estranged godfather and eventually worked for Ndi Anambra.

Enter Peter Obi’s historic and celebrated legal victory and the APGA legal conundrum…

Immediate-past Governor of Anambra State who emerged a running-mate to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar was resoundingly resilient in reclaiming his mandate which was ‘stolen’ by INEC and given to the PDP candidate, Ngige after the electoral umpire declared the later the winner of the 2003 election despite evidences that he (Obi) won the election.

Still restive and restless to control the State resources, the ‘godfathers’ initiated a move to oust Obi throught the State’s Lawmakers. Again, a Court of Appeal Judge, Jimi Badahad upheld a lower court ruling, saying Peter Obi’s removal in November that year was “illegal and unconstitutional” because the Anambra State House of Assembly did not follow due process.

“The court … found the entire process adopted by the legislators in impeaching the governor faulty. Mr Peter Obi should be reinstated immediately as the governor,” Bada said. This celebrated judgment, it is worthy of note followed a Supreme Court ruling in December reinstating a southwestern state governor who was removed in similar circumstances.

Having won round one, the contention then was whether he was yet entitled to a new four-year tenure or not. Again, Obi braced the odds and bravely approached the apex court in the land for interpretation on the actual duration of his tenure. Of course, his prayers were granted by the apex court, relying on Section 180 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Dr. ‘Gbenga Bamodu while analyzing the development had said, “It is a very interesting time in Nigeria currently as far as constitutional interpretation goes. In an important judgment with serious practical, political and legal ramifications, the Nigerian Supreme Court has ruled that under section 180 of the Nigerian Constitution, a governor’s tenure of four years commences from the date that the governor took the oath of office and expires four years from that date.” This verdict has doubtlessly remained a celebrated case in Nigeria’s legal and democratic experiment. 

Is Anambra APGA cursed to always desperately work towards a predetermined end?

Since the return of democracy in 1999, APGA has often heavily banked on the heroic successes and the respect commandeered by the Party’s late leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to win Anambra State since Obi’s emergence in 2003.In seeking for a second term in office in 2010, Obi heavily relied on his track records and, of course, ‘Ojukwu’s last wish’- that he should be allowed a second term in office to win the February 2010 poll. 

Earlier in 2007, one can recall that APGA members waited with baited breath over who is the authentic leader of the Party between Chief Chekwas Okorie and Sir Victor Umeh and who should ideally and legally sign the then Governor Obi’s nomination form when he sought to contest in the later-botched poll for his second term in office. Late Ojukwu had to wade in and subsequently endorsed Obi’s forms amid political blackmail against then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was accused of being behind the APGA leadership crisis to make way for PDP and Dr. Andy Uba, in Anambra State. It bears repeating at this juncture that the Supreme Court later ruled in Obi’s favour to the effect that he was entitled to the full course of his four years tenure. This marked the beginning of Anambra’s off-cycle governorship election.

Three years later, amid a rash of disqualifications and obfuscation of the delegate’s list, Obiano, the preferred candidate of Victor Umeh and other APGA stakeholders was returned with the full force of Obi’s power of incumbency amidst contentions and dissatisfaction by some others.  

Obiano’s emergence, Soludo’s disqualification: Has Ex-CBN Gov’s loyalty paid off? 

From 2013, APGA continued to work towards a predetermined answer, such that the wife of the late Ikemba Ojukwu, Ambassador Bianca, described the embattled former National Chairman of the Party as a General without troops, stressing that few persons transformed APGA to their private ATMs- (Automated Teller Machines). Of course, despite pleas and several interventions, Bianca whose husband formed and fought hard to keep the Party going was dumped in a fiercely terrific primary election.

Whereas, Obiano defeated Uche Ekwunife after polling 870 votes to emerge the governorship flag-bearer of APGA in the 2013 primaries, the disqualification of Soludo and five other contenders from participating in the primaries by the screening committee was another sore point in the exercise that again, marked the Party out as ‘undemocratic’. Ironically, it is worthy to reflect that the same Ifeanyi Mbaeri who now cleared Soludo for this year’s primary election was a member of the same panel that disqualified him in 2013.

But Soludo who had accepted the Party’s decision in good faith. He had told journalists in an interview in Abuja that, “My decision to join APGA is not just limited to my aspiration to govern Anambra State. In as much as I would like to fly the APGA flag even if I am not given the ticket, I will still remain in APGA and support whoever emerges. This is the Party in which ideology, the constitution, manifesto, aims and objectives are in line with my views and what I believe in”

 Following this development therefore, many pundits reason that Soludo’s emergence at the APGA’s primary no matter how skewed is a good pat on the back of the erstwhile CBN helmsman’s loyalty to the Party since 2013. They further contend that such has of course, endeared him to incumbent Governor Obiano.

But… can Soludo weather the storms?

As expected, Prof. Soludo coasted home to victory in a primary conducted by the faction loyal to Obiano on Wednesday this week after polling 740 votes to defeat Ezenwankwo who was a very distant runner-up. But the news of his suspension by a faction of the Party in Abuja led by Jude Okeke for alleged ‘anti-Party’ activities and the group’s consequent announcement to hold a factional election on July 1 tells so much about the crises to come.

Perhaps, unlike previous elections, APGA’s factional crisis in the build-up to the November Governorship election this time seems the worst in the Party’s chequered history. There are three factional Chairmen at the last count all laying claims to the leadership of APGA. While the Dozie Njoku faction is said to be warming up to hold its factional primaries this weekend, the Chief Jude Okeke-led group has already settled for July 1.

Sincere Party loyalists and sympathizers who want the State to remain under the Party’s grip are deeply worried that the pursuit of a predetermined outcome without recourse to a free, fair and democratic process may cost the Party which now seems divided, more than ever before the November 6 governorship poll. Many contend that ordinarily, if Soludo was as grass-rooted a politician as he ought to have been especially having been around and in the Party for over a decade, he shouldn’t be afraid to face any contender in any free and fair primary.

However, some other pundits opine that he is not in touch with the grassroot and that such explains why he desperately wants to ride on Obiano’s back to Agu-Awka this time around. Their dispositions seem further validated by the claims that, unlike other aspirants who know their onions, he never toured or visited any of the 376 wards in the State. Only appointees in the Obiano government were said to have done so to an extent on his behalf.

The only way out for Soludo and APGA many hold very strongly is to urge and parley with the factional leaders and the disgruntled disqualified aspirants to have a common ground and possibly reconcile. They are that might, (especially State might as in this case) may not be right, afterall!

PDP about to tow its similar crisis, factional path too…?

Leaders and stakeholders of the opposition, People’s Democratic Party, PDP in Anambra State and beyond ab initio sounded very optimistic that the Party will reclaim a State it lost after having a bite of power for just 4 turbulent years. The signs were spectacularly as a result of the fact that a total of 16 aspirants showed interest in flying the Party’s flag- the highest number so far in the history of its primary election. 

What this implies is that the Party remained a beautiful bride.

However, recent fear over a suit filed by the Oguebego-led group which is ritually used to stir factional leadership crises in the Party every four years is very unsavoury for the Party especially coming at the peak of its ward congresses. Fingers again, point to Chris Ubah who pundits accuse of always playing a deliberately destructive card to damage the chances of the Party in every election.

Party faithful and leaders are therefore worried about the lingering crisis in Anambra PDP because if it remains unresolved, the tragedy of 2010 may repeat itself in the state. The tragedy of 2010 occurred when the Party imposed Prof. Soludo as its guber candidate in the State against the obvious choice of delegates. The result of this political short-sightedness was that aggrieved members moved en masse to other Parties, not to win the election but to stop Soludo from becoming Governor. APGA therefore reaped the harvest of this mass anger.

Anambra PDP: Crisis, more crisis as Party loyalists, aspirants cry out

The old factional tragedy is about to repeat itself and the PDP seems not to understand what has gone wrong. PDP should reflect on the circumstances that made them lose the State in 2003. That was where the Party’s crisis started and the resolution of the crisis lies in the ability of the party to deal with the truth of what happened in 2003.

Despite the grip of Anambra by APGA, the State, to most people, remains a PDP stronghold whose lose to APGA is always caused by unnecessary litigations and counter-litigations being perpetrated by some over-zealous power-hungry politicians.

For about 18 months now, going to two decades, the Anambra state chapter of PDP has been
engulfed by intra-Party crises that normally end up in litigation and these crises become more pronounced whenever the Party primaries are to be conducted which other political parties like APGA often capitalize on to defeat the former ruling Party.

For instance, the Party had reportedly suspended its planned ward congress billed for this weekend to elect a three-man ad hoc delegates that would participate in the now rescheduled 29th June primary election.

It was gathered that the suspension was ordered by the new Acting chairman of the party in the state, Chief Chukwudi Umeaba. Recall that an Abuja High court sacked the former chairman, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, last Wednesday. And another High Court also ordered the suspension of the planned primary election after nullifying the Party’s Ward congress election results. There has been mixed reactions following the removal of Nwobu and his subsequent substitution with Umeaba by an Abuja High Court.

A chieftain of the Party and gubernatorial aspirant, Chief Zeribe Ezeanuna, while reacting to the development said that, “the litigation in the Party which has lingered to last Wednesday that Nwobu was sacked by an Abuja high court, started from last congress which was not conducted completely”

“No state executive emerged from that congress even though the Party decided to ally with Ndubuisi Nwobu. They went to court and court wasted time and I believe that at the end of the day the matter will be sorted out”.

“Ejike Oguebego is the one that believes that if the congress (State executive) was completed, that he would have won as he said that most of the local governments were behind him.
It is the same case that brought up Ejike Oguebego that brought up Chukwudi Umeaba”

“Umeaba was saying that the congress was not completed and Oguebego is saying that majority of the elections conducted at the local government level favoured him to be the state chairman”.

Asked on what is likely to happen going by the present situation Chief Ezeanuna stated that, “what is going to happen is that the Party will challenge the said recent Abuja court judgment. Oguebego is saying that he is the chairman, so he is not in alliance with anybody.

He is working with Umeaba by the way. The court ordered for an election to be conducted and I think that order takes charge of part of what Oguebego is asking the court for, conduct of a fresh election. Umeaba is just in charge of the state for now”, he stated.

On the chances of the Party emerging victorious in the coming gubernatorial election, he stated that, “Nigeria political terrain is full of crises, left to right, APGA, the ruling Party in the state  is also having its own crisis. Internal democracy is not yet in existence in any of the political parties”

He however expressed optimism that, “immediately the candidates emerge from the various political parties successfully, Anambra people will choose who they want. I pray that PDP will not make mistake, if they choose a candidate that is not popular APGA, will carry the day. It is very important that PDP puts its house in order especially on the legal side before the gubernatorial election”

On the postponement of the ward congress he said that party has right to extend its primaries within the INEC framework.

On the hope of the intimidating scores of gubernatorial hopefuls being paraded by PDP he said that it showed it is a party of mass movement adding that they are about 16 of them.

He warned that another issue that is a stumbling block is the issue of zoning hinting that about 12 of the aspirants from the south have vowed to work against the party in the event of a winner as flag-bearer of the party not emerging from south.

His words, “zoning does not favour the duo of Obiora Okonkwo (Dikeora) who comes from central with Senator Uche Ekwunife also from central.”

“The aspirants from south resolved that anybody not from south that gets the party ticket that they will not support the candidate. That any ticket outside those from the south that they will work against such a candidate and PDP”

Going by the view of Chief Ezeanuna, it means that if the party litigations are not nipped in the bud before the 6 November 2021 gubernatorial election and the position by the south zone gubernatorial aspirants that a winner must emerge from south, are not adhered to, it is a minus for PDP and may lead to protest vote come 6 November election.

The big rival political parties which includes; All Progressive Congress, APC and APGA, the ruling party in the state, will have a field day in welcoming the protesters that may as time permits, decamp from both APGA and the PDP.

In a swift reaction to his sack by an Abuja High court as the state chairman of PDP however, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, described the judgment as a mercantile ruling that can not derail the party from focusing on taking power in the state over come November 6 gubernatorial election insisting that the ward congress must hold as (then earlier) scheduled for last weekend, adding that a similar court of equal jurisdiction had earlier ruled in his favour more than a couple of years ago and that it has not been quashed or set aside by any Appeal court since then.

According to him, the efforts of enemies of PDP would be in futility as the purported order sacking him was wrongly obtained when the courts were on strike.

Nwobu added further that the plaintiff in the said suit, Chukwudi Umeaba and the National leadership of the Party have long withdrawn from the suit.

He insisted that there is a subsisting order of a Federal High court Abuja Federal capital territory which is a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction with the purported judgment and as such, the recent
judgment sacking him cannot vitiate the initial judgment given in his favour by Justice A.O. Musa in 2017.

More intrigues are expected in the two political Parties in the days ahead especially after conduct of Party’s primaries and when the deadline for submission of candidates names to INEC by political Parties is determined.

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