Anambra 2017: Season of shambolic, kangaroo primaries

• Displaced Aspirants Scout For Alternative Platforms

The crowd has started thinning out in the race to Anambra governorship poll slated for November 18, 2017. Two aspirants have announced their withdrawal from further participation in the processes leading to the election. While Akolisa Ufodike, from Nnewi withdrew to solidarise with Anambra north, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, citing personal reasons, announced his withdrawal a day to the APC primary.

Within the United Progressive Party (UPP), the governorship primary returned the former Aviation minister, Osita Chidoka, as flag bearer, triggered a rash of defections.

UPP’s Delegate Disputations
What began as minor complaints by aspirants assumed a protest dimension when the national chairman of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie, was pointedly accused of tampering with the list to favour the former Aviation Minister, Chief Osita Chidoka. Attempts were made to streamline the list and harmonise perceptions about the obvious tampering of the original list.

It happened that somewhere along the line, the national headquarters of the party and the state chairman, Dr. Sylvester Igwilo, were working at cross purposes, suggesting that each wing was tending towards favouring different aspirants.

But, while the founding chairman, Okorie, believed that discrepancies in the list, which revised the original list, was not substantial enough to tilt undue advantage either way, one of the aspirants, Hon. Chudi Offodile, disagreed. He pointed out that names of delegates uploaded on the party’s website on July 29,, were variously amended on August 4 and 5.

“The website list contained strange names with no phone numbers unlike the authentic delegates list that had phone numbers of all delegates displayed,” pointing out that the authentic list of delegates was compiled and countersigned by the state chairman, secretary and all the local government chairmen, before it was sent to national headquarters.

Attempt was made therefore to harmonise views, especially when it became clear that only two of the aspirants fulfilled the necessary requirements to contest the governorship primary. But instead of placing the cards face-up on the table three days to August 19 set aside for the primary, parties to the parley adopted a game of wits.

Against that background, it was not surprising to most members of UPP that events at the venue of the party’s governorship primary would produce a tragedy. Ever since, parties to the let-off have been giving their perspectives.

Addressing journalists last Monday, Offodile, who had earlier written the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the issue of muddled delegates list disclosed that as accreditation commenced for the primaries, he got information that only those whose names appeared on the website list were being allowed into the venue.

Offodile added that he drove to the venue at about 9am and immediately handed over a letter of protest to the election committee chairman, Chief Ejike Uche and state chairman, Dr. Igwilo. “I threatened to withdraw from the primary election, if they insisted on the use of the illegal register,” he declared.

While disclosing that he did not appoint any agent or “participated in the kangaroo primary,” Offodile noted that immediately after leaving the venue, he went straight to the INEC office to register his protest before returning to his campaign office.

He added: “A couple of minutes later, I received a call that disenfranchised delegates were becoming uncontrollable and that armed policemen on duty were firing teargas canisters to scare them. And one of the delegates slumped and was taken to the Amaku Teaching Hospital, Awka.

“By the time I got to the hospital at about 11am, the delegate, Uwakwe Maduabuchi, had given up the ghost. The UPP constitution provides for five delegates per ward-the chairman, secretary, treasurer, woman leader and youth leader.”

Offodile explained that although Maduabuchi was ‘lucky’ that his name appeared in both the authentic list and the illegal website list, the secretary and treasurer were yanked off and replaced with unknown persons.

While stressing that only the ward congress can replace those elected officers, he pointed out that the national chairman, Okorie, “unilaterally replaced elected officers of the party, adding: “He replicated these whimsical replacements in about 264 wards across the state, giving him the ‘preference shares’ in the primary and in his ‘dream government’ in Anambra State.”

But no sooner had Offodile addressed journalists than UPP NWC shot back in a statement titled “UPP Governorship Primary: The many lies of Chudi Offodile.”  The statement, which was signed by the national publicity secretary, Ogbuehi Dike, UPP, noted that instead of elected delegates, the party during its non-elective convention at Awka on June 29, 2017, ratified the motion recognising the harmonisation of the officers of the party in the 36 states and FCT as officers functioning in acting capacities pending subsequent elective convention.

“This ratification at the convention followed the approval of the appointment of these unelected officers by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great party,” UPP said, pointing out thatit was erroneous of Offodile to assert that there was hotly contested delegates election at the wards for delegates.

Short of accusing Offodile of instigating the pandemonium that led to the death of delegate Maduabuchi, UPP stated: “At a point when over 1000 delegates had been accredited and conveyed to the venue of the congress, Hon. Offodile surfaced and presented a letter that he was no longer satisfied with the delegates list for the primary election.”

Although the party did not indicate the names of his agents, it alleged that Offodile did not indicate in the letter that he would not participate in the primary election or withdraw “his agent who was already at the venue of the primary election to represent him.”

Okonkwo Seeks Okorie’s Suspension For Fraud
While the uproar from the primary hiccups was raging, the national chairman, Chekwas Okorie and an erstwhile governorship aspirant, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, were engaged in verbal altercations. Okonkwo had ten days to the governorship primary, petitioned the party asking that Okorie should be suspended from the party for sundry offences, including diverting and converting to private use the sum of N40m belonging to the party to his personal account at Diamond Bank; illegally collecting payments from uniformed and desperate political aspirants without involving the Anambra State chapter of UPP; illegally and unconstitutionally printing, circulating and selling a purported UPP constitution on June 29, 2017 at Awka, in flagrant violation of Article 31 paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the registered constitution; illegally compiling a purported party officers/delegates list in clear violation of the mandatory statutory provision in section 87 (1), (2), (4) (b)(i) and (ii) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, among other infractions.

Okonkwo therefore demanded that Okorie should within days of the receipt of the letter dated August 9, step aside  and handover to the Deputy national chairman from his zone, (Southeast), “as you ought to be suspended indefinitely, pending the determination of these allegations against you, by the National Executive Committee…”

But on receiving the petition, Okorie’s lawyers, N. J. Kalu ad Co, wrote to Okonkwo demanding that “you write and publish in a widely read newspaper, a retraction of your letter and an unreserved apology to our client within seven days of the receipt of this letter.”

“Except this is done, we shall have no other option than to institute a legal action against you for libel and defamation of character of our client,” Okorie’s counsel stated.

But describing the letter from Kalu and Co as a calculated attempt by the UPP national chairman to divert attention from “the weighty allegations against him,” Okonkwo added: “Nobody will respond to that letter, Chekwas does not possess any integrity; I put him on notice that during hearing of the case, I shall place heavy reliance on the Book: Second Justice Kayode Eso Lecture: The Judiciary As the Third Estate of the Realm, by Ben Nwabueze.

From the look of things, it appears both political actors will begin messy legal gymnastics in the days to come.

APGA Crisis In High Gear With Another Winger
As the theatrics in the prelude to Anambra governorship poll continued, APGA got another flag bearer from the corner of Martin Agbaso faction, which held its governorship primary at Ezira Central School, Orumba South local government council of the state.

Agbaso and his loyalist had to change venue when security agents, barricaded Marble Arch Hotel, originally chosen for the event. At the end of the day, similar to the emergence of Governor Willie Obiano from the Victor Oye faction, Dr. Hygers Ifeanyichukwu Igwebuike, emerged as its flag bearer.

In his determination to give APGA a clean break from the past, Agbaso went to Anambra South to choose his flag bearer, thereby setting a pole contest, not only between the incumbent and the challenger, but between Anambra South and North, both of which are gunning for a second term in office.

Igwebuike has a score to settle with the Obiano camp, because he was among the set of aspirants that lost nomination for the federal House of Representatives on APGA platform due to the governor’s differences with his benefactor, Peter Obi, who defected to the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The flag bearer had contested the governorship in 2013 on the platform of Accord Party (AP).

With his emergence as rival APGA candidate, Hygers joins Chief Godwin Ezeemo of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), as the two governorship hopefuls from Anambra South Senatorial district.

Missed Opportunities
There are already what could be described as missed opportunities in the Anambra governorship poll. With what is playing out in various political parties, incumbent Governor Obiano, could be said to have missed a golden opportunity to seal his second term same way as his predecessor, who reaped from the unstable opposition platforms to become the first governor to enjoy two terms in office in the state.

Therefore, by failing to retain APGA as a united organ, Obiano opened the field wide such that it is not easy to hazard a guess as to where the pendulum could swing in an election where the incumbent is on the ballot. Siding with a minority faction, it is left to be seen how far the incumbent can go in the contest.

But for his flip-flop nature, the Senator representing Anambra South, Andy Uba, has a missed golden opportunity to benefit from the positive apex court ruling that favoured the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction of PDP, which he was supporting.

Uba’s defection to APC was seen by some people as a suicidal mission for the fact that his former arch-rival, Dr. Chris Ngige, seem not to have forgotten how he was disgraced and unceremoniously removed from office by the senator’s younger brother, Chris, in 2006.

But to Ngige’s surprise, the senate caucus adopted Andy’s governorship contest as their project, thus neutralizing to a great extent the minister’s belated antics of supporting the campaign for zoning. It is left to be seen how all these will shape the main election. Were President Muhammadu Buhari cast in the mould of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Uba should not have traveled through many thickets for the ticket.

Former Governor Peter Obi seems also to have missed a golden opportunity to return to his first love, APGA, if he had thrown his weight behind Agbaso, especially against the background that Obiano stocked his sudden exit from the party. Yet, by propelling three governorship aspirants in PDP and none of them looking keen as a possible flag bearer, Obi’s journey to political wilderness may have begun. Without a supportive home governor, how far could Obi go in the expected scramble for presidential running mate position in 2019?

Displaced Aspirants’ Platforms
Already some displaced governorship aspirants have started scouting for platforms to pursue their ambition. The bulk of aspirants shopping for platforms are from the UPP, which started dissembling from the venue of its governorship primary.

Democracy and environmental rights activist, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, who questioned the rationale for outrageous fees for nomination forms, has already secured new allies in Action Democratic Party (ADP).

National treasurer of ADP, Thomas Gana, told The Guardian on phone that Okonkwo has regularized his membership of the party, stressing that the governorship aspirant aligns ideologically with ADP’s belief in party supremacy, empowerment of the women and youth for an inclusive government.

It is not known which platform Hon. Offodile would berth, but from the tone of his letter and charge to his followers to await further directives, it is obvious that the last has not been heard of the ‘Biafran’ governorship aspirant.

Also in his “farewell and felicitation letter,” another UPP-decampee, Paul David Obianaso, waxed scriptural, saying that he was “aware a few persons even ‘joined’ UPP so they can ‘stop’ this dreamer who claims God said he will be the next Governor of Anambra State.”

He declared: “The Eagle has taken a flight. The landing base is prepared by the Most High! When I become the Governor of Anambra State, as l would become by March 17, 2018, following the November 18, 2017 election, then a new chapter for political discourse shall open in Nigeria.”

Scheming Unlimited
This week, virtually all political parties must have concluded their primary elections. Apart from Hope Democratic Party (HDP), which fixed its primary for August 30, APC and PDP postponed theirs twice and thrice respectively.

Without doubt, governorship primary has become the real thing in Anambra governorship poll. Perhaps, learning from the mistakes of UPP and conscious of attempts to influence the delegates’ list or outright inducement, APC, through its chairman of governorship primary committee, Governor Kashim Shettima, insisted that delegates must attach the following proofs: original PVC, original national identity card and original international passport.

Scheming for platforms has been intense and beyond partisan borders. The sudden shift of PDP’s primary earlier scheduled for yesterday to Tuesday, August 29, 2017 is not unconnected to the stiff chase for the prized ticket.

Former Governor Obi, who ordinarily should be the leader of the party, is being pilloried from within and outside the state as an outsider. Add to that the speculation that he has eyes on a future political office at the centre. Two aspirants on the platform, the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Oseloka Obaze and 2013 governorship aspirant, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, are believed to be tagging at Obi’s coattails in their gubernatorial ambition.

Then, Senator Adaeze Stella Oduah, a high stakeholder in PDP, believed to be propelled by Governor Obiano, is gunning for the governorship to make a statement. These aspirants are from Anambra north, where the caretaker chairman, Prof. ABC Nwosu, has declared should produce the governor for the next four years in line with the zoning arrangement.

But things got a little bit scary for the front row aspirants from Anambra north when it came to light that self-acclaimed political godfather and electoral merchant, Chief Chris Uba, is pushing the aspiration of Prince John Emeka.

Perhaps, in continuation of their sibling rivalry and proxy political battle of supremacy, Senator Andy Uba, is said to be behind the governorship ambition of another female aspirant and member of the House of Representatives, Ms Linda Ikpeazu. Ikpeazu is being supported by remnants of Andy Uba’s Igwebuike political structure in PDP.

While Akolisa Ufodike was refused clearance to contest the governorship primary for possessing dual citizenship certificate, Obaze, who was also rejected by APGA for similar reason in 2013, was granted conditional clearance pending his fulfillment of PDP’s requirements.

Amid the interplay of surrogate interests, oil mogul and Apostle of TAN, Ifeanyi Uba, has the uphill task of contending with the backlash of his overbearing tendencies of the TAN era, as well as, the zoning flag.

As words began to make the rounds that Prince John Emeka, might clinch the PDP ticket due to a possible discharge of political IOU by Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, for Eselu’s (Chris Uba’s) assistance in his 2014 governorship, powerful elements in the party’s headquarters working for the full reconciliation and restoration of estranged former members, were said to have pressured the committee to postpone the primary till after APC’s, ostensibly to provide a fall back for Senator Uba, in case APC administers the Senator Uche Ekwunife treatment.

Yet amid the mesh of intrigues, chairman of the caretaker committee, Nwosu, expressed the belief that Fayose and his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, are the men best suited for the Anambra PDP governorship primary. Nonetheless, even after the primary elections, no pundit can claim that the final candidates have emerged until the substitution window closes.



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