Anambra guber poll, APC converts and failed ambitions
However, shortly after APC marked its first year in office and following the challenges in PDP, words started making the rounds in Anambra and beyond that the second-term Senator was planning to defect to the APC. While some dismissed the possibility, others, particularly those who knew how close the senator is to the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, got excited, saying that that would make his anticipated journey to Awka Government House, easier.
But his entry has become a subject of worry to most of his allies in Anambra. Among his followership, there is apprehension that a similar fate that befell Senator Uche Lilly Ekwunife, who was stopped short of clinching the APC ticket for Anambra Central Senatorial re-run election, may become the lot of their political leader.
Within APC, those angling for the governorship ticket have shown some subdued misgivings about the senator’s admittance. Governorship aspirants are apprehensive that with Andy Uba’s presence, the competition for the ticket would be stiff.
During the recent membership registration exercise in the state, the Senator was said to have mobilized funds and logistics for the smooth operation of the exercise, such that in each of the over 317 wards of the state, the impact of his gesture was felt.
The gesture however did not go down well with some aspirants and members, who expressed the fear that such gestures could tilt the party’s flag towards him. Perhaps based on the growing apprehension that the ticket must have been settled for Uba, national auditor of the APC, Dr. George Muoghalu, informed The Guardian that the party’s governorship ticket was not for the highest bidder, stressing that loyalty must have its reward.
Although Uba could not be said to have defected from PDP merely to contest the governorship, investigations by The Guardian revealed that a lot of political schemes were behind the senator’s defection. He had told journalists in Uga shortly after his registration in the ward chapter of APC that he was motivated to join the party because of its ideological focus and the pedigree of some of its leaders like Senator Chris Ngige, minister of Labour and Employment and Muoghalu, the national auditor of the party.
Sources within the PDP disclosed that frustration with the leadership crisis and overtures by APC, were the major reasons why the Senator left PDP and joined APC. Also, an ally of Uba, Edozie Okafor, claimed that since the PDP leaders refused his suggestion that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff should be allowed three months to exit the party, the Senator has been uncomfortable with the party.
“During the caucus discussions at the PDP convention in Port Harcourt, Andy had pleaded with party leaders to give Sheriff a soft-landing, by allowing him to serve as acting chairman for three months after which a new chairman would be elected instead of setting up a caretaker committee.
According to him, the fear that PDP crisis might not be resolved before the Anambra governorship election and the likelihood of a repeat of what happened in Ondo State compelled the Senator “to succumb to pressures to join APC.”
Okafor disclosed that prior to the failed PDP convention in Port Harcourt; some national leaders of APC had been making overtures to Uba, assuring him that APC will address the injustice he suffered in the hands of PDP over the Anambra governorship ticket. He said: “They reminded him that having won the party ticket before the Supreme Court nullified the 2007 election in Anambra State, PDP ought to have allowed him an automatic ticket in 2010, instead of going for another candidate.”
The first hint of Uba joining APC emerged last year when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2017 Appropriation Bill to the joint session of the National Assembly at the Senate chambers. Sources maintained that while he was being ushered out of the Senate chambers, Buhari, holding the Senator’s hand, told the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, allegedly to the hearing of some lawmakers that “this is the man we want to help us hold Anambra State.”
The rumours of his defection to APC prompted a meeting of South East caucus of PDP in the Senate with the Senator in a bid to dissuade him from leaving the party.
Some lawmakers were also said to have pleaded with the influential Senator to delay his defection until such a time it would be apparent that PDP has lost every opportunity to mend fences. But matters were said to have come to a head when the senator’s younger brother, Chris, purportedly started lobbying APC stalwarts in Anambra to ensure that the senator does not join the party.
One of the APC chieftains that the younger Uba was said to have met was the national auditor of the party, who is also one of the top contenders for the APC governorship ticket in Anambra. Apart from assuring Muoghalu of moral, technical and financial support for the governorship, the Senator’s brother was said to have urged the APC chieftain to “do all things in your power to stop Andy from joining APC.”
The Guardian gathered that the so called brag by his younger brother that he had blocked APC, provoked the Senator to rebuff the pleas by PDP bigwigs not to leave. Muoghalu explained that no genuine member of a political party would stop others from joining the party, stressing that a political party is like a church, which admits members and allows anyone to leave.
Nonetheless, APC members in the state asserted that the encouragement given to Uba and others to cross over was actually a measure to ensure that the road to the state Government House is smooth and easier for the party by depleting the rival parties and not necessarily to give them the ticket.
According to the members who pleaded anonymity, it would be practically impossible to concede the governorship slot to the latter day entrants when persons who have been there and have actually laboured to keep the party are sidelined.
“A tree does not make a forest, this governorship issue is a collective agenda and if the majority supports anyone, so be it. But I must let you know that nobody will just walk in last minute and assume that the slot has been reserved for him or her,” a member stated.
Speaking on the effects of Uba’s exit from PDP, the state chairman of the party, Prince Ken Emeakayi said that PDP remains relevant in the state.
Of the three senators elected on the platform of PDP in 2015, only Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, is yet to defect to APC, while Dr. Tony Nwoye is the only PDP member of the House of Representatives that has left the party.