The November 6 governorship election in Anambra State has come and gone but the contest is not over yet as the battle has shifted to the tribunal, FELIX NWANERI reports
The recent governorship election in Anambra State lived to pre-poll billing that it would be a test of might between the country’s leading political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state.
After a keenly contested poll, the governorship candidate of APGA, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, polled a total of 112,229 votes to defeat his closest rival, Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who had 53,807 votes to emerge second. Senator Ifeanyi Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) got a total of 43,285 votes to emerge third, while the candidate of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, came fourth with 21,261 votes.
Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has presented a Certificate of Return to the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, there is no doubt that the contest for the Anambra State government house, Awka, is yet to be over as the battle has moved to the Governorship Petitions Tribunal.
Many have expected that the outcome of the election will go unchallenged given that the first and second runners-up, Ozigbo and Ubah, quickly conceded defeat to Soludo immediately the APGA candidate was declared winner after the supplementary poll of November 9. Ozigbo had in a statement, said: “I have just called Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and congratulated him on being declared the winner of the Anambra State governorship election, 2021. I wished him well and prayed for his success.”
He added: “Let me also use this opportunity to congratulate all the men and women, who contested our dear state’s governorship this year. You all have shown a determination to see that Anambra is better. It was an honour to run this race with you.
“Two years ago, I decided to go into active partisan politics with a number of objectives in mind. First, was to use Anambra to set an example of excellence in governance.
The second was to unify Anambra and Ala Igbo around a shared vision of greatness. The third was to inspire more professionals to go into politics. I believe that attainment of these would go a long way in changing the story of black men and women in this world for the better.
“Pulled by the vision of a better and brighter Anambra, we set out on the quest for governorship, resolute on taking revolutionary steps to address the decay and decline in security, infrastructure, education, healthcare, the environment, and all other social systems meant to serve the people.
“As laid out in our Ka Anambra Chawapu Manifesto, we planned to transform Anambra into the most competitive sub-national economy in Nigeria by opening up public, social, and commercial spaces leveraging on the strength of our youth and women; ultimately, to make Anambra the pride of Nigeria.
“Given where we started and where we are today, we consider ourselves winners. Our Ka Anambra Chawapu message has permeated the consciousness of Ndi Anambra, and the nation at large. It is the strongest message that has come out of Anambra 2021, and it continues to beat in the hearts of Ndigbo.
“On unifying Ala Igbo, I believe that every Igbo person now understands that they have a voice in me because I will forever speak in the interest of the Igbo nation and the rest of the marginalised and forgotten in Nigeria.”
The PDP candidate, who noted that the election was fraught with a lot of short-comings on the part of various government institutions, decried that the security agencies failed to provide a peaceful environment for campaigns to hold.
He added that they were absent from many polling centres on election day, a development, according to him, led to elections not holding or held in situations that allowed for chaos and fraud. “The national electoral commission presented untrained and poorly trained staff, who could not operate the voting machines in many places.
They failed woefully in providing logistical support for their staff and so elections started very late in many places and did not hold in many others.
“The use of government funds and resources to corrupt, coerce, and intimidate voters, PDP party agents and electoral officials was a major factor in determining the outcome of this election.
All of these led to the disenfranchisement of the greater percentage of voters and staining the course of democracy. I will be dedicating time to champion the positive change we need to ensure that future elections are truly free and fair and that the will of the electorate prevails,” Ozigbo said.
Senator Ubah of the YPP, on his part, foreclosed challenging the outcome of the poll in court. The lawmaker, who currently represents Anambra South Senatorial District at the National Assembly, said he called Soludo to congratulate him on his electoral victory. In a statement, Ubah said he appreciates his supporters and has submitted to the will of God.
The statement titled: “Senator Ifeanyi Ubah congratulates Prof. Soludo n his electoral victory,” reads in part: “I have just called the newly-elected governor of our dear state; Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo to congratulate him on his victory at the just-concluded Anambra governorship poll.
“To everything there is a season, so the Holy Bible says. It is with a heart full of gratitude and submission to the will of God that I address you all today, having enjoyed the unique privilege of earning your support to seek the governorship office of our dear state, Anambra.
“This is not the outcome that we wanted and worked so hard for although some people have expressed mixed feelings and reactions about the anomalies witnessed across numerous polling units.
“However, the collective interest of the state must be our paramount focus. Not minding the outcome of the elections,
I feel pride and gratitude for this formidable campaign that we waged irrespective of the pervasive security crisis that did not allow us to maximize our full campaign potentials in the nooks and crannies of the state.
“As a democrat and law-abiding citizen, I wholeheartedly accept outcome of the election and would like to use this medium to congratulate Prof. Soludo on his victory.
It is imperative to state that I do not intend to challenge the electoral results as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission through any court or judicial process.”
Urging other contestants to move on and thread the path of honour, Ubah advised Soludo to conduct local government elections and grant full financial autonomy to the 21 councils of the state in order for them to bring dividends of democracy to the grassroots as well as promote industrialisation and work in harmony with members of the National Assembly in the state. Besides Ozigbo and Ubah, the apex Igbo body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, also advised all the candidates to accept the outcome of the poll and avoid going to court.
Chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo in Anambra State, Prince Emeka Udodeme, said the request became imperative, so that the winner will face the business of governance, instead of being distracted by issues of the court.
His words: “Ohaneze Ndigbo is calling on candidates and political parties that participated in the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, who might feel aggrieved over the outcome of the election to sheath their swords and support the winner to deliver good governance to Ndi Anambra.
“Aggrieved candidates and their political parties have the right, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, to express themselves. But as Ohaneze Ndigbo, we’re only pleading that such aggrieved parties should drop the idea of going to court for the sake of peace.
This is for the betterment of the state and its people. “This will ensure that the incoming government will focus on delivering democracy dividends to the people, instead of facing distractions. But if we distract them by contesting their mandate in the court of law, they might have reasons for not giving their best.
We’re not forcing anybody to concede defeat – we’re only pleading, because, in every contest, only one person must emerge a winner.” Despite the plea, 11 out of the 18 political parties that took part in the election and their candidates have filed petitions before the Anambra State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Awka.
The parties met the statutory 21 days stipulated by the Electoral Act for filing of petitions. Among the parties challenging the poll’s outcome include All Progressives Congress (APC), Action Democratic Party (ADP), Accord Party (AP), United Patriots, Green Party and Action Peoples Party (APP).
While APC’s Uba in his petition asked the tribunal to declare that he won a majority of valid votes cast in the said election, ADP and its candidate, Prince Afam Ume-Ezeoke, in their petition, prayed the tribunal to nullify the election on the grounds that the Bi-Modal Accreditation Verification System (BVAS) is not in the Electoral Act and the malfunctioning ultimately disenfranchised over 90 per cent of registered voters.
Also, Dr. Godwin Maduka and his party (Accord Party) called for the nullification of the election on grounds of irregularities. The United Patriots called for the nullification of the election on the ground that it was wrongfully excluded from the ballot.
Not deterred by the development, APGA, which spoke through the Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on Political Matters, Mr. Ifeatu Obiokoye, said the ruling party is ready for the petitions.
“We shall take it as it comes and we are not losing sleep over those petitions. We are also not losing sight of the game plan of a particular party and petitioner by sponsoring some lesser political parties to go to tribunal and later withdraw from the suits and collapse into that of their benefactor at the end of the day. Our party, APGA, won the election and we are prepared to defend our mandate at the tribunal.”
While the people of Anambra State wait for the legal fireworks to commence at the governorship election petitions tribunal, it is expected that justice will not only be done but manifestly and undoubtedly seen to have been done.