OKEY MADUFORO reports on the intrigues of the legal battle aimed at stopping the quest by a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, to contest the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)
The publication of the list of candidates for the November 6, gubernatorial election in Anambra State by the Independent National Electoral Commission (IÑEC) jolted the political landscape last week. The worst hit was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had no candidate even when both Senator Ugochukwu Uba and Mr. Valentine Ozigbo are laying claim to the ticket of the party.
Understandably the litany of litigations that have trailed the PDP primary election by the two factions can be attributed to the confusion in the party, with court orders battling for space in the intra party crisis. But that of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) cuts a picture of the good, the bad and the unthinkable.
Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji was published by INEC as the candidate of APGA as against the expectations of political watchers that a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, would be on the list as the candidate of the ruling party in the state. Another factional candidate, Mr. Edozie Njoku, was not even factored by the electoral commission despite the fact that his faction conducted its primary election just like others.
Soon after the story of the list got to Anambra State, facts started emerging about a certain Jigawa High Court pronouncement that affirmed Mr. Jude Okeke as the National Chairman of APGA and by extension upholding that Chukwuma Umeoji is the candidate of the party. Most members of the party and political watchers were taken aback by the Jigawa court ruling, which appears strange to them and tongues began wagging about the development. Coordinator of one of Soludo’s support groups, All Higher Institutions For Solu-do, Prof Arinze Chinwuba, contended that there is nothing to fear about over the absence of the candidate’s name on the INEC list as the Jigawa High Court ruling is been challenged at the court. Chinwuba further described the court ruling as a nullity, insisting that such spurious court decision cannot stand and that Soludo’s name would surely be on the INEC list as APGA’s candidate.
Special Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano on Political Matters, Barr. Ifeatu Obiokoye, on his part, contended that enlisting of Umeoji as the candidate of APGA is just a temporary setback, but insisted that there is no cause for alarm. “The Jigawa court was not properly briefed on the situation at hand and the Jude Okeke faction that represented APGA as a party did not join Victor Oyeh in the matter.
“When we went to INEC, we were told that had it been the stay of execution on the Jigawa court ruling was obtained, the commission would not have listed Umeoji as the candidate of the party. At the moment, the Jigawa court ruling is a temporary setback, but soon, the ruling would be vacated,” Obiokoye explained.
Speaking in the same vein, a factional National Chairman of APGA, Chief Edozie Njoku, dismissed the claim by the Jude Okeke-led faction that he collapsed his leadership into their leadership, describing it as rubbish. His words: “The Jude Okeke faction went to a certain Jigawa High Court to get a ruling in their favour without join-ing the relevant factions. Also, the claim that I surrendered my leadership to them is all rubbish as it never happened.
“I think that they may have misinformed the court on the true picture, and INEC in obedience to the court, put Umeoji’s name as the candidate of the party but that will not stand.” But Hon. Umoji, who spoke to reporters in Awka, the Anambra State capital, said the Jigawa court ruling is a vindication of the fact that there was no valid convention that elected Chief Victor Oyeh as the national chairman of APGA.
He explained that on the strength of that, the Jigawa High Court affirmed him as the candidate of APGA, who was duly nominated by the party and which was reflected by IÑEC. Umeoji further insisted that the argument being canvassed by Obiokoye and Njoku amounts to nothing as the court has spoken. National President of the United Anambra Youth Assembly (U-AYA) and United Anambra Women Assembly (U-AWA), Chief Ogochukwu Egolum, described Umeoji as one who doesn’t understand the workings of the court. He added that it is a matter of time for Umeoji to come to terms with the reality of the Jigawa court ruling.
“It shows desperation on the part of Umeoji for him to go as far as Jigawa State to obtain a court order, when we have similar courts in Anambra State and even in the South-East and this paints a picture of the fact that he couldn’t have gotten the order here in the zone because everyone knows the history of the matter,” he said.
No doubt, this is not the first time Soludo would be faced with this type of challenge over a governorship ticket although he has always come out unscathed. A court order in 2010 had restrained Soludo and Emma Anosike from parading themselves as the governorship candidate and running mate of the PDP for that year’s gubernatorial election in Anambra State and the then INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for the state, Prof Chukwuemeka Onukaogu, had to explain that Soludo’s name was not on the commission’s list due to the order, which was later vacated.
Soludo’s traducers then had contended that the process that produced him as the candidate of the PDP, and it got to a level that then PDP governors failed to attend his campaign flag-off except the then governor of Ebonyi State, Martin Elechi. But against all odds, Soludo contested the poll on the platform of the PDP though he did not win. While most APGA faithful see Umeoji as a candidate living on borrowed time, the Soludo faction of APGA has gone to court to vacate the ruling of the Jigawa court order, praying the court to maintain the status quo which would return Soludo’s name on the INEC list, while the main suit continues as a pre-election matter.
Conversely, observers are of the view that since the Edozie Njoku faction recognizes Victor Oyeh and has continued to insist that the Umeoji faction never held any convention that produced Jude Okeke as national chairman of APGA, the Court of Appeal can be approached to grant that the leadership of Jude Okeke is unknown to the law hence rendering the primary election that produced Umeoji illegal.
For Soludo, it is a tough journey to the Anambra State government house. While a High Court in the state on Monday directed INEC to publish his name as the governorship candidate of APGA for the November 6 election without further delay, the former CBN governor is expected to look beyond his party for the solution to his challenges as it is being feared that external forces within the Old Aguata Union is responsible for his travail in order to advance the cause of another candidate from the area, who is also contesting poll on a different platform.