Politics

Anambra guber: When the people braved the odds

OKEY MADUFORO reports on the intrigues that characterized the November 6 governorship election in which the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

The apprehension was unlimited and the fears got to its crescendo as the killings continued. The worst hit were the various security agencies and their facilities. Deepening the fears was when the Indegeous People of Biafra (IPOB) announced that there would be no election in Anambra State and the target became the political parties and their supporters.

Against this backdrop, the campaign bill boards and branded vehicles disappeared from the streets over fear of being attacked by unknown gunmen. There were no more rallies but house to house campaigns and consultative meetings that never last up to four hours, while the governorship candidates resorted to bullet prove vehicles with heavy security personnel around them. Members of IPOB were in their elements, insisting that the election would not hold over continued detention of their leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, by the Federal Government.

They had insisted that unless Kanu is released unconditionally on the November 4, it would embark on a five-day sit-athome across the states of the South-East hence stopping the Anambra governorship election from holding. At the peak of the security challenge, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, canvassed for the declaration of a state of emergency in Anambra State and hell war let loose. Indeed, Malami’s proposal drew the anger of Anambra people and this was made manifest when Governor Willie Obiano paid a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari.

It was then touted that the declaration of a state of emergency was a plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC)- led government at the centre to pave the way for its candidate, Senator Andy Uba, to emerge as governor of Anambra State. But Obiano, against the expectations of his traducers held a close-door meeting with Buhari after which he came out smoking. He cut the picture of a victorious warrior who came and conquered and from his expressions at a press conference at the Presidential Villa, he sent his traducers to the cleaners, while describing Malami as not only ignorant of the situation on ground in Anambra State but a meddlesome interloper whose stock in trade is to cause confusion.

The defection of the governor’s deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to the APC as well as that of six members of the state House of Assembly and some National Assembly members made matters worse and it all seemed that it is over for Obiano and his party.

The ranks of Andy Uba campaign organization continued to swell and deepening the apprehension in the duo of APGA and PDP and it all seemed that the election was foreclosed. The boast by the members of APC indeed sent shivers down the spines of other political parties and Senator Uba was already assuming the toga of a Governor-elect amidst the continued threat by IPOB.

Most ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) refused to work over fear of violence and attack by gunmen and it took so sustained awareness and sensitization campaigns by the parties and their candidates to persuade them to work on election day.

When all hopes appear to have been lost, IPOB announced the suspension of the sit-at-home order and urged the people of Anambra State to go for the election. According to a statement by the spokesman of the body, Comrade Emma Powerful, IPOB said it was reliably informed of a grand plot to use the ‘no election campaign” to manipulate the electoral process.

It added that its decision to call off the sit-at-home order was arrived at, following “genuine intervention of our elders, esteemed traditional institutions/rulers and religious leaders, and after due consideration of the positive impacts of their engagement, and sequel to the fact that our elders have spoken in our terms.”

The statement further read in part: “The people of Anambra State should go out en masse and peacefully exercise their franchise come 6th November 20121 and accordingly, chose a leader of their choice and should not be intimidated by anybody, group of persons or security agents.

“Anambrarians should vote and standby to protect their votes. No rigging of any kind will be tolerated on the Anambra State governorship election. It must be transparent, free and fair to all.” Initially, it sounded like those tissues of lies that trend on the social media but before dawn it became clear that the Anambra gubernatorial election would hold after all.

On election day, November 6, it became a reality that Anambra electorate were desirous of performing their civic responsibility and they came out in their numbers. From the small town of Enoma in Anambra West Local Government Area to the border town between Kogi State, the fringe of Osamalla in Ogbaru Local Government Area near Ndoni in Rivers State to Ifite Ogwari near Enugu State down to Idemili North of Anambra Central Senatorial District to Umuchukwu town in Anambra South Senatorial District close to Abia State, the turnout was beyond expectations and they came ready to vote.

Indeed, the security arrangement was outstanding with Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs) taking charge of the senatorial districts, while Commissioners of Police (CPs), where in charge in each of the 21 local government areas of the state. This is in addition to over 34,000 policemen as well as soldiers and personnel of the Department of State Services (DSS). Aside the malfunctioning of the Biometric Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), voting went on smoothly and when results started coming out, APGA was tops but for Ihiala Local Government Area that had its election postponed till Tuesday November 9.

As expected, APGA equally triumphed in Ihiala and at exactly 2.46 am the following morning, the Vice Chancellor of University of Calabar, Prof. Florence Obi, who served as Returning Officer, announced the final result and officially declared Prof. Chukwuma Soludo of APGA winner of the election. The APGA candidate won in 19 out of the 21 local government areasof Anambra State.

He won in Aguata Local Government Area, where he and his closest rivals in the election, Andy Uba of APC and Valentine Ozigbo of PDP hail from. He also won in Idemili South Local Government Area, where the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, a chieftain of the APC, hails from.

The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) defeated Anambra State deputy governor, Okeke and former Governor Peter Obi in their local government areas, Njikoka and Anaocha, respectively. Okeke dumped APGA ahead of the election for the APC, while Obi, who served as governor of the state on the platform of APGA for two terms, dumped the party for the PDP after leaving office.

He was the party’s vice presidential candidate in the 2019 elections. Soludo also won in Awka North,Awka South, Oyi, Ayamelum, Anambra East, Dunukofia, Nnewi South, Anambra West, Orumba South, Idemili North, Onitsha North, Onitsha South and Ekwusigo local government areas.

The candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Senator Ifeanyi Ubah won in Nnewi North Local Government Area, while Ozigbo of (PDP) won in Ogbaru Local Government Area. Declaring Soludo as winner of the election, the Returning Officer announced that APGA candidate polled a total of 112,229 votes to defeat his closest rival, Ozigbo, who scored 53, 807 to emerge second. Uba of APC got a total of 43,285 votes to take the third position, while the candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, came fourth with 21,261 votes. Others who were on the ballot but made little or no impact are Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Mr. Obiora Agbasimalo (Labour Party – LP), Dr. Godwin Maduka (Accord Party – AP), Bennet Etiaba (Action Alliance – AA), Chidozie Nwankwo (African Action Congress – AAC), Dr. Akachukwu Nwankpo (African Democratic Congress – ADC), Afam Ume-Ezeoke (Action Democratic Party – ADP) and Geoffrey Onyejegbu (Allied Peoples Movement – APM). Also on the list are Philip Echetebu (All Peoples Party – APP), Okeke Chika Jerry (BOOT Party), Leonard Ohajinkpo (New Nigeria Peoples Party – NNPP), Afam Ezenwafor (National Rescue Movement – NRM), Nnamdi Nwawuo (Peoples Redemption Party – PRP) and Obinna Uzoh (Social Democratic Party – SDP).

So far, most of the candidates that took place in the election, including President Muhammadu Buhari have congratulated Soludo and it does appear that the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal may not have much to do except the candidate of APC, who rejected the results as declared by INEC, challenges the outcome. Conceding defeat to Soludo, Ozigbo, 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. “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 PDD 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, said he has no intention to challenge the outcome of the poll in court. The lawmaker, who currently represents Anambra South Senatorial District at the National Assembly, said he has 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. Solu-do n his electoral victory,” reads in part: “I have just called the newlyelected 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 lawabiding 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.

APGA: The survival of a party

Most political observers were of the view before the election that the party would be history going by the campaign of the opposition parties but they were proved wrong after all. For Governor Obiano, it was a task of sustaining the stronghold of the APGA in Anambra as well as the challenge of ensuring that the party does not die in his hands. Against this backdrop, the governor fought hard in the face of stiff opposition to hand over to another APGA governor hence vindicating him of running a populist government. Special Adviser to Obiano on Political Matters, Barr. Ifeatu Obiokoye, said that the party is not just the regular political party but a movement.

“The mistake most people make is to regard APGA as a regular party and they lose sight of the fact that it is a movement, and every Igbo man, irrespective of party he belongs to does not want APGA to die.” No doubt, APGA stands as a platform for Ndigbo to fight against their perceived marginalization and the electorate are mindful of that and they go to the polling units with that mindset that this is our party, the party of Ndigbo. As a result of this, it would be difficult for any party to defeat APGA in Anambra State no matter how people see its government.

It was also difficult to rig the election with an APGA government in power even as most Anambra people see the APC as anti-Igbo, while the PDP is seen as the party that was behind the mayhem in the state during administration of Dr. Chris Ngige.

Ozigbo: Victim of PDP crisis

The candidate of the main opposition party, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, was a victim of the age long crisis that had continued to affect the party since the exit of former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju. Ozigbo cut the picture of a polished man with a lot of experience but the hawks in the party frustrated him and this was made manifest when after the primary election, most top aspirants left the party with their structures to contest the election on the platform of other political parties. Even those who remained in the party were after pecuniary gains without working for the victory of the party in the election and they took advantage of Ozigbo’s large heart to throw spanners into his well-tailored election plans.

Uba and APC stigma

Despite the celebrated defection of top politicians from APGA and PDP to the APC, the party still found itself in a fix, no thanks to the recent developments in the South-East and the way the Federal Government is handling the issues. Apart from the ruling party being accused of masterminding the killings in the state, it was also linked to the proposed declaration of a state of emergency in the state. The party’s primary election, which was trailed by controversy also deepened he woes of the party.

Soludo: History beckons

The just concluded election is not the first time Prof. Soludo was in the race for the Anambra government house. He contested in 2010 on the platform of PDP. He also made another bid in 2014 but was disqualified by the APGA screening committee. He, however, supported Governor Obiano’s second term bid. His nomination form for the November 6 poll was purchased by political support groups and his campaigns was spearheaded by the party and led by the governor. Indeed, the Governor-elect, who has been described as a child of destiny needs to hit the ground running and prove the people right that they never made any mistake by electing him into office.

 

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