Ahead of Anambra Guber 2014
November 16, 2013 is another date with history in the south-eastern state of Anambra. Voters in the state will decide who succeeds Governor Peter Obi, whose tenure of two terms shall lapse. For the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the state must remain under its kitty just as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) intends to use the November poll to test-run its rejuvenated political machine. PDP is yet to pick its candidate, but the newly-registered All Progressives Congress (APC) already has former governor, now senator, Chris Ngige, as a consensus candidate. Okechukwu Obeta brings the intrigues of the adoption, while Chibuzo Ukaibe examines the level of preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
APC’s Adoption Of Ngige And Matters Arising
“Within the week, the media was awash with the reports that Dr Chris Ngige of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been adopted as a consensus candidate of the party for the November 16, 2013 governorship election in Anambra state. The meeting for the adoption reportedly held in Abuja; a development that has confirmed my initial fears that the APC is not ready to practice what she preaches.
“The question is: where is the internal democracy mantra that they have bandied about all this while? It has become obvious to Nigerians that the culture of anointing leaders from outside is still deeply entrenched in the party; internal democracy within political parties is the bastion for Democratic development; therefore it must be made a culture for any serious-minded political party”.
The above was the swift reaction of Comrade Justus Ijeoma, former Secretary of the Civil Liberties Oganisation (CLO), Anambra state, following statements credited to an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and Imo state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha in some national dailies on Thursday to the effect that former Anambra state governor and Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District, Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige has been adopted by the South East zone of the party as the party’s consensus candidate for the forthcoming Anambra state gubernatorial election.
The development is already ruffling some feathers within the party’s fold in the state some members of the party in the state describing the action as unacceptable and undemocratic.
A chieftain of the party, Prince Chuba Ikeagwu said such decision could not have been taken because the party had just commenced sale of Expression of Interest Forms to aspirants and that the primaries for election of the gubernatorial candidate was fixed to hold on September 2, 2013. He stated that apart from Ngige, there are two other formidable aspirants vying for the APC’s ticket.
Though he admitted being present at a meeting where some leaders and other stakeholders of the party urged the aspirants to discuss and see whether they could pick one person among themselves to fly the party’s gubernatorial flag, he however, stated that the attempt failed because the aspirants could not reach a compromise.
Ikeagwu stated that out of the four aspirants: Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Annie Okonkwo, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo and Mr. Hygers Ifeanyichukwu Igwebuke, only Okonkwo voluntarily withdrew from the race, saying he stepped down for Ngige. But Ezeemo and Igwebuike, according to Ikeagwu, insisted on going through primaries.
Ikeagwu said: “I was in the meeting at Abuja, so you can now hear from the horse’s mouth. The truth was that during the meeting, the party tried to persuade the aspirants to bring out one person; after much pressure, Senator Annie Okonkwo said he has stepped down for Senator Chris Ngige, but Chief Godwin Ezeemo and Mr. Hygers Igwebuike said they will go for primaries.
“So, we are going for primaries. Sale of forms for Expression of Interest Form has already started on Thursday, August 22. Expression of Interest Form will cost N500, 000 and Nomination form will cost N5million.
“Ngige knows the truth that he will be going into the primaries with Ezeemo and Hygers, and, who knows, another aspirant or more can still purchase forms to vie for the ticket. So, if Ngige has been chosen as the consensus candidate, why is the party still selling Expression of interest from?”
Okonkwo and Ngige hail from the same local government area, Idemili- South. Ngige is from Alor while Okonkwo comes from Ojoto in Anambra Central Senatorial zone.
Before indicating interest to join the race for the party flag, Okonkwo was the interim deputy national chairman of the APC, South zone.
Okonkwo, earlier in 2010 contested the governorship election on the platform of the Accord Party, but recorded a very poor showing. Since then, he has lost many of his followers because after losing the election he went after some members of his campaign organization and retrieved from them vehicles he bought for them as political patronage. One of such persons was former chairman of Awka North local government area, Chief Dennis Ngene, a popular grass-root politician. Most of such persons have vowed he would never win any election again in the state.
Ezeemo is rated to command a large followership in APC. He has massive financial muscles and he is a popular philanthropist. They say since the past two years to the current merger that produced APC, Ezeemo had been the financial backbone of the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state. Sources within the APC say that he was even one of Ngige’s major financiers during his Senatorial campaigns as that Ngige was already down financially before going into the race.
Ezeemo and Igwebuike hail from Aguata and Orumba South local government areas respectively in Anambra South senatorial zone.
The party members according to sources prefer to go through the rigours of party primary to pick between Ngige and Ezeemo. Ezeemo comes from the Anambra Central senatorial zone with the incumbent Governor Peter Obi. The zone has occupied the Government House, Awka since the past 11 years cumulatively.
Though, a green-horn in Anambra politics, Ezeemo is believed to command an apprecialbe followership within the APC in the state such that he is sure to give Ngige a good fight if both go into the governorship primaries.
Ezeemo has already dismissed Ngige’s endorsement as the “wishful thinking of one man in the person of Rochas Okorocha”, and vowed; “we are going to resist any imposition because that is not what the constitution says; besides, Okorocha who masterminded the whole sham is not an indigene of the state so he cannot decide for the people of the state who should govern them.”
He insisted that the leadership of the party should provide a level playing ground for all the aspirants at the gubernatorial primaries.
Efforts to contact Igwebuike for reaction were unsuccessful as he was said to have been holding series of meetings with his supporters in preparation for the primaries.
But for Ngige, this is time to celebrate his adoption as the governorship candidate of the APC.
“I thank our party leadership, and, party members, my co-aspirants, especially, Senator Annie Okonkwo for the honour and for finding me a fit person to fly our new party flag for the upcoming Anambra election, while, Senator Annie Okonkwo will lead the campaign to victory”.
But another member of APC in the state, Chief Barnabas Okonkwo dismissed the consensus arrangement as “undemocratic”, insisting that they only process that would be acceptable by members of the party is to for the leadership to conduct a gubernatorial primaries devoid of any manipulation.
Political observers say that his defence of the recent deportation of about 72 Igbo natives, most of who are believed to be indigenes of the state by the Lagos state governor, Babatunde Fashiona, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has again driven a huge dose of steam off his popularity among people of the state. Ngige was said to have been pelted with pour water sachets somewhere in Awka, the Anambra state capital where he went for political mobilization.
As at Friday, APC has been divided into two parallel groups in the state with one faction loyal to Ngige and other routing for Ezeemo. While Okonkwo held a rally at Emmaus House, Awka to present Ngige as consensus candidate, hundreds of the party members simultaneously trooped to the nearby Marble Arch Hotel where they organized a counter rally and pledged their support for Ezeemo as their preferred gubernatorial candidate.
How Prepared Is INEC
The stakes are high for the major political parties ahead of the Anambra State governorship Election billed for November 16.
For the incumbent, the All Progressive Grand Alliance, (APGA), the party has to retain the seat- being the only state under its control. For the All Progressive Congress, (APC) a win would signpost their emergence as serious contenders ahead of 2015. And if the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wins, it would reverse the near shrivel state of the party.
But much more, particularly for the PDP and APC, it is the first point to engage in a political slugfest. Perhaps, this is a glimpse -albeit not total- of what to expect in 2015.
As such, the significance of the Anambra State governorship election is not lost on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Mindful of the enormity of the task, the commission some weeks back, engaged stakeholders in the election, primarily the political parties, in wide-ranging consultations ahead of the polls.
At the meeting Jega underscored the need for collaboration if the election would be the best, ahead of the 2015 election, as the commission desires.
He said: “Our objective is to make the Anambra governorship election the best so far. But, no matter how hard we try, we alone in INEC cannot succeed without the cooperation of all stakeholders, especially political parties, their candidates and the people of Anambra State.”
He further stressed the importance of a credible voter register just as he emphasized the need for the members to adhere to the code of conduct by political parties.
He said; “as we are all aware, the credibility of the voter register goes a long way to ensure the credibility of elections. In this regard, we are prepared to clean up and have a very credible register for Anambra State before the November 16 governorship election.
“Our preparations for the elections include doing continuous voter registration from August 19 to 25 in order to update the register as required by law before the election.
“For all those who have registered, we have their records on the manual register. However, for those whose details are missing on the electronic register (those on the so-called addendum register) or whose details are incomplete, they need to have their registration status updated. It is in this context we have made a review of the voter register for Anambra State a key item on the agenda for today’s meeting.”
Jega promised that the recent revalidation of the code of conduct for political parties would ensure a hitch-free election in Anambra State.
“Hence, the Anambra State governorship elections would be the first test case of the practical affirmation of the code of conduct. All parties, candidates and their supporters must demonstrably put all the key aspects of the document into practice: respectable and responsible conduct.
“All the stakeholders must engage in the electoral process in strict compliance with the rules of the game, with decorum, civility, tolerance and mutual respect for one another. Campaigns, voting, among others must be conducted decently, lawfully, peacefully in accordance with the best standards and practices, as well as democratic norms.”
Shortly afterwards, Jega, at a meeting to unveil the continuous voters registers card, announced that the commission had already uncovered 93, 256 cases of multiple voters registration in the state and that he has instructed the commission in the state to commence prosecution.
Still, the need for the commission to stamp its authority throughout the electoral process is of significance. The commission has at every opportunity, preached its preparedness to ensure internal democracy in parties as well as effectively monitor the adherence to party guidelines and provisions of the party’s constitution in selection of party candidates.
Already, the commission has been locked in a tussle with the PDP over who the recognised state chairman of the party is. As it stands, INEC has insisted that Ejike Oguebego is the recognized Anambra State chairman of PDP while PDP has maintained that Ken Emeakayi is its state party chairman.
In fact, Jega further warned that it would not tolerate a situation where multiple candidates would emerge, stressing that they would be committing an electoral offence. Not even a meeting last week between the leadership of the party and INEC could resolve the matter.
Pressing its point on the matter, the commission in a letter to the National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji BamangaTukur, insisted that it does not recognise Ken Emeakayi, as the state chairman of the party as paraded by the national leadership of the party.
A signed letter from the office of the Secretary of the INEC, dated August 11 and addressed to the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji BamangaTukur, said the commission has resolved and insisted on the recognition of Ejike Oguebego as state chairman of the PDP.
The commission wondered how Tukur had, in a correspondence to INEC dated 8th May 2013 forwarded the name of Ejike Oguebego as the state chairman, only for the commission to receive a letter from the acting national chairman of the PDP (Rt Hon. Chibudom Nwuche) on 31st July 2013 asking the commission to withdraw recognition of EjikeO guebego in favour of Emeakayi.
The letter said “The commission has resolved that it will not withdraw its letter reference No. INEC/EPM/PDP/24/1/153 of 26th July, 2013 by which the commission recognisedEjikeOguebego as the chairman of PDP in Anambra State and shall be bound by the recent order of the Federal High Court Port Harcourt.”
But in his response to INEC, Tukur, accused Jega of encroaching in the matter arguing that it was not the responsibility of INEC to recognise who the state chairman of the party should be.
In a chat with newsmen, Tukur said “first let me educate those who may not understand about the role of INEC. INEC is to supervise, they are not to recognise anybody. It is not in the purview or responsibility of INEC to recognise.
“It is the party that recognises based on their own two-third if they witnessed election. They cannot accept an election if they did not witness it. So this matter is being resolved.
“There is no problem whatsoever. I am happy to tell you that as we are talking now, preparation for ward congress is going on in Anambra. This time around Anambra will be cool and performing.”
Still, analysts are mindful of INEC’s stance with regards to particularly how candidates of other parties would emerge, particularly in APGA, APC and Labour Party.
Nonetheless, in his assessment, former chairman of the merger committee, Chief Tom Ikimi, has doused any fears of impositions in the APC just as he assured that the party will be run strictly by its constitution, even in the choice of their party candidates in forth coming elections.
But he underpinned the import of the election for INEC thus:
“The Anambra election is a test case for the new party APC and INEC. INEC has to show that they are ready for the forthcoming election. We look forward to a free and fair election. APC will win if a free and fair election is conducted.
He continued; “we must move away now permanently from the aberration of 2007 election. Accordingly, Prof. AttahiruJega must ensure that INEC personnel from top to bottom are urgently overhauled and that biometrics partially introduced in 2011 is fully implemented in 2015.”
Also, an Anambra State gubernatorial aspirant Under the APC, Godwin Ezeemo, said the uncovering of the over 90’000 multiple voters register shows that there is hope of a free and fair election in the state.
He said; “the discovery of over 90,000 multiple voters register in Anambra state by the commission shows that they are thorough. With what they have found it is a good omen for me that the system is sanitized and intact. So we have a fair chance in the contest.”