It is now a three-pronged battle for the supposed governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 6, election in Anambra state, Chief Andy Uba.
Uba, who flew the flag of the APC in the just concluded election and ended a distant third with over 43, 000 votes is enmeshed in what could be described as an all-around battle to redeem his political career.
First, it was the election that he lost in which he had gone to court to challenge the outcome; the second is his battle for the control of the party in his Anambra State and now, the nullification of his candidature in the election by the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Sources indicated that how well he is able to pull through these battles would determine his next line of political action, especially the rumours that he may have got to the apex of career politicking in the state.
On Monday, December 20, the High Court, presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo dealt an added blow on Uba, when it disqualified him and his APC from participating in the just concluded Anambra State governorship election. The court said that his candidature never existed in the first place as his party failed to comply with provisions of the Electoral Act as well as its guidelines in the conduct of party primary.
The court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delist APC and Uba from the list of political parties and gubernatorial candidates for the election or at any subsequent postponement. It also ordered the party to refund without further delay, the sum of N22.5million it received from Chief George Moghalu for the governorship primary, which it failed to conduct.
The ruling of the court followed a suit by Moghalu, one of the 14 aspirants that took the expression of interest and nomination forms of the party for the governorship election.
Moghalu, had sued the party, Uba and the INEC over the June 26, 2021, governorship primary of the party. He had claimed among others that the governorship primary did not hold anywhere in the state and urged the court to delist the party and Uba from the election.
On June 27, the Chairman of the APC primary election panel and the governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun had announced Uba, as the winner of the governorship primary.
He stated that Uba polled 230,201 votes out of the 348,490 votes cast in the primary election to beat other contestants. Abiodun reeled out other results as follows: Johnbosco Onunkwo 28,746 votes; Chiedozie Nwankwo 21,281; George Moghalu 18,596; Azuka Okwuosa 17,189 and Godwin Okonkwo 5907 votes among others. He claimed his committee adopted the open ballot mode or Option A4 to conduct the primary election.
But no sooner had the results been announced than the aspirants kicked against it, saying it never reflected what was on the ground in the state. Their claim was backed by the INEC, which its report stated that the primary of the party did not hold anywhere in the state.
The aspirants had called for a fresh primary to enable the party to elect its candidate, which was ignored by the party’s national leadership. While many of the aspirants had joined other political parties and in fact, picked their governorship tickets, others who could not leave the party refused to support the governorship aspiration of the party. Moghalu had, however, chosen to challenge the outcome of the primary in the court. It was this suit that the court ruled upon on Monday.
Uba remains the only contestant in the November 6, governorship election that refused to congratulate the eventual winner on the ground that it was massively rigged against his party, APC. He had therefore chosen to challenge the outcome of the election in court.
It was not the first time Uba was being disqualified by the court after an election. In 2007, Uba had “won” the governorship election of Anambra state and was sworn into office on May 27, 2007. 17 days after his assumption in office, on June 14, the Supreme Court had ruled that the election that brought him to power should not have been conducted at all as there was no vacancy in the seat of power in the state.
Uba had vacated office in a most unceremonious way. From then on, he began the struggle for fresh political relevance. It was not until April 2011 that he won the election to represent Anambra South senatorial constituency and won again in 2015. He however lost the seat to the present occupant but returned in November this year, to contest the governorship election of the state.
Although he said he would appeal the instant ruling, how he would upturn the judgment to impact the case he filed at the election tribunal over the outcome of the Anambra governorship election is still a conjecture.
In the tribunal, Uba has asked for the nullification of the victory of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Chukwuma Soludo over alleged irregularities that characterized the elections. He sought to be declared the winner of the election.
His Deputy Director of Media in the Senator Andy Uba Governorship Campaign Organisation (SAUGCO), had assured that the judgment would not deter the tribunal matter, adding that the nullification of Uba’s candidature by the High Court would be appealed. He insisted that the party that was returned victorious in the governorship election had a very bad case and should, therefore, not celebrate.
The APGA however, stated that the judgment of the High Court was correct following the anomalies that occurred during the process of nomination of the APC’s governorship candidate.
The party’s national chairman, Chief Victor Ike Oye said: “It was the right decision to reach by the court in the face of the absurdities that occurred during the APC governorship primary in Anambra State.
“The worst mistake Andy Uba made was not to have accepted defeat after the November 6, 2021 election adjudged by the whole world as free, fair and credible.
“So, we are glad that the Nigerian judiciary has continued to show courage and fairness in the face of adversity.”
Court ruling, an added burden
THE Monday court ruling has added to the various challenges faced by Uba in the politics of APC in Anambra state. While he has been struggling to reclaim his “stolen mandate” from the tribunal, the party at the state level has not been at peace.
The fight over the soul of the party, which was at its lowest ebb before the governorship election of the state has resurrected. Those who believe that asking him to lead the party in the state would be adorning him in borrowed robes have congregated against him. On the other hand, he would not go down without a fight.
As it is, members of the party have been torn into two between Uba and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige. While the party has concluded congresses at the state level and preparing for the national convention, the APC in Anambra State is yet to begin the process.
The congress of the state could not hold, according to its State Publicity Secretary, Okeluo Madukaife, due to the governorship election that was held last month. Okeluo had further told The Guardian that it was not in the power of the state chapter to schedule the congress.
However, the way it is, it might not be easy going into the process due to the several ill feelings that have enveloped the party. Last month, the acting state chairman of the party, Basil Ejidike, who supposedly was enjoying the backing of Uba, was removed. In his stead, Mr Emeka Ibeh, who was earlier removed for Ejidike was returned to the office. Ejidike’s removal followed a court ruling by the Ibeh group, said to be enjoying the support of the Minister.
Ejidike, after his removal, had accused Ngige of fanning the embers of disunity and crisis in the party. He had based his allegation on the inability of the Minister and his supporters to accept the outcome of the governorship primary and asked the national leadership of the party to sanction the Minister.
Few weeks ago, Ngige and Uba had attempted to hold parallel stakeholders meetings at their residences in Abuja. This is also to further their age-long rivalry. It could be recalled that years back as governor, Ngige was kidnapped. That was in 2003. He believes that the act was allegedly masterminded by the Ubas. He was later rescued and returned to the office by presidential intervention. He is said not to have forgiven the family since then.
Presently, Uba works with Ejidike while Ngige is at ease with Ibeh and all those elected with him. Their meetings at Abuja it was learnt came out with different versions on who is the leader of the party in the state.
While the group that met in Maitama, Abuja, resolved, among others, that Andy Uba is the authentic leader of the State Chapter of APC, another group, which also held their meeting at No 19 Justice Mohammed Bello, Asokoro Abuja, affirmed confidence in the selfless leadership of Dr. Chris Ngige.
A source at the Maitama, Abuja meeting said that their decision was in tandem with the standing paradigm that the current gubernatorial candidate of the party becomes the leader of the party in the state.
The source said the meeting, which was generously attended, comprised former Senators, current and former members of the House of Representatives, current and former Presiding and Principal Officers of the State House of Assembly, 14 of 17 members of the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party, a former Minister, current and former zonal and national officers of the Party, as well as the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the Party in the recently held Anambra gubernatorial election.
He said those in attendance were Senator Andy Uba and his deputy, Barrister Emeka Okafor, Senators Ik Obiora and Emma Anosike, Honourables Linda Ikpeazu, Vincent Ofumelu, Chidi Duru, Chiedu Eluemunor, Jerry Ugokwe, Ralph Okeke, Fort Dike, Chuma Nzeribe, Afam Ogene, Chizor Obidigwe and Peter Madubueze.
Others from the Anambra State House of Assembly were former Speakers, Ben Chuks Nwosu and Chinwe Nwaebeli; former and current Principal Officers, Ebele Obi and Lawrence Ezeudu, amongst five other serving members, former Minister of Transportation, John Emeka, former National Auditor, Paul Chukwuma, zonal Youth Leader, Olisaemeka Onyeka, and Chief Basil Ejidike, among others.
He said the State Caucus received a briefing from Ejidike on the state of the party in Anambra and accepted and adopted the report given by the Chairman, including the suspension allegedly handed down to the former state secretary, Chukwuma Agufugo and Publicity secretary, Okelo Madukaife.
However, the other APC group at a meeting held at No 19 Justice Mohammed Bello at, Asokoro Abuja, issued communiqué of a combined meeting of the party.
Their statement signed by Chief Agunwa Anaekwe said: “After a well-articulated deliberation regarding the state of the affairs in our dear party the All Progressive Congress (APC) Anambra State chapter, the meeting resolved as follows:
“The meeting took notice of our aggrieved brothers who were disenfranchised in the 2021 Governorship primary and appealed to them to sheath their swords and continue to assist in building a formidable party in Anambra.
“The meeting also took notice of about three factions in the state caretaker/working committee (SWC) of the APC Anambra chapter occasioned by the 2021 Governorship primary.
“The caucus reaffirmed unquenchable and implicit confidence in the selfless leadership in H.E. Sen Dr. Chris Ngige (OON).
“The meeting calls on the National caretaker and extraordinary convention committee of the APC Anambra chapter and put in place a seven-man interim management committee to manage the affairs in the state and oversee the conduct of congresses of the party in Anambra to hold in a fourth night after the new year.
“The meeting calls on the National Caretaker and extraordinary convention committee to ensure that all processes leading to the conduct and completion of a free and fair statewide congress in Anambra are put in place 45 days.”
In the midst of the contention for the control of the soul of the party, are allegations from certain party stalwarts that its members engaged in pre-written election results but the efforts failed in the process.
Uba had in response to this, last week, asked those peddling the claims to reveal such persons involved in the process. These are issues currently unsettling the APC and Uba in Anambra State. Is Uba’s quest to return to the political limelight kissing the dust again? The days ahead will provide an answer.