It was Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) who said, “I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark”. Giving credence to Hobbes’ awful statement, John Ford (1586 – 1639) quipped, “Tempt not the stars, young man, thou canst not play with the severity of fate”.
Hobbes and Ford spoke the minds of Anambra state electorate over the ever increasing number of the State’s Chapter of Peoples Democratic Party aspirants jostling to contest the rerun Anambra Central Senatorial seat, particularly former Governor Peter Obi who recently joined the fray despite the clear handwriting on the wall – mission impossible.
It has been the practice in the Anambra State Chapter of Peoples Democratic Party to field multiple candidates in all elections from different factions and allow the court to determine the authentic candidates.
Ahead of the 2015 general election, factional PDP chairman in the state, Ejike Oguebego conducted his primary for state and national legislative positions in which Chris Uba, Annie Okonkwo among others emerged. Ken Emeakayi who conducted his faction’s primary where Andy Uba, Stella Odua, Uche Ekwunife etc. emerged.
Although the Supreme Court in its lead Judgment delivered by Justice John Inyang Okoro on 29th January 2016, upheld the leadership of Ejike Oguebego, it declined jurisdiction on the status of those “elected” into the National Assembly in Emeakayi’s faction, when INEC sought interpretation of its ruling as candidates of both factions claimed victory.
Former governor Peter Obi who ruled Anambra state from 17th March 2006 to 16th March 2014, on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance did not participate in the two factional primaries having vowed not to contest any elective position at the end of his eventful tenure and jettisoned APGA for PDP.
Chief Victor Umeh, the immediate past national chairman of APGA and its candidate in the Anambra Central Senetorial seat contested the poll with Mrs. Uche Ekwunife and Dr. Chris Ngige candidates of PDP and All Progressives Congress respectively.
Although INEC declared Ekwunife winner of the contentious election and she won at the election petition tribunal, it was a pyrrhic victory as the Court of Appeal nullified her election and ordered a rerun stating that she was not the authentic candidate of the party, aside of the election being fraught with irregularity.
It was a resounding victory for Umeh’s audacity of courage in challenging the controversial election. INEC fixed the rerun poll for March 5, 2016 and stated that only candidates of the political parties who participated in the March 28, 2015 senatorial poll would contest the rerun election except PDP whose candidate, Ekwunife was disqualified by the appellate court and who could not be replaced as the time for substitution of candidates had elapsed, a position the Supreme Court upheld in previous judgments.
APC’s candidate, Chris Ngige declined to contest preferring to serve as Minister of Labour and Employment in Buhari’s government.
It is amazing that Peter Obi who did not participate in any of the factional primaries would, despite INEC’s clear position on those qualified to contest the rerun and various apex court verdicts on similar matter, decide to join the race for Anambra Central Senatorial zone.
He seemed to have anchored his ambition on the grossly flawed ruling of Justice Anwuri Chikere of the Federal High Court Abuja who directed that PDP should field a candidate in the rerun. INEC suspended the poll and approached the Court of Appeal for direction.
Political pundits are of the opinion that Peter Obi’s action is a delay tactic to frustrate Victor Umeh’s senatorial bid as the undisputed front runner in the Anambra Central Senatorial election. The Anambra electorate also wonders if Obi is not biting the finger that fed him.
Umeh played a major role in the emergence of Peter Obi as APGA Governorship candidate in 2003 which the National Leader of the party and its presidential candidate late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu graciously accepted.
Umeh who was the National Treasurer of APGA and the highest national officer from Anambra State backed by Dim Ojukwu and other party stakeholders criss-crossed the State in the first grassroots campaign in Anambra State since the Fourth Republic.
In the 2003 governorship poll, it was the rule of might by godfathers, who also stole Obi’s mandate, while Chris Ngige of PDP was declared winner and sworn-in as governor.
Umeh threw his hat into the electoral ring, dared the ubiquitous godfathers and testified at Anambra State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal from September 1 to 29, 2003. By God’s grace, Obi won at the tribunal in August 2005 and at the appeal court in March 2006 and was sworn in as the first APGA governor on March 17 2006.
Eight months later, Obi was impeached by the PDP dominated Anambra State House of Assembly. Deputy Governor Virgy Etiaba became governor while the impeachment case was being adjudicated in court. Obi won at both the high and appellate courts. Umeh and Ojukwu urged Mrs. Etiaba to relinquish the governorship. She complied and Peter Obi was restored.
The famous interpretation of tenure suit was filed to determine when Obi’s four-year tenure commenced as Ngige had ruled from May 29, 2003 to March 16, 2006. The Supreme Court held that Obi’s tenure started when he was sworn in on March 17, 2016 thus began the staggered elections in Nigeria, a judicial victory for APGA under Chief Umeh’s leadership.
Shortly after this landmark judgment, Obi fell out with Ojukwu who threw his support for the governorship bid behind Emeka Etiaba, son of the deputy governor, Virgy Etiaba, Umeh intervened and brokered peace between Ojukwu and Obi.
It was to protect the sanctity of Obi’s mandate that Umeh resisted APGA’s pioneer national chairman, Chekwas Okorie who instituted 23 suits to quash his expulsion on January 11, 2005.
Obioha, a public affairs analyst sent this piece from Lagos.