When she was declared winner of the March 28, 2015 senatorial election for Anambra Central, she never really envisaged that a day like this would come, at least not so soon. A day she would be running from pillar to post looking for a political platform to hold on to her dreams. EMMA ALOZIE examines how the political journey of Senator Uche Ekwunife is threatened to come to an abrupt end
She has had a nomadic political career, crisscrossing all known political platforms. She is no stranger to moving from one party to another, but it seems the latest move by Senator Uche Ekwunife may bring to an end what has become an illustrious but unusual political journey.
During the last general election, she won a senatorial election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, but when the Appeal Court nullified the election, she crossed over to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
This move has shocked even many of her supporters, followers and admirers, especially when she spearheaded a virulent ethnic based campaign against the APC during the last election.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu had voided the ruling of the election petition tribunal, which upheld her election. Arriving at the decision, the three-man Court of Appeal panel led by Justice A.H. Yahaya in a unanimous decision said the PDP held an invalid primary election and therefore the election should not stand. The Appeal Court ordered for a rerun within 90 days.
The ousted senator is not new to jumping parties. She started her political career from the PDP where she was first elected a House of Representatives member.
In 2010, she left the PDP and joined the Peoples Progressive Alliance, (PPA) where she contested the governorship of Anambra State but lost. So in the 2011 general elections, she joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA where she contested and won back her seat as a member of the House of Reps.
From APGA, she left back for the PDP where she was elected into the Senate in the last 2015 general elections, the election that has just been annulled.
Soon after the Appeal Court annulled her election on grounds of invalid nomination process, she abandoned the PDP for the APC blaming her defection on what she called leadership ineptitude. She complained that since her election was annulled, the party’s leadership never condemned the annulment.
However that is very far from the truth. Just like in previous defections, she is driven by the search to know where her political bread would be better buttered.
The major reason behind her latest defection has been blamed on belonging to a wrong party caucus in the state. It is a known fact that Anambra PDP has been the most crisis-ridden chapter of the party. In the build up to the last state congress, where Ken Emeakayi emerged the state chairman, she supported a rival candidate. And even when Emeakayi emerged, she did not pay the required homage.
This explains why when her election was annulled by the court and rerun fixed, the Emeakayi faction of the party withdrew the ticket from her. This left her in a limbo, with no clear political direction. Already in APGA, her former party, the ticket holder is her arch rival and the former national chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh. This effectively ruled APGA out as an alternative.
She now was left with the APC as the only viable alternative especially as the main holder of that ticket; Dr Chris Ngige has been made a minister, which has effectively ruled him out of the race.
Expectedly, she is not getting a warm welcome in the party. Many members of the party in the state are aggrieved and are kicking. Hon Adaobi Kate Uchegbu, an APC member from Idemili has shown her displeasure saying, Senator Ekwunife is trying to reap where she did not sow.
“The people of Anambra central senatorial district are not impressed with Senator Ekwunife’s decampment to APC. Actually, it seems that the people feel further disenchanted from the federal government because of her recent action.
“I believe that my party, APC will conduct a free and fair primaries in Anambra state and the delegates will not foolishly hand over the senatorial ticket to an opportunist.
“Be rest assured that the party leadership will do the right thing. They are already collating opinions from every side in this impasse,” she said.
Even the de facto leader of the party in the state, Dr Ngige, who is now Nigeria’s Labour Minister, has said there would not be any automatic ticket for any aspirant including Senator Ekwunife.
“I am not contesting hence there should be a replacement but there won’t be automatic ticket for anybody in APC. The party has decided to conduct primaries for interested candidates and whoever wins will fly the flag of APC for the cancelled election.
“The party chose to conduct fresh primaries to give everybody a sense of belonging. So far, about three people have indicated interest.
“The party is large enough to accommodate anybody and we don’t discriminate. She has spoken with me and she has also met with party leaders in Abuja but i don’t know if she has visited the wards yet. She is welcome,” Ngige said.
However, beyond the crisis her entry into the APC has generated, can she win back the Anambra Central Senatorial seat using the APC ticket? This is where the second most difficult huddle lies. APC is treated with suspicion in the South East and in Anambra it has the worst suspicion. Anambra is predominantly ruled by APGA and the second most popular party in the state still remains the PDP. How then does she hope to scale this formidable huddle?
Mrs Kate Uchegbu believes that APGA will win the election instead, if APC moves ahead to give Ekwunife the ticket. “We had already started campaigning to our people that the South East was going to get back their lost Senate presidency seat through Senator Ngige and APC. But unfortunately, Ekwunife’s decampment has only led the voters into the arms of APGA.
“They are now poised to give all their votes to APGA. This recent action has further jeopardized the chances of APC in this election,” she added.
But Senator Ngige does not think that APC would be an impediment to Ekwunife winning back the seat.
“We stand a very good chance, my political structure is there, the party has its own machinery. They’re interwoven and if I don’t want to overestimate I will say that if you combine my structure with that of the party, we have a solid 40-45 percent vote that she can say is her own based on our effect.
“Senator Ekwunife has some clout because she has run a federal constituency two times and won therefore she’s not a push over. If you do an addition of all these I mentioned, the chance of the party is bright and we will work hard in taking that seat because we want to show that the state is not an APGA state or a PDP state,” the minister said.
Senator Ekwunife understands quite well that the outcome of this election would go a long way in shaping her political future. A loss at the polls would effectively keep her out of power and protection of office for four long years and even being a member of the ruling APC would not guarantee her favours at the centre because she has to be on queue to wait for her turn. And this may not come so soon.
The question is, will this mark the end of an illustrious but unusual political journey?