INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Today, the people of Anambra State will troop out to cast their votes for the candidate of their choice for the post of the governor of the state. However, what may be on the lips of ardent followers of the trend of events in the state will be whether a true winner will emerge from the polls or will there be another resort to judicial battle to determine the winner?
A careful study of the political events in Anambra State in the last decade shows that the judiciary has more often than not been the deciding factor of who becomes the governor, irrespective of the outcome of the poll. If we cast our minds back to the election of 2003 when the governorship challenge was mainly between the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, the incumbent governor Peter Obi and the People's Democratic Party’s candidate, Senator Chris Ngige, we will remember that the election ended in favour of the PDP man. The outcome was challenged in court up to the last arbiter before victory was reversed in favour of Obi.
The APGA government under Obi also had a running battle with members of the state legislature, leading to the impeachment of the government by a section of the state legislature. Arising from the resulting quagmire, the Deputy Governor, Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba was called up to the saddle, until Obi got judicial reprieve from the courts. The scenario in 2007 was not particularly different as the flamboyant PDP governorship candidate, Senator Andy Uba's ascension to office was cut short by Obi whose elongated tenure had to be validated through the Supreme Court intervention. Anambra State thus became the first state in the country whose governorship election had to fall outside of the normal electoral calendar. Again, during the 2010 governorship election, the state PDP chapter was embroiled in serious conflict over the selection of the party's governorship candidate to the extent that the aspirants employed judicial processes to its limit in a bid to outwit each other. Eventually, it was the former governor of the Central Bank, Prof. Charles Soludo that smiled last and flew the party's flag at the gubernatorial election and lost to the incumbent, Governor Obi.
From every indication, what has become a common trend in the politics of Anambra is the seeming unrelenting struggle for power and the frequent recourse to judicial intervention as a means of settling political scores whether it is intra and inter-party. Already, a similar trend has been established in the build-up to today's governorship contest, with most of the candidates involved in the election having wriggled out of court cases or are still having outstanding cases to settle in court. For the PDP, it was a hectic legal altercation which saw three of the frontline aspirants, Senator Andy Uba, Nicholas Ukachukwu and Tony Nwoye fighting it out to the Supreme Court until the later secured the all-important Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing his participation in the governorship election.
In the case of the Labour Party candidate, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, his entanglement with the allegation of an involvement in the oil subsidy scam was quickly abated with the court granting him perpetual injunction from further prosecution and thus gaining a a clean bill of health to be in the governorship race.
APGA and its candidate, Chief Willie Obiano were not free from the litigation saga as the party is still saddled with the bitter supremacy struggle between two former political allies, Chief Victor Umeh and Mr. Maxi Okwu over who is the authentic National Chairman of the party. After loosing out in the APGA governorship primary, one the aspirants, Dr. Obidigbo joined ranks with Okwu-led APGA group and filed a court action challenging the recognition of Obiano as the party's candidate in the election. Though Okwu has issued a statement urging APGA supporters not to be dissuaded from supporting the party on the account of the dispute, he still did not give any undertaking that the case in court will be withdrawn. As this was not enough, there is another case hanging on the neck of Obiano, alleging double voter registration.
What all these signify is that Anambra State is still living up its reputation as far as uncertainties dogging governorship elections in the last one decade are concerned. And from all indications, today's election may not be significantly different from the past in the sense that it's outcome might still be subject to further judicial interventions due to pending pre-election issues.