Anambra Central Rerun: Confessions, the Election and the Law

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The battle for Anambra Central senatorial district in a rerun poll ia ensconced in fundamental issues than the voters are privy to, writes Okelo Madukaife
Dr. Joe-Martins Uzodike, lawyer, politician and now a member of PDP was an adviser to Governor Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo in the Second Republic.

In the first term of Governor Peter Obi in Anambra State as currently structured, Uzodike confessed that he was the State Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when his party joined other political parties to seek an injunction restraining the government of the day from conducting local government elections.

In the second term of Obi’s governorship, however, it was achieved. Joe Uzodike became Commissioner for Information and later made history as the first and only person to hold the position of commissioner and Campaign Director General for a candidate – Willie Obiano – then hand-picked by Obi and his party Chairman, Victor Umeh, as candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance ( APGA). Of course, he had become an APGA man.

When Obiano was declared winner, however it happened, that Uzodike became Commissioner for Information and later Political Adviser. When a breakdown in relationship occurred between Obiano and Obi, his benefactor, the later changed camp to the PDP, where Uzodike used to be a State Vice Chairman and the political adviser was struck by double loyalty. He lost his job on that count following an interview granted in a radio station, which to Obiano revealed loyalty to Obi while serving his government.

The rest, they say, is history and Uzodike, who declined an assessment of Obiano’s regime, but claimed that Obi’s bid to extend favours to some school in Anambra State is back in PDP, routing for Obi to enter the repeat senatorial election in Anambra Central.
Speaking on a political programme, Viewpoints on Rhythm FM Radio, Awka, Uzodike took core advantage of his Israelite journey in politics, to speak like an insider in many issues and in the process raked up controversy on all the milestones of his political sojourn.

First, he confessed that the Government of Peter Obi had to pay a whopping sum of N650 million for Umeh to endorse the candidature of Willie Obiano. He also authoritatively said the same government paid APGA the sum of N2.4 billion, split on monthly basis for the running of APGA in eight years of Obi’s governorship, yet Umeh could not account for these monies.

He went ahead to accuse Umeh of collecting a total of N308m from APGA aspirants in the failed LG elections of 2009, which rather than return, he converted to personal use, thereby short-changing APGA aspirants, whom he was supposed to guard. He broke the sum as N1m each from all 210 LG Chairmanship Aspirants and One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100,000) from all the 980 councillorship aspirants.

But, it was not all about money. Uzodike, relying on his legal knowledge, advanced arguments to show why PDP was not excluded from the Anambra Central senatorial race and why the interpretation of the December 7, 2015 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was wrong, adding that INEC had not appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court Abuja, which ordered the inclusion of PDP in the repeat election.

He insisted that the only appeal against the judgment so far has come again from the candidate of APGA, Umeh ‘who is not a party in the matter’
Then, the interesting happened! Victor Umeh called into the programme and surprisingly answered to the all financial issues raised in blanket as ‘tissues of lies’, asking him to publish it in a newspaper. Asked Umeh: “Do you have any proof of payment of these monies right there with you?” Uzodike asked if he was supposed to show the proof on radio. Umeh did not say the money was not paid, nor did he say he did not receive the monies.

The candidate of APGA then responded to the issue of INEC not having appealed with questions. ‘How do you know that INEC is yet to appeal? Are you the registrar of the court?’ Umeh queried before going ahead to justify that PDP could not participate in the election based on “the decided cases by the Supreme Court and we are working on that”.

Uzodike, however, went ahead to claim that Peter Obi was in the senatorial race, but gave no details of how, and could not raise an answer for a lady, who called in to insist that PDP should put its house in order and name one candidate, since there are three persons laying claim to the candidature of the party.

It is actually four – Peter Obi, Annie Okonkwo, Sylvester Okonkwo and Obiora Okonkwo, who is in another court asking to be declared the candidate of PDP, and it is a familiar road. Many will argue that the order of the high court to include PDP is not tantamount to including Obi.

But that was not the only assertion Uzodike could not back up. The former commissioner for Information, which some called Mr. Propaganda at the time claimed that Anambra Central should vote PDP because PDP has the minority leader, and 52 seats in the Senate, while APC has 56.

Before Senator Obaisi Ovie Omo-Agege of Labour Party (LP) emerged in Delta Central after a crucial and protracted battle in the judiciary that removed Ighoyota Amori. PDP ordinarily had 49 seats in the Senate, while APC had 60, after winning Borno Central. Of course the 49 includes Senators like Buruji Kashamu, who never attend senate sitting, apart from inauguration and one or two other advertised seats.

But that’s a matter for another day. PDP had 49 seats. Then Omo-Agege defeated the PDP candidate and threw him out of the Senate. It became 48. All three seats in Rivers State were annulled, leaving 45. One in Anambra Central was annulled by the Court of Appeal leaving 44. Abia North was cancelled, leaving 43 (but won back by the PDP). Imo North seat was lost, but still leaving it at 43. Meanwhile if you deduct the two seats of Kogi Central and Kogi East, APC has 58, hence, 58, 43 and 1 for APC, PDP and LP respectively.

Not even the return of PDP in Kogi Central after a reversal of return and that of Abia North in the same mould, added with Kogi East can give the PDP its original number as yet, not to talk of Uzodike’s exaggeration intended to confuse Anambra Central. PDP currently has 43 seats in the Senate and therefore cannot be anything other than minority, in which case can only be slightly better than APGA.

So can a people leave the best position of majority as represented by APC to pursue a debate between a minority and a micro-minority because hitherto, there is no APGA member in the Senate? Can Anambra Central say they have voted wisely if they leave the chance to vote an APC senator to join the majority, join the ruling caucus, join the arrowhead of the change that Nigeria is adjusting well to and join the crusade to restore their constituency back to reckoning?

It is best to leave that point-to-ponder in the heads of the deep-thinking people and voters of Anambra Central Senatorial District, where by virtue of the established principle that when an election is cancelled, it does not exist in the eye of the law, and based also on the fact that the custodian of the March 28, 201 mandate now annulled, Hon Uche Ekwunife is now an APC member. APC is the incumbent and the best bet.

Uzodike’s claim to Obi being in the race is roundly flawed as neither he nor Obi has gotten Obiora Okonkwo, Annie Okonkwo and Sylvester Okonkwo – all laying claim to the candidature of PDP in the Anambra Central senatorial race – to say that Obi is now the candidate.
Even then, APC has warned PDP to produce one candidate only as their 13-year old tradition of going into elections in Anambra State with multiple candidates will not be accepted this time.

Consequently APC makes one last appeal in the interest of anything PDP leaders in Anambra State worship that they should for once disappoint those who have predicted with accuracy that PDP would have plural candidates in this strategic race, by getting indoors for a meeting or at least conducting primaries. APC Anambra Chapter said in a public statement, urging the electorate to ignore any party in which more than one person campaign as candidate.

But there is one other very strong argument in favour of an APC senator. The judgment of the Court of Appeal was given and now stands against the principle established by the Supreme Court in the governorship cases in the Middle Belt state of Benue and Taraba and so Ekwunife was shortchanged, and where she cannot return to the senate which had eight women and now seven, another woman of quality and good profile should replace her to use the soft approach in winning what the hard tackles have not won.

Anambra Central constituents, looking over the labyrinth of suits in court as the rivers they must cross to fill their vacant seat in the Red Chambers anxiously await a date, and the confirmation of the updated line-up in the epic fresh election that should exclude those who traded with Anambra’s future.

Before then, there are confessions against the law; fury is over the land. The cry of the Children whose future has been aborted rent the air. The blood of the innocent patients, whose forfeited money to buy drugs and other equipment to be siphoned, sing for justice right into every Anambrarian ear and Nigerians alike.

Obi allegedly paid out paid out N2.4 bn of Anambra State money to APGA. Obi, Obinao and Uzodike allegedly paid N650m of Anambra State money to Umeh to endorse Obiano as a candidate; and Umeh reportedly converted N308 million, belonging to cancelled LG election aspirants, and the law has no option, but to react in all directions of infraction, whether Obi’s, Umeh’s, Obiano’s or Uzodike’s ox is gored.

-Madukaife is the Anambra State Publicity Secretary of the APC