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WILL UMEH WEAR THE BLUE RIBBON?
It is possible, argues Pat Onukwuli
Writing about Victor Umeh’s aspiration in Anambra Central Senatorial District elections coming up Saturday 25 February 2023 election is not a walk in the park. This is especially so when there is already a glut on the subject and his mission. Apart from what is already known about him since his politics and his activities in earlier Senate, his current quest to return to upper chambers, not on APGA that he co-founded, but Labour Party, has since stirred some emotions. However, Umeh’s chances are made stronger by his political capital, evident in his vigorous and purposeful leadership of APGA but more for what he did for his people of Anambra Central Senatorial district during his brief, but momentous outing in the Eight Senate.
But first, a caveat! Umeh is my friend. He has been so from our University days, and I know him enough to insist that his ambition has all the trappings of goodness and providence. He was both my classmate and roommate. Our friendship flourished while we were together in diligent pursuits of academic work at Estate Survey Department of University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus and following on later for our higher degree quest at the same university under tutelage of Professor John Umeh, doyen of Estate Management in Nigeria. Our adventures varied, but only of a sort youths at time engaged and our relationships extended to our parents and siblings. When the need to settle down to family life called Umeh answered first, I was his best man. We worked hard as young Estate Surveyors and Valuers and were able to reach certain station in life before Umeh chose a different career progression.
I needed to tell this for three reasons. One is to dispel certain speculations about him that are based on ignorance. Two is to situate him in the context of his ambition. Umeh’s politics from his days in All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – a party he was almost synonymous with until few months back – has been one defined by courage, commitment and focus. And three to lay bare our relationship that otherwise elicit insinuations of unconscious bias. I say this conscious of what I know and how so well I do to appreciate Umeh’s worldview which is neither tainted by tunnel vision nor defined by crass opportunism. His role during the formation of APGA, its teething problems, the struggle for political dominance in Anambra and beyond, and his exit were clear to me. I equally made my little contributions during the period as were others, but Umeh with his trademark long red cap was exceptional. He led APGA’s fight from the front and ensured its fortunes did not dwindle through his steadfastness and the resilience of Obi, currently the Labour Party presidential candidate.
In their scholarly and influential book, The Future of Representative Democracy published by Cambridge University Press, Sonia Alonso, John Keane, et al., argue that its sated maturity in early twentieth century, representative democracy has been of epochal political importance as it has come to signify choices in which people in their role as voters have real options and are free to identify with aspirants who will act in defence of their interest. They assert that these representatives should be chosen at regular elections and their task will be to watch over expenditure of public money, domestic and foreign policies, and all other actions of government.
In a similar vein; historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, third US President and Apostle of Americanism; Marquis de Condorcet, French philosopher and mathematician; and James Mill, Scottish historian, economist championed and propagated representative democracy as a way of providing better governance by open expression of differences of opinion not only between represented and representatives but among representatives. However, these founding fathers of democracy insist that the realisation of credible representative democracy will depend on supreme written constitution, impartial judiciary, independent arbiter that ensures free and fair periodic elections, limited term holding of political offices, voting by secret ballot, competitive political parties, right of citizens to assemble in public and press freedom.
Umeh standing on merits of representative democracy had insisted that he was candidate to beat at the forthcoming Senatorial Elections slated for Saturday, 25 February based on his past achievements in Upper Chambers of National Assembly. He declared among others that; he singlehandedly pursued the non-representation of South-East geo-political zone in the country’s security apparatus and challenged the proscription of IPOB. He contended, therefore, that he should be voted into office based on self-regulatory and inner workings of beneficial representative democracy that rewards exceptional performance and apportions blame for poor political accomplishment, which will thereby ensure election of dependable candidates based on capacity and merit.
Speaking at a Political Debate held at Awka that was organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Radio, Arts, Television and Theatre Union (RATTAWU) in conjunction with Society for Equity, Justice and Peace (SEJUP) as well as Bring It Up Africa for Anambra Central Senatorial Candidates; Umeh specified that the primary duty of a lawmaker in a representative democracy was to be alive to paramount interests of its constituents. He derided and railed his opponents at the debate who were in National Assembly during multi-million-dollar national rail line expansion project for their indifference and detachment that resulted in the exclusion of entire South-East Zone from the project. He stressed the importance of electing mature and sound candidate who can courageously and selflessly withstand rigours and demands of law making at national level and contended that he is the benchmark for such putative candidate.
However, despite being the frontrunner and favourite candidate, Umeh’s fate and hopes of participating in the said next elections still hangs in the balance as a Federal High Court Sitting at Awka on 27 January on Petition filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Uche Ekwunife, disqualified him from the next Senatorial Election on grounds of non-compliance with the provisions of 2022 Electoral Act, holding that his name was still in membership register of APGA as of 30 September 2022 when he contested Labour Party’s primary. However, Umeh has appealed against the judgement and the Court of Appeal in Awka, Wednesday, reserved its ruling on the appeal challenging a judgment barring him from taking part in 2023 Senatorial Elections.
If the Court of Appeal rules in his favour as his Counsel, Alex Ejesieme, hopes, relying on several judgements on related matters, including that of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt on Suit. No. CA/PH 480/2022, delivered on 29 November in the case between PDP vs INEC and 11 others, Umeh will truly be the candidate to beat and who will eventually wear the blue ribbon.
This article hinges more on the role of fate in Umeh’s journey to the Labour Party and what his election holds for Anambra Central District and South-East in general as before this time his relationship with Obi was low as a result of political differences. Perhaps remembering to what strength their combined political ideas presented in the past and will in the coming election, the veil of differences snapped without reconciliation meetings. As Obi breaks new grounds by nudging Nigerians, especially the youths out of political inertia, Umeh stays behind to consolidate the gains. His quest to represent Anambra Central Senatorial district has greater chance of success in the Labour Party than it would in APGA. The Obi campaign phenomenon tagged Obidient movement is sweeping across Nigeria with an amazing force that may leave the overconfident politicians deeply mortified.
Returning Umeh to the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has greater value than not having him there. Those who worked against his interest in the election may have allowed ego to becloud their sense of good judgment. Umeh that I know will be of greater relevance to Ndi Igbo than outside of it and no one among his fellow contestants has greater value. Umeh has requisite knowledge and eloquence to deal with many issues confronting his people in the Senate and he has good fortune to attain his ambition under Labour Party. It does not seem any other person will be a better choice.
.Onukwuli, PhD, writes from
Bolton, United Kingdom, email@example.com