By EHICHIOYA EZOMON
Unless respect for due process, equity and fair play guides its arbitration, what’s about to happen to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November governorship election in Anambra State is what history teaches those that do not learn from history: A bitter lesson!
The party’s National Working Committee (NWC) in Abuja is treading a similar path that caused the APC the July 8 Osun West senatorial bye-election that was almost in its bag for keeps.
A flashback to that election indicates that the screening and appeals committees for the primaries had disqualified Senator Mudashiru Hussain, a former commissioner in the cabinet of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, for allegedly failing to resign his appointment 30 days before seeking to represent the APC at the election.
However, the screening committee cleared Chief Ademola Adeleke, a brother to the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, whose sudden death in March created the void for the bye-election.
Recall that during this period, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was asphyxiating due to each of its two factions’ desire to choose an acceptable candidate that the party members would back for the district balloting.
Meanwhile, at an emergency meeting in Abuja on June 12, the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC reversed the Hussain disqualification, thus incurring widespread disapproval from the party members in the senatorial district, and across the state.
With the APC effectively bungling its own affairs just weeks to the actual polling, Chief Adeleke sought refuge in the PDP, which received him with pomp and ceremony, knowing that the prevailing sentiments in Osun after the demise of Senator Adeleke would swing the votes in its favour. And it did: the PDP prevailed, thanks to the lifeline thrown to it by the APC.
Back to the Anambra State gubernatorial contest in November. History is about to be repeated, as the APC conducted what was pronounced as the freest and fairest primaries by any political party in the annals of the state.
Party primaries, being the major determinants of who fly the flags at an election, are always contentious due to intrigues that attend canvassing for the delegates, the voting and its aftermath.
Perhaps, the Anambra APC primaries on August 26/27 in Awka, the capital city, were no less wired, from whatever angle you may look at it: grassroots popularity, use of money, manipulation of delegates’ list, intimidation of delegates and preference by the party heavyweights.
However, owing pricipally to the seeming transparency displayed by both the APC Screening and Primaries Committees, the election of the candidate, Dr. Tony Nwoye, received instant acclaim from the committees, contestants, delegates and party members.
Of the 4,333 votes cast by the expected 5,000 plus delegates for the 11 aspirants for the ticket, Nwoye, a member of the House of Representatives, scored 2,146, to defeat his closest rival, Senator Andy Uba, who got 931 votes, according to the Chief Returning Officer and Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima.
Poll over, the Chairman of the Anambra APC Election Planning and Strategy Committee and a former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo; Governor Shettima; the party leaders in Anambra; and APC’s chieftain and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Uzor Orji Kalu, hailed the conduct of the primaries.
But as things stand today, the November election maybe far from Dr. Nwoye’s mind, as he fights to extricate himself from a web of scheming aimed at denying him the ticket he overwhelmingly won.
The arrows are coming from the camp of Senator Uba, who has filed a petition before the APC appeals committee, alleging that Dr. Nwoye imported students, “who acted as thugs, damaged vehicles at the venue of the primaries and drove away delegates and voted in the place of the authentic delegates.”
The question to ask: Was there any protest(s) in this regard lodged by Senator Uba and/or any other aspirant(s) before, during and immediately after the primaries?
Yet, several so-called civil society organisations, previously heard or unheard of, including a Concerned Anambra APC Youths, are parroting the Uba petition, and praying the appeals panel to replace Nwoye with Uba, who they credited with having the “experience, maturity and political sagacity on his side,” which they said Nwoye lacks, to defeat the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Will any unbiased watcher classify Mr. Nwoye, a medical doctor, and a member of the National Assembly, who had won the usually fiercely contested presidency of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), as not sufficiently grounded in the political nuances of Anambra to vie for the governorship again, as does Uba?
The schism in the Anambra APC is like a replay of the 2013 governorship election that brought the APGA to power. Then, Dr. Nwoye and Senator Uba, both of the PDP, couldn’t harmonise for a single primary contest.
Instead, they held two factional primaries, and the party headquarters in Abuja, on account of a court ruling, belatedly endorsed Nwoye a few days to the election, which the PDP lost, placing second to the APGA.
Interestingly, Nwoye, who appeared last week before the appeals committee to rebut the allegations, said that despite his entreaties, Senator Uba had refused to recognise him as the duly nominated candidate for the election.
The reason for that is now obvious, against Chief Nwobodo’s timely reminder “for all the aspirants to keep to their promise to support the winner of the primaries.”
Will the NWC of the APC, as it did in the Osun West bye-election, reject the candidate with the wider appeal among the party faithful, and who won the primaries with a margin of 1,215 votes, and hand over the party ticket to an aspirant that came a distant second?
From the experiences of the PDP primaries of the 2013 election, and those of the APC in August, in which Dr. Nwoye consecutively prevailed over Senator Uba, who will the party credit with having the grassroots supports to run on its behalf? That decision is for the NWC to make, either for good or for ill!
Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.