By Chekwube Chukwunyere
As a keen observer of political developments in Anambra State, I have noticed, lately, several media reports concerning the purported political battle between the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, and the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the November 6, 2021, governorship election in the state, Sen. Andy Uba.
According to the sensationalised media reports, Ngige and Uba are engaged in a battle royale over the leadership of APC in Anambra State. This battle between the two political gladiators has reportedly polarised the APC in Anambra into two camps, each trying to undo the other in a bid to capture the party’s structure ahead of the forthcoming state congresses.
Recall that the APC had held state congresses across the country last October but the National Caretaker Committee/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) put the exercise on hold in Anambra State following the disaffection that trailed the controversial June 26 governorship primary election, which produced Sen. Andy Uba as the standard-bearer of the party for the November 6 governorship election. The outcome of the primary election was rejected by all the 13 aspirants that contested the APC ticket with Uba.
At the end of the day, APC had a disastrous outing in the governorship election, with its standard-bearer coming a “distant third” in the polls won by Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The outcome of that election puzzled many people. How could someone who won primary election involving only party members with 230,000 votes, manage to get only 43,000 votes in the main election?
It is, however, incongruous that Uba, who lost even his own local government, has gone to the Anambra State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Awka to challenge the victory of the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in an election adjudged by both local and international observers as not only free, fair and transparent, but one of the best conducted in Nigeria since the beginning of this democratic dispensation in 1999.
Unfazed, Uba is back in the arena, this time, challenging Ngige over the leadership of APC in Anambra State. An Igbo adage says that “one should first struggle for land before struggling for a mat.”
Without prejudice to Uba’s fluffy case against Soludo at the tribunal, Ngige’s “numero uno” position in APC in the South-East and Nigeria in general had never been in contention anywhere. He is obviously not in competition with anybody over the leadership of APC in Anambra State.
As one of the founding fathers of APC in Nigeria, Ngige occupies a prime position in the comity of elders of the party in the country, which comprises of President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Bisi Akande, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Olusegun Osoba, Ogbonnaya Onu, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Danjuma Goje and Sen. Wamakko. In Anambra State, he almost single-handedly nurtured the party from the scratch till it became an attraction to Uba and his ilk. The Labour Minister has remained steadfast in the party and never at any time abandoned his troops, as insinuated by the publicity director of the Andy Uba Campaign Organisation, Afam Ogene.
It is public knowledge that our circumstances today, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant grave consequences on the world of work, has made the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment one of the busiest ministries in the country today. Yet, in solidarity with his party, Ngige left his numerous engagements as chief labour officer of Nigeria and member of several federal cabinet committees to return to Anambra to participate in the election. This was regardless of his reservations about the flawed process that produced Uba as the standard-bearer.
Therefore, the claim that he sabotaged Uba in the election is quite laughable. If he sabotaged Uba in Idemili North and South local government areas, did he sabotage the APC candidate at his home Aguata Local Government Area, where he lost woefully to Soludo? Besides Aguata, Uba lost in the 20 other local government areas in Anambra State. He is the only candidate among the top four contenders that could not win a local government. Even Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah, the candidate of the relatively unknown Young Progressive Party (YPP) won in his own local government area, Nnewi North. All these facts are there in the public domain.
Contrary to the cry of sabotage by Uba’s camp, keen observers of political affairs in Anambra State believe that the defeat of the APC candidate was a self-inflicted injury. Imagine a situation where aspirants coughed out N30 million each and yet they were not allowed to even vote for themselves in the botched primary election. Party faithful trooped out en mass to vote but it was a no-show across the 326 wards in Anambra State. Sensing danger, Ngige advised that a fresh primary election should be held to enable aspirants and party faithful exercise their right of participation, but the advice fell on deaf ears.
There is no way a house divided against itself can stand. Rather than pacify the aggrieved aspirants, Uba went into the election, hoping on the proverbial federal might to deliver him as the governor of Anambra State.
The latest trending video of Sen. Joy Emordi confirmed this fact. Sen. Emordi was among those who were poached by Uba from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the election. Speaking at an Expanded Combined Emergency Caucus and State Executive Committee (SEC) meeting of the party recently in Abuja, the first female Senator from the South-East said that a high ranking member of the party confided in her that the results of the election had been written. However, the outcome of the election proved otherwise. Uba lost woefully.
An Igbo adage says that “the thing you wear on your arm, needs not to be looked around for.”
As the only Senior Minister from Anambra State, Ngige remains the embodiment of APC leadership in the State as reaffirmed by the expanded meeting, chaired by a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Agunwa Anaekwe. According to the communiqué presented to journalists by Anaekwe, “the meeting reaffirmed unquenchable and implicit confidence in the selfless leadership of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige (Onwa), OON, MD.”
Party bigwigs at the Abuja meeting who signed the communiqué include Senators, Joy Emordi and Emmanuel Anosike, a former member of the House of Representatives, Gozie Agbakoba, a major financier of the party, Nelson Onubogu, the State Secretary, John Agufugo, Publicity Secretary, Okelo Madukaife, as well as aggrieved Governorship aspirants, Chief Edozie Madu, Sir Paul Orajaka, Colonel Geofrey Onjejegbu (rtd.), Maxwell Okoye and Hygers Igwebuike. Other aspirants, George Muoighalu, Johnbosco Onunkwo, Azuka Okwuosa and Theo Nnorom sent their regrets for being unable to attend as a result of circumstances beyond their control. Federal Government appointees including chairmen of boards and all the 21 local government chairmen of APC in Anambra State were present.
Looking at array of APC chieftains that attended the meeting, one does not need a magnifying lens to know the “Authentic Leader” of the APC in Anambra State. Ngige cannot be contesting with a defeated governorship candidate for the leadership of a party that he groomed and nurtured from infancy. The public are not be deceived by the antics of a splinter group of the party who gathered in a Hotel at Maitama where they affirmed Uba as the Leader of the party, more so when the convener of the meeting, the embattled Acting Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Basil Ejidike has reportedly been ousted by the Court of Appeal in Enugu.
Going by my vast knowledge of political matters, one cannot parade himself as a party leader just because a group of “former this and that” gathered in a hotel and affirmed him as the leader, whereas in actual fact, he lacked the credentials to play such a key leadership role. For one to be a leader, the people must willingly follow and respect the person, not out of deceit or inducement.
In conclusion, Ngige has never shirked in his responsibilities as the father of APC in Anambra State. That is why on the prompting of aggrieved governorship aspirants, he called the Expanded Caucus/State Executive Committee meeting in Abuja to proffer solutions on how to move the party forward. At the meeting he admitted that “some people have sacrificed their blood to make the party what it is and that the injustice in the party did not start today.” He called on all party members to remain calm, praying that God would help them to make sure that their party people were adequately compensated. This is the hallmark of a good leader.