From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Political crises in Anambra State’s chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have become a quadrennial ritual, of sort. In the 36 states of the federation, the state appears to have marked itself out as the crisis capital.
This is because since the return of democracy in the country in 1999, the party formed in 1998 has been enmeshed in a series of internal crises in the state.
In fact, their disaffections in the state started shortly after the then governor, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, was sworn in.
Mbadinuju, a one-term governor, had bad outings with the political godfathers in the state almost throughout his four years in the saddle.
He was reportedly browbeaten by the political mafias and made to dance to their whims and caprices which cost the state some huge fortunes.
It was so bad that at some point, there was no enough money to pay workers salaries; hence, the industrial action which lasted for about a year. Throughout that period, the schools in the state were shut down.
Aside the non-payment of workers’ salaries, the developmental needs of the state were reportedly not executed as expected because the political gladiators allegedly found their way into the state’s treasury.
So, while the state and its people suffered and languished in penury, these figures and other political actors within that circle enjoyed their filthy lucre even as the governor reportedly stayed helpless.
Given that Mbadinuju already had a bad record of poor performance and might not be able to sway votes in the 2003 governorship election, the godfathers, among other reasons, scuttled his second term bid and replaced him with Dr Chris Ngige who was a party official then.
These factors and more, according to available reports, cost Mbadinuju his second term bid in 2003. In fact, the godfathers, it was believed, had thought that it would be business as usual with Ngige.
During the period, political thugs reigned supreme in Anambra. The party’s primary poll leading to the 2003 election was largely for the saying because the political lords in the then ruling party determined who got what, when and how.
The situation was so bad that Mr Peter Obi who was later to become the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) asked a rhetoric question: “Is Anambra cursed or the cause?”
Although that 2003 governorship election went the way it did, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pronounced the PDP candidate, Ngige, as the winner.
But barely two months after his inauguration, precisely on July 10 that same year, what could be described as a civilian coup happened in the state. Ngige, a sitting governor with all the paraphernalia of office, was abducted.
A team of armed policemen who were said to have come from Abuja disarmed his security detail and took him into custody. It took the swift actions of a few stakeholders to foil their mission.
That bizarre attempt made in a commando style to remove Ngige from office made public the breakdown of his relationship with his political godfather, Chief Chris Uba.
Incidentally, Ngige, a PDP governor was also in the same party with the then president of the country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. And with the police reportedly coming from Abuja, it was suspected that the presidency might not be unaware of that mission.
But before Ngige’s 2003 abduction saga, attempts were reportedly made to remove his predecessor, Mbadinuju, from power through the backdoor but that move reportedly failed. The reason for that was not clear.
Former representative of Orumba North and South in the National Assembly, Ben Nwankwo, who served Mbadinuju as commissioner, told Premium Times in an interview in 2017 that godfathers in PDP had asked him to help them, as an insider, to remove his principal but he refused.
He said that for his refusal to do their bidding, he was arrested and detained even as a sitting commissioner. He said that the same people worked tirelessly to stop him from going to the NASS even when he won his primary poll while in detention.
“In 2003, prior to that election, a political godfather asked me to help in removing the then governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju, whom I served in his administration as commissioner for special duties, finance, works and transport, housing and urban development.
“I told him that I wouldn’t have any reason to organise such a coup. He said he needed me desperately to remove Mbadinuju and I should talk against him and say all manners of things.
“I said I wouldn’t do that and that if I do it, it would hurt me and my children because I will be seen as biting the finger that fed me and it will be ungrateful of me.
“It is also because for you to be a commissioner in Anambra State without being sponsored by a godfather is very difficult. I was a commissioner without a godfather, I had God the father as my Godfather and I said no, I wouldn’t do that.
“For that reason, they conspired and wrote a petition against me and the then Inspector General of Police ordered for my arrest without any investigation or intelligence. I was just locked up in a police cell for months without charge”, Nwankwo had said.
It is believed that the disaffection between Ngige and his godfather, Uba, helped Obi of APGA to reclaim his mandate through the court in 2006 as those against him were hell-bent on removing him from office.
Ever since Ngige was thrown out of office, the PDP only tasted the state Government House in Agu Awka in 2007 for about two months through Senator Andy Uba whom INEC pronounced elected in the April 14, 2007 election.
He lasted for about two months as the then governor, Obi, challenged the elections in court on the grounds that the courts only accepted that he had won the April 2003 elections on March 15, 2006 and as such still had three years to serve out his four-year term.
The courts accepted Obi’s argument as valid and on June 14, 2007 nullified Andy Uba’s election, paving the way for Obi to return to power.
Ever since then, the PDP has been out of power in the state apart from winning legislative seats; and the party has had numerous crises moments. And these upheavals usually come up every four years during elections in the state.
Causes of these crises ranged from leadership tussle, falsification of delegate lists during primary polls and the imposition of candidates. There are also the activities of political merchants who make a lot of money during crises moments in the party.
As this year’s governorship election draws near, the quadrennial rancour has, as usual, resurfaced. This time, the battle is between the Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu-led state executive committee and the Sir Chukwudi Umeaba-led caretaker committee.
Last Wednesday, precisely on June 9, Umeaba and his group fired the first cannon with a court judgment they obtained from an Abuja High Court. This group is alleged to have the blessing of a well known political godfather in the state.
Samuel Anyakorah had dragged the party, its chairman in the state, Nwobu, and others to a Federal High Court sitting in Maitama with a number of prayers on it against the defendants.
He sued for himself and on behalf of all the Local Government Chairmen and Ward Executives who reportedly emerged from the state’s PDP congresses conducted on 28th November, 2017 and 1st December, 2017, under the supervision of Sir Chukwudi Umeaba, as Acting Chairman, Caretaker Committee.
The judgement, which came just a day to the commencement of the party’s 3-man ward delegate congresses, was delivered by Justice O. A. Adeniyi and it was favourable to the claimant.
“The first defendant is hereby ordered and compelled that during the conduct of all elections in Anambra State, to henceforth adopt, employ, recognize and use only the list of already inaugurated party officers and delegates that emerged from the Anambra PDP Congresses conducted on 28th November, 2017 and 1st December, 2017 validated by the Senator Grace Bent Ward Congress Appeal Panel Report and Barrister Ukpai Ukairo Local Government Appeal Panel Report, under the supervision of Sir Chukwudi Umeaba, who shall continue to act in the capacities for which they were duly elected”, the court order partly read.
Umeaba, at a recent press briefing held at his faction’s secretariat in Awka, said that by the ruling of the court, he has been legally empowered to pilot the affairs of the party.
An Acting Caretaker Committee chairman, Umeaba, also announced the suspension of the 3-man ward delegate congresses of the party which started last Thursday across the state; and probably concluded by now.
He said that he would contact the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party for a new date for the conduct of the ward congresses ahead of the governorship primary.
Reacting to the development, Chief Nwobu, at a press conference at the party’s secretariat, dismissed the purported court judgement sacking his team, saying that the ruling cannot stand as no court of coordinate jurisdiction has power to vitiate the previous judgement given in their favour.
Nwobu said that the state executives were not bothered and would not be distracted by the purported judgment. He made it clear that the ward congresses remain valid even as the June 26 primary poll of the party in the state would hold as scheduled.
“I want to tell you that there was another judgment on 24th May, 2018, by one Justice D. A. Musa of the FCT High Court. That judgement clearly stated the process in which we emerged, and it stated that we fulfilled all the processes, and we were duly elected.
“Let it be known that the said judgement is of no substance and does not avail the plaintiffs of any right whatsoever being inconsistent with a valid judgement of a court of coordinate jurisdiction”, Nwobu said.
This distraction came at a time when many people believe that Chief Nwobu, working closely with other party leaders including the 2019 Vice-Presidential candidate of the party, Mr Peter Obi, has repositioned the party and made it a beautiful bride in the state.
They said that Nwobu, whom they described as an experienced politician, has restored the confidence of members to the party and has been taking guided and positive steps to transform the party for good; and of course, win this year’s governorship poll.
In fact, expectations are very high that there would be a healthy contest on November 6 amongst political parties especially between APGA and PDP.
And given that the party currently has two senators, six House of Representatives members and six House of Assembly members, the PDP appears to stand a better chance, more than ever before, to win that election if it works hard and stays together.
Interestingly, the 16 governorship aspirants in the party, at the moment, appear to be on the side of the Nwobu-led exco and each of them has, observably, been working very diligently to secure their party’s ticket.