On May 22, 2017, Justice A. R. Ozoemena of the Enugu State High Court gave an order of mandamus, directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police Force to recognise Martin Agbaso, as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Nigerians were scandalised, as represented by the press coverage of the development. But perceptive observers of Nigerian politics were not taken unawares. Anambra State is holding a gubernatorial election in November, so all manner of sacrilegious things are happening in the name of politics. Agbaso was the APGA gubernatorial candidate in Imo State in the 2007 general elections, but he returned to the PDP in 2014. This was after his younger brother, Jude Agbaso, was impeached by the state House of Assembly for what it called gross misconduct, which included massive corruption. Martin Agbaso, according to reports, joined the APC shortly after the party emerged victorious in the 2015 general elections.
Everyone knows that Chief Victor Oye, APGA National Chairman, is not the target of the mandamus order. The target is Anambra State, which is now sharing with Lagos State the status of the fastest growing places in Nigeria. There are persons who do not want the prevailing peace and stability in the state, which has resulted in rapid development to continue. Inelegant politicians from the state are fond of going to Enugu State to obtain orders against the government and institutions in their own state, even if the orders are, to put it euphemistically, controversial. Stanley Nnaji of the Enugu State High Court in 2005 gave an order, removing Dr. Chris Ngige as Anambra State governor. The National Judicial Commission (NJC) was so embarrassed by Nnaji’s action that it recommended Nnaji’s dismissal. Governor Chimaroke Nnamani quickly dismissed the judge. Those who used him to commit sacrilege dumped him the moment he became a seeming persona non grata.
In 2013, the then Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezurike, gave an order, restraining Victor Umeh from being recognised as the APGA National Chairman. The ruling was based on an application filed by a purported APGA faction allegedly loyal to ex-Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, who was suspected to have wanted Chief Victor Umeh out by all means. When the ruling was challenged, the Court of Appeal wasted no time in throwing out the ruling by the Enugu State High Court. Justice Umezuruike, by the way, was one of the seven judges arrested by the Department of State Security last October on allegations of acts incompatible with their exalted office.
The Enugu State High Courts were merely following in the footsteps of the Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Wilson Egbo-Egbo, who, in 2003, restrained Dr. Ngige from performing his duties as Anambra governor, following a suit brought by a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, which was then the ruling party in the state and in Nigeria. The Court of Appeal made a mockery of Egbo-Egbo’s order. The NJC was appalled that it recommended, in October, 2003, Egbo-Egbo’s retirement. He was compulsorily retired in January, 2004.
The same set of people, who went to Egbo-Egbo’s Federal High Court and Nnaji’s Enugu State High Court and Umeruruike’s Enugu State High Court have now gone to Ozoemena’s High Court in Enugu. They waited till an important election is around the corner to lay a legal ambush. Many newspapers have reported that Governor Willie Obiano is the target. They reported that those who want him out have figured out that they cannot remove him through the ballot balance box. After all, practically every group in the state, like the Nigeria Labour Congress and Association of Anambra Town Unions, has endorsed him. So have various churches and outstanding personalities like former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, ex-Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife and erstwhile Central Bank Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, as well as leading traditional rulers, who have publicly expressed satisfaction with him.
The real target of the action at the Court of Justice Ozoemena is actually the people of Anambra State, who have never had it so good in recent times. Ex-governors Ngige and Obi laid the foundation for the new Anambra State and the present governor has taken development to unprecedented heights. Things are looking up for the state in all directions. As I am writing this article, news came that Chinecherem Emeka-Egbuna and Joyce Onubuogu, both from Anambra State, scored the highest marks of 189 out of a maximum of 200 in the 2017 Common Entrance Examination into Federal Unity Colleges. Last March, students of a public school named Loretto Special Science Secondary School at Adazi, Anaocha Local Government Area, beat all secondary schools in Nigeria to win the first position in science subjects conducted by independent examination bodies. Anambra State has been representing Nigeria brilliantly in various academic contests in the last two years. Even the state university, which could not obtain accreditation under Peter Obi, has now produced two sets of doctors; they were immediately employed by Gov. Obiano. In fact, medical consultants are being trained in the medical school right now.
Very few states can compete with Anambra in infrastructural provision, agricultural development, security and the rate of attracting investments. Even Nigeria’s current best musicians, Phyno, P-Square, Flavour and KC, are from the state. Sambasa Nzeribe from Anambra State last March defeated such heavyweight actors as Ramsey Nouah, Richard Mofe-Damijo and Chief Olu Jacobs to win the most prestigious award in film acting. Anambra is the only state to increase salaries in the last four years and has never applied for bailouts. Ironically, oil-bearing states like Bayelsa and Imo are owing salaries, pensions and gratuities for long. As Governor Obiano recently remarked, at no time have Ndi Anambra been more proud of their state than now.
Almost every politician, who tried during the time of Ngige to burn down every state institution and kidnap the governor in order to wrest power and use it for self-aggrandisement is now in the All Progressives Congress (APC) working. They are paradoxically working with Dr. Ngige, now Minister of Labour and Productivity, whom they tried many times to kill for not handing over the state’s treasury to them. This has given the state APC the image of being full of arsonists and kidnappers. They have resorted to the old tactic of using courts to destabilise the state. Ndi Anambra call them vultures. Unfortunately they insist on living up to their reputation. But they are doomed to fail as they failed in the past.
•Rev. Dr. Ezeilo is Pastor of Christian Renewal Ministry, Onitsha.