By Sunday Ani
On Tuesday, November 9, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, was declared winner of Anambra State Governorship Elections. The declaration which came after collation of results of the main election on November 6 and that of the supplementary election in Ihiala Local Government Area of the state on November 9, showed that the APGA candidate was ahead of his contestants from other political parties.
However, the journey to the November 9 victory was a very tortuous one. Starting from the legal land mines, security threats, defections by some APGA members in the state assembly and even the deputy governor to several other skirmishes, including threat by the Attorney General of the Federation to declare a state of emergency in the state, the future appeared bleak as the atmosphere was filled with uncertainties. But, amidst all the dark clouds, APGA and its candidate, Soludo, marched on with uncommon confidence and faith that there would be light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, Soludo and his party weathered the storm and emerged victorious.
How it all started
On June 23, APGA, led by its national chairman, Victor Oye, conducted its primary election for all the candidates seeking to fly the party’s flag, after which Prof Soludo emerged the winner. The primary election, which Soludo won with almost 94 percent votes, was duly monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Curiously, Soludo’s victory at the primary was challenged in the court by the Jude Okeke-led faction of APGA. Okeke claimed that he was the authentic national chairman of APGA and not Victor Oye, and that his own primary poll, which produced Chukwuma Umeoji as the party’s candidate was the authentic one that should be recognised by the INEC.
The legal fireworks that followed saw INEC replacing Soludo’s name at some point with that of Umeoji on the grounds that Okeke, and not Oye, is the authentic APGA national chairman. The legal battle shifted from the high court in Awka, the Anambra State capital, to Imo, Kano and even Jigawa states, before going to the Appeal Court.
Upholding the candidacy of Soludo, the Court of Appeal had accused Anambra politicians of going round the country, shopping for judgments to enable them contest in the November governorship election, rather than appearing before the courts which have the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the election.
Not even the Appeal Court’s judgment could stop the Okeke-led group as they headed straight to the Supreme Court.
However, the matter was finally laid to rest when the apex court on Thursday, October 14, barely three weeks to the November 6 election, affirmed Soludo, as APGA’s candidate, for the November 6 governorship election.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of Justices led by Mary Odili upheld the judgement of the Kano State Division of the Court of Appeal, which validated the primary election that produced Soludo. With the Supreme Court’s judgment, the coast was clear for APGA and its candidate.
Security threat and defections
As APGA battled to authenticate Soludo’s candidacy, it was confronted by a myriad of security challenges ranging from the threat by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to declare a five-day sit-at-home in the entire South Eastern states on the eve of the election, November 5, to killings by unknown gunmen. There was also a threat by the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Anambra, as well as the defections by some APGA members in the state House of Assembly. As if that was not bad enough, the deputy governor of the state also defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
To some people, the defection by some members of the state assembly and that of the deputy governor was a sign that it was all over for the ruling APGA. There was a belief in some quarters that the APC would deploy its federal might to influence the election in favour of its candidate, Andy Uba, hence the mass defection by some APGA members and other political parties to the APC.
In spite of all the defections, intimidation, security threats, state of emergency declaration threat, fear of INEC’s compromise and the misuse of security personnel among several other odds, APGA and its candidate kept faith in God and in the people of Anambra. And their faith translated to hope almost instantly, when two days before the election, the IPOB through its spokesman, Emma Powerful, announced the cancellation of the planned five-day sit-at-home order, and instead, encouraged the people of Anambra to go out en masse and choose the candidate of their choice.
Implication of Soludo’s emergence
Now that Soludo has been declared the governor-elect and waiting to be sworn into office a on March 17, 2022, the discussion on the lips of many people revolves around the implication of APGA’s victory.
First, many people thought that Willie Obiano would be the last governor to rule Anambra State on APGA platform. Those who hold this view anchored their fear on the unnecessary and unavoidable rancour and bickering in the party, which has led to the exit of Obiano’s predecessor, Peter Obi, and most recently, the disappointment expressed by the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s wife, Bianca, on Governor Obiano’s leadership style.
Bianca, whose husband was the founder of APGA, had pointedly lamented that bad leadership and alleged poor governance of Anambra by Obiano had led to the party’s dwindling fortunes, as evidenced in recent defections. Although she is optimistic that APGA would still win, she said such victory should not be attributed to Obiano’s performance.
There are others who shared Bianca’s view on Obiano’s poor performance and feared that it could affect the fortunes of the party during the election. But that never happened; APGA still won by landslide just as Bianca predicted.
Analysts agree that the APGA victory in Anambra equally showed the level of political awareness and consciousness of the people. They argue that political parties, especially APGA, did well in voter education and enlightenment. This is evidenced from the acclaimed action of poverty-stricken Ebenebe women who stoutly rejected N5000 bribe, even when the money would have fed them for some days, to vote their conscience. The women were reported to have boldly told those who wanted to bribe them that they would never accept their money to sell their conscience; they resolved that they were going to vote for the APGA candidate, Soludo, whom they believe would deliver good governance for them, their children and grand children.
The singular action of the women, many commentators insist, goes to show that 2023 will be tough and would not be business as usual. In their estimation, gone are the days when voters are deceived with some cups of rice, wrapper and money to choose a wrong candidate as they have suffered enough in the hands of such incompetent money bags, hence it is time for real change. So, the implication of the actions of the Ebenebe women have shown that tough time awaits incompetent, moneybag politicians who believe that with their money, all things are possible.
However, there are others who simply believe that APGA’s victory is a straight message to the APC that it is not welcomed in Anambra State and possibly in the entire South West. The proponent of this view argue that if APC is a party that is acceptable in Anambra, the defection of the deputy governor, some members of the state assembly and other top politicians in the state would have increased its chances but it never did, instead the party came a distant third, trailing behind the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Again, there are those who saw APGA’s victory from the point of view that the soul of an average Igbo man belongs to APGA. To this group, APGA represents a kind of movement for the Igbo and they have just demonstrated that in the Anambra election, otherwise where are the over 200,000 APC card-carrying members that voted for Andy Uba during the party primaries? The question on the lips of many is: “What about those who defected from APGA to the APC with their large followers? They defected in body but in spirit and soul, they remained with APGA.”
Some other people also believe that what APGA’s victory connotes is the possibility of other South East states falling into its hands in subsequent elections. Those with this view are saying that Soludo’s performance has the capacity to rub off on other Igbo states, thereby warming APGA into the hearts of many persons in the zone.
One of the proponents of that ideology on other South Eastern states is the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia. He described Soludo as a world class economist, who would be able to turn the table around to make Anambra the Japan of Nigeria. “He has the capacity for turnaround impact on the social economics of Anambra State”, he added.
He also noted that there was a time when the clamour for a political party with Igbo identity gained momentum. He noted that the victory of APGA in the last Anambra election could just be an ample opportunity for that clamour to come to reality. “If Soludo works hard, he will unite other elements that subscribe to that philosophy because Anambra is the engine that drives Igbo land. So, if he does very well, he will be able to harness all the elements that have that philosophy for Igbo political party. We failed to do it in PDP; it didn’t work. And no matter how you look at it, APC does not have Igbo identity as such,” he stressed.
He equally noted that what happened in Anambra was a reminder to the APC government that it has not shown inclusiveness in the South East. “We have asked the president to have a change of attitude in that direction. And to vote APC is to validate what the APC government is doing to the Igbo. It is also a way to show the President that he needs to change his attitude towards the Igbo,” he said.
President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said that APGA’s victory in Anambra is an indication to the world that the people know what they are doing. “It is also a message to the APC that the people in the South East know what they are doing; they know their direction. Nobody will boss them and tell them what to do. For the ruling party, it shows that Nigeria is not just there for anybody to take as he likes. In spite of the intimidation, and the serious security whatever, election still took place, and people voted for the one they liked and defended their votes,” he noted.
Like some other people, Dr. Pogu is of the opinion that what happened in Anambra is a pointer to what awaits the APC in 2023, not only in the South East but also in other parts of Nigeria. “It should be a pointer to every politician that what you do, whether at the national or state level, affects you at the state and local government levels. APC would have performed better; unfortunately, the Anambra result is an indication of how APC is perceived across board,” he noted.