Let no one deceive you that the November 6, governorship election in Anambra State will be easy. To take such assumption is like taking the easy route. Reason: the stakes are high, indeed, very high in this battleground state called the “Light of the Nation”. Everything you can imagine is at stake. Projections and calculations are already being made by political pundits. Even seers are predicting who will win the election. But politics is not given to simple theorising. Whatever permutations you make, the Uba brothers will be a vital part of the delicate ‘equation’ that must be ‘balanced’.
Truth is, in politics, some families rivet attention that you cannot ignore. The Uba family of Uga in Aguata Local Government Area in Anambra South, is one of such families. When the family began to be noticed politically is not exactly certain. It is, however clear that the three brothers – Dr Ugochukwu, Sen. Andy and Chief Chris – have developed, as a unit, into, perhaps the most successful, and most talked about political force in Anambra politics, at least since the present democratic dispensation. The three siblings have distinct character traits such that, if you were able to meet them at the same time, you would be wondering if they came out from the same womb and sucked the same breast. While Chris appears brash, arrogant and somewhat prone to errors, the two older brothers, especially Ugochukwu, has an intellectual bent, humble, with no airs around him. Andy, on the other hand, is on the quiet side, cool , folksy and taciturn. But his exterior betrays the warrior instinct, inside. These are contrasting traits that make matters concerning them quite interesting. But constant disagreement has made them not to be superbly organised. That, however, is not unusual in politics. Consider the sibling rivalry between former Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki and sister, Gbemisola. Even in the scriptures, the rivalry between Cain and Abel(Genesis Chapter 4), remains a sad development from which modern day siblings’ rift can draw useful lessons from.
Either as a matter of luck, sheer providence or both, the youngest of the three brothers, Chris (fondly called Eselu Uga), has become the window to look into the Uba family. Not until 2003, when he emerged on the political scene as the godfather of Anambra politics, the man who reportedly “installed” Dr. Chris Ngige as Governor, few people were familiar with the face of Chris Uba. Love him or hate him, he’s a brilliant political strategist cum sub rosa. Anyone who plays the game of politics by his own rules as Chris does, should not be ignored at all. He should be accorded some respect . Sen.Uche Ekwunife recognises this. At the recent inauguration of Valentine Ozigbo Campaign Council, which she heads, Ekwunife advised PDP chieftains to do everything possible to bring in Chris to play a crucial role in the campaign. It’s a wise advice. Ekwunife’s advice may be heeded, and perhaps PDP may reap the benefits of his warm hand, especially now that his elder brother, Sen.Ugochukwu, whom he supported during the primaries has lost at the Appeal Court.
Do you know why Chris Uba is so important to whomever he supports, and whichever cause he is up against? If in doubt, ask Dr.Ngige, current Minister of Labour and Employment. I got to know this in 2000 when I was Editor, Sunday Champion. On my desk was an Exclusive interview. Chief Chris had granted this hot interview to two of our enterprising staff, Fred Chukwuelobe and Uzo Nwokwu. In that interview, conducted in his residence in Enugu, Chief Chris boasted, matter-of- factly, “I am the only person in the history of Nigeria politics who has single-handedly sponsored 29 candidates to win elections into Anambra House of Assembly”. Those who should know said he did. Not long, the Uba family began to be seen as a powerful political force in the state and beyond. Their sister, Hon. Eucharia Azodo(Nee Uba) , became Deputy Speaker of the state legislature in 2003. It was the first time a woman would occupy such plum position in the state House of Assembly. Same time, Dr.Ugochukwu became a Senator. It was followed by the appointment of Andy, as senior aide (Domestic Matters) to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Andy made the position so powerful. Because influence comes with power, and people go to where power is, Andy was courted like a ‘beautiful bride’ by anyone who wanted to have the ear of the President. Rarely seen in public, but his influence in the Obasanjo’s administration could only be compared to that of late Dr.Umaru Diko in Shehu Shagari presidency. Such was the influence of Andy in Obasanjo ‘kitchen Cabinet’, that Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote was reported to have said that he wished Andy was from his home state, Kano, he wouldn’t have hesitated to invest millions to make him Governor. But Anambra is not Kano. And wishes are not horses. Dangote, I guess, was only stressing what a combination of power and influence could do.
A bit more on Andy Uba may help illuminate the trouble that now seems to tear the siblings apart. My first encounter with him was on November 8, 2006, at Top Rank hotel, Abuja. It was at his invitation. Together with few other Editors, he came to debunk some of the allegations swirling around him, and his political future . On that rarefied Wednesday evening, he (Andy) walked into the hotel foyer and straight to the venue of our meeting in a simple, black trousers and oversized shirt. He looked very much like a student who was late for lectures. Once he was seated, he began to apologize for being late. But he arrived earlier than some of us. A colleague who had met him before said that was a measure of his simplicity and humility. I have other impressions about him that night that are not necessary now . However, when the interaction began, I still remember asking him: “Sir, are you of the same parents with Chief Chris and Sen. Ugochukwu?”. He looked me straight in the eyes like a Secret Service agent and nodded, “yes, we are of the same parents”. Chris is our last-born. He’s not the devil that the media had painted him. He’s someone who likes to fight for other people’s causes. He’s is kind to a fault”. Looking back now, one is persuaded to ask: how did this bond of brotherly love become fractured that they hardly could agree on anything now? It’s something that their family biographer may give detailed account in due time. It may all be about political differences. Sometime in 2006, some newspapers published an advertorial signed by Sen. Ugochukwu, entitled: “There is Always an Honourable way out”. The advertorial dripped with anger and a raft of allegations against one of their own (Andy). He called him “agent provocateur in the PDP crisis in Anambra”. Sen. Ugochukwu also alleged that he, and Chris had been “shabbily treated” by the PDP, and blamed it on his immediate younger brother (Andy). He, however, cautioned that the family should not go into the “records as the first family to repudiate the axiom that blood is thicker than water”. As things turned out later, Ugochukwu lost out in the PDP primaries of 2006, while Andy became governor in 2007 on the platform of the PDP. But he lasted less than 16 days in the Government House, Awka. Between then and now, the rift among these brothers (whatever the real cause), has deepened. Sen. Andy Uba is now with APC, and indeed, the candidate of the party for the Nov 6 election, while Ugochukwu and Chris are in PDP. And their sister, Eucharia. Chris remains a centre of strength in Anambra PDP, regardless of the Appeal Court judgment last Friday, which didn’t favour Sen. Ugochukwu.
Make no mistake about it: Andy Uba is going into the November 6 governorship election for many reasons: One, to prove a point to his estranged brothers . The wound from his short-lived tenure in 2007 is yet to heal. He is desperate for redemption song. Never mind that he was senator for eight years, Andy still wears the weight of a lonely man after he was removed as governor by the Supreme Court. Also, recall that he appealed against Peter Obi’s election three times. All were thrown out by the Supreme Court for lack of merit. Now, he believes he has all the arsenals at his disposal, the federal might of the ruling party to make it happen for him. That’s why he sees other candidates, as “political learners”, according to a statement by his media aide, Arinze Igboeli . Taken together, keep this in view: As Nov.6 approaches, the festering feud among the Uba brothers may have an impact on the outcome of the election. If what the angry brothers said in the past was to be taken seriously, nothing is off the table to frustrate the ambition of one of their own. And Sen. Andy Uba knows it.