By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Anambra State was about to recast its ugly political side and become a showpiece for the All Progressives Congress, APC in the conduct of free and fair party primaries when the bad manners of the past suddenly came to choke the party that made change its philosophy
For a state that had since the advent of the Fourth Republic acquired an ugly reputation of bedlam, a free and fair process had undoubtedly looked like a high mountain for the Governor Kashim Shetima led panel constituted by the national leadership of the party to conduct the governorship primaries.
Though about 20 aspirants had indicated interest in the ticket of the ruling party, when push came to shove, only 11 bought the nomination forms of the party.
The most formidable was Senator Andy Uba, a former 17-day governor of the state, two-time senator and before then, arguably the most powerful aide to the president in the eight-year stint of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The others were Dr. Tony Nwoye, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, a medical doctor and incumbent member of the House of Representatives. Another powerful aspirant in the race was Chief George Moghalu, the national auditor of the party. Other contestants were Chukwuma Paul; Madu Nonso; Nwibe Bart; Nwike Patrick; Obidigbo Chike; Okonkwo D.; Onunkwo Johnbosco O.; Uchegbu Adoabi K. and Uzoh Obinna .
Ahead of the primaries, there were loud insinuations of plans to compromise the process through the manipulation of the delegates’ list to favour a particular aspirant. When that plan was frustrated with the party affirming that the original delegates list compiled from the 2014 party election would be used, another scheme said to have been thrown up was the postponement of the party primaries by one week said to have been due to logistical constraints.
That postponement was also read in some quarters to have been influenced by those who were determined to push forward a favoured aspirant.
As the primary commenced that day, August 26, all the aspirants confessed that the process was free and fair. Indeed, Governor Shettima had vowed to ensure that the primary would be one of the best to be processed by the party. The fairness of the process was brought to bear with the live transmission of the voting and counting of the votes which all happened without incident.
None of the aspirants while the voting and counting proceeded complained. At the end of the exercise, Governor Shettima declared Dr. Nwoye, as the winner with 2,146 votes beating his former mentor, Senator Uba to a distant second with 931 votes. Moghalu was third with 525 votes. The remaining aspirants shared the remaining votes from the 4,333 delegates.
As the surprising results crystallised party elders including Senator Jim Nwobodo, former governor of the Old Anambra State who was chairman of the party’s Strategy and Planning Committee for the Governorship applauded the conduct of the primaries which he said was without incident.
“I also congratulate the Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, and his Committee for conducting a free, credible and rancour-free primary in the state, making it the first time any political party would conduct such a transparent and rancour free primary in the state.”
A former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu in a statement by his Special Adviser, Kunle Oyewumi, Kalu said:
“The primary election was open, transparent and credible and as such, all the contestants are satisfied with the outcome of the primary. “We salute the spirit of sportsmanship exhibited by the contestants, and their actions are worthy of emulation. They are true party men, and so we expect everyone to be.”
“The result of the primary is a testament to the fact that the APC remains the only political party that strictly adheres to the tenets of democracy.
Meanwhile, it was all believed to have been a done deal. The party according to the regulations of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC was expected to conclude its selection of candidates and resolution of all intra-party disputes by September 2. The APC seemed to have succeeded.
And Nwoye the former student activist turned medical doctor and legislator travelled abroad for what some sources said was a rest after a hard won victory.
Political stakeholders awaiting the full commencement of campaigns were as such shocked when news came that the Dr. Hassan Lawal led Appeals Committee had on, Friday, September 8 invited Nwoye to appear to defend a petition from Uba alleging that Nwoye brought in thugs to disrupt the primaries.
Nwoye could not meet up with the committee and thus requested to come the following Monday.
Returning to the country, Nwoye after a session with the committee told waiting newsmen that he was shocked to have been summoned given the peace that pervaded the process and his efforts in peace building among the defeated aspirants.
He, however, confessed that efforts to reach Uba had been futile.
“I have reached out to all of them. The only person I have not reached out to is my boss, Sen. Uba; you know when he is your boss, he remains your boss.
“I have called him on the phone severally. I served him loyally when I was chairman of PDP, he was our governorship candidate, and I leave the rest to God. “He is the only one who has refused to talk to me.
“I called him; have sent text messages to him. I have even gone to his house, but he did not open his gate for me. All the other aspirants are with me. He is the only person who refused to see me up until this moment.”
However, a group styling itself as Concerned Anambra APC Youths tasked Dr. Nwoye to allow the Appeals Committee hearing the petition filed against his victory at the recent party primaries to run its full course.
The group in a statement issued by its president, Comrade Nonso Ojukwu said the petition filed by Senator Andy Uba against Nwoye’s emergence was credible saying that Senator Uba had the greater weight to defeat the incumbent administration.
The assertions of the group were, however, counterbalanced by a statement by one of the aspirants, Barrister Nonso Madu who issued a statement to dismiss claims by Senator Uba that the primary was rigged or disrupted by violence.
Madu said in a statement he signed that “this is not true as the accreditation was conducted peacefully. Delegates were identified through the following means- Permanent voters card PVC National ID card, drivers license or International passport. They also came with their party membership slip with photograph issued to them by the party during registration.
“The party had already made the delegates list available to all aspirants, two weeks before the primaries. With the delegates known, there was little room for manipulation.
“The Nigerian police force led by Anambra state police commissioner Umar Garba, the DSS and other security agencies provided adequate security at the accreditation venue, making it nearly impossible for the venue to be infiltrated by thugs. Our dear Senator Andy Uba even attested to this during his interview with pressmen at the accreditation venue.
“The allegation that delegates were swapped is simply laughable. After accreditation, delegates were conveyed to the voting center on marked buses with full police escort. There was no room for any manoeuvre as the delegates had no physical contact with outsiders”.
Senator Nwobodo joined the company of those warning the party against the cancellation.
“That election was transparent, free and fair and everybody saw it on television from start to finish, and hence no one should dare to nullify that election,” Nwobodo said.
“I watched with keen interest the live transmission of the 2017 All Progressives Congress Governorship Primary for Anambra State, where Dr. Tony Nwoye was declared as the winner with a total of 2,146 votes.
Stuck with the revelations of an apparent transparent exercise, the APC National Working Committee, NWC is said to be in a dilemma on how to go about satisfying narrow interests.
The NWC Saturday Vanguard learnt is under pressure to justify the annulment of the primaries against the background of media reports which praised the party for conducting a raucous free primary.
The NWC is also said to be finding it hard to justify an annulment upon the claim that the Appeals Committee that heard the panel refused to listen to ward party executives that came to serve as witnesses to the conduct of a free and fair primary.
The pressure on the NWC nonetheless to invalidate Nwoye’s election and produce one of the losers it was gathered is, however, being strongly opposed by Governor Shettima who at the end of the primaries praised all the aspirants and the local chapter of the party for working to ensure a free and fair primary. The governor is presently out of the country, and associates of the governor say he is livid that his effort and testimony are about to be rubbished.
However, party enthusiasts from Anambra State are, however, hopeful that the NWC would just as it avoided crisis in Ondo State when it rejected the report of the appeal committee in the governorship election in that state also reject recommendations by the Anambra Appeals panel suggesting that one of the losers be projected as the candidate.