By Chinedu Nzeribe
The people of Anambra Central are about to have a senator, the first time since 2015. The election ordered by the Court of Appeal on November 20, 2017, to hold within 90 days will take place on January 13, 2018.
The good people of this senatorial zone have been without a senator since December 15, 2015, when the Court of Appeal asked Mrs Uche Ekwunife, a pretender to the office of the representative of the people, to depart the hallowed red chambers with immediate effect.
Every legitimate attempt to conduct an election to fill the vacancy has been thwarted by the very people who shout from the rooftops about Igbo marginalization in the national scheme of things.
In other words, Anambra has since the past two years been the only state with only two senators while others have three each. While other geopolitical zones have six states each—with Northeast with as many as seven—the Southeast has only five. The Igbo condition has been worsened by the same characters pretending to be champions of Igbo interests who have all along destroyed every effort to fill the vacant office of senator representing Anambra Central.
All of us are happy that the election is holding on January 13. This is despite the so-called order by Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja on December 13, 2017, asking that one Obiora Okonkwo be recognised as the senator representing Anambra Central.
Okonkwo is reported to be one of the several seekers of the senatorial ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Anambra Central in the purported December 7, 2014, primary election at the Alex Ekwueme Square preceding the 2015 general elections. As is the tradition in Anambra PDP, it collected N4.5m from each aspirant for the expression of interest (EoI) form, but conducted no primary election.
Just on December, 2017, Mr Justice Olasumbo Goodluck of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court directed the PDP to refund Chike Francis Maduekwe, a legal practitioner, the N4.5m he paid for the nomination form because he was eventually denied the opportunity to contest. This is a way of saying that the PDP swindled its own members deliberately.
In a detailed interview which he conducted while writing a popular book on why the PDP lost the 2015 general elections, ex President Godluck Jonathan told Olusegun Adeniyi, chairman of Thisday editorial board, that Anambra PDP members always go to polls with three different court orders recognizing each aspirant for any office as the party’s authentic candidate! What Obiora Okonkwo is doing now with the courts is a confirmation of Dr Jonathan’s observation about the terrible rascality of Anambra PDP members. They, indeed, belong to a different species of humanity.
Prince Arthur Eze, the controversial businessman and APC member who was until recently a fanatical PDP supporter, reportedly told people around him that it was Patience Jonathan, wife of Nigeria’s then President Goodluck Jonathan, who called him on the phone and ordered that Mrs Ekwunife be made the PDP senatorial candidate; Ekwunife was subsequently declared winner of the election by INEC.
Put succinctly, there was no primary for the PDP aspirants and there was no legitimate election which Mrs Ekwunife could have won. Just as it is illogical for Mrs Ekwunife to claim to have won any PDP primary election, as it is improper for Obiora Okonkwo to claim that he won the primary and the subsequent election.
Yet, Justice Tsoho went ahead to declare that Obiora Okonkwo won the primary and should be declared winner of an election which the Court of Appeal on two occasions declared null and void. The Court of Appeal order still subsists. An order of the Court of Appeal is superior to an order by the High Court, whether state or federal. So, why do some members of the judiciary make declarations which compromise the integrity of the Bench?
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is justified in ignoring Justice Tsoho’s order by insisting that the January 13 poll will go on. Tsoho’s order is vexatious, illegitimate, immoral, unconstitutional and ultra vires. INEC’s behavior, in contrast, is very patriotic and bold. It shows that INEC under Mahmud Yakubu’s leadership is courageous and independent-minded.
The January 13 Anambra Central senatorial election will, of course, be a walkover for Chief Victor Umeh, immediate past APGA National Chairman, who was the director general of the Willie Obiano Re-election Campaign. Umeh did such a fantastic job that Obiano was re-elected in a way no sitting governor has been in Nigeria’s history.
He won each of the 21 local government areas in the state with a wide margin. Building on the current APGA momentum, Chief Umeh is expected to even improve on Obiano’s stellar electoral delivery, which is a reflection of the governor’s performance record in office in the last three and a half years. After all, none of Umeh’s major rivals in the 2015 election is contesting against him this time. Dr Chris Ngige dare not leave his post as the Minister of Employment and Productivity and contest in an election where his APC is bound to lose very badly. Mrs Ekwunife has been disqualified by the Court of Appeal from re-contesting. What is more, she has since dumped the PDP for the ruling APC, thereby forfeiting the right to contest; the election is strictly for those who participated in the 2015 senatorial contest on the platforms of their parties as of March 28, 2015.
Chief Umeh will make history on January 13 not so much because he will win almost unopposed as because he will become the first APGA senator. This is a fitting record for someone who has demonstrated remarkable strength, intelligence, consistency, fidelity, tenacity of purpose, and vision. He will deliver selfless service in the Senate far beyond his primary constituency which is Anambra Central. With Senator Victor Umeh, Anambra State and beyond will be in safe hands. Umeh is one person who will make robust contributions to the Senate.
Nzeribe, a former manager with First City Monument Bank and Keystone Bank, lives in Onitsha, Anambra State.