This weekend, I head to Dallas as World Igbo Congress(WIC) convenes. The last time the convention was held in Dallas was in 2000. I still remember the debacle of that convention when some leaders of WIC tried to smuggle in Abubakar Rimi to headline the event. But those were WIC’s good old days.
As I prepare to return to Dallas, my mind is however on the 2004 convention in New Jersey. Two important things happened at that convention. One was Chris Uba’s confession that Dr. Chris Ngige did not win the Anambra State governorship election of 2003. I reported it in the piece, “An Evening With Chris Uba.”
“In a matter-of-fact manner, Uba stood up and astonished all that were present when he said, "We did not win the election. I have gone to church to confess. The election had no document. I called the result before 12 midnight. I gave INEC the money and asked them to call the result." The revelation caused uproar in the hall. "The person we took his thing is here," Uba said, pointing at Peter Obi who was sitting in the audience. There was thunderous applause as people looked at Peter Obi and some began to call him governor.”
The other thing that happened which I did not report was a private meeting that a group of us had with the then APGA chairman, Chekwas Okorie, at the New Jersey convention. Chekwas gathered five of us into his hotel room to tell us how after the 2003 election, he went to President Olusegun Obasanjo to complain that APGA was cheated. Chekwas said he told Obasanjo that APGA won in at least four out of five states in the East. According to Chekwas, Obasanjo agreed with him. The president asked him to go and choose three states that he would like to see handed back to APGA. Chekwas told us he left Obasanjo’s office excited. After consulting with APGA leaders, he sought an audience with Obasanjo. Chekwas said he could not get an appointment until few days after the election results were announced. When he finally did, Obasanjo told him off. “Go and do your worst,” Obasanjo told him.
Chekwas reflected on the incident and told us how Gov. Bola Tinubu handled a similar situation. He said that when Tinubu of Lagos state heard that there was an effort to rig the election and declare PDP the winner in the state, Tinubu called Obasanjo and told the president that he had 10,000 OPC members in various parts of Lagos state with gallons of petrol waiting to set the state on fire if Iwu’s INEC dared to announce PDP winner in Lagos state. According to Chekwas, Obasanjo immediately called Iwu and asked him to leave Lagos state alone. In Chekwas’ estimation, Obasanjo tricked him by calming him down with a false promise. After buying time and seeing that the people of the eastern states were not on the streets expressing their anger over their stolen mandate, Obasanjo called Chekwas’ bluff.
Another election is set in Anambra state. The dynamics have not changed. Just like in 2003, the presidency is interested in who wins in Anambra state. For the ruling PDP government in Abuja, if APGA wins in Anambra, it is as good as PDP. But if APC wins in Anambra state, PDP is finished – not just in Anambra state but probably in a big chunk of the country.
For the ruling APGA party in Anambra state, the challenge is different. If APGA wins in Anambra state, APGA is finished. If APGA loses in Anambra State, APGA is finished. Gov. Peter Obi has famished APGA so much that what the party is doing in Anambra state is a last dance. For all practical purposes, it has folded its tent into the PDP. After this election a formal announcement of the death of APGA will happen.
On the candidates, nothing has changed. There are always the same four candidates running for governor in Anambra state: a trader pretending to be a thug; a thug pretending to be a trader; an intellectual pretending to be a thug; and a thug pretending to be an intellectual.
The people of the state are the most disconnected from their government anywhere in Nigeria. That was how former governor Mbadinuju could close down schools in the state for one year and nobody cared. Gov. Obi closed down government hospitals in the state over doctors pay for one year and people went about their lives as if nothing happened. The people of the state are therefore susceptible to all kinds of inducements and manipulations as they have little or no ownership in the government that will finally emerge.
Here are the candidates: Willie Obiano, former chief executive of Peter Obi’s bank, Fidelity. He was Peter Obi’s joker in the whole process. His primary job is to cover up Obi’s tracks against the peeping eyes of the EFCC. Obi had to abandon the elected delegates for a handpicked list of delegates made up of his aides and party chiefs to get Obiano victory. In a general election, Obiano, a new comer in politics, hopes that low voter turn out and Obi’s recent willingness to share government largesse will see him through.
In the PDP corner are former NANS president Tony Nwoye and Andy Uba running concurrently from the two factions of the party. Nwoye was a young graduate made the PDP party chairman in the state when Andy Uba ran for governor in 2007. Nwoye is supported by Arthur Eze and his gang, long exiled from power in Anambra State and eager to get their hands back into the tilt. Uba has Obasanjo and his gang and is being used as a chip in the Jonathan’s 2015 game plan. Unless the national party steps in, the decision on who’s the legitimate candidate for the PDP may be decided by the courts long after the election. It gives the PDP an undue advantage of running with two candidates and gathering votes across two constituencies. It worked for Andy Uba in the senatorial election that saw him in the senate. Because the winning margin will be low, whoever gets the nod of the courts, (wink wink, Andy Uba) may end up getting enough votes to win.
In APC is the wounded Chris Ngige. Ngige still holds sway in Idemili South and North but that will not be enough to win the state. According to political operatives on the ground, the Lagos state deportation affair is not a factor in the village level of the electorate. But the Anambra political elite are not excited about Ngige. His ability to sway voters across the state depends on the machinery the APC is willing to deploy in the election. If they overwhelm the state, they could easily get the 25% needed in other parts of Anambra state. In 2009, Maurice Iwu personally vowed that Ngige would not win the election because it would amount to handing over a major Igbo state to a Yoruba party. He declared Obi winner with just 97,000 votes when there are 1.8 million registered voters. What will Jega do?
Finally, there is the Chairman of Capital Oil and Gas, Ifeanyi Uba of the Labor party. Rather than an aberration, Ifeanyi Uba is well at home in Anambra political space. He comes in with accusations of involvement in oil subsidy scam and a bank loan fight with Coscharis Group’s Cosmos Maduka. Worthy of note is that Uba has taken his campaign to the markets in Lagos, People’s Club halls in America and Pubs in Europe. He campaigns with a hunger that tells observers that he needs the governorship stool more than any other candidate. Why is that?
Already INEC has discovered over 93,000 ghost names in Anambra state voters’ registration list. There are more. And the intrigues have not yet started. No doubt, those campaigning at home and abroad with borrowed money and bellicose godfathers will also be campaigning in Okija shrine and all the dark places where elections in Anambra state are typically won.
The Anambra people have no tool with which they can shine their eyes. They have been overwhelmed by mediocrity and low expectation that they are already a loser irrespective of who is announced winner on November 16.
Discounting the dead and those who have moved out of Anambra state since the voters’ registration was last conducted, party workers are estimating that there are over 800,000 ghost voters in the state. I project that the winner of this election is the man who controls these ghost voters. And your guess is as good as mine.