Though not in equal measure, the Anambra state governorship election had everything – the good, the bad, the ugly, the absurd and the comical and I want to bet that none of these has run its full course yet. As soon as a part of the result was released and the exercise declared inconclusive and INEC announced that a supplementary election will be conducted to conclude the exercise, three political parties that saw absolutely no chance of emerging winner after the supplementary election, forged a common front and called for an outright cancellation of the election.
The temporary coalition of APC’s Dr. Chris Ngige, Labour Party’s Ifeanyi Ubah and PDP’s Tony Nwoye was an inconvenient alliance of the strangest of bedfellows, supposedly committed to a quest in which only one of them would have emerged winner if the election had been cancelled and another conducted. It was also clear that had one of the parties in this awkward alliance being in the commanding lead of APGA, that party would have adjudged the same election as free and fair. Once again, Anambra state lived up to its billing as a state where politics is a do-or-die affair. I do not know of any other state where 23 political parties’ candidates vied for the office of governor. Not surprising, it was also in Anambra state that the PDP’s candidate and their national headquarters were on completely different pages, disagreeing so openly.
Could Dr Chris Ngige or Ifeanyi Ubah or Tony Nwoye have emerged a winner instead of Willie Obiano? Character and integrity must have played a critical role in deciding who won and those who lost and rightly so because, if as we correctly believe corruption is the biggest problem in Nigeria, the integrity of candidates standing for elections must count to prevent handing over treasuries at all levels of government to people of dubious pedigree and criminals.
In spite of the fact that the unofficial rules of engagement frequently allow charlatans to pass through cracks, the judicial and political systems unbelievably create, allow and shield them from being publicly examined, the electorate increasingly now know the score and in Anambra state passed their own verdict with their votes.
It is precisely the very real unholy alliance of the judicial and political systems that enabled a man like Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah to aspire to become the governor of the long suffering people of Anambra state. The Presidential Subsidy Committee headed by Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede that looked into the shadowy facade of the petroleum subsidy, had found Ifeanyi Ubah and his company – Capital Oil and Gas culpable of massive fraud running into billions of Naira. Thereafter and incredibly, Ifeanyi Ubah secured a clean slate from a slew of other investigations and capped it with an everlasting judicial order restraining the EFCC, the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice from prosecuting him on the petroleum subsidy scam which was essentially obtaining subsidy refunds under false pretenses, which in his case was on a grand scale.
When you are as rich as Ifeanyi Ubah in Nigeria, you can buy anything including the best legal acrobats in the land to represent you in courts where they manufacture loopholes including technicalities behind which judges hide to make people like him legally untouchable, beyond the reach of the now shortened and often times amputated arm of the law. Ifeanyi Ubah is presently legally untouchable as far as the subsidy scam is concerned but it does not in any way erode from the minds of the people who he truly is. Besides, it is also widely known that he does not honor contractual agreements simply because he believes he can get away with them through any means.
Even though none of the televised debates asked specific questions on known issues of integrity of the candidates, two of the candidates delicately danced around it. During one debate, Dr. Chris Ngige circuitously referred to petrol and kerosene imports and subsidy in one breathe, in the hope that it will remind viewers of Ifeanyi Ubah’s dishonorable role in it. Not long after, Ifeanyi Ubah retaliated by responding to Dr Ngige’s constant reference to his first coming as governor, saying directly that Dr. Ngige had secured it through the back door. Thereafter, there appeared to be an uneasy truce and both men sheathed their stones because they live in massive glass houses.
Ifeanyi Ubah consistent parboiled but inarticulate claim of knowing how to create wealth with a Midas touch did not fool the people because when tested against well known facts, it is crystal clear how he became stupendously rich. His ‘wealth’ enabled him to have more than 300 campaign offices in Anambra state but it was clearly not enough because money cannot buy integrity and trust and lack of both cost him the election. Clearly, the values of Ifeanyi Ubah are not what the people of Anambra state need now or ever and they made it clear by rejecting him at the polls and should do so every time he asks for their votes again.
Ifeanyi Ubah can afford to buy a political platform but if the electorate allows such a man into the high office of a state governor, we will be telling the world that our political system is completely value free and that corruption is firmly, perhaps irrevocably stamped into our nation’s genetic code. Cornering a huge chunk of our commonwealth through scamming the subsidy system is indicative of the values of Ifeanyi Ubah in the private sector, a behavior he would have carried over into Government House Awka, had he been elected. Given what he is used to, if Ifeanyi Ubah had been elected governor of Anambra state, the resources of the state would not have been enough for him to corner for himself.
On a scale of one to ten, Ifeanyi Ubah’s integrity quotient is very low to the point of none existent and it will hurt him in whatever he wants to do going forward because as Henry Ford once said, you build reputations based on what you have done, not what you are going to do.
During one of the televised debates, Ifeanyi Ubah made it known that he is ready to abdicate his ‘palace’ to come to Awka to do the people of Anambra state the favor of ruling them as their governor. It was arrogance at full bloom.
After the November 16 election, Ifeanyi Ubah had in one of his television appearances lamented that the Anambra election is another Rwanda. What the world remembers about Rwanda is the genocidal massacre of about 800,000 Tutsis by their Hutu compatriots. I could not connect the massacre in Rwanda and the election in Anambra state because there is absolutely no relationship. I don’t want to dwell on Ubah’s reference and ‘quote’ from The Art of War because it was childish, his swagger suggesting he had said something grand that was sufficient to secure him the election. Was he referring to the movie or the epic treatise written by Sun Tzu more than 2,500 years ago? The jury is still out on this one.
Dr. Chris Ngige never told the electorate in his own words what transpired between him and Chris Ubah at the Okija shrine. Dr. Ngige appears to me to be a man who will do and say anything to become governor again. After the stampede in Uke in which about 30 persons died, Dr. Ngige said on television that he was told that it happened soon after Governor Peter Obi left the night vigil grounds. In the same breathe, he used words like teargas, suggesting without saying so that Governor Obi’s security men used teargas as they departed and caused the stampede. Knowing the behavior of our police men, Dr. Ngige’s words were believable.
But after I and I believe so many others learnt that Governor Obi had left the venue one and half hours before the stampede, Dr. Ngige’s words looked deliberately calculated to make Governor Obi guilty in the eyes of everyone, hoping that the same filthy brush will touch and tarnish Willie Obiano who he must have considered his main opponent and the real target. Dr. Ngige said Governor Obi was ‘campaigning’ at an unholy hour but night vigils are not held in the daytime. If Governor Obi had said anything that sounded like campaigning while he addressed the congregants at the night vigil, we would have heard and read them word for word courtesy of Dr Ngige and the APC because it would have ended up on YouTube.
Bola Tinubu is a Muslim yet he visited and stayed throughout a church service at House on The Rock church, Lagos, during his reelection campaign on at least one Sunday that I was in church when he was governor. I saw nothing wrong with his visit. Bola Tinubu probably visited other churches during his reelection bid to harvest votes. Why was Governor Obi and Willie Obiano’s visit to the night vigil as Catholics in a Catholic Church event be interpreted as unholy, as different by the APC and its candidate Dr Chris Ngige?
The desperation of Dr. Ngige and his party continued with a despicable write up by Joe Igbokwe that I read on Sahara Reporters online portal in which Joe Igbokwe directly and copiously insulted and accused the host Priest of the night vigil and the Bishop of the Diocese of taking bribe just because their own version of what happened did not tally with what the APC had claimed. I was so offended I posted my comments on the article which reads as follows, “Governor Peter Obi left the venue of the night vigil at least one and half hours before the stampede. How in God’s name can Joe Igbokwe link Governor Obi with the unfortunate death of about 30 people? To link an innocent man with the death of a dog is evil. To link such a man to the death of about 30 people is unspeakable evil. This falsehood speaks of desperation on the part of Joe Igbokwe’s party and its eminent candidate.
Even the most organized acts of chaos inflicted by mankind on each other called war have rules. That is why it is not allowed to shoot unarmed enemy soldiers. The same is expected in politics. Joe Igbokwe’s politically motivated act of trying to hang blood guilt on Governor Peter Obi is an act of wickedness similar to killing unarmed soldiers in times of war.”
Anambra state people are predominantly Catholics and competing for their votes in Catholic gatherings have underpinned all campaigns including governorship elections for years. During the active governorship election campaign season, I saw on different television news programs footages of Dr Chris Ngige kneeling inside a Catholic church in Anambra state while the presiding priest and the congregation prayed for him. This episode made it into television news because Dr. Ngige wanted it to. Why? He wanted to harvest votes from an electorate that is overwhelmingly of the Catholic faith, otherwise why did he attend Mass with television news crews in tow?
So, what was wrong with Governor Obi attending a Catholic night vigil with his party’s candidate? What were Dr Ngige’s footmen doing at the same night vigil with his posters, brooms which is the symbol of the APC and heckling Governor Obi? Was Dr Ngige’s camp angry that he was not invited to the vigil which is said to regularly attract up to a hundred thousand people? Perhaps Dr Ngige was not invited because it was a night event and it was thought that at that time of the night, he would feel more at home in a shrine than in a church.
After the unfortunate deaths at the vigil grounds, it was the APC’s amplified talking drum, Lai Mohammed who had begun the orchestra of accusations and stampede of lies and when the facts emerged and did not fit in with what he had hurriedly released about the cause of the stampede, the APC could not stop shooting. President Barack Obama once accused his opponents of shooting first and aiming later. This is precisely what APC did with the Uke stampede. While Lai Mohammed used a rifle, Joe Igbokwe deployed artillery to demolish everything, including direct assaults, insults and accusations of corruption heaped on the Priest who hosted the night vigil and the Bishop of the Archdiocese. It was pure senselessness to infuriate Anambra Catholics whose votes will make the difference. No matter how often we tell and massage a lie, it will never become the truth. Joe Igbokwe’s very unreasonable piece must have cost the APC many votes, explaining why Dr. Chris Ngige was in third place behind PDP’s Tony Nwoye whose campaign had lasted less than two weeks. The lesson from the unfortunate stampede in Uke is for politicians to learn the facts and stick with the truth regardless of how inconvenient it might be.
After the stampede, Dr. Ngige had asked what Governor Obi was doing at the vigil at that unholy hour. If Dr. Ngige could describe the 5 hours Governor Peter Obi’s spent at a night vigil as unholy, the word has not yet been coined to characterize the time he, Dr. Ngige spent at the Okija shrine with Chris Ubah to swear to an unholy oath. Saying later on he had gone to the shrine with a Bible on the advice of his unnamed bishop was rightly seen as a lie and a futile attempt to dry clean his image.
During the last televised debate on Channels Television, Dr Chris Ngige said that in his first coming as governor he beheaded the godfather in obvious reference to Chris Ubah but we all know that a much bigger, more formidable, armored plated godfather lurks. Right now, Bola Tinubu is the ultimate godfather in Nigeria and anyone in his party who dares to aim anything resembling a gun of dissent at him does the bleeding. Regardless of what Dr. Ngige said about his ability to behead godfathers, very few Anambrarians were convinced he will be free of the overwhelming influence of Bola Tinubu.
Given that his party, the APC does not believe in the national conference, Dr Ngige must have additionally been short changed because the national conference means a lot to the Igbo man wherever he is on the face of this earth. The fear was, if elected, will Ngige elevate his party’s very intense opposition to the national conference above the will of the people he wanted to govern and sabotage their overwhelming readiness to be part of the national conference? Dr. Ngige unwisely never cleared the air on this crucial issue.
Mr. Willie Obiano obviously overcame the only character issue of his alleged double registration. Given that we were all treated to a parade of his bushel of academic qualifications and formidable experience in APGA campaign adverts, his debating skills took the shine off those credentials. APGA realized this and wisely shielded their candidate, rolling out their eloquent chairman, Chief Victor Umeh to do the talking to defend APGA’s leading position especially in the days after the November 16 election when the coalition of the losing parties was formed.
Up to the last minute, it was expected that the PDP candidate for the election would change because one of the party’s gladiators will engineer a judicial sleight of hand. Given his second position in the election with just a few days of campaigning, it is entirely possible he would have upstaged APGA if he had not spent all his time campaigning in courts against other PDP candidates to keep safe his party’s nomination. Just as they did in 2010 governorship election, the PDP in Anambra state proved again in 2013 that they are their own most effective opposition and it is reflective of the defective character of the major political actors of the PDP in the state.
Every time the APC loses an election, they want to bring the nation to a standstill. Dr Ngige should tell the nation what percentage of the electorate voted in the senatorial election he won. Because he won that election, low voter turnout was not an issue then. But when it was clear that he had lost the November 16 governorship election, low voter turnout became one of APC’s sticks with which they are beating up INEC. APC’s call for the sack of practically everyone in INEC because they lost an election and INEC admitted to some missteps amounts to throwing away the baby with the bath water.
If the vociferous APC had been in APGA’s position before the supplementary elections, they would have treated any call to cancel the same elections as a sacrilegious gang up or even worse. I also believe that if APGA had found itself in the second position or worse, it would have joined the bandwagon of the alliance calling for a cancellation of the elections. The APC, Anambra state PDP and Labor Party’s call to cancel the election is therefore the nature of politics and was rightly not taken seriously because it is not possible to play politics without politics, a defect that speaks of moral cowardice. Had the election been cancelled and another one conducted, the losing parties would also have called for its cancellation.
The issue of low voter turnout will take deliberate and consistent enlightenment effort to stop. If political parties want more voter participation, they must make the electorate see themselves the way the late Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Louis D Brandeis implied, that in a democracy the most important political office is not the office of the President, not the office of the state governor, not the office of the Senator, not the office of the Representative but the office of the citizen.
The registration of minors is not localized to Anambra state but it will be stopped everywhere if every time such a confirmed minor is found in the register, the INEC officials who registered them are tracked down, prosecuted and sent to jail for at least five years without option of fine and the convictions widely publicized to act as warnings to others.
Dr. Chris Ngige provided an unintended comical end to the televised debates when he said his constituency projects built hostels and VIP toilets in one school. At first, I thought it was a slip of tongue forced by a fierce campaign that caused a temporary inability of his brain to effectively communicate with his mouth but when he went on to say that hostels were built in another school with VIP toilets, the audience in the hall and I believe many others watching in their homes burst out laughing because his emphasis was inexplicably on the VIP toilets. I wondered if the VIP toilets were built in those schools for the use of Dr. Ngige and his many VIP friends whenever they are in the neighborhood. It will be interesting to know how much the VIP toilets cost to build. I wish the entire election in my state had ended on such hilarious note but because the APC, Labor Party and Anambra state PDP will not accept defeat, it is the courts and salivating lawyers and not the people of Anambra state that will have the final say.
Okechukwu Peter Nwobu
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters