Nov 19, 2021

Anthony Iwuoma

The roll call was numbing. It was enough to give the faint-hearted a heart attack. Few weeks and days to the Anambra gubernatorial elections on November 6, many supporters of the state Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, and members of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the state were deserting in droves. They were all headed to the rival All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate, Andy Uba.

Among those that jumped ship at the last moment was the deputy governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke.   Okeke’s defection came barely a month to the governorship election. It was done with effect, right inside the presidential villa, Abuja, where he was presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by Chairman, APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni, who is also Yobe State governor, and Hope Uzodinma, the Imo State governor

One would have felt that all hopes were lost for Obiano, his party, APGA and its candidate, Prof Charles Soludo, former central bank governor who is now governor-elect of a state. Anyone nursing that line of thought would not be making a mistake, considering that Obiano’s deputy had left him in the lurch.

Another of Obiano’s aides that jumped ship was his Senior Special Assistant on Protocol Matters, Mr. Nonso Henry Nwaebili. He did not leave alone but led executives and members of youth and women-oriented support group to officially join the APC while declaring support for its candidate, Andy Uba.

Similarly, sequel to the election, six members of the Anambra State House of Assembly elected on the platform of the APGA defected to the APC.

The six lawmakers are Nonso Okafor, representing Nnewi North, Timothy Ifedioramma, representing Njikoka 1, Cater D. N Umeoduagu, representing Aguata 1, Lawrence Ezeudu, representing Dumekofia, Arthur Chiekwu, representing Idemmi North and Edward Ibuzo, representing Onitsha North 2

Buni, Chairman, the APC CECPC received the defectors and restated the party’s determination to win the Anambra governorship election.

“Mere looking at what is happening, especially now that so many prominent and serving state lawmakers have started joining, the grassroots is moving and Anambra people are moving to the APC,” Buni had reportedly said.

On his part, Governor Uzodimma said the people of the South-east had woken up and to commit to national politics and be integral part of Nigeria.

As if that was not enough, the APGA fold depleted further when 11 serving and former lawmakers, trooped to the APC from APGA and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP prior to the election.  The defectors, including five serving and four former House of Representatives members, and two Anambra House of Assembly members, were again, received in Abuja by Gov Mai Mala Buni, who seemed to have abandoned his primary role of governing Yobe to receiving defectors to the APC. He was assisted by the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, and governors of Imo, Kogi, Kano, Jigawa and Kebbi states.

APC Director-General, Press and Media Affairs, Mamman Mohammed, announced the development in Abuja and gave the names of the decampees, as Douglas Egbuna, Ebuchi Offor, Vincent Oguwelu, Ifeanyichukwu Ibezi, Emeka Anoku, Chris Emeka, Ifeanyi Monah, Ohwudili Ezenwa, Chinwe Nwaebili, Chuma Nzeribe and Emeka Azubogu.

The defectors promised to deliver their constituencies to the party in the election.

Seemingly adding to Obiano and Soludo’s woes, two senior aides also deserted the governor. The two Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the governor include Chika Ekwenugo  (Legal Matters), and Nwachukwu Okpaloka  (Works). Both resigned their appointments and pledged their support to Soludo’s archrival for the APGA ticket, Chukwuma Umeoji, obviously because of his fast receding confirmation as APGA flag bearer in the election.

Frustrated that his ambition, which kept getting flashes of hope until it was eventually torpedoed by the judiciary, which upheld Soludo’s candidature, Umeoji, House of Representatives member, representing Aguata (Anambra) Federal Constituency, ditched the party with his supporters and teamed up with Andy Uba.

Umeoji’s departure from APGA alongside two House of Assembly members and allegedly thousands of party supporters was trumpeted to mean the end of the road for APGA and Soludo.

In a statement by the factional APGA National Publicity Secretary, Ikechukwu Chukwunyere, entiled: ‘Umeoji, two state lawmakers dump APGA for APC, declares Support for Andy Uba.’, Umeoji was reportedly received by Buni, the APC CECPC chairman, with excitement, describing Umeoji as the game-changer for the election.

The statement said rather mournfully: “With this development, APGA has lost its simple majority in the House of Assembly and has become a minority party in the state while APC has become the majority party in the State House of Assembly.

“This is clearly not the best of times for the All Progressives Grand Alliance as the November 6 Anambra State governorship election draws nearer.

“The gale of defection that has so far hit the ruling party in the state in the build-up to the election is clearly an indication that APGA has lost its political grip on the state and hence may lose the forthcoming election.

“The latest defection that hit APGA like a thunderbolt is that of the party’s former governorship candidate in the election who is also a top-ranking legislator representing Aguata (Anambra) Federal Constituency, Chukwuma Umeoji.

“APGA’s loss in the person of Hon. Umeoji is a political gain for the All Progressives Congress.

“The highly elated Yobe State Governor and Chairman APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni, personally received Umeoji to the party on Friday and promised him equal opportunities with other leading members of the ruling party.

Buni told Umeoji that “APC will stand for you and your supporters, and protect your political interests at all times.

“You will enjoy every privilege enjoyed by every member of the party.

“Last-minute efforts made by the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, and the party’s governorship candidate, Charles Soludo, to stop Umeoji from leaving the party failed.

“Umeoji’s defection is not the only one unsettling APGA in Anambra State. The party has also lost its majority position in the state House of Assembly with two other state lawmakers dumping the party.

“The defection of the Njikoka and Awka South lawmakers, coming after the recent mass defection of APGA lawmakers, had made the party lose its leadership role in the state legislature.

“This is also after the state Deputy Governor, Nkem Okeke, has defected from APGA to APC.

“All signs are already pointing to the fact that APGA has lost out in the state and the forthcoming election may be the last straw that will break the camel’s back.”

Confirming Umeoji’s defection in Abuja, Mamman Mohammed, Director General, Press and Media Affairs to the Yobe State Governor and the APC CECPC, Buni had said: “APC will stand for you and your supporters, and protect your political interests at all times. You will enjoy every privilege enjoyed by every member of the party.”

Governor Buni also charged the legislator to be dedicated, faithful and loyal to the party, adding: “We expect you to be part of the success story in the coming Anambra election as our victory in the election is getting much clearer every day.”

Umeoji did not only pledge his loyalty to APC but also said: “We shall contribute to the success awaiting the party in the Anambra election.

“We are part of the Nigeria project and will from now henceforth work and defend the interest of APC at all levels.”

Ironically, Umeoji did not change any game and rather than being part of the success story, Umeoji has become part of a colossal loss that was never contemplated in view of the hype and resources pumped into the Andy Uba project.

Indeed, the odds against APGA and Soludo were Herculean. Part of Obiano’s masterstroke was visiting President  Buhari and securing assurances of the president of a level playing field and perishing the contemplation of declaring state of emergency in the state, as was touted by the AGF and persons suspected to be of the APC stock.

Apart from his visit to the president, helpless Obiano had alleged that members of APGA in the state House of Assembly were induced to join APC with a whopping N100 million each.

However, one thing stood him out; confidence. “Any time, any day, there’s no other party in Anambra. Only APGA, there’s no APC,” he stated confidently.

“Those people that went to APC, they went to collect money because they saw the additional money, N100 million each, they are still APGA, they are giving us information on what is happening in APC.”

On the call for the declaration of the state of emergency as canvassed by the APC and Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, Obiano accused them of trying to destabilise the state.

“Anambra is doing well, and don’t forget that Malami is on the national campaign committee for the APC candidate. So, if that’s their strategy, then they failed already. Come to the ballot box, APGA will win and win hands down,” he said.

“They are trying to see how they can destabilise us. No! APC has no room in Anambra. There’s no party called APC in Anambra. Anambra is APGA.

“We’ll have enough security to back the people and Professor Chukwuma Soludo will be the next governor of Anambra State,” he stated confidently.

Talk of being prophetic. Or was there something Obiano knew that others did not? Could it be true that the governor was part of a scheme to milk Andy Uba and leave him high and dry as he hinted in his speech?

The election has come and gone. The rest, they say, is history. Now that the election is over, it is time to ask them ‘how market’?

The game changers changed nothing. Those who promised to deliver Anambra to APC could not deliver even their polling booths, as rampaging APGA swept them away like a hurricane wind despite the poor turnout of voters. Those who were to be part of success story have become part of sorrowful story.

What baffles many is how come Uba performed so dismally in spite of the huge resources he reportedly invested in this project said to be in billions and despite the number of people that left APGA for his camp.

The talk is rife that the governor actually encouraged people to flock around Uba, collect his money while continuing to work for the success of APGA and Soludo. This much the governor attested to when he described the decampees as moles feeding them with information on Uba’s moves. Funnily, some people are also saying that Uba has approached some of those he gave hefty sums to but who pocket them instead of deploring the funds to the election to refund his money. Nobody knows how true this is and how possible it would be to recover such money, as receipts are never issued for such transactions.

Whatever be the case, many are biting their fingers in regret now for leaving the known in pursuit of fleeting promises. Unless it is true that Obiano was behind some of the moves, these woeful political gamblers have a long period of mourning ahead of them.