By Chuks Collins, Awka
A different kind of war will be going on in Anambra Central Senatorial district on February 25 as Peter Obi battles to win the presidential election. This is Peter’s senatorial district; those who win here will be Peter’s representatives in the National Assembly.
In the meantime, those lined up for the contest for the senate seat are three long time archrivals: Senator Uche Ekwunife, (People’s Democratic Party, PDP) former senator, Chief Victor Umeh (Labour Party, LP) and Hon Dozie Nwankwo (All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA).
Ekwunife reckons that in Umeh, she is is also fighting Obi, and in defeating Umeh, she has scored one against Obi and LP. She has taken the fight to the the law courts.
Ekwunife is using the interrogation of Umeh’s eligibility to fly the flag of LP in the election to expose an orchestrated attack on Obi’s presidential aspiration.
With the high stakes in the elections, local expectations are that LP should win the senatorial zone and the House of Representatives to entrench Obi when he expectedly wins the presidential elections.
There are indications that there are fears within other contending political camps, who wished things were completely different, especially in the likelihood of Obi sweeping the stakes.
The scheme, according to sources was being undertaken by some elements in the PDP in conjunction with some hirelings who were said to be dangling Senate president seat at Ekwunife as a bait to fight for her seat and destabilize whatever chances LP and Obi has in winning in Anambra Central.
The plot, we learnt was to designed to unfold in stages. The first stage was playing down Obi’s chances and harping on him as neophyte and a “kindergarten president” This was followed by the multiple attempts to further dismiss his chances, saying he has no structure and that his base is on social media and an unstable, unreliable and untested Obidient crowd.
As Obi waxed stronger, the already exasperated antagonists tried violence on the self motivated crowds,hoping for a reprisal that never came.
The antagonists spread their net and Obi was cajoled elsewhere as he denied facilities by Governors El-rufai of Kaduna State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Sanwo Olu of Lagos State to campaign or place outdoor adverts.
The big point was scored when Umeh, became the target. Umeh was disqualified vide a Federal High Court verdict on January 27, 2023. He appealed but analysts are not hopeful of his chances. Judgement from the Appeal panel drawn from Enugu Division is expected soon.
Should he fail, then the fight would be between Ekwunife and Nwankwo. Obi left APGA to join PDP; and left PDP for LP. Both candidates will happily see him lose the senatorial district to prove that his a lightweight in the state, and that his followers are another on the ground.
Until the court verdict, Umeh who was Obi’s ally in APGA was a top contender to Senatorial seat. His ambition is up in smoke now, and it’s implications unappealing.
As Chief Solomon Onyekwelu, a senatorial aspirant on the platform of LP, who claimed he was not given opportunity to prove his popularity during the primary was fighting Umeh inside the party, Ekwunife was fighting him from outside.
Ekwunife had few supporters for her desire to seek an unprecedented third term in Senate after a previous two terms in the House of Reps. Many wanted her to step aside to allow a new face.
Those who are tired of the over ambitious Ekwunife find an acceptable candidate in the APGA candidate, Nwankwo, described as “being on ground with citizens of the area, and burning with desire to impress the constituents.”
There was also the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Chief Kodilichukwu Okelekwe. His campaign is considered as having taken off on a wrong footing despite his experience as a political tactician. He is accused of surrounding himself with the wrong set of helpers and aides.
According to details of the verdict in the suit No FHC/AWK/CS/155/2022, which came vide originating summons brought by PDP and Ekwunife, as plaintiffs on September 30,2022, Umeh was accused of being a member of APGA, and not LP as at the time he picked the senatorial ticket. He contested the APGA primary on 28 May 28, 2022 before crossing to LP, without tidying his desk.
He moved over perhaps too quickly to pick the LP ticket even while his name was still in on the APGA register in his Aguluzoigbo Ward. Was he was a member of LP on the day he won the senatorial ticket?
So, Hon Justice Nganjiwa on Jan 27 in his judgement restrained LP and Umeh from parading or campaigning as a candidate for the February 25, Anambra Central senatorial election. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was also restrained from recognizing, treating Umeh as a candidate of LP for the election.
In the second suit ref FHC/AWK/CS/156/2022 against Umeh by Onyekwelu, LP and INEC, Justice Nganjiwa wasn’t more charitable.
Observers in Anambra, while acknowledging the legal implications of the rulings are convinced that the unintended target of the outcome is Obi.
However, it is believed that all the permutations will change if Obi wins the presidential elections. For example, will Ekwunife still aspire to be senate president in an Obi presidency, even with her over two decades in the National Assembly? Or wouldn’t she rather cross carpet to LP?