Governorship election was conducted in Anambra State on Saturday, November 6, 2021. That was barely seven weeks ago. Contrary to public expectation that the election would be marred by unprecedented violence, the election was conducted peacefully. It was adjudged by election observers, political parties, and governorship candidates to be the freest, fairest, most credible, most transparent, and undoubtedly free of violence. It was hailed as a model election that should be replicated in future by other states of the country.
After collating the votes and tallying the results, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that Charles Chukwuma Soludo, who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), won the election by a wide margin. For example, Soludo won in more than two-thirds of the local governments in the state. The margin of victory and the fact that there were no obvious, apparent, or identifiable infractions during the election silenced other political parties and humbled the candidates who lost the election. The message was clear.
Everyone thought the election was over and settled peacefully on a brotherly note. But that was not what Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) thought. Weeks after the election, he raised his hands in protest, threatening to challenge the outcome of the election. Everyone wondered what could have been the problem. What electoral misconduct did Andy Uba experience that a majority of Anambra voters did not spot? How could a man who did not come second in the election find good grounds to challenge the election results?
Initially, many people thought Andy Uba was not serious. However, as days turned into weeks and nearly two months after the election, Uba was still adamant that he should have been declared winner of the election. Strange as that might sound, some people began to express worries that a one-man protest, seen as a joke initially, could possibly lead to the experience in Imo State during which the governor was sacked by the Supreme Court and replaced by a man who came fourth. That decision by the Supreme Court stunned the nation and the international community. It showed that anything could happen in Nigeria after an election.
This is the context in which the public has expressed worry about the possibility that the outcome of the Anambra election could be overturned in favour of Andy Uba. While there are slim prospects that the magic that occurred in Imo State could be imported into Anambra State, still the prevailing mood in Anambra is that of growing anxiety. The atmosphere is tense. Nothing should be taken for granted if Andy Uba challenges the outcome of the governorship election in Anambra.
This idea that politicians who lose governorship elections in the South-East should go to election petition tribunals or the high court, and even up to the Supreme Court, to try to invalidate the election results must be condemned. The practice is gaining ground because of unexpected way the Imo State governorship election contest was resolved to the amazement of voters. This is what Andy Uba of the APC is attempting to do in Anambra State.
Already, Andy Uba has received a nasty kick in the groin by the Federal High Court, Abuja, that ruled on Monday, December 20, 2021, that the June 26 primary of the APC that produced Uba as the party’s candidate was not validly conducted. Justice Inyang Ekwo, who made the ruling, said the APC primary violated the provisions of the Electoral Act and the party’s guidelines for the conduct of the primary. However, Uba and the APC have flagged their intention to challenge the ruling of the Abuja Federal High Court.
This Federal Court decision, coming unexpectedly as Uba was threatening to question the outcome of the governorship election, has opened two battle fronts that Uba will have to fight. It will be interesting to watch how he grapples with the double body blow, namely, the lost governorship election, and his disqualification by the Federal High Court. On paper, things are not looking too good for Uba.
The signs were ominous for Uba even during campaigns for the election. Not many national leaders of the APC visited Anambra State to campaign steadfastly and vigorously for him. For example, Senator Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambra State and current Labour and Employment Minister, was not seen anywhere near Uba during the campaigns. As the saying goes, a house divided against itself cannot stand. The APC in Anambra was split into factions and the result of that division was the poor performance of the party in the Anambra governorship election. In light of the Federal Court’s latest decision, Uba must now reflect on, and review carefully, his political ambition.
In June 2009, Supreme Court justices dismissed Andy Uba’s application in which he asked the court to restore him as the official winner of the controversial 2007 governorship election in Anambra State. That dismissal was the third in as many months. In that context, the Supreme Court justices expressed their frustration and disappointment with Uba’s endless attempts to ask the court to change its previous decision on the same subject.
In delivering the unanimous judgment, Chief Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi said at that time: “I have carefully listened to the submissions and arguments canvassed by counsel to all the parties in this application and come to a conclusion that the application is a thorough abuse of the judicial process. It is trite law that there must be an end to litigation. This application therefore fails and is accordingly dismissed…”
Uba should be reminded that, in matters of law, persistence or doggedness is not an effective strategy to win cases. A petitioner must build his or her case on extensive, demonstrable, and indisputable evidence. Anything else can irritate the judges.
It is public knowledge that Uba has been aspiring to transform his political career by becoming the governor of Anambra State. So far, the big prize has either eluded him or narrowly slipped through his hands, as was the case during the brief period he was crowned governor in 2007 before Peter Obi’s formidable legal team turned Uba’s governorship joy into a nightmare. If he persists in challenging celebral Soludo’s latest landslide victory, Uba can expect to be overwhelmed again at the courts. APGA has already warned that it is ready and willing to confront Uba in any court of law.
As Uba ponders the options before him, he must remember that a governor selected by voters is more recognised, more loved, more popular, and more respected than a governor appointed by the Supreme Court.
Just to be sure, Andy Uba does not have to be governor of Anambra State to be able to make positive impact on the lives of the people or to contribute meaningfully to the development of his state. There are so many ways he can make those contributions without being trapped in the politics of trying to govern Anambra State by fair or dishonourable means.