In line with INEC guidelines and timetable, political parties in June conducted primary elections to pick their candidates for the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, South-east Nigeria.
All the major parties in the state, namely the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Young Progressives Party (YPP), held their primaries.
While the YPP picked its candidate, Ifeanyi Ubah, unopposed and peacefully earlier in the month, it was not so for the other three parties.
Mr Ubah, currently the senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District, emerged the YPP choice on June 19 with a vow to trounce the other big parties.
But intra-party crises appear to be the lot of the other three big parties at their primaries.
In some cases, parallel primaries were held while in others, factions emerged to oppose the choices made.
While APGA and the PDP, which are more popular in the state, are facing deep and unabated factional crises, the APC’s budding challenge may hinder it from capitalising on those crises to create an upset in the contest.
APGA, a divided castle
APGA is the ruling party in Anambra State. It has been in power since 2005 at the gubernatorial level in the state.
A former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Charles Soludo, on June 23, emerged winner of the primaries organised by the main faction of APGA led by Victor Oye.
Mr Soludo, a professor, got 740 votes to beat Okwudili Ezenwankwo, who came a distant second with 41 votes, while ThankGod Ibeh polled four votes.
Mr Ezenwankwo rejected the result citing irregularities.
Meanwhile, a faction led by Edozie Njoku has been on warpath with Mr Oye since a court in Abuja declared him (Oye) as the authentic national chairman of APGA.
The Njoku faction had accused Mr Oye of failing to submit a 21-day notice of special ward congresses to INEC.
But Mr Soludo has more troubles.
While the Oye-led faction was trying to strike a chord with the Njoku-led faction, a third faction led by Jude Okeke, which is hell-bent on scuttling Mr Soludo’s ambition, arose, canvassing his disqualification ahead of the APGA primaries and claiming he had engaged in “anti-party activities.”
The Okeke faction held its NEC meeting on June 22 and “sacked” both Messrs Oye and Njoku, accusing them of alleged anti-party activities. It also “suspended” Mr Soludo from the party.
The faction also reversed the disqualification of five other aspirants for the primaries by the Oye-led faction.
The Okeke-led group slated July 1 to conduct its own primary election.
Meanwhile, INEC has said the party has no factions, indicating that it recognises the one led by Mr Oye, a loyalist of the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano.
“As far as INEC is concerned, there are no factions in APGA. The commission deals with only one national chairman and one secretary of the party. Their details are on the INEC website. Secondly, the commission did not and has not said that APGA will not participate in the Anambra Governorship election,” Rotimi Oyekanmi, INEC Chief Press Secretary, said.
With APGA being the dominant party in Anambra, Mr Soludo will be the candidate to beat in the election. But how the crisis in the party will affect his chances remains to be seen.
PDP, one seat, two candidates
The PDP produced two candidates through parallel primary elections held by two factions of the party at different locations in Awka, the state capital, on June 26.
The party had gone into the exercise after an order by a high court in Abuja on June 9 dissolving the state executive committee led by Ndubisi Nwobu. The court validated the leadership of Ejike Oguebego.
Mr Nwobu immediately faulted the court injunction, insisting that his tenure had not expired and that Mr Oguebego was loyal to his leadership.
But Chukwudi Umeaba, a loyalist of Chris Uba, a self-styled “godfather” of the party, assumed office as a caretaker committee chairman and announced the annulment of the election of a three-member Ad hoc delegate by the Nwobu-led faction.
When leaders of the party returned to court on June 24 to ask for a restraining order on the judgment of June 9, the court refused to oblige them.
The national leadership of the party then dissolved all the executive councils in the state.
The PDP state executive, ward executives, and ad-hoc delegates in Anambra were then replaced by “automatic delegates” signed off by the National Organising Secretary of PDP, Austin Akobundu, an action the party national leadership said was necessary because of the dissolution of the state and ward executives of the party in the state.
The spokesperson of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the dissolution was in obedience to two court judgments.
It was this development that prepared the ground for parallel primaries as the national leadership of the PDP refused to recognise the Umeaba-led faction in the state.
Consequently, on June 26, two primaries were held. Ugochukwu Uba, a former senator, emerged winner of the election organised by the Mr Umeaba-led faction, while Valentine Ozigbo, a former CEO of Transcorp PLc, secured the ticket of the other faction backed by the national leadership of the party.
APC: “Ghost Primaries”
In APC, confusion also trailed the emergence of Andy Uba, a former senator, as the candidate of the party in what was described as a “ghost primaries” by some members of the party.
The chairman of the APC primary election panel and Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, announced the outcome of the poll at Golden Tulip Hotel, Agulu Lake, Awka, early on Sunday.
Mr Abiodun said Mr Uba emerged the winner with 230,201 votes while his closest rival, Johnbosco Onunkwo, polled 28,746 votes. He said 348,490 votes were cast in the primary election.
The governor noted that the election committee adopted the open ballot mode also known as Option A4 to conduct the primary election.
Andy Uba is a younger brother of Ugochukwu Uba, winner of the factional PDP primary.
However, some APC members in the state rejected the outcome of the polls, creating problems for him (Andy Uba).
For instance, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, a key member of the APC in the state, said no primary election was held, adding that it would hold on June 29. But no primary was held on that day as well.
Mr Ngige was backed by 11 out of the 14 aspirants in the race.
The spokesperson for the aspirants, George Muoghalu, at a press conference in Awka, the state capital, said anybody who claimed that there was a primary “was fraudulent and did not wish APC well in the November 6 election.”
Deluge of Litigations?
There are indications that the outcomes of the primaries and the emerging crises in APGA, PDP and APC would throw up litigations ahead of the main election in November and afterwards.
Already, some aspirants are threatening to go to court if the leaderships of their parties do not heed to their demands for the cancellation of the primaries.
What is certain however is that the outcomes of the primaries will aggravate the internal discord in the affected parties.
Will the disagreements and confusion boost the chances of Mr Ubah, the YPP candidate?
Mr Ubah, who hails from Nnewi, emerged unopposed at the party congress held on June 19 by voice acclamation.
Analysts believe though the election will be a four-horse race, the internal wrangling the three major parties are facing may clear the path for the senator and his party, which was relatively unknown until Mr Ubah won the senatorial election on its platform in 2019.
Unlike the other major parties in the race, the YPP has managed to put its house in order with the senator running what party loyalists described as a youth-led campaign. He is doing this while the other big parties are engulfed in internal wrangling.
Besides, Mr Ubah, a controversial oil businessman who was once accused of fraud by the NNPC, hails from the southern senatorial district, which is favoured to produce the next governor in line with an informal zoning formula in the state.