The Ekwunife Quagmire

The Ekwunife Quagmire

Just when you thought you have heard the most ridiculous of it, another one pops up. We are a people given to drama of all sorts. But the political drama is the one that takes the cake in our climes. Not many states serve us more political dramas than Anambra. I recall the shock that greeted the country on July 9, 2003 with the report of the “resignation” of then Governor Chris Chris Ngige and his subsequent abduction.

Ngige’s troubles were apparently caused by his failure to honour some pre-election “illegal” agreements that many politicians are known to enter into. And this angered his political godfather and the party hierarchy, including the Presidency who thought he ought to have been a “gentleman” and play ball. Then, came all the absurdities that followed, including the flagrant destruction of government property by a band of criminals. At the end, we were bewildered to hear then ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party refer to the whole saga as their a “family affair”. And having been so classified, nobody faced any trial for any of the crimes up to this moment, while pubic resources went into fixing all that was destroyed.

It turned out later that even Ngige was sitting in government house by usurpation and was soon kicked out by the judiciary after staying illegally for about three of the four-year term. If we thought the drama from Anambra State was over, we were proved wrong soon enough after the rightful governor, Peter Obi, was installed. An “impeachment” of horrendous criminality and unconstitutionality was staged. Obi spent much time again in court to regain his office.

Yet, at another time, the PDP won all the Senate seats in Anambra State but quickly substituted the authentic list of candidates with another, different from those who were deemed to have been candidates in the real election. Again, it was the judiciary that brought sanity to the situation.

It is not as if the theatre of the political absurdity is limited to Anambra. We have seen all sorts of absurdities across the country as far as politics go. Perhaps, that is what keeps us going as a people. But Anambra’s seems to be a bit more recurring. Enter Mrs Uche Ekwunife with an upcoming drama. Until recently, she occupied a seat at the Senate on behalf of Anambra Central Senatorial District. However, the Court of Appeal has since declared her a usurper to that seat and asked for fresh election to determine the rightful person to be called senator for that district.

The court equally said that the PDP had no valid candidate in the election that Ekwunife purportedly won. The implication of that judgment is that the party cannot have a candidate in the re-run election. I thought that was a progressive judgment meant to teach errant political parties some lesson in public and political morality. As stated above, the PDP in Anambra State has had a bad reputation for manipulating the party primaries and taking advantage over other political parties.

Consider the scenario that played out in the last elections. There were at least two different persons laying claim to the PDP tickets and actively campaigning for votes, whereas other parties had sole candidates each. At the end, theoretically and mathematically speaking, the PDP polled votes from two “candidates” and chose which of the two should benefit, for which Ekwunife was favoured. That anomaly contributed to the cancellation of the election an order for re-run.

But quite strangely, ahead of the senatorial election re-run in Anambra State, Ekwunife has defected from PDP to the All Progressives’ Congress. She said she was doing so to actualise her ambition and conclude her “contract” with her people. Interesting times we are in and interesting people, Nigerian politicians are. Just in case Ekwunife is mistaken or ignorant of the facts, the effect of the court judgment is that there was no (valid) “contract” between her and her people in the first place, so there is no contract to complete.

The two other main contenders against Ekwunife in the election were Ngige, now of the APC, who has since become a minister in the Buhari government and Victor Umeh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance. Umeh indeed was the one who challenged the “election” of Ekwunife and got the judgment against her. There is a strong reason to suspect that Ngige may not be interested in the seat any longer, given his present job in the federal cabinet. That is the apparent opportunity Ekwunife hopes to cash in on.

However, assuming the above is the case, should the APC be allowed to substitute its candidate at this stage? There is a fine argument that this re-run election is merely a repeat of the March 28 election and is deemed to be open only to the candidates and parties as were properly nominated for that election at that earlier date. That will mean, no new candidates/parties or combination can be allowed in at this time. To do so will mean allowing parties an opportunity to conduct fresh primaries and thus keep the race open for new entrants. Although the Electoral Act allows for substitution of candidates before an election, this argument suggests that such a provision could not be allowed in a re-run, unless the reason for the substitution is unexpected, like sudden death. And assuming there could be a replacement, it seems again that there must be primary election preceding the replacement.

If, in fact, the APC is allowed to replace its candidate, should it replace him with a new “member” who, with her former party, the PDP, conducted themselves in a reckless manner that led to the cancellation of the previous election and brought extra cost and hardship and the country in terms of expenditure to conduct fresh election?

I personally think it will be unconscionable for a person to derive benefit from a wrong she co-created. And if anyone reads between the lines, Ekwunife only wants the APC platform, not because she loves the party so much or has suddenly changed from subscribing to what the PDP stands for to what the APC stands for (assuming there is any difference between both parties). I think she sees the APC as the available platform she can use to advance her “personal” ambition to “serve” her people. There is no guarantee that she intends to stay with that party after she achieves (or fails to achieve) her goal.

By admitting Ekwunife to its fold, the APC is in a quagmire. And it has an even bigger labyrinth to manoeuvre through, deciding whether or not to yield its ticket to the former “defective” senator. It is a huge moral burden on a party which laid claim to a high moral pedestal which has since been unravelling in precipitous magnitude.

Maybe, one will be expecting too high a principle from the APC to be wise enough not to allow itself to be used, and perhaps dumped after the election. After all, on the altar of Nigerian politics, nothing is sacrosanct as not to be sacrificed for immediate political gains. While we may be thinking morality, a political party thinks of numbers and for the Nigerian political class, morality (like image) is nothing.

(Published in The Punch newspaper, January 11, 2016.

Written by
Obo Effanga
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