Barely two months to the November 18 governorship poll in Anambra State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is still struggling to resolve allegations of unwholesome practices during its August 26 primary election that produced Tony Nwoye as the party’s candidate.
Why did the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), the state television authorized to cover the August 26 governorship primary election of Anambra State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), not cover the accreditation and voting process, but instead focused on the collation and release of results? Who made sure that the delegates accredited at Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, were the same delegates that actually cast votes at the Professor Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre?
Those are some of the posers contained in a petition filed by the Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial district, Dr. Andy Uba, against the return of Hon. Tony Nwoye as the winner of the APC primary in the state.In the nine-paragraph petition, Uba availed the APC Governorship Primary Appeal Committee of minute details of how the August 26 primary election “was marred by gangsterism, criminal duplication and wanton irregularities.”
Uba, who prayed the committee to declare him the rightful winner of the primary, contended that having proved beyond reasonable doubts, instances of delegates swapping and use of thugs by his rival, the fact that he polled the highest number of lawful votes qualifies him to fly the APC flag for the November 18 governorship poll.
The Guardian gathered that after the conclusion of the exercise, the national headquarters of the party refrained from submitting the name of Hon. Tony Nwoye, who was returned as winner of the primary, owing to claims of manipulations and other complaints by aggrieved stakeholders.
For instance, in a petition dated August 27, 2017 addressed to the chairman and members of the appeal committee, which was sighted by The Guardian, Senator Uba declared: “It is my duty and responsibility to bring to your knowledge certain sharp practices and irregularities, which marred the just concluded primary election which includes the following:
“It is on record that during the accreditation of delegates, which took place at the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, Hon. Tony Nwoye, brought in members of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), into the arena. The thugs/NANS members chased away the authentic delegates the moment their names were mentioned for accreditation and in the place of the authentic delegates, the thugs entered as delegates.”
Uba explained that having entered the vehicle the pseudo delegates were eventually conveyed to the Women Development Centre, Awka, the venue of the actual voting, stressing that “it is therefore, these thugs/members of NANS, who masqueraded as authentic delegates that actually voted in favour of Hon. Tony Nwoye.”
The petitioner further alleged that after the full accreditation of delegates in Alex Ekwueme Square, Hon. Nwoye, working in concert with some local government chairmen of the party, paid off most of the delegates, especially elderly people and women, upon which he said the delegates surrendered their delegate tags to them and in turn, received sums ranging from N20, 000 to N50, 000, with tags handed over to non-members of the party imported for the nefarious deal.
“In order to buttress my case on this point, the legal adviser of the party, Ogbogu Okafor, of Umerum ward, Ayamelum local council, was also approached for cooperation in the tradeoff, but he bluntly refused, which earned him severe beatings. He is currently in hospital undergoing treatment for injuries sustained in the hands of the thugs,” he added.
He pointed out that as soon as report of the unwholesome despoliation of the process reached him, he complained to some members of the primary committee and reached prominent party chieftain on phone, who pleaded with him to allow the exercise come to conclusion, “to avoid mayhem due to high level presence of thugs and criminals.”
The Guardian gathered that the APC top leadership in a meeting held at the villa a fortnight ago, expressed mixed feelings about the reports. Hon. Nwoye, who cut short his brief holiday in London to attend the appeal committee sessions, denied that any such infringements on the process took place, insisting that the senator was merely playing a bad loser.
Also another aspirant, Mr. Nonso Madu, said he was riled by the contents of Uba’s petition, recalling how the senator had praised the transparency of the primary and orderly voting.
While pointing out that Uba raised the petition as an afterthought when his self confidence that he would win failed, Madu declared: “I must say that I am unimpressed that out distinguished senator could descend to such a level to tarnish a painstakingly organized primary by an eminent committee headed by Governor Kashim Shettima.”
On the allegation that Nwoye swapped delegates with thugs and NANS members, Madu recalled how the committee had earlier urged delegates to come along with their PVC, national ID card, drivers’ license or international passport, as well as party membership card that bear their photographs.
He contended that with the presence of the Nigeria Police Force led by Anambra Police Commissioner, Umar Garba, the DSS and other security agencies, there was no room for manipulation, adding that delegate’s list was made available to all aspirants, two weeks before the primary.
Madu averred that the road leading to the voting venue was not accessible to commuters and other road users since it was cordoned off by security agencies, which according to him made it practically impossible for non-accredited persons to gain entrance to the venue.
Picking holes further on the allegation of swapping of delegates, Madu disclosed that during voting, once a particular local government was called, the various ward chairmen were summoned to vote first then line up in front of the hall to identify the delegates from their wards, before they proceeded to cast their votes.
He added that the idea of going to court to obtain affidavit was the stock in trade of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which the petitioner imported into APC, saying it was a calculated attempt to distract and deny Nwoye of his deserved victory.
However, following speculations that APC appeal committee has recommended that Nwoye’s certificate of return be withdrawn and handed to Uba, who came second with 932 votes, a chieftain of the party in the state, Chief Bonaventure Maduafokwa, petitioned the NWC.
Maduafokwa said it would not make sense to withdraw the victory announced in the governorship primary and confer it on another aspirant without invalidating the whole process.In the petition titled: “Effective management of August 26 APC guber primary crisis in Anambra State,” Maduafokwa noted that as the pioneer elected state chairman of All Peoples Party (APP) in Anamabra State, he feels very disturbed “at the rather long period it has taken to resolve the Anambra State crisis.”
He urged APC leaders to reflect on the fact that the party was about to face an incumbent governor with appreciable approval rating across Anambra so that they could call a spade a spade and expedite action if the party is expected to move ahead.
Maduafokwa, who was also the Special Adviser to Anambra State Government on security matters, said from the look of things, it would take some time for APC to get competitive enough in the state and tilt the balance in the forthcoming poll. Part of the petition read: “It is to be noted that there has been series of allegations, real or imagined, leveled against a particular candidate that appeared to have badly negated the integrity of the primary election in a truly democratic context.
“If we should in any circumstance reach a conclusion that delegates were swapped as alleged, to the extent that a particular aspirant gained massive advantage inappropriately, then it stands to reason that the gap of over 2000 votes thus improperly earned has rendered the entire process null, void and of no effect.”
Maduafokwa added: “I feel gravely outraged that our party, the APC, that seized the national consciousness and rose to prominence on the mantra of fighting corruption, allowed a situation where cash and carry delegates went on unhindered in a most brazen fashion without the intervention of the party leadership.”
He noted that it was as a result of non-intervention from the law enforcement agencies that “certain decent aspirants withdrew from the race giving up everything with the outcome showing a painful enthronement of who spent the most and not who won.”
His words: “Allow me to sound a note of caution. Rigging will not work for our party in Anambra State where you have tireless veterans of many successful later day election victories through the courts.”He asked the party to scout for a decent aspirant from the bottom rung to field as a compromise candidate, stressing, “This will discourage money bags from trying the patience of all others in elections.”