DRAMA OVER ANAMBRA CENTRAL SENATORIAL RE-RUN
Will Saturday’s Anambra Central senatorial rerun hold? This is the question many are asking because of the conflicting judgements on the poll. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) appears determined to go ahead with the election, despite the objection of some political parties. Correspondent NWANOSIKE ONU reports.
The much-awaited Anambra Central senatorial rerun election is scheduled to hold on Saturday by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The seat has been vacant for the past two- and-a-half years, following series of legal battles.
Former Senator Uche Ekwunife who represented the zone was shoved aside by the Appeal Court sitting in Enugu in November 2015. The court declared that she was not properly nominated by her former party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Her removal followed the case instituted by Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) that he won the March 2015 election.
The court also ruled that a re-run should be held among the other candidates, excluding Ekwunife and her party.
There was also a caveat that the All Progressives Congress (APC) would not present any other candidate, except Senator Chris Ngige decided to re-contest. He was the party’s flag bearer in the election, before he was nominated to serve as a minister in the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The implication is that the Minister of Labour and Employment would have to resign his appointment.
Thus, from all indications, it looks like the coast is clear for the APGA candidate, Umeh, because the other 12 political parties and their candidates are not ready for the battle.
Against this background, legal luminaries had been coming up with all sorts of delay tactics to prevent INEC from organising the election.
Despite the judgement of the Appeal Court, which provides the possibility to hold the election, INEC is confused over the matter, because of the numerous court cases still pending over the matter.
For instance, about two weeks ago, a Federal High Court in Abuja, presided over by Justice John Tsoho, declared Chief Obiora Okonkwo of the PDP as the authentic winner of of the election.
The court also ordered the Senate to immediately swear Obiora in. It also ordered INEC to issue him certificate of return.
There are also other legal battles confronting the Anambra Central rerun, which had frustrated some of the candidates.
These legal battles have muddled up the preparations for the contest. For instance, while some of the political parties, particularly the small ones, are putting their acts together for the election, others are busy kicking against it.
For Chief Anayo Nweke of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), who is the flag bearer of the party in the election, believes the judiciary is being unfair to Ekwunife.
Though he is still in the race, he said INEC is biased in its interpretation of the numerous court processes concerning the election.
Nkem Ekweozor, a lawyer and candidate of Mega Progressive People’s Party (MPPP), who led other political parties on a protest in Awka on Monday, said the election should be suspended, following unsettled court processes.
Ekweozor maintained that there are other political parties in the race which had equally voiced out opinions on the Anambra Central senatorial election and questioned why INEC was bent on going ahead with the conduct of the election, even though many of the court cases are still unresolved.
Despite heavy opposition from some political parties, INEC insists that the January 13 date for the contest remains sacrosanct.
The Anambra Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, said the commission is ready for the election, unless it received counter orders any moment before the proposed date.
Already, the APGA candidate, Chief Umeh, is unrelenting, as he has continued to campaign vigorously for the election. Umeh has been enjoying the support of Governor Willie Obiano in the campaign.
The duo, alongside other APGA chieftains had traversed all the nooks and crannies of the senatorial district, appealing to the electorate to support Umeh’s candidature.
Thus, the unresolved court cases appear to have reduced the enthusiasm of many political parties in campaigning for the election.
The electorate are willing to come out to vote, though from the look of things, the election is likely to face voter apathy. There are still doubts whether it will eventually hold.
Will the Senate adhere to the judgement of the lower court? Or will INEC stick to the judgement of the Appeal Court and conduct the election?
The people of Nigeria are anxiously awaiting the final decision on the matter and only time will tell. But, if eventually holds, it is likely to be a coronation for Umeh, given the confusion surrounding the conduct of the election and the triumph of APGA in the recent governorship election