Ngige and the tribunal


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Ngige And The Tribunal:

Whose Victory?



Olu Obafemi


culled from THISDAY, August 18, 2005


There is a lot to reflect upon over the recent judgement by Justice Garuba Nabaruma and his Tribunal, which nullified the election of the embattled Chris Ngige as Executive Governor of Anambra State and declared Mr. Peter Obi as the duly elected Governor of the State.

The most critical food for chewing is whose victory is this, in the final analysis? Do we roll out the drums for the Judiciary, which has recently suffered some damaging knocks—what with the ‘assault’ on the Chief Justice of the federation—an assault which has been happily ameliorated by EFCC? Is it hurray for Mr. Obi or/ and his fragmented party, APGA for regaining the stool of governance, which has been stolen from their homestead for over two years, since the April 19, 2003 Gubernatorial election? Should we run into our holes in trepidation and mortification for the Anambra’s awesome and dreaded godfather, who went on the rooftops to proclaim that he manipulated INEC and rigged the election for his godson, Chris Ngige and would soon return the mandate to the rightful owner? Shall we rejoice or mourn with the people of Anambra—the actual victims of the protracted power tussle of the political elephants in their state—that the thunderstorm may be subsiding or new gales raging? What of the PDP in the state and at the centre who have found Ngige a perennial pain in their political ass and have thus flushed him out of the Party as the whirlwind raged? Are power brokers in the PDP feeling vindicated at the sliding edge of vindictiveness? How is Chris Ngige, the cat with nine lives fairing in all of these?

Orphaned by his party, which expelled him and carpeted by the tribunal after a tortuous battle, will he throw in the towel in stoic resignation to his fate or will he soldier on till final victory or defeat?
There are certainly no easy answers here because, as saying goes, when you anticipate the fall of a decayed tree, it is the fresh and lusty one that collapses in the forest. In matters of this political magnitude, there are no easy equations. For while it is not time for wholesome empathy with Ngige, who has been at the receiving end of all manners of political razzmatazz and bickering, which has led to his vilification, humiliation, abduction (some are seeing this tribunal’s verdict on him as amounting to judicial abduction), it would be the height of political naivety for any of the above parties to go partying in triumph and vindication. For, beyond the appellate courts and legalism, a number of issues have arisen which should worry the political class in this country, arising from the travails of Chris Ngige, from the morbid hands of a combination of adversarial forces enumerated above.

First, let us consider the Judiciary. Whichever way we look at this case-- beyond the usual problem of judicial vacillation and procrastination, which would allow a case of electoral petitioning, of such political import, to tarry for over two years—the tribunal has been consistent in handling the election petitions in Anambra State. Many heads have ‘rolled’, metaphorically speaking, from the verdicts that the tribunal has proclaimed regarding the 2003 elections. Several National Assembly members-at both the House of Representative s and the Senate have been compelled to vacate their seats as a direct result of Tribunal/court ruling that they had not won elections. These men are of the PDP stock. For instance, Dr. Jerry Sonny Ugokwe and Senator Peter Anosike lost their seats at the House of Representatives and Senate respectively. Some other people took over the seats, based on that verdict. In a sense, there is some applaudable consistency from the verdict on Ngige. Nothing detracts from the courage, which comes with such judgements that reverse election results and return electoral mandate and victory to those who truly won them. But of course, the Judiciary may not sing victory song on this matter, based on reports and allegations that Chris Uba may have supplied the figures, which were used to upturn the mandate of Chris Ngige in favour of Peter Obi. It is public knowledge that Chris Uba confessed, before the President of this country, that he rigged the election for Ngige—not stopping there, he is the custodian of the certification for the stolen mandate. Though, Chris Ngige made motions at protestations of the claim that he did not know how he won the gubernatorial election, he could not convince even himself, not to talk of fooling the public. Without attempting to take anything from the achievement of the tribunal, the strong insinuation is that the figures enlisted to arrive at the verdict which upturned the election—figures which showed that Peter Obi won one-quarter of the votes in 15 Local Governments—as against 9 won by Ngige—were largely provided by the master-mind, Chris Uba. Some would be uncharitable enough to suggest that it is not entirely an act of courage by the tribunal, if it was confirmed that it aptly read the barometer of the feeling of the top-notching politicians of the PDP. All we establish here is that Justice Nabaruma and his members can escape with a little pat at the back—with the benefit of the doubt—but it is not halleluiah chorus nor ebullient salaam for a rounded victory.

Now this son-like godfather of a person—Chris Uba! Isn’t he a mouth full, with a larger-than-life political frame? At a point, with the impressive work that Ngige was doing in Anambra State, building infrastructure, dualizing roads and constructing new ones all over the place, it would appear that Uba was beating a boastful but cautious retreat. The popularity of Chris Ngige was rising by the day—to the extent that he had been made the Chairman of the Committee of governors of the South-East States (Until this bombshell, which Chris Uba, in the manner suicide bombers or IRA, literally claims credit for.) Didn’t he boast that he would soon show proof that he rigged the election for Chris Ngige, and that he would waste no time at all returning the stolen mandate to APGA and chase Ngige out of the Government House? Now, the witch cried the night before and the child has died in the morning. But in another place, shouldn’t Uba be behind bars, rather than rearing to produce the next Governor of Anambra State from the Uba dynasty—which Ngige had under-estimated to his eternal discredit? Unfortunately, the PDP does not appear to mind the loss of the State to APGA or is it simply to Peter Obi? It should not be possible, even imaginable, for Chris Uba to call out the Egwugwu or the Atilogwu to dance at his victory party. We long for that day when such dream-wreckers will have no place in the political chemistry of our democracy.

As for the largest party in Africa—the People’s Democratic Party—it would be extremely shortsighted to regard what has happened, either to Chris Ngige or at the tribunal as a vindication of its dexterity at power manipulation. It is being widely put out that the PDP has merely sacrificed Ngige, either to take on Peter Obi into its fold after he has been sworn in, to further balkanize APGA or to raise a new candidate from the PDP to do fresh gubernatorial battle, next time around. Both calculations lack either grace or decency in a nation struggling to give teeth to the sovereignty of the electorate. What has happened, in the final analysis, further defrays from whatever is left of the image and credibility of the party. It should therefore provoke neither mirth nor bliss. It should provoke sincere soberness among the party hierarchy.

As for Peter Obi—a man of known means and mind—he stands at the thresh-hold of history. He waxes eloquent and politically correct. He says his declaration as the true winner of the gubernatorial race is a victory for democracy. He talks of integrity and core values of society, which should cure Anambra State of the curse and its cause. These sound rather inspiring, if they are, or will be, backed by political action. If he gets to Government House, he must remember those clauses of his Manifesto—which should return the smiles to the faces of Anambra people—which Ngige has begun to rekindle. Meanwhile, no raucous voice should sing a baseless victory song.



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