Anambra Central District stakeholders are protesting the refusal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the senatorial by-election, almost two years after the 2015 general elections. NWANOSIKE ONU examines the obstacles on the way of a new poll.
When the Anambra Central senatorial by-election was postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2015, little did the stakeholders guess that the exercise will be inconclusive, almost two years after.
The postponement has continued to generate controversy in the district and state.
The by-election became necessary, following the nullification of the victory of Senator Uche Ekwunife by the Court of Appeal in Enugu on December 7, 2015.
Then, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in crisis. There were two factions fighting for the soul of the troubled chapter. The gladiators had to drag themselves to the court. A protracted litigation ensued up to the Supreme Court.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), which had become popular, was unable to rise above the tension unleashed its politics of nomination. It was evident that it was still trailing behind the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA).
To APGA, the coast was clear. Its candidate, Victor Umeh, the former national chairman of the party, was a popular candidate. The poll was expected to be a walk over for him since the attention of the APC and PDP candidates were distracted by litigations.
At the Appeal Court, the judges declared that the PDP should not present any candidate for the election.
The reason was that the party had no leadership and could not have presented any candidate for the election.
Since then, the parties have shifted the battle to the court.
Up to now, Anambra Central does not have a representative in the Senate. The stakeholders are not happy that the district has been denied representation in almost two years, owing to the inability of the parties to put their houses in order.
Many groups had alleged that some top politicians in the APC and the PDP are behind the refusal of the electoral commission to conduct a fresh poll, adding that they were using their positions to frustrate APGA and its candidate.
Before now, Umeh had been boastful, saying that he was the candidate to beat. He believed that his ambition was a done deal with the backing of Governor Willie Obiano.
But, reality has dawned on him the political atmosphere had changed, following the change of baton at the centre. The cloud of uncertainty hovering over his ambition has not fizzled out because the APC is a threat to his bid.
Eyes are on the INEC. But, for the agency, mum is the word. Some stakeholders have criticized the commission, saying that its silence was not helping matters. A source said the INEC has been reluctant to set a new date, until the court cases arising from the nominations and the first botched poll are resolved.
The Supreme Court is expected to give its verdict on the case instituted by Ekwunife. She is her sack by the Appeal Court in December 2015.
The waiting game is on. There is anxiety across the political divides. Parties and their candidates are being kept on their toes.
The APC has replaced its former candidate, Chris Ngige with Lady Sharon Ikeazor. But, the INEC has refused to accept the substitution.
The electoral body has insisted that only those who were on its initial list could participate in the by-election, except the PDP, whose candidate was dropped by the court.
Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, does not have a senatorial interest any longer. He told reporters that he wanted to concentrate on his job, which he has described as enough headache for him.
However, a source said Ngige may soft pedal on his decision, if his party maintains that the he participate in the exercise.
The Chairman of APGA, Sir Norbert Obi, said his party was ready to face any party during the election, adding that APGA is the only known party in Anambra State.
Since the indefinite suspension of the election by INEC on March 5, last year, the political arena has been quiet. Umeh, who was traversing the nooks and crannies of the state, has suddenly gone cold.
The APC, which has garnered enough support and become the beautiful bride, is not resting on its oars. Its secretary, Chukwuma Agufugo, said the party was ready for the poll.
The candidates of APGA and the smaller parties seem to be ready for the election. But, the reality is that the cases are still pending in the various courts. Thus, the hands of the INEC are tied..
Apart from the pending Supreme Court judgment, the PDP case at the Appeal Court challenging the INEC over its exclusion is still on. Some cases on the poll are also pending at the lower courts.
The suspense is on. The anxiety is rising. The question is: when will the coast be cleared for the INEC to conduct the by-election?