By Okechukwu Anarado
No one person in Anambra political turf has fought more tortuous political battles in defence of their political convictions than Chief Victor Umeh; none either has enjoyed as much legal victories in their dogged adherence to legitimately seeking redress in the face of daunting manoeuvres antithetical to recognised political and legal best practices. Indeed Chief Umeh’s political life for over a decade running tends to present a vignette of crusades for seemly precepts in democratic practices, particularly as they affect elections and political party administration. The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, would provide him the nexus for bold expressions of this cause.
Though Chief Umeh’s electoral value handsomely played out in APGA’s impressive performance in 2003 gubernatorial election in Anambra State, his prefigured ingenuity seemed to be tied more to the rigorous legal battles that saw APGA’s Mr. Peter Obi reclaim a gubernatorial mandate in 2006, three long years after it was highhandedly appropriated by Dr. Chris Ngige’s People’s Democratic Party. But for Chief Umeh’s downright rejection of underhand arbitrary counsels and ploys to compromise the party’s pursuit, Obi’s scheme for governorship probably would just have fizzled out. In and out of the courts, Umeh’s robust support counted substantially in Obi’s variegated journeys to the Government House. This cannot be controverted by any; neither Chief Umeh’s most ferocious traducers today nor their pampered surrogates would dare.
Umeh’s trajectory in Anambra politics captures the intricacies, the travails and the successes in the making of modern Anambra State. This is not farfetched considering the critical role he played in APGA’s formation and its entrenchment as a formidable ruling party in Anambra State. Chief Victor Umeh readily provided the youthful zeal and mental energy which the all-time leader of APGA, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, needed to impress the mission of the party in the consciousness of the deprived peoples of Nigeria, particularly those resident east of the Niger. His steadfastness in driving the fortune of the party through formidable trials unarguably justifies Ikemba’s preferences for him as a leader whom he trusted to grow the party’s ideals to prime legacy in good governance. As its National Chairman, Umeh superintended over APGA’s containment of the Peoples Democratic Party’s electoral improprieties, particularly in Anambra State, a pilot state for APGA’s good governance model. Chief Umeh it was who literarily trod the fields to ensure the delivery of Rochas Okorocha as the governor of Imo State under the APGA banner. Unfortunately the APGA good governance culture was yet to stick in Imo before Okorocha went his way – deep into the wilds of his unrestrained bizarre impulses in governance, thereby leading Imo to the prevailing woods.
Still fresh in our memory is Umeh’s successes in ensuring Obiano’s first coming (2014) when he (Umeh) was the National Chairman of APGA, and his stellar role in the Governor’s unprecedented reelection result (18th November, 2017), as the Chairman of the Governor’s Reelection Committee.
Given his persistent frontline role in APGA’s subsistence and growth over time, in the years of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s unassailable presence and beyond; given the fine blend of his composite knowledge of Nigeria’s political dynamics and his inimitable boldness (a bit of which was showcased in his very brief but most brilliant participation in the 2014 National Conference), one would hardly fault the appropriateness of Chief Victor Umeh as a mouthpiece for Anambra Central Senatorial Zone in the 8th Senate.
But for a few who, for mundane reasons, would not bear Umeh’s rising profile in Anambra political space; but for the clique who, in the past, surreptitiously laboured to undermine Umeh’s leadership of the party by lavishly sponsoring internal leadership distractions such as Maxi-Okwu’s; but for the few whose underbellies have eventually been laid bare by their characteristic prowls on him, Chief Umeh’s representation in the 8th Senate would have long taken effect. Recall that the 8th Senate was inaugurated on the 9th of June, 2015. And this group would spare no reason yet in their insistence on depriving the people of Umeh’s representation.
However, if the November 20, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal restraining the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from participating in the rerun election which the Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct within 90 days provided an elixir for the people of Anambra Central Senatorial District, the renaissance spirit displayed by Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC in promptly fixing January, 13, 2017 for the rerun restored the people’s hope in the electoral umpire to avail them fair representation in the Red Chambers of the National Legislative House. These crucial turns by essential arbiters in electoral decisions largely diminished the sworn conclusions of Chief Victor Umeh’s denigrators to stretch their judicial taunts endlessly, and anger the people till doomsday.
The enthusiasm of the people over the rerun was aptly captured in the submission by the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, in Anambra urging INEC to ‘ensure that enemies of our democracy do not prevail in their nefarious plot to abort the conduct of the election of January 13, 2018, and thereby permanently denying Anambra Central Senatorial district due representation in the 8th Senate.’ This enthusiasm took flesh in the quiet but determined participation of the electorate who, defying the high cost of petrol, came out to ensure overwhelming victory for Chief Victor Umeh, the candidate after their heart.
With the successful conduct of the Anambra Central Senatorial District rerun of 13th January, 2018, INEC furthered its mettle as a disinterested umpire posting improvement on the appreciable record it established during the Anambra Gubernatorial Election of 18th November, 2017. The January feat therefore announced INEC’s deepening integrity and emboldens the electoral body on its march to future elections.
By these celebrated Anambra experiences, the courts of the land and INEC may have found their voices in reinventing prudent democratic practices. The salient missing link becomes the willingness of many a politician to separate crass selfishness, rash hate and limitless mischief from the practice of democracy and service to people and society.
Nigeria’s electors seek no more than fair play from INEC, the security operatives and the government in a collective resolve to correctly choose the bona fide leadership that would genuinely bear the burden of headship in the country’s stuttering avowals of nationhood. Anambra State today beckons other geopolitical blocs in Nigeria to freedom from the stranglehold of estranged leadership – that Nigeria might better be.
Okechukwu Anarado writes from Adazi-Nnukwu.