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Monday, 7 October 2019

Godfatherism In Anambra Politics: What Do The Ubas Want?




Since the return of democracy in 1999 violence, corruption, and “godfatherism” have been the bane of the politics of Anambra State. Anambra citizens have remained without a meaningful voice in the selection of their political leaders until the 2003 elections that saw an established banker and businessman, Mr. Peter Obi, gun for the governorship of the state.

Prior to this period, a few individuals sat and decided who gets what, whether the person is qualified or not, or whether the person is prepared for the position or not. Thus, Anambra State had reluctant leaders who are either not qualified for office or ill-prepared for the task ahead. The state has had the most vibrant, rough and rugged political climate in Nigeria. The state not only produced renowned literary giants, diplomats, business men and women, captains of industry and sports personalities of repute. It has also spawned great leaders that played major roles in the shaping of Nigeria.

But, there is one family which rose from relative obscurity to being among top decision makers in the leadership of the state – the Uba family from Uga in Aguata Local Government Area. They have within a space of 15 years, loomed large in the political atmosphere of the state and produced a governor and
two senators, with the last of the brothers trying albeit
unsuccessfully to get into the red chambers in the last elections which would have made them the first family in the state to have produced three senators in the country.

Not only have the two senators, at separate times, represented their constituency (Anambra South) in the Senate, they have been credited with being among the top political ‘godfathers’ that installed a governor along with all the state and federal lawmakers in one breath.
Dr. Ugochukwu Uba, the eldest of the three Uba brothers, is a physician, who was plying his trade in Jos, the Plateau State capital, before he ventured into politics during the failed Abacha transition programme. He later became a Senator elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from 2003- 2007.

Also, Sen. Nnanmdi (Andy) Uba, was resident in the United States before being recalled to serve in the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration as the Senior Special Assistant (Special Duties and Domestic Affairs). He later contested in the 2007 governorship election on the platform of PDP and won. However, he holds the record of being the shortest serving governor in the history of the state and country, holding office for only 17 days before he was sacked by the Supreme Court, which declared that the impeachment of Gov. Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was illegal.

The youngest of the Uba brothers, Chris, is a business man and chieftain of the PDP. He is the foremost self-acclaimed political “godfather” of Anambrra politics. Though he has never held any political office, it is generally believed that he held forth through the polity, delivering a governor, all the Senators, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly members in 2003. He is known to have won the PDP ticket to run for the Senate in 2019. Had he succeeded at the polls, all the Uba brothers would have been senator for Anambra South.

Unlike the Bush and Kennedy families in the United States, that became famous and built a political dynasty on the principle and integrity, the Uba’s are generally believed to have built political relevance on controversy, opportunism and playing hard ball.

Andy took over the senatorial ticket from his elder brother, Ugochukwu, after the latter was defeated by Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah in 2007. His dream for a third shot at the Senate was challenged by Chris who wanted exchange of baton from his brother, but such unbridled ambition was thwarted by Sen. Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah.

Upon becoming President in 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo recalled Andy and gave him a portfolio so powerful that he was described as the president’s right-hand man. Ugochukwu was touted to be Obasanjo’s choice for Senate President, but being a non-ranking member in the Red Chamber, he was caught by the Senate’s hierarchy rule for being a principal officer. He, however, got compensated with the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Power and Steel.

While the eldest Ubas had held office in the different arms of government, the youngest, Chris, had exhibited unparalleled political muscle in the State. But, no sooner had his political godson, former Gov. Chris Ngige, assumed office, than the two fell apart snowballing to an episode best captured as ‘Anambra’s Day of Infamy’. The July 10, 2003 broad-daylight kidnap of the governor and his near ‘Hollywood resignation’ exposed the negative impact political godfatherism had created in Anambra polity. It also exposed the underhand and illegal dealings by few powerful individuals in the governance structure in the state. Ngige, after being rescued from a hotel in Awka, identified Chris as the mastermind of the entire unfortunate episode for allegedly refusing to ‘sign away’ the state treasury as secretly agreed.

The aftermath destruction and violence which engulfed the state was among the reasons given by the late Prof. Chinua Achebe for rejecting a national honour to be conferred on him by the Obasanjo administration in 2004. Achebe in an emotion-laden letter of rejection of the honour, described the mastermind as a clique of renegades determined to turn the state into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.

The table turned against Chris when his brother Andy, sidelined him from government and disrupted his control of the PDP machinery in the state. Chris, it is generally believed, did not work for his brother during the 2007 election, and even after Andy was removed as governor. But in 2011, both brothers reconciled at the instance of their mother and Andy got voted into the Senate. In November 2013, during the governorship election in Anambra State, both brothers united and worked together to realise Andy”s governorship ambition. Instead of participating in the governorship primaries conducted by the party’s state chairman, Chief Ken Emeakanyi, he held a parallel primary under the chairmanship of Chief Ejike Oguebego, which got Andy on the ballot on the election-day. The rest they say is history; the reunion packed up as Chris picked the PDP’s senatorial ticket to replace Andy.

And that was the first time that two brothers came out to dance for strength and popularity, an exercise that crashed their ego, as Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah garnered 87,081 to Chris’s 52,462 votes, while Andy polled a paltry 13,245 votes, beating the two brothers pants down, even if their total votes were merged together.

However inspite of the clear margin, the Uba brothers have remained adamant, even after losing at the National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal. In a judgment delivered on September 9, 2019, the tribunal was unanimous in holding that the Uba brothers failed woefully to discharge the burden placed on them to prove allegations of corruption and electoral malpractices.

Not satisfied, they have gone on appeal thus raising the question: what do the Uba brothers really want? Are they under the impression that Anambra State belongs to them? People are of the opinion that they are living in the past and should learn to accept the fact that having held the state by the jugular for more than fifteen years, the electorates are fed up with them.

Andy was of the illusion that on returning as a ranking senator from the South-East on the platform of the ruling APC, he stood a chance of becoming the Senate President or the Deputy Senate President. Conversely, lurking in the corner was the oil and gas business mogul, Dr Ifeanyi Ubah, who, from a relatively obscure Young Progressive Party (YPP), dusted out the Uba brothers and confined them to the bin of political relevance. Prior to the election, Ifeanyi had amassed innumerable goodwill from his unmatched philanthropic gestures.

The tribunal’s verdict last month , has put paid to the “Uba brothers’ senatorial dynasty and dominance of Anambra politics. Now, it may have dawned on the Uba clan that unbriddled pursuit of personal gains amounts to remaining blind to reality and that time has passed by. Ifeanyi Ubah has indeed become the Biblical Moses in Anambra’s Egypt and he is emphatically telling the Uba brothers: Let my people go! If they refuse to let go, it will continue to be at their own peril.




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