ColumnsNigeriaOpinionPoliticsCourt Judgment Against Sen. Victor Umeh and the Rest of us

“The greatest challenge of Nigeria’s democratic experiment is the country’s political parties, especially those that are already established”— Ebuka Onyekwelu

The news of a Federal High Court judgment against Sen. Victor Umeh, erstwhile National Chairman of APGA and former candidate of Labour Party-LP, for Anambra Central Senatorial District in the fast approaching 2023 General Election, came to some as a shock. But to many, it is something to laugh about, perhaps, calling for celebration.

Within the first hour of that judgment, I received so many published stories from different people. All of them, it appeared, was happy with the judgment. Well, I can not tell people how to feel towards the ambition of a man that has wronged them. However, my own take is that perhaps, Sen. Umeh must now take his own advice, issued months ago, when he appeared on ABS Television and referred to his then-opponents in APGA; Hon. Dozie Nwankwo and Uzuegbuna Okagbue, as children, need to go and look for what to do.

As life may have it,  Hon. Dozie Nwankwo is the APGA candidate for the Anambra Central Senatorial Seat and is still a serving member of the House of Representatives. While Uzuegbuna Okagbue is back to his flourishing businesses and recent events have shown that Uzu has recognized pedigree in national political discussion.

Unfortunately, Sen. Umeh who worked hard for APGA and then left the party and moved to Labour Party has now been disqualified from participating in the election. Peter Obi was Governor when Sen. Umeh was APGA National Chairman of APGA, and both were famous for their many battles of wits, yet, they remained a tag team as both are now shaping LP for their political purposes.

Of particular importance is the hint that this latest development might affect Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party if his resignation from the PDP is not known to the party, as PDP has often claimed. Recall how PDP’s candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had said that he was not aware that Peter Obi left PDP. Recall also how the PDP has often dismissed Obi’s aspiration.

Sen. Victor Umeh is not the first person to suffer this level of profound political displacement. Hon. Chris Azubogu also suffered the same and was disqualified from participating in the General Election, as the court ruled that he was not even a member of APGA at the time of the party’s primary election which he participated in and was elected as the party’s candidate for Anambra South senatorial zone. This is also the position of the court on Sen. Umeh.

Consequently, roughly 28 days before the election, it is clear that APGA risks not having a candidate for Anambra South senatorial seat. So also LP for Anambra Central Senatorial seat.

Maybe, this bold decision by the court will panel beat Nigerian politicians into their best behavior in terms of loyalty to their party, rather than jumping from party to party in a desperate search for a platform to acquire political power.

The fact, really, is that we can not talk of having a decent democracy when people switch parties so recklessly for the sole aim of grabbing party tickets and running for election.

All over the world, the election is never an emergency. Same also in Nigeria. This year’s election is not an emergency, people had at least four years to plan. After 2023, people already know that there will be another election in the next four years. So why can’t our politicians start on time to plan and make their permutations? Why can’t they start building from ground zero and then be ready in a few years of working hard to build their political structure, rather than adopt a hit-and-run approach of “give me a ticket or I leave”?

The greatest challenge of Nigeria’s democratic experiment is the country’s political parties, especially those that are already established. I am certain that Sen. Victor Umeh is well aware of that. Yet, he was willing to jump to Labour Party from APGA despite many years of efforts put into APGA. The question remains, why must he contest that election? It is therefore a priceless lesson for political players who think they must contest an election at all costs.

Although quite frankly, the Anambra Central Senatorial District election always appeared to be squarely between Sen. Uche Ekwunife of PDP and Hon. Dozie Nwankwo of APGA. District elections are different from national elections.

Therefore, the assumptions so easily advanced by some people that Sen. Victor Umeh would leverage Peter Obi’s name and party to get elected have no basis at all in reality. Anambra voters always demonstrated a high level of conscious participation. Across all the senatorial zones in 2019, APGA, PDP, and YPP got the people’s mandate for different positions. The people carefully went for those they perceived as their bests. Sen. Umeh would not pass that test in the current contest against his two strongest opponents simply because he is in the same party as Peter Obi. Anambra voters will not fall for that bandwagon effect. Voters in Anambra do not subscribe to less qualified people riding on others’ backs to get into office.

For Sen. Victor Umeh, it is now left to be seen if APGA is still the Igbo party, a message he preached for over two decades. Or is Labour Party the new Igbo party? A major shocker from the entire episode was how Sen. Umeh took back all his unkind words, blackmail, and campaign of calumny against Peter Obi in the last eight years. Was he lying all along? Was he saying the truth? No one knows. It is now to be seen what happens, from here.

Ebuka Onyekwelu (Staff Writer)
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