Nigeria’s Anambra 2010 election, the key players and INEC’s challenge


USAfrica: The News & Opinion Leader for Africans and Americans.

By Dr. Ugorji O. Ugorji

Special to USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. USAfricaonline.com,  CLASSmagazine, The Black Business Journal,  Nigeria360@yahoogroups and IgboEvents e-group.

There are several reasons why I think the south eastern Anambra State of Nigeria election for governor scheduled for February 6, 2010, will be exemplary in a positive dimension.

First, it presents the country yet another opportunity to signal a resolve towards providing the guarantee for an election where those eligible and registered to vote can vote unmolested, have their votes counted credibly, and have the actual vote tallies announced. Thanks to the consequential pursuit of his mandate, Mr. Peter Obi’s case (Peter Obi vs. INEC, S.C. 123/2007) has placed Anambra in a unique place on the election calendar of Nigeria; and  the world is watching.

Since 1999 the political behemoth in Igbo land, and indeed in all of Nigeria, has been the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And given the very nature of the Igbo (distrust of behemoths, and the relentless pursuit of individual accomplishments), the Igbo has by-and-large become distrustful of the PDP. This is the case even before we get into the rational issue of the party’s performance in states where it has held political sway. The 2010 election for governor in Anambra has provided the clearest evidence of this phenomenon in the gradual downsizing of the PDP, with virtually all the major candidates for governor now walking and campaigning with PDP pedigree. Other than Obi, virtually all the major candidates are former members of the PDP. This means that the battle is essentially between the APGA and the PDP/PDP alumni.  Andy Uba, Chris Ngige, Chukwuma Soludo, and Uche Ekwunife are essentially from the same PDP bloodline, in a dissipated existence that augurs well for the downsizing of the behemoth (that is if you wish that the behemoth be downsized).

In an election where such powerful forces are engaged in an honest contest as flag bearers for different parties, Anambra will get closer in 2010 to a free and fair election than virtually all other states have witnessed. With the type of serious competition we now see brewing in Anambra, comes sunshine in the process; with sunshine comes transparency; and with transparency comes freedom and fairness in what is and will always be an imperfect exercise.

In the Igbo’s relation with the cosmos, all great things happen in quads or in multiples of four. I have arrived at the list below by considering the political parties involved, the individuals on the tickets, and the peculiar options these combinations provide for the Anambra electorate. Thus, as I see it, the consequential candidates in the upcoming election are eight, and they are (in no particular order) as follows:

Governor Peter Obi (All Progressives Grand Alliance), the Incumbent Governor

Whatever you say about the man, Peter Obi has made his mark in Nigeria’s electoral history. And that mark, as it relates strictly to his pursuit of the mandate that Anambra voters gave to him in 2003, is an honorable one. I will leave the voters in Anambra to judge his performance and his legacy. His incumbency status, however, make him one of the top formidable candidates in the race. And his party, APGA, despite its rancor, remains one of the few ideologically driven parties holding sway in any part of the nation. Its national leader, Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, has made Obi’s reelection his “last wish” to the Igbo, in a message that is going to be hard to ignore.

Chief Andy Uba (Labor Party)

There are at least three things significant about the Andy Uba candidacy. First, his current party (the Labor Party) already controls the governorship seat in one state of the Federation (Ondo State).  Second, he and his brother, Chris Uba, know the PDP and the electorate in Anambra better than the current flag bearer of the PDP in that state. And three, the brother (Andy) brings to the table resources and connections that virtually everyone in this race (or in any race for that matter) would like to have. Having been delivered once as the “governor” in 2007, his candidacy is indeed a formidable one.

Dr. Chris Ngige (Action Congress)

Chris Nwabueze Ngige’s candidacy is perhaps one of the most fascinating. The AC is one of the formidable ideology-driven parties in the country, with the distinction of now controlling two governorship seats in the nation (Lagos State, and Edo State). Ngige also knows Anambra’s electorate and had the opportunity from 2003 to 2006 of leaving some footprints as “governor” of Anambra before the Supreme Court intervened. Whether those footprints were negative or positive, compared to the incumbent’s, is now something, on which Anambra voters have a chance to pass judgment.

Professor Chukwuma Soludo (Peoples Democratic Party)

I am intrigued by Soludo’s candidacy for many reasons. He appears the antithesis of virtually all political gladiators now in the country. He brings an intellectual heft (which he is not shy of letting you know), an international network of support, and tremendous resources that make him quite formidable indeed. I am even more impressed that he is risking all of that in his current foray, rather than retire to some comfort and silence at some faculty in some institution overseas. And let’s not forget, he is now the PDP flag bearer (until the courts say otherwise). If you (and he) get past the issue of how he emerged, his performance in the Anambra election will shape how intellectuals see their chances in politics in Anambra and in the nation moving forward.

Hon. Uche Ekwunife (Progressive People’s Alliance)

Uche Ekwunife is the only serious woman candidate in the octagon of serious contenders. Taking into account that women account for at least 50% of the electorate in Anambra, and if you assume that these women can be organized with some gender consciousness in the election, she is indeed formidable. Her party (the PPA) also controls one governorship seat (Abia State), with its national leader, Orji Uzor Kalu, desirous of controlling the politics of the East as a bargaining hand for President or Vice President at some point in the future.

Dr. Eugene Ezekwueche (Peoples Mandate Party)

The US-based pharmacist flag bearer of the PMP gives the party perhaps its greatest chance of securing a state as a beachhead for its community-centered ideology. The PMP and its national leader, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo, make no pretence about its belief that the East must give its mandate to a party that is ideology-driven, with Igbo-centered colorations. In a battle pitting Davids against Goliaths, Ezekwueche is one David whose candidacy also portends messages for the Nigerian Diaspora and their aspirations at home.

Ichie Mike Ejezie (All Nigerian Peoples Party)

At some point, the ANPP (which used to be the APP) was the most formidable alternative to the PDP in national politics. Many people will argue that it still is. The party controls six (or is it seven?) states in the Federation, which is formidable by any standards.  General Mohammadu Buhari and Barrister Mike Ahamba (SAN) have waged respectable battles for ANPP’s relevance and conscience that any candidate the party features as its flag bearer (in this case, Michael Nnamdi Ejezie) is consequential and formidable.

Chief Ralph Nwosu (African Democratic Congress)

Ralph Nwosu’s party does not control any states in Nigeria yet, but it is one of the parties with an African consciousness that should not be ignored. The ADC’s leader, Pat Utomi, and his remarkable run for the presidency of Nigeria in 2007 make Nwosu’s platform and candidacy consequential in the upcoming Anambra election for governor.

One of the above candidates will emerge as the governor of Anambra State in 2010, but not without a run-off. Given the apparent balance of forces and resources in this historic election, I don’t see any of the candidates winning it all on the first ballot. I foresee a run-off between the two top candidates, and it would all have been for one of the freest and fairest elections during Iwu’s tenure as INEC Chair. This is my dream and I am sticking to it.

Finally, on the issue of handling of the election, deserved or not, Prof. Maurice Iwu’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been judged by some not to be an umpire at all, let alone a fair one. Some of the positions taken by INEC in the past three years in battles and matters where it should not only be neutral but be seen to be neutral have fostered this image. The Anambra election offers him another chance to turn the tide of public opinion. I remain steadfast in believing that every man, Iwu included, longs for approval and for posterity to have something good to say about him.

I have this dream that Iwu would see this election in Anambra as his last guaranteed chance to do right and do better, not just by his nation, but by his Igbo brethren, as he and INEC enables the electorate in Anambra to choose its governor freely and fairly.                                                                                                                                                                                                              •Ugorji is the Executive Director of  New Jersey-based African Writers Endowment, Inc.,  publisher of Sungai Books, and  executive producer of Talldrums.

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USAfrica: The News & Opinion Leader for Africans and Americans

(Audio+Text): Nigeria, U.S. and Mutallab terrorism issues: Voice of America’s interview of USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu

http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/africa/Nigerian-Bombing-Suspect-Visited-US-City-in-2008-01-05-10-80679237.html

Audio/mp3 file:

http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/dalet/lesser-abdulmutallab-houston-visit-5jan10.mp3

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Nigeria, U.S. and Mutallab terrorism issues: Voice of America’s interview of USAfrica’s Chido Nwangwu.

By Howard Lesser in Washington DC
January 5, 2010

Limited details have emerged in recent days about a visit to Houston, Texas by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in August, 2008. It’s not clear if U.S. investigators were tracking the suspect at the time or whether or not they failed to detect any radical ties that should have enabled them to elevate Abdulmutallab’s status on a U.S. terror watch list to strip him of his visa or place him on the critical no-fly list.

Nigerian-born journalist Chido Nwangwu publishes USAfrica’s CLASSmagazine and runs the USAfricaonline.com website from Houston, which is home to more than 100-thousand Nigerian expatriates living in the United States.  He says that the man who attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 near Detroit on Christmas Day spent his time in Houston pursuing religious studies at an islamic institute there.

“He attended an Islamic education program at the Al Maghrib Institute in Houston.  That is the only knowledge of public information that we all have of his reasons for visiting here,” he said.

U.S. officials have confirmed they are looking into Abdulmutallab’s travels since the June 2008 visa he was issued, but the FBI has refused comment. Publisher Nwangwu says he was unable to confirm whether investigators were on the suspect’s trail almost one and a half years ago. He claims no insight into whether those who may have been tracking the Nigerian had cause to tie him to radical influences that could have raised his profile to refuse entry into the United States the following year.

In addition, Nwangwu says there were no signs if a recent police tip by Abdulmutallab’s Nigerian father, former First Bank of Nigeria chairman Umaru Abdul Mutallab, had been heeded by security officials in Houston.  The senior Abdul Mutallab has been widely praised for his courage in coming forward to sound an alert to U.S. officials.  He is expected to travel to the United States this week to attend his son’s arraignment, likely on January 8 in Detroit, Michigan

Body scanner at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport demonstrates stepped up security check since the December 25, 2009 attempted bombing

“Of course there were the ties with Al Maghrib Institute, which has offices in London and Canada.  My office, USAfrica, also attempted to speak with the other branches of Al Maghrib in order to understand why the young man did not do his studies in London.  I (would have) asked about Houston, who paid or who registered him for the courses.  There are so many questions.  Who facilitated his movements? Who picked him up from his hotel?  Who dropped him off? Where did he have his lunch during the training?” asked Nwangwu.

On Monday, U.S. officials placed tighter new security measures on air travelers from 14 countries considered to be added security risks.  Nwangwu admits the guidelines are adding concern among Nigerians in his community who frequently travel back and forth to Africa.  He says they are disappointed that the acts of one reckless individual can slur the international image of an entire nation.  But he understands the need for U.S. officials to do all they can to protect the security of Americans.

“It will not be unrealistic, but it would be unfair to group the whole community.  The community abhors such violence.  The community abhors what I call mechanized bigotry.  And it’s understandable to look for those who make trouble or seek to inflict terror, to kill people of all faiths, of all communities.  The point also is that if he had unleashed a plot that was concluded successfully, Nigerians on that flight would have also been killed,” noted Nwangwu.

One official trying to get to the bottom of the investigation is one of two Houston African-American members of the U.S. Congress.  Nwangwu says that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, shares concerns for the safety of all Americans, including the thousands of foreign-born people living and working in the Houston area.  Nwangwu also plans to meet Tuesday with Houston’s other African-American U.S. congressman, Rep. Al Green.

“On an intellectual level, it is very wrong to engage in group profiling or to band everybody in one basket,” he says.

“In terms of the operational reality of saying that if a flight or certain travelers are coming from any place where there is potential danger, they should take a second look for the safety of everyone — that is not too much to ask.  It is an entirely different matter. I vehemently oppose anyone saying that Nigerians are terrorists.  No, Nigerians are not,” he observed.

Although Umar Abdulmutallab’s mission originated in Ghana, Ghana was not among the countries cited Monday as U.S. security risks.  Journalist Nwangwu acknowledges that flying from Ghana to Nigeria reduced Abdulmutallab’s holdover at Lagos’ Murtalla Muhammed Airport from two hours to a 30-minute holdover and suggests that other countries outside this week’s U.S. restrictions also pose threats of international terrorism to American cities.

“Egypt holds a significant number of radical Islamic zealots.  (Ayman) Al-Zawahiri, one of the twin leaders of al-Qaida, is an Egyptian.  There are radical elements in Egypt.  They were not listed.  So the Obama administration needs to look a little further.  I know they are being sensitive to the fact that the young man was in a transition movement,” he explained.

To counter tighter restrictions, Nwangwu points out that what he calls “evil geniuses” will continue to devise creative, innovative ways to get around the regulations.  The Houston journalist says he supports international efforts to plug the loopholes. But also recalling that the September, 2001 attacks all originated within the United States, he contends that there is no substitute for stepped-up vigilance on all possible front.

See USAfricaonline.com news feature: The Mutallabs: terror-bound son Farouk and business mogul father Umar. http://www.usafricaonline.com/mutallabs-chido-usafrica/

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USAfrica: The News & Opinion Leader for Africans and Americans
wireless: 832-45-CHIDO (24436). Chido@USAfricaonline.com
http://www.USAfricaonline.com

Chido.Nwangwu.usafricaonline.com.publisher

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Chido Nwangwu, former member of the editorial board of the Daily Times of Nigeria (1989-1990), is the Founder & Publisher of first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; The Black Business Journal, CLASSmagazine, PhotoWorks.TV, AchebeBooks.com, USAfrica.TV and several blogs. He served on Houston former Mayor Lee Brown’s international business advisory board (Africa),  appears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, NBCNews, CBSNews, ABCNews FOXNews affiliates and honored by the Washington-D.C.-based National Immigration Forum for utilizing multimedia to fight authoritarianism and foster freedom of expression; served on the board of the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S., the NAACP (Houston);  publicity committee of the Holocaust Museum, Houston; recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009.

Obama confirms Mutallab trained by al Qaeda; Republicans attack Obama for “slow response” By Chido Nwangwu via USAfricaNewswire, Jan 2, 2010.  USAfricaonline.com http://www.usafricaonline.com/obama-mutallab-terrorism-alqaeda/

Nigerian Terror suspect’s Houston visit raises questions….USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu speaks to Houston Chronicle http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6788559.html

Also see,  The Mutallabs: contrasting terror-bound son Farouk and business mogul father Umar. Special report by Chido Nwangwu.

Alhaji (Dr.) Umar Mutallab is a man whose relatively mild-mannered public persona has been snatched from him; snatched by the most unlikely person: his own son, Farouk Abdul Mutallab.

FULL commentary at USAfricaonline.com http://www.usafricaonline.com/mutallabs-chido-usafrica
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USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com (characterized by The New York
Times as the  most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia
networks) established May 1992, our first edition of USAfrica magazine
was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994;
CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; www.PhotoWorks.TV in 2005
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USAfrica: The News & Opinion Leader for Africans and Americans. Special to USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. USAfricaonline.com,  CLASSmagazine, The Black Business Journal,  Nigeria360@yahoogroups and IgboEvents e-group.


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