By Azubuike Ubani•
The politics in Anambra State, southeast Nigeria is an interesting and at times a dramatic one.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, the state has had its fair share of political violence, godfatherism and the citizens left out without a meaningful voice in the selection of the political leaders until the 2003 elections that saw an established banker and businessman Mr. Peter Obi vie for the governorship of the state.
Prior to 2003 a few individuals had always sat and decided who got what whether the person was qualified or not or whether the person was prepared for the position or not. As a result, Anambra State has had reluctant leaders who are either not qualified for or ill-prepared for the office to which they are dragged into.
The State has not only produced renowned literary figures, diplomats, business men and women, captains of industry and sports personalities of repute, it has also reproduced great leaders that played major roles in the shaping of Nigeria.
In all these, political observers say there is one family, which has risen from relative nebulousness to being among top decision makers in the leadership of the state – the Uba family from Uga in Aguata Local Government Area.
History has been kind to the family as it has, within a space of 15 years, loomed large in the political stratosphere of the state and has produced one governor and two senators, with the last of the brothers trying albeit unsuccessfully to get into the red chambers thus making them the first family 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 ‘godfathers’ that installed a former governor in the state along with all state and federal lawmakers in the state.
Dr. Ugochukwu Uba, the eldest of the three Uba brothers, a medical practitioner in Jos, the Plateau State capital before his adventure into politics under the botched (Sani) Abacha transition programme. He later became a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator from 2003- 2007. His brother Senator Nnamdi (Andy) Uba was resident in the United States before he was recalled to serve as former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties and Domestic Affairs. He later contested in the governorship elections in 2007 on the platform of PDP and won.
The youngest of the Uba brothers, Chris, a businessman and chieftain of the PDP is the self-acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics. Despite he has never held any political office; political pundits said he presided over an arrangement that produced a governor, all National Assembly seats in the Senate and House of Representatives as well as all members of the state house of assembly in 2003.
He won the ticket to run for the Senate in 2019. If he had succeeded at the polls, then all the Uba brothers would have held the Senate seat for Anambra South.
The dream of Andy for a third shot at the Senate was challenged by Chris who said he would want his brother to support his ambition but their dreams of going to the red chambers was truncated by businessman, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah. This was the first time that two brothers tested their strength and popularity in the polls, an exercise that they lost to the incumbent who garnered 87,081 to Chris’s 52,462 votes while Andy scored a paltry 13,245 votes. Of the three brothers however, analysts acknowledge Andy as being the person on whose platform the Uba family’s dominance in Anambra politics was built.
However in spite of the clear margin, with which Ifeanyi Ubah defeated the brothers, apparently dismantling their hold on Anambra politics, they have remained adamant even after losing at the National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal. As a result of this, many political gladiators and analysts or even the citizens have actually asked: What does the Uba brothers want?
Few weeks after the tribunal affirmed the victory of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah as the rightful winner of the Anambra South Senatorial election in the February election, more details have emerged why the Uba brothers failed to get the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which sat in Awka, Anambra State to deliver a favourable judgment on their behalf.
Senator Andy Uba and his brother, Chris Uba were among the 26 contestants for the office of Senator Representing Anambra South Senatorial District in the National Assembly. Both brothers had come second and fourth respectively in the February 23 senatorial election, which produced Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) as Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
However, both Senator Andy Uba who contested under the platpert of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and his brother who contested under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had dragged the winner of the senatorial election, Ifeanyi Ubah and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before the tribunal seeking among other things the nullification of Ifeanyi Ubah’s victory.
In their separate petitions both filed on March 16, they had alleged corrupt practices and substantial non-compliance with the electoral laws and separately prayed the tribunal to declare them as winner of the poll after what appeared an overwhelm defeat.
Many political observers and analysts are at home and awash with the opinion that the era of Uba brothers stranglehold on Anambra political terrain was over, for good; as Anambra South constituents looked forward to better representation.
Consequently, no one was surprised that a more popular Senator Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, contesting on the platform of an obscure party, the Young Progressive Party (YPP), in a situation that could describe him as having contested and won as an “independent” candidate. It is pertinent at this juncture to say that Senator Ifeanyi Ubah who had 87,081 on the platform of YPP to win a senatorial seat, did come a long way more of an “independent candidate” when compared with 21,886 that the YPP’s Presidential candidate garnered, nationally.
Delivering judgment in the separate petitions, the three-man panel led by Justice Okara Thelma in a unanimous decision dismissed the petitions on the grounds that the petitioners in their separate petitions failed to prove the allegations that Ifeanyi Ubah was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast in the February 23 senatorial election.
A copy of the judgment delivered on September 9, 2019 and obtained by this reporter revealed that apart from the inability of the petitioners to prove their cases, witnesses called particularly by Chris Uba muddled up the case of the petitioner by contradicting their own statement and the main petition, particularly on the issue of the smart card reader.
For example, the witnesses in their statements on oath made on March 16 in their sworn affidavit said that the “card reader was not used” but in their additional statement on oath of April 26 said that the, “card reader was not used as approved”.
This led the tribunal to hold that, “The material contradiction in the evidence of the above witnesses have rendered all their evidence worthless, unreliable and of no probative value. Their evidence cannot sustain this ground or any ground to challenge the declaration and or return of Ifeanyi Ubah as Senator for Anambra South Senatorial District in the election held on February 23, 2019”.
Chris Uba’s petition suffered more disaster when his star witness, Harrison Etaga, an expert who claimed to have analysed and produced a smart card reader report muddled up the case. The smart card report formed the basis of the petitioner’s reply to the respondents and also the additional statement on oath of the witnesses.
However the tribunal in its findings said that the witness was not neutral in his evidence as expected of an expert. “From the foregoing cross examination, can it be said that an expert who can in a twist of mood write a report against the collation he claimed was properly done and he signed, be qualified as an expert, who has no temptation to depart from the truth as he sees it from his professional expertise? The answer is a resounding No.
“Sequel to the foregoing, this tribunal holds that exhibit 1P-02 being the purported smart card reader report produced by PW1 does not qualify as a document produced by an expert who has no temptation to depart from the truth as he sees it from his professional expertise.”
With the defeat at the tribunal, Ndi Anambra and indeed political observers are wondering what should be the next move of the Uba brothers. They are enthusiastically watching!