THE ANAMBRA State governorship election tested the integrity of Nigerian federal institutions, according to winner of the poll former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Chukwuma Soludo.
Soludo, candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) won the election with 112,229 votes.
His closest challengers were Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 53,807 votes; Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) 43,285 votes; and Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) 21,261 votes.
“Charles Chukwuma Soludo of APGA, having satisfied the requirements of the law is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected,” Returning Officer of the Anambra Governorship Election Florence Obi, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, said while announcing the final results in Awka early on November 10.
In his victory speech shortly after the Returning Officer declared him winner of the election, Soludo said the outcome of the poll reflected the will of the people of Anambra.
He promised to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people, and in the same vein, extended an Olive branch to his opponents in the election.
But he added that it was an election that put federal institutions to test.
“The election itself tested the integrity of our federal institutions.
“Many times there were tensions, especially as one party boasted that it must take or conquer but the judiciary stood for the integrity of the judiciary.”
The former CBN governor was apparently reacting to concerns that the APC was deploying ‘federal might’ to influence the outcome of the election in the favour of its candidate Andy Uba.
Also, there were suggestions within Soludo’s camp that the legal disputes over APGA’s governorship ticket was engineered by the ruling APC Federal Government.
Chukwuma Umeoji, a member of the House of Representatives who laid claim to the APGA governorship ticket, defected to the APC a week to the election.
* Soludo pays tributes to slain police orderlies and others killed in Anambra
The Anambra governor-elect in the acceptance speech remembered all those who were killed in the state in the build up to the election.
“At this moment we must remember and must continue to remember all those who died during the course of this moment, especially the three policemen who were killed by unknown gunmen during our town hall meeting with youths in my ward.
“May God continue to grant their soul eternal rest.”
Three policemen were killed when unknown gunmen attacked Soludo while he was meeting with youths at Isuofia community, in Aguata Local Government Area on March 31.
The policemen were reportedly part of Soludo’s entourage.
* Soludo’s rocky road to election victory
Soludo, who was the CBN governor between 2004 and 2009, formally declared his intention to contest the governorship election during a visit to the APGA secretariat in Awka in February 2021.
Before that he had visited APGA stakeholders in the 21 local government areas in Anambra.
Speaking while declaring his intention to contest the governorship poll, Soludo stressed that the election was crucial to the future of APGA and Anambra State.
“This election is consequential in Anambra State and if APGA does not win, it means the party is gone. Let no APGA member toy with this election. If APGA loses Anambra, it has lost direction.
“Therefore, do not make mistake in the person the party will field for the election as candidate because the party cannot afford to lose the November election.”
But, although he was the ‘anointed’ candidate of incumbent governor Willie Obiano, who endorsed him as his successor, Soludo’s path to the gubernatorial election was not smooth.
He had to surmount legal hurdles brought about by divisions within APGA.
Soludo emerged the party’s candidate for the governorship poll after winning the primary election held in Awka on June 23.
The primary election was organised by the leadership of the party under the national chairman Victor Oye.
However, on June 28 Justice Musa Ubale of the Jigawa State High Court handed down an order to affirm Jude Okeke’s claim to the position of national chairman of APGA.
Okeke is the leader of the APGA faction which conducted a parallel primary election that produced a member of the House of Representatives Chukwuma Umeoji, representing Aguata Federal Constituency in Anambra State, as the party’s candidate for the Anambra governorship election.
The APGA governorship ticket turned into a battle between Soludo and Umeoji.
The primary election which produced Soludo as APGA candidate was reportedly monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and also endorsed by Obiano, who is the leader of the party in Anambra by virtue of his position as state governor.
But as a result of the June 28 court order delivered by the Jigawa State High Court, INEC listed Umeoji, rather than Soludo, as APGA flagbearer when an initial list of governorship candidates was published on July 16.
There were reports that INEC only got to know about the order of the Jigawa State High Court that compelled it to recognise Umeoji a day before it released the list of the gubernatorial candidates.
An Anambra State High Court presided by Justice C. C. Okaa on July 19 reinstated Soludo as the APGA flagbearer for the gubernatorial election by declaring that the former CBN governor was the authentic candidate of the party.
The court described the Okeke-led APGA faction and its governorship flagbearer (Umeoji) as meddlesome interlopers and ordered INEC to publish Soludo’s name as the gubernatorial candidate of the party.
The matter took another twist when a Imo State High Court presided by Justice B. C. Iheka on June 30 declared that Okeke was the national chairman of APGA, with Umeoji as the party’s gubernatorial candidate.
However, INEC finally reinstated Soludo as the APGA candidate for the gubernatorial poll after Justice Nwosu-Ikpeme of the Court of Appeal, Awka Division in August dismissed an application filed by the Okeke faction to challenge the July 19 judgment of the Anambra High Court which declared the former CBN governor as the party’s authentic flagbearer.
The Supreme Court would eventually affirm Soludo as the APGA flagbearer for the election.
On October 14, a five man panel of justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili, in a unanimous decision validated the primary election that produced Soludo as APGA governorship candidate.
* Soludo’s previous failed attempts
Soludo had in the past failed in his attempts to become the governor of Anambra State.
In 2006, as candidate of the PDP, he lost the gubernatorial poll to APGA candidate Peter Obi.
Subsequently, Soludo resigned from the PDP on July 17, 2013 and joined APGA with his eyes on the November 2013 Anambra State governorship election.
Again his governorship bid proved unsuccessful – Soludo was disqualified from the November 2013 gubernatorial poll alongside five other aspirants by the APGA screening committee.
He became lucky as he eventually got APGA ticket and won the governorship election on his third attempt.