Ihiala Federal Constituency is one of the politically conscious and hot zones in Anambra State. Analyst scrutinises the fierce battles and undercurrents that determined the outcome of the election.
Anambra State has no doubt gained recognition that borders on notoriety as one of the hottest political zones not only in the South-East, but also in Nigeria as a whole. Since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, the actors and gladiators have continued to change as new kids mount the block, but the character of the political tussle has largely remained the same.
However, although the battle for the Ihiala Federal Constituency in Anambra did not disappoint on the forecasts of fierce battle, the extremeness and ferocity of some of the actors no doubt took pundits by surprise as people’s will clashed with excess money and political influence.
The Gladiators and How they Stood
The battle for the seat featured three major contenders.
Hon. Chukwuemeka Anohu: The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate polled 25,024 votes to emerge victorious in the three-horse race. He entered the contest with an intimidating profile and track record of achievements in both politics and community service. He is currently the Member representing Ihiala II Constituency in Anambra State House Assembly. A PhD holder educated abroad, he is the most educationally qualified among the trio.
His acceptability and popularity by his people is not in doubt. This was put to test when he contested primary election on the platform of the PDP in 2011 and won the ticket. Some powerful political “godfathers” subsequently denied him the ticket because they allege he has his own mind. However, his people urged him to contest on the platform of a relatively unknown minority Labour Party in Anambra State where he defeated both the APGA and PDP candidates to emerge the representative of Ihiala II Constituency. But in 2015, he returned to his first base, the PDP, after rapprochements and became the only PDP candidate with general acceptability as name appeared on the list of the two PDP factions in Anambra.
Another major edge Hon. Anohu had over the other candidates going into the 2015 race was that he is a man of charity that has greatly impacted the lives of his Ihiala people through his foundation, Emeka Anohu Foundation. He is said to have used the platform to tackle problems of poverty in his area, bring in foreign doctors into Nigeria to provide free medical services to over 27 thousand people with different health issues and has done several educational projects like construction of new school, renovation of old ones and has also awarded scholarships to several educationally disadvantaged students and less privileged ones. He also used the platform to build a microfinance bank to give microcredit loans to support small-scale businesses and entrepreneurs, especially women and youths. It was therefore never in doubt that his records of projects and achievements both in his official capacity and as an individual in his constituency would count for him. Besides, his family has a strong history and record of philanthropy and community service. Ihiala people, the Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal Christian communities, youth organizations, community leaders and youths, had roundly endorsed him, making him the candidate to beat.
Momah Chudy Ifeanyi: The APGA candidate who came a distant second with 12, 774 votes emerged as the party’s flag bearer in controversial circumstances and he had no political records. Uncertainty loomed around his candidacy as he was said to have been dragged to court over the APGA ticket by one Mr. Martin Nabineli who was alleged to have won the primaries by 39 votes as against Momah’s 36, but was shortchanged. Apart from this case, some people had expressed serious concerns about his background. For instance, in the final list of candidates released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, his name appears as Momah Chudy, Ifeanyi Mark Chudy and no educational qualification was indicated beside his name. This development raised suspicions regarding his education.
Chudy Ifeanyi Momah at age 36 is the youngest of all the three gladiators and is still a bachelor. It is held among the Igbos that there is an aura of responsibility that marriage confers. Hardly any Igbo community confers a chieftaincy title on a bachelor, as every titleholder is expected to pair with at least one Lolo. Thus majority of Ihiala indigenes had expressed strong desire to have a mature and married man as their representative who is less likely to be carried away with enjoyment of life in the nation’s capital.
Besides this, another snag for him was the much-celebrated alleged arrest of kidnappers in his house sometime ago. However, unlike in previous cases, the house was not demolished in accordance with the Anambra State Anti-Kidnapping Law. Story has it that the case was subdued because of the influence of some powerful forces behind him, notably the President of NESTOIL, Chief Ernest Obiejesi. Since the law came into effect, many houses have been pulled down. They include two buildings at Oraifite, Ekwusigo Local Government Area, where a large cache of arms was uncovered by the police; church and three other buildings in Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area over links to kidnappers; three buildings in Aguleri, where the suspects confessed that they had collected N295 million in three kidnap operations.
Another factor that marred the chances of the young man is his political sponsor and financier, Chief Ernest Obiejesi, who is alleged to be in land-grabbing issues with Okija and environ, hence they vow to resist any attempt on his part to influence the emergence of any candidate as their representative. All these no doubt were daunting challenges that truncated Momah’s journey to the House of Representatives.
Hon. Fort Ifeanyi Dike: The incumbent who went to the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, and having lost the PDP ticket to Hon. Emeka Anohu, was only able to garner a paltry 4, 268.
Hon. Dike’s record shows that he is a trained Engineer by profession and went to the House of Representatives for the first time in 2011. The grouse of many Ihiala constituents was that he had nothing tangible to show for his four years of representation except personal gains. They allege that the things he did and the boreholes he drilled are not commensurate with the constituency allocations he received for four years. The people say that he has not impacted their lives positively and this may have informed their rejection of his second term ambition under the platform of the PDP and his subsequent defection to APC. Hon. Dike’s defection to APC may be one of his greatest undoings. APC is not a party with strong base in Ihiala and Anambra and this, coupled with his dwindling image, contributed to his abysmal failure. Many also accused him of hijacking and using tricycles (Keke NAPEP) allocated to him while he was a PDP member for APC campaign.
Another thing Ihiala people hold against Hon. Dike is the crisis in his family. It is alleged that Dike is married to about three wives and is a male chauvinist. He is said to be presently in court with his sisters over their mother’s property as he insisted that women should not inherit property. The battle is still on and he has not been able to hold his house together. Ihiala indigenes say he should first put his house in order before seeking to put Ihiala constituency in order. Hunted by such unpalatable antecedents and woeful performance, it was an open secret that his voyage back to the NASS was a mission impossible.
The Failed Bid to Upturn a Popular Mandate
However, the ugly incidents that marked the elections would certainly prove the pensive bookmaker on Anambra politics wrong. It was gathered that hell was let lose in the Okija area of Ihiala Federal Constituency Anambra State as the Okija-born business mogul and Chief Executive Officer of the Nestoil, Chief Ernest Obiejesi, went berserk when his grand design to scuttle PDP’s chances and install his accidental political godson, Chuddy Momah crumbled like a pack of cards.
It was reliably gathered that with failure staring him in the face, Chief Obiejesi locked voters out of the polling booth located in the premises of the town hall he built for his Umuezejam village where he nevertheless lost woefully.
A youth who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “He insisted we must vote for the APGA all the way, but we knew, for instance, that we agreed as a people that it must be PDP all the way. Emeka Anohu loves the poor, sends their children to school, and cures their sickness. So, why should we abandon him for people that grab our lands? Worst of all, you don’t force an Okija man or people of Ihiala. So, he made matters worst when he imported thugs to terrorize villagers to submission. But did he succeed? Capital no!”
Action Moves to Ihiala
Although results were publicly counted and announced at Polling Units, and Wards levels, Chief Obiejesi allegedly tried to compromise the INEC Officers to doctor and announce an overall result in favour of his newly adopted political godson and APGA House of Reps candidate, Momah Chuddy Ifeanyi, thus the undue delay in announcing Presidential and National Assembly election results in Ihiala Federal Constituency. This was responsible for the restiveness that engulfed that collation centre.
A reliable source explained that the Governor of Anambra State and national leader of APGA, Chief Willy Obiano, had reportedly advised the businessman to allow the will of the people to prevail in Ihiala, but he had insisted that it should never be heard that his prefferred candidate lost election, including losing in his Umuechedam polling unit.
The source alleged that hundreds of millions of Naira circulated among some INEC staff with a view to changing the PDP landslide victory in the area in favour of APGA, but to no avail as some INEC staff totally declined, especially with the people breathing down their necks.
However, the thugs, allegedly led by the business mogul who went totally violent in an attempt to intimidate the electoral officers into submission. In a video that has already gone viral on the net, the Chief Obiejesi is seen in a hot argument with INEC ad hoc staff, while Momah is seen fighting the police.
In the mayhem that followed the refusal of the INEC officials and the people to succumb to Ernest Obiejesi’s demand, the thugs, numbering about a thousand tore ballot papers, electoral materials, shattered the windscreen of about five cars, ceased and dumped ballots dumped ballots in the gutters, while one of the cameras that recorded the show of shame was confiscated with the cameraman thoroughly beaten up.
As at Sunday morning, ballots papers, including presidential ballots were seen littered all over the collation centre, while some were still resting in the drainages where they were dumped.
It was in that state of anarchy that the military arrived the scene and engaged the hoodlums. Many of them were arrested and dumped in the military vehicle, while Chief Obiejesi took to his heels when he saw that the situation had gone beyond what he bargained for. Reports had it that it was in that process that the tyres of his vehicle were deflated by security operatives on election duty as they did not want to shoot at him.
With order restored, the result of the election was announced with Hon. Emeka Anohu emerging the winner. The announcement reverberated across Ihiala Federal constituency in a matter of minutes with the people taking to the streets to drum and dance as they sang Anohu’s praises, while also ridiculing Chief Obiejesi and his defeated godson, Momah.
Accusations and Counter-Accusations
Although a winner has clearly emerged, the political recriminations is far from ending as Chief Ernest Azudialu Obiejesi on one side, and the Emeka Anohu Campaign Organisation and the people of Ihiala on the other side have been at each other’s jugular both in the village and the media.
Chief Obiejesi was the first to draw blood when he claimed in widely published stories that Hon. Emeka Anohu and PDP chieftains from the zone wanted to lynch him because he tried to prevent them from rigging elections.
However, an obviously embittered Emeka Anohu Campaign Organisation deplored the businessman for what it called barefaced lies, urging the Inspector-General of Police to arrest and charge the businessman to court for electoral offences, including violence and destruction of electoral materials.
This is even as the Okija community is set for a fresh showdown with Ernest Obiejesi, who is also a Director with Julius Berger PLC, for unleashing mayhem on the people.
In a statement made available to newsmen in Ihiala, the Campaign Organisation said Chief Azudialu-Obiejesi was bitter because his efforts to bribe and coerce the people at the polling units, and have election results doctored at the constituency collation centre in favour of his political godson failed.
The Campaign Organisation said the Nest Oil boss, Chief Ernest Obiejesi, having failed to disrupt the orderly conduct of the elections, “unleashed hundreds of thugs on the Okija community and the collation centre at Ihiala, where he led them in an orgy of violent destruction of vehicles and sensitive electoral materials like ballot boxes and papers which were carted away and dumped in the gutters but were recovered by security forces”.
It added: “The sole intent of Azudialu-Obiejesi was simply to burn down the collation centre, totally destroy collated votes, and cause the cancellation of the election in the Federal Constituency, having failed to deliver his candidate even in his own polling booth at Umuezejam. The INEC officials resisted him and we thank God for the timely arrival of security agencies that overpowered and arrested many of the thugs. The security agencies have their written reports on the mayhem and it needs to be reiterated that we have concrete evidences to tender before the court”.
It commended the people for standing up for good representation by not only massively electing Hon. Emeka Anohu of the PDP as their Representative, but also defending their votes.
The Organisation said the Nestoil boss, Obiejesi, “who has been displaying uncommon quest for power put the lives of innocent citizens in danger”, but urged the people to remain calm as he had pitched himself against man, God, and the law and would not go unpunished.
“Election is not a do-or-die affair, but those who want to make it one should be ready to face the law because telling barefaced lies in the pages of newspaper against the same people Ernest Obiejesi and his thugs maimed and tried to kill in the bid to upturn their votes will not save him from the long arms of the law”, it stressed.
Meanwhile, speaking under the condition of anonymity for fear of his life, an elderly community leader in Okija said the town had scheduled a meeting to discuss the show of shame by their son where serious sanctions, including ostracisation, may be slammed on him.
His words: “It needs to be put straight that it is Ernest Obiejesi who has questions to answer for not only dolling out N500 million to truncate the election results, but for causing the perversion of the Anambra State Law on kidnapping by preventing the demolition of Chuddy Momah’s house where kidnappers were arrested”.
“Hon. Emeka Anohu’s 25,024 votes as against Chudy Momah’s distant 12, 744 and APC’s candidate and the incumbent, Fort Dike’s 4,268 is a testimony of Emeka’s popularity, philanthropy, and quality representation at the State Assembly.”
“Both Momah and his sponsor are characters we are quite uncomfortable with, hence the traditional rulers and people of Ihiala Federal Constituency had endorsed Anohu even before the elections because choosing between him and his contenders was like choosing between light and darkness”.
Although it is learnt that the arrest of the business mogul might have been ordered as the time of piecing this together, it is certain that the last might not have been heard. Indigenes of the constituency claim he had boasted that he had all the law enforcement agencies in his pocket, while insisting that no judge in this country, not even if he or she is the Chief Justice of Nigeria was big enough to put him behind bars.
While Ihiala people await the events to unfold, the Ihiala Representatives elect, Hon. Emeka Anohu, is already on his way to the House of Representatives, while Ernest Obiejesi and his godson, Chuddy Momah have both uncertain future as law enforcement agents are said to be on their trail in addition to the people’s angst already staring at them.