Posted by Emeka Umeagbalasi & Justus Ijeoma | 23 October 2013 | 6,136 times
In 2002, a coalition of human rights activists in Anambra State were brought together and they joined forces with the “Mother Church” to form a strong coalition to fight election rigging and disastrous governance in Anambra State then under Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s inglorious epoch. The “Mother Church” was represented by the JDPC and prominent among the congregated rights groups was the Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization under Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi.
In the April 2003 governorship poll, the Coalition, with the help of the “Mother Church’s” JDPC, deployed over 4,000 monitoring agents in all the polling booths in the state. Except in two wards in Anambra West LGA, where the poll did not take place, all other results were obtained, studied and analyzed at the JDPC secretariat in Onitsha and they clearly showed that Mr. Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance won the poll with a wide margin. But to the shocking of everybody, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige was returned by INEC and later administered with the oaths of office and allegiance. Peter Obi and his party, too, through their agents, collected results, which tallied with ours.
Dozens of ballot boxes filled with cast votes were later found floating on rivers in Omambala or river-line and forest areas of the state including Igbo-ukwu in Aguata LGA. Dozens of the election result forms called “Form EC8As” were also found torn to shreds by Dr. Chris Ngige and his godfathers-led poll agents. Dr. Chris Ngige’s inaugural speech contained some paragraphs dedicated to one Chris Ubah for making him the governor. The speech was also interrupted for minutes in the form of “Ahu Nze, Ebie Okwu” (when a titled man enters the scene, all protocols are suspended in his honor), when the quantity arrived the inauguration ground midway into Dr. Chris Ngige’s inaugural speech, in recognition of his then mastery in poll rigging and coronation of plum public holders, in return for huge financial gains.
After the armada of electoral fraud, the Coalition, including “the Mother Church”, represented by the JDPC, resolved to go court or support the presumed winner should he decides to go to court to challenge the heart-breaking rigging. Other public interest groups and public figures like the local branch of Ohaneze Ndigbo supported the Coalition and joined forces with them. In September 2003, the first hearing of the poll rigging case commenced at the Anambra State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting at Awka. The five panel tribunal was headed by Hon. Justice Garuba Nabaruma.
Few months after the commencement of the matter, interests and pressures crept into the Coalition. The JDPC of “the Mother Church”, which earlier vowed to appear before any tribunal or court to give evidence, chickened out, citing pressures from “home front”. Few months later, Dr. Chris Ngige became a knight of the Catholic Church and before members of the Coalition could close their eyes and open, 80% of its Coalition partners had thrown in their towel; saying “election rigging has come to stay in Nigeria and you can’t fight, but accept it”. By 2005 August, when the first unanimous verdict was delivered in favour of Peter Obi and Anambra voters, the Coalition camp had emptied, leaving behind few die-hard activists led by Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi and his Anambra CLO.
In 2004, the Ngige camp, represented by one Emeka Ngige, SAN, wrote the national leadership of the CLO, asking it to disband the Anambra CLO’s leadership, so that his camp could easily clamp on its leader, Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi, and send him to jail on “sedition charges” or any other spurious criminal charges. An administrative secretary attached to the Enugu zonal office was procured to hand in spurious indictable report to facilitate the Anambra Branch’s “disbandment”. When the national leadership of the CLO stood its ground and rejected the spurious memo of the said admin staff, the Ngige camp opted for libel litigation, whereupon he sued in his personal capacity.
On March 15, 2006, the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal, headed by Hon. Justice Danladi Mohammed, with Hon. Justice James Ogebe as the administrative judge, returned unanimously, Peter Obi’s sacred mandate and ordered Dr. Chris Ngige, who was the then interloper governor out of office. During the 27 months (May 2003 to August 2005) proceedings at the tribunal, Dr. Chris Ngige’s camp called 525 witnesses as against Peter Obi’s 45. The Anambra CLO wrote over 72 petitions and press releases in the course of the electoral mandate recovery advocacy and faced several threats of elimination from Dr. Chris Ngige’s camp.
Anambra Rights Community’s Pact with Peter Obi
Contrary to false impressions that seem to have become a norm in Nigerian culture, non-governmental organizations are not invented to serve as enemies of governments, particularly popular governments. From 1839, when the world’s first recorded NGO, called “Anti Slavery International” was founded, to the post-Second World War global NGO revolution, NGO serves to make people’s lives and cultures better and refined by consistent advocacies and constructive and proactive engagements with popular governments in matters of good governance and people’s liberties.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch policies of “dealing with any government in power” in matters of human rights, for instance, have been seminally challenged by many modern thinkers; on the grounds that “human rights and human rights defenders fare better under popularly instituted governments” than under those instituted roguishly.
Flowing from the foregoing, therefore, our pact with the present popular government in Anambra State, which we laboured to restore its stolen mandate over seven years ago, is not for clannish political and monetary gains like it is seemingly the case in Lagos and other APC States. It is purely for proactive and constructive engagements or reasons. In June 2006, the then Anambra CLO leadership under Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi held a meeting with Governor Peter Obi at the Onitsha GRA Government Annex. The likes of unforgettable Barrister Chuka Obele-Chuka and other activists also attended. They told Governor Peter Obi in black and white that none of them, despite being qualified academically to occupy any public office including the AG of the State, was willing to serve in his government, but to remain in the opposition to checkmate his excesses and point out areas that need to be attended to, in the interest of the public. They also told him boldly and begged him, too, not to fail in governance so as not to make voters disenchanted and lose faith in popular poll and government. They charged him to ensure that at the end he leaves Anambra far more better than he met it. This hallowed pact has continued till date.
Generally, NGOs’ interest in any popular government is divided into “egalitarian partisanship” and “libertarian partisanship”. But in roguishly instituted governments, any NGO support or partnership with such regimes is solely “libertarian partisanship” oriented. Like in the universal concept of human rights, where that of USA is referred to as “libertarian” (rights layered in selfishness or rights for only American citizens and death for others) as against Europe’s “egalitarian rights” or rights for Europeans and non-Europeans alike; our “partisanship” interest in the Government of Anambra State is purely “egalitarian” or public interest for public good as against parochial interest for private pockets (libertarian partisanship), which seems to be the order of the day in Lagos and other APC States.
Our popular website (www.intersociety-ng.org) contains series of attacks against some policies considered anti people and unpopular formulated and implemented by the present popularly elected Government of Anambra State. This includes malicious demolition of suspected criminal properties outside court pronouncements, imposition of death penalty on suspected kidnappers, smokescreen security policy of “arming kidnappers, assassins and armed robbers of tomorrow”, using monstrous vigilantism, creation and maintenance of militant entities for collection of revenues, to mention but a few. Our popular website is a guide.
It is correct to say that ninety-nine percent of followers and other people who left Mr. Peter Obi today, left because of his insistence that public money is not meant for private pockets, but for public good. This, they tagged “miserly” or “frugality”. One of the secret campaign weapons reportedly employed by the opposition parties and their candidates for the November 16, 2013 governorship poll, who may include the APC and its candidate, is a promise to key public figures that such frugal culture will be a thing of the past if put into office. In the past civilian regimes in Anambra State, from 2003 to 2006; be they illegal or disastrous, senators and house of reps members from the state were paid N500,000 and 250,000 each respectively, at every month end from the state’s meagre allocations; using highly inflated security votes. The State Assembly members then routinely fought over “jumbo pay packages”.
A certain former number two man received N10 million, likewise other political godfathers. Monies meant for the execution of federal projects in the state now get into the hands of contractors directly, unlike in the inglorious past when over half of such funds was shared by federal politicians and their cronies, warranting constructing roads using shovels and head pans. The difference in the quality and pace of work at the ongoing reconstruction of the Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way as in Anambra and Enugu portions is a clear case in point.
Today, neither Emeka Umeagbalasi, nor Justice Ijeoma, Aloysius Emeka Attah and other key figures in Anambra Rights Community, has any empty plot or developed plot in Onitsha or any part thereof. While Comrade Aloysius Attah does professional journalism to keep family going, Emeka Umeagbalasi, though measured in Criminology & Security Studies, remains a buyer and seller at the Bridgehead Market in Onitsha and still resides where he packed in 20 years ago. Comrade Justus Ijeoma sustains his law programme in the university and his family with petty contract business including managing the restroom of the Tools & Allied Market in Onitsha on contract basis.
Therefore, the reported creation of a CSOs’ liaison office by a certain State Government that distributes N100 million or there about to them monthly with instant increases in crisis times, should not be used to judge situations in other Nigeria’s boundary climes. This is because the two approaches are different and are rested on the premise of “libertarian partisanship” versus “egalitarian partisanship”.
The Part Three of this Moment of Truth is in the making. Watch Out!!!
•Umeagbalasi is Chairman of the Board of Intersociety while Ijeoma is Head, Publicity Desk, of the organization. •Photo shows Peter Obi and Chris Ngige.
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