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NGIGE AND THE JINX OF ELECTORAL MISADVENTURE

By NBF News
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DR. CHRIS Nwabueze Ngige can't seem to walk away from political controversy and electoral misadventure. Since he came into political limelight in 2003 as the Anambra State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, Ngige has lost two elections to Peter Obi/APGA; fought protracted battles with his political godfathers and is presently caught in the center of another electoral storm.

With Ngige's acceptance of the purported result of the Anambra Central Senatorial election declared by the disengaged returning officer on Monday, April 11, 2011, a clear sense of desperation is betrayed. What manner of politician will take to the streets celebrating a result secretly declared in a hotel room after the INEC had appointed a new returning officer and announced wards in which reruns will take place?

The situation is even more bizarre in the face of the fact that in the result declared by INEC earlier, the APGA candidate Professor Dora Akunyili was leading by about 700 votes.

Can we believe Ngige's claim to having won the senatorial poll? The basis of his claim rested squarely on the word of Dr Alex Anene, the initial Returning Officer. Anene, however, lacked the legitimacy, both in terms of authority and morality, to pronounce on the poll when he did.

Alleging threats to his life, he had absconded from duty on Sunday and a replacement had inevitably been made. By the time Anene went underground on Sunday, some results were still being expected from some local government collation centres. That is to say, he had not seen all the results. So, how did he arrive at the figures he bandied on Monday night as the final tally?

While the allegations the former Returning Officer made against unnamed persons deserve investigation, his absconding and dramatic reappearance clearly raise eyebrows. There is no information that he requested and was denied police protection.

Surely, police protection for a Returning Officer faced with death threat would have been almost automatic. But the man who alleged danger to his life in the course of a sensitive national assignment gave no chance to the security agencies to handle the situation as he immediately melted away. We are left to wonder who then provided him the suitable protection under which he declared Ngige winner.

It follows that only the beneficiaries of his nocturnal declaration would be disposed to make such costly interventions. In the circumstance, it is only logical to reason that Anene could not have chosen to act in contradiction of INEC except he had reached a deal with Ngige.

By disregarding all these salient facts to embark on a victory march, Ngige was only living up to the image of an acrimonious contestant which he has built up over the years.

The people of Anambra State still recall with pain and regret how the same Ngige suddenly emerged to seize the mandate they freely gave to Peter Obi on April 19, 2003.

Ngige had joined the gubernatorial race two weeks to the election with no time to produce an articulate manifesto and standing no chance to win a transparent poll. Not minding that it was obvious to everybody that Peter Obi won with a landslide, Ngige went about feigning to have won the 2003 election. And to demonstrate his commitment to this personal fiction, Ngige lined up 446 witnesses at the election tribunal with whom he stretched the trial to last two years. Till today, Ngige has never acknowledged that he was truly defeated in the poll.

A similar display of poor sportsmanship has followed the February 2010 governorship contest, again won by Peter Obi and APGA. Before the election, the ACN candidate in his typical brazen style had boasted that he would teach Obi a lesson and clinch the governorship even if he contested in 'goat party'.

Notwithstanding that 16 of the 23 candidates who vied for the office had promptly congratulated Obi on announcement of the result, Ngige refused to  accept defeat. And in spite of the Appeal Court's recent dismissal of two petitions against Obi's victory, Ngige insists on a fresh challenge of the mandate.

It is very well within his right to do so but political activism is not necessarily about being a litigant. A political leader should also be sensitive to the needs of his society and the mood of the people. It does not speak well of any leader who places his personal ambition above the common good.

While Ngige is fully entitled to pursue his legitimate aspirations, his simultaneous governorship and senatorial projects unfortunately present him as someone desperate for office.

The situation is not helped by a seeming refusal to play the game by the rules as in the present senatorial contest. The electoral laws and INEC guidelines clearly provide the avenues for seeking redress of any perceived breach of the electoral process. Since it was partly on account of Ngige's protest about the returns from some polling units that INEC ordered a rerun in the affected areas, why wouldn't the same complainant accept the decision of the umpire?

Ngige is an educated man, an experienced administrator and politician. He is intelligent enough to know that a verdict delivered by one without the authority to do so will not stand even in the motor park. Something tells me that this wily politician had other motives for his street celebration. He may well have used that as a campaign rally for the impending reruns.

My assessment of his political psychology is that of someone who either believes he has a residue of immunity as an 'ex-governor' or is fixated with embarrassing Peter Obi, Ngige's electoral nightmare since 2003.

Governor Obi should be commended for taking Ngige's provocation in philosophical stride. It was wise and statesmanlike to ignore those stunts.  Anambra State needs stability to continue to prosper.  In any case, Ngige cannot wish away reality. The senatorial election remains inconclusive until the announced reruns take place.