By Comfort Obi
In Anambra state, the ego of a political dynasty has just been punctured. Its members have self-destructed. And got dismantled during a political battle comparable to that of the Biblical Goliath and David.
You must have heard of the three Uba brothers -Ugochukwu, Andy and Chris – from Anambra state. Ugochukwu is the eldest, and Chris, the last. Of the same parents, the brothers are politicians, and, each accomplished in his own right. They have name recognition. They are very rich. Two of them, Andy and Chris, are billionaires. They have limitless contacts, and powerful friends.
The first son of the family, Ugochukwu, has a doctorate degree. He did not buy it. He read, and acquired it. So, he is not one of those many illiterates, or half illiterates, who shamelessly prefix their names with Dr.
When in 1999, Nigeria embraced democracy again, Ugochukwu won a senatorial seat. So, in the Nigerian way, he is free to answer Senator (Dr) Ugochukwu Uba. And, if any traditional ruler conferred him with any of the many chieftaincy titles on offer in Igboland, he is also free to answer Senator (Dr) Chief Ugochukwu Uba. Nigerians, we love titles.
As a Senator, he was not a bench-warmer. A number of Senators are. Their colleagues do their jobs. Many times, they are asleep in the Chambers. When awake, they are dumb. And only chorus “Ayes” or “Nays” depending on where the tide moves their colleagues. But not Uba senior.
Unfortunately, his was a-one-term tenure. As if the Uba brothers had appropriated that seat as their father’s farmland, Andy vied for the same seat, under same party. He replaced his brother. Many stories still abound as to why Andy did not allow his brother a second tenure. But following is the most popular.
At the time Ugochukwu was a Senator, Andy was one of the most powerful presidential aides in the Villa. A very close ally of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Andy was his Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs. And, he it was, who popularised that office and made it the envy of everybody, including Ministers. Until Andy, nobody reckoned with the position. But he so packaged it that Ministers prayed to swap positions with him. A number of them grovelled before him. And so did governors, and many of Nigeria’s richest businessmen today. His house then, located within the Aso Rock area, was the venue for many important decisions which affected Nigeria either positively or negatively. But I digress.
So Andy, soft spoken, suave and cosmopolitan, was Obasanjo’s very powerful aide, while his elder brother was a Senator. But Andy soon decided to acquire executive powers. What to do? He vied for the governorship of his state. The Ubas were said to have, allegedly, reached an agreement to leave the elder brother at the Senate while Andy occupied the governorship seat. As planned, he vied, and won. Done deal? Yes, except that they didn’t bargain with a Peter Obi, dogged fighter, who was the incumbent governor.
Obi had just retrieved his stolen mandate from Dr Chris Ngige, current Minister for Labour. Ngige had contested under the PDP. And Obi, under APGA. While Obi clearly won the election, Ngige was sworn-in as governor. The abracadabra was perfected by, mark this, the youngest of the Ubas – Chris. Powerful family!
But, Obi went to court, and Ngige was sacked. Now, no sooner was Obi sworn-in than Andy contested for the governorship seat, won, and was sworn in as governor. Obi refused to be part of the election. Instead, he went to court, insisting that his four-year tenure began on the day he was sworn-in. He tested the constitution and, Andy was sacked. The sack earned him the crown of Nigeria’s shortest serving governor. He was a governor for only about 14 days.
A man of a couple of firsts, Obi sacked two “governors” – Ngige and Uba. In doing that, he became instrumental to elections not holding on same date in the 36 states of Nigeria. For, buoyed by Obi’s victory, other governorship candidates who were cheated went to court. It is easy to forget, but that’s how come Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), became governors. And that’s why elections into the governorship seats in those states hold on different times.
So, Andy, after being sacked, set his eyes on his brother’s Senatorial seat. Apparently, being richer, more powerful, and more influential, than his brother, it was easy for Andy to sweep him out of office. He became the Senator. But in doing that, he allegedly breached a family agreement.
For eight years, Andy held sway. But in his backyard, a nemesis waited – his own angry, younger brother, Chris. A stormy petrel, the youngest Uba wields plenty of influence in the PDP. And is a political godfather.
One of his political godsons was Ngige. Till date he is not tired of revealing how he installed Ngige governor. To fraudulently purchase the seat, Chris made Ngige to sign an agreement which stripped him (Ngige) of executive powers. Chris was to be in charge. Taking no chances, he took a helpless Ngige to the notorious Okija shrine where Ngige swore to an oath of allegiance. When Ngige seemed to be reneging on the agreements, Chris “kidnapped” him. In a bizarre move, kept him in a toilet, and had him resign from office. Ngige was saved from that humiliation by Atiku Abubakar who was then, Vice President. In company with a former governor of Enugu state, I watched the video, and listened to the audio, in disgust, at Chris Uba’s, Ngige’s resignation. It made me sick.
Anambra state parades more political godfathers than any other state. They are high profile political jobbers. They trade with political offices. They are comfortable with any government at the centre, and proudly flaunt it. These guys parade long convoy of cars, including escort vehicles. When they move, sirens blare to high heavens. At every point in time, at least, a dozen heavily armed policemen are attached to each of them. As a governor, no jokes intended, Peter Obi used to, quietly, give way to their convoy. But again, I digress.
I was talking about Chris Uba. While Andy was a Senator, Chris made a number of efforts to replace him with other people, if not himself. He bad-mouthed his brother at any given opportunity. A known king maker, he soon, became tired of being one. He decided to be the king. He failed, on each trial. But, dear friends, has just succeeded this time.
Andy has, unbelievably, lost his Senatorial seat. The irony: Chris, who contested against him, is not the beneficiary. For, he was also beaten down.
The two brothers have never been close. Their relationship went from good, to bad, to ugly. And has remained a source of concern to many people – family, friends and associates. The question was, and still is: How could men of the same parents fight each other so bitterly, the way Andy and Chris fight. Their fights border on the destruction of each other, politically. It is one of the reasons, people allege, why Andy, then Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, defected to the APC from the PDP. The story is that he got tired of being in the same party with his younger brother. He feared he may not get a return ticket with the kind of influence his younger brother wields in the PDP. During the 2019 NASS elections, a self-assured Chris picked the PDP Senatorial ticket, and Andy that of the APC. The battle was set. A bitter battle of brother against brother. The state and, especially, their Senatorial zone waited, excited, for this mother of all battles. There were other challengers – notably the boss of Capital Oil, Ifeanyi Ubah and Nicholas Ukachukwu, both money men, but not in the class of the Ubas. But to the Ubas, Ifeanyi and Ukachukwu are political lilliputians. Or so they thought. The Ubas never really thought that the Biblical story of Goliath and David could play out, especially within their political space. As far as they were concerned, the battle was between both of them. How could their people look them in the eyes, and vote for somebody else – a lesser political god? Not possible.
But, on election day, the story of Goliath and David played out. Ifeanyi Ubah, with one stone, killed, politically, the two political giants. He sent both Ubas – Andy and Chris – packing. And for Anambra state, their zone in particular, it was a sigh of relief. Some fresh air.
We are tired of the bitter fight between the Uba brothers, they chorused. And they say they had never seen before, hatred, so intense, so deep, between two brothers.
The questions are: How did a family so blessed descend to this level? How did their blessings turn to a curse amongst them? Of course, sibling rivalry exists, but not to the level of hatred. We see that only in African Magic.
Their relationship must have been tough on their mother. Her heart must have been broken, several times, watching her sons, both accomplished, publicly exhibit such hatred for each other. Their siblings must be seething in shame.
Now, because of this hate-driven rivalry, the family has lost. Their place, for over 16 years, another has taken. In between, Andy had contested for governorship. But, he never made it again. His younger brother, Chris, had always been an obstacle, it is alleged. The bad news: They may never win the people back.
Ifeanyi, the new Senator-elect, compared to the Ubas, is a political novice. But he is a smart and street-wise businessman. He may be there for the next eight years.
Here is why?
For years, he had been contesting and failing – governorship to senatorial seat, back and forth. Each time, he spent hundreds of millions of Naira. And yet nothing. This time, his heart was broken, more than ever, by APGA. The party failed him after he had invested so much resources and time. The promises and assurances made to him, for the senatorial ticket, were brazenly broken. Shattered and bitter, he took over a little known political party in the state, the Young People’s Party, YPP. He funded it, and picked their ticket. And there he was this other day, showing off his Certificate of Return as a Senator-elect.
Smart guy, he knows that he is a political orphan. Even with his victory, the Goliaths he defeated could pull a few strings and re-surface to hurt him. So, he has quickly hidden under a very strong canopy.
Here is how.
A couple of days after his victory, Ifeanyi ran to Lagos, and quickly joined the APC in their campaign for the governorship election. Standing a step before (not behind) the now Governor-elect, Jide Sanwo-Olu, so everybody, especially his targets, would take note, Ifeanyi led Sanwo-Olu’s campaign to a market, Alaba, mostly populated by the Igbo. He wants his bread real buttered. Under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s canopy, he is safe. He will have protection.
The Ubas have separately gone to the Election Tribunal. I don’t know what evidence they have. But the two Ubas – Andy and Chris – will cancel each other. They will testify against each other. Ifeanyi’s victory seems safe. And to seal it, he may soon join the APC. This is the tragic story of the Ubas. And how they self-destructed.
But, I have an unsolicited advice for the Ubas. You are young. You are talented. You are rich. You have a high profile network of friends. Get your acts together. This defeat is a bitter lesson. Learn from it. Bury, six feet down, your hatred for each other. Otherwise, you will become history. Your political friends will disappear. It can be lonely. And, people will laugh no end.