Case Study B: Anambra State

“Anambra is a very hot place, a place where everyone has to be very careful.”
—PDP “Godfather” and Board of Trustees Member, Chris Uba, Enugu, February 12, 2007

Anambra State lies near the geographic heart of Nigeria’s Igbo-dominated southeast. Since 1999 the violence, corruption, and “godfatherism” occurring elsewhere in Nigeria have run rampant in Anambra. But Anambra also evinces some examples of the tenuous reasons for optimism that systemic abuses could be reversed if the federal government would support far-reaching reform.

Godfatherism in Anambra State

A wealthy member of the powerful Uba political family, Chris Uba is an iconic example of the godfather phenomenon in Nigeria.226 When Human Rights Watch visited his home in Enugu (situated on a street named after himself) in early 2007, he proudly displayed a large collection of luxury vehicles and a police car with blacked-out license plates that he said belonged to him and not to the police.227 Security men with handguns tucked inside of their belts wandered about the compound.

Chris Uba, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, was at the apex of his power during the 2003 elections, when he “sponsored” PDP candidates and rigged their election to office across Anambra. After that election he publicly declared himself “the greatest godfather in Nigeria,” noting that “this is the first time an individual single-handedly put in position every politician in the state.”228

Among the politicians Chris Uba “sponsored” in 2003 was PDP gubernatorial candidate Chris Ngige. The terms of their relationship were spelled out in remarkably explicit fashion in a written “contract” and “declaration of loyalty” that Ngige signed prior to the election. Chris Uba provided Human Rights Watch with a copy of this document to bolster his contention that Ngige later failed to live up to the terms of their agreement.

Ngige promised in writing to “exercise and manifest absolute loyalty to the person of Chief Chris Uba as my mentor, benefactor and sponsor” and agreed to allow Uba control over all important government appointments and the awarding of all government contracts. The contract referred to Governor Ngige as the “Administrator” and to the unelected Uba as “Leader/Financier.” It also empowered Uba to “Avenge himself in the way and manner adjudged by him as fitting and adequate” (emphasis in original) in case of any breach by Ngige that could not be settled through mediation.229 These documents, which spelled out the subordination of the Governor to Chris Uba in some detail, are printed as an annex to this report.230

In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Ngige did not deny that Chris Uba rigged his election into office but claims that he tried to break away from Uba’s control immediately after the 2003 election.231 This was no easy task; Ngige said that from the moment he assumed office, Uba was continually “making personal demands that I go to the treasury and take money and give it to him.”232 Ngige also claims that shortly before his inauguration, armed men broke into his home and forced him, at gunpoint, to sign a pledge that he would pay Chris Uba the sum of N3 billion ($23 million) immediately after assuming office.233 In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Uba denied that he ever demanded cash payments from Governor Ngige.234

Relations between Ngige and Uba deteriorated rapidly. In July 2003 Governor Ngige was kidnapped by armed policemen and forced at gunpoint to sign a “letter of resignation.”235 In an interview with Human Rights Watch Ngige alleged that Uba was responsible for this and cites the episode as illustrative of why, even as governor, he could not turn to the police for help against Uba’s attempts at extortion.236 Uba dismissed the allegations of extortion as being completely without any basis in fact.237

Ngige’s “resignation” was eagerly accepted by the State House of Assembly despite the circumstances under which it was obtained. One Anambra State legislator told Human Rights Watch that at the time most members of the legislature were “in bondage” to Chris Uba in much the same manner as Ngige.238

Ngige successfully petitioned to have his “resignation” thrown out by the federal courts and remained in office but quickly found himself under siege yet again. In 2004 thugs armed with firearms and crude explosives attacked Government House in Awka and burned part of it to the ground while policemen stood aside and watched.239 Other gangs then staged several attacks on other government buildings throughout the state.240 As many as 24 people were killed during the ensuing violent clashes and looting.241

Ngige—like much of the Nigerian press and many civil society groups—alleges that Chris Uba was behind the attack.242 Several well-placed sources told Human Rights Watch that Chris Uba had recruited an Ogoni youth leader from Rivers State to help organize the attack on Government House in conjunction with thugs sourced locally in Anambra.243 Chris Uba denied any involvement in the matter.244 The police’s failure to investigate who was behind the attack, and specifically Uba’s alleged involvement, stands as a stark example of the impunity he has consistently enjoyed.

Box 5: A Godfather’s Views on Governance

The following are excerpts from a Human Rights Watch interview with Anambra State political “godfather” Chris Uba at his Enugu residence in February 2007:

I have been in politics from 1999 and even before, but 2003 is the time I produced a Governor for the State. Since that 2003 I have been handling the party—the PDP­—and we have been doing well and we did not have any problem in the party.

When he [Ngige] became Governor he started playing funny. That is where we disagree, we signed before he became governor. We said that I am going to produce [appoint] six to seven Commissioners. He is going to produce [some] because he is governor already. I am going to produce more; he is going to produce lesser…

I spent a lot of money to put him there but I never asked him for my money back. Ngige was trying to be smart, trying to run the government on his own.…The problem is Ngige being a politician who did not invest one naira, not even one kobo, wanted to run away with everything and not even share one appointment.

That is why he heaped this blackmail upon me…I cannot tell him to give me N3 billion because I know that he does not have it! The allocation to Anambra in one month is not up to N3 billion!

I am supposed to bring the Commissioner for Finance, this man who funded the campaign is supposed to be Commissioner of Works, I said, look, you signed it, and not under duress. The problem is the immunity the governors are having, everything they are having, you spend your money to bring them into power and they say “Go to hell.” It should be just like, you invest in a bank and then you have power to make some decisions because of your controlling shares. But he blackmails you and pays the press to go say all sorts of bad things about you and put it in the internet.245

Impeachment through Corruption and Intimidation

The Ngige-Uba saga came to an end in March 2006 when a Federal Court of Appeal ruled that Ngige’s 2003 election victory was fraudulent and therefore null and void. The result was Ngige’s replacement with his 2003 electoral opponent from the opposition All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Peter Obi.246 Obi had produced massive evidence of electoral fraud and his installation as governor was widely hailed as a victory for democracy in Anambra.247

Just seven months after Obi assumed office, a group of legislators in the PDP-dominated State House of Assembly voted to impeach him. The events leading up to that purported “impeachment” provide a clear illustration of the ways in which state and federal government institutions and law enforcement agencies were manipulated, misused, and influenced by corruption under Obasanjo’s stewardship.

Human Rights Watch interviewed several legislators in the Anambra State House of Assembly who said that they were persuaded to support the impeachment bid through a combination of bribery and coercion that they believed was at least tacitly supported by the presidency in Abuja.248

In October 2006 the PDP leadership in the Anambra legislature transported a group of 18 Anambra legislators to the Grand Hotel, a sprawling luxury resort on the banks of the Niger River in Asaba, the capital of neighboring Delta State. They remained at the hotel for several weeks as party leaders worked to build consensus for a move against Obi. Members interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they received moral support from and had meetings in Asaba and Abuja with powerful PDP member Olabode George, Anambra State PDP Chairman Tony Nwoye and Chris Uba’s brother Andy Uba, then serving as President Obasanjo’s Special Advisor on Domestic Affairs.249 The legislators said that in those meetings they were repeatedly urged to impeach Governor Obi.250

Human Rights Watch interviewed three legislators who were among those at Asaba. They said that the House leadership gave them funds not only to cover their considerable expenses at the resort, but also frequent infusions of “pocket money” ranging from N50,000 to N200,000 ($385 to $1540).251 A senior member of the PDP leadership in the State House of Assembly reportedly told them that the funds had arrived from Abuja but refused to spell out its precise source. They said that the most significant inducement the state’s PDP leadership offered them was the promise of an “automatic ticket” in the 2007 elections—that is, that their victory in the PDP primaries would be assured regardless of who might chose to run against them.252

To complement these inducements, three separate legislators told Human Rights Watch that PDP leaders in the legislature threatened that any member who did not support impeachment would be targeted for EFCC prosecution. While the members acknowledged that they could not confirm whether there was any basis to that threat, they had no trouble believing it. “The way we see it, the EFCC, it has nothing to do with whether you have committed any offense or not,” said one legislator who ultimately voted in favor of impeachment. “They will come and arrest a person for any reason and keep him behind bars until he succumbs to what they want him to do.”253

Three PDP legislators who opposed the impeachment move ultimately left the party and were then placed on the EFCC’s controversial list of politicians to be disallowed from contesting the 2007 elections due to alleged evidence of corruption—three of only four Anambra politicians to make the list aside from former Governor Ngige.254

On November 2, 2006, a group of pro-impeachment lawmakers returned to Anambra at dawn and voted to impeach Governor Obi without the presence of other lawmakers, even though they did not have sufficient numbers present to meet the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority of the full legislature for a successful impeachment.255 Obi was deposed as governor despite the clear illegality of the move against him.

Peter Obi was reinstated in February 2007 by the Federal Court of Appeal. But INEC disqualified Obi from standing in the 2007 elections on a technicality stemming from a factional dispute within Obi’s APGA party from standing in the 2007 elections.256

Mobilizing Cult Groups for the 2007 Elections

The 2007 polls were an especially high-stakes affair in Anambra because the PDP candidate for governor, Andy Uba, reportedly enjoyed the strong political backing of President Obasanjo. Andy Uba had served as an influential Special Advisor to Obasanjo for most of his eight years as president. Voicing a common complaint among many activists and community leaders in Anambra, one member of the state’s Elders Forum alleged that Obasanjo “wants to award Andy Uba the governorship of Anambra for having served him well for 7 ½ years” whether the people of Anambra wanted him or not.257

Andy Uba is the brother of Chris Uba, and his designs on the governor’s office caused a rift between the two. Andy Uba took over the Anambra State PDP in a move Chris Uba described as a “coup” and installed Tony Nwoye, a former student union leader, as state chairman of the party.258 In interviews with Human Rights Watch, numerous sources including police officials, a spokesman for Governor Peter Obi, opposition politicians and cult members identified Nwoye as a prominent member of the Black Axe cult.

According to press reports, opposition complaints and police sources in Anambra, Andy Uba’s campaign appeared to be unusually well-funded, and Nwoye immediately set about mobilizing funds to recruit thugs to ensure Andy Uba’s victory in the PDP primaries in December 2006.259 Human Rights Watch interviewed several cult members who were described how they were paid to rig the primaries in Uba’s favor by stuffing ballot boxes and chasing off legitimate voters. For example, one member of the Buccaneers cult described how he, along with other Buccaneers and members of other cult groups were actively involved in voter intimidation: “In the primaries we carried axes and machetes and chased away any voters that came near while we were voting.”260 Uba won the PDP nomination after being awarded 97 percent of all votes cast.261

Nwoye did not introduce the problem of cultism into Anambra politics; there are many cult groups active in the state, and several civil society activists allege that several members of the State House of Assembly who predated Nwoye’s tenure were cult members.262 Under Nwoye, however, PDP sponsorship of cult groups has become extremely brazen; one leading anti-cult activist complained to Human Rights Watch that “they have made PDP a cult affair.”263

Opposition figures, community leaders, and even members of the PDP alleged to Human Rights Watch that Andy Uba’s campaign used its capacity to mobilize violence to stifle any opposition to Uba’s eventual election.

At a January 2007 meeting called by the state PDP at the Parktonian Hotel in Awka, two men stood up and complained that they had been robbed of victory in the party primaries even though they had paid Tony Nwoye money in return for the promise of an “automatic ticket.” According to a state legislator and another PDP member who were present at the meeting, Nwoye responded by ordering several thugs who were standing nearby to “beat them to a pulp.”264 “They started slapping and beating them,” the legislator said. “One man, his clothing was torn to shreds and no one ordered them to stop…Andy Uba was there and said nothing.”265

Fighting Over the Spoils

According to police, cults, and other sources, after the PDP primaries Nwoye began channeling funds into the hands of members of his own Black Axe cult to the exclusion of other cult groups in the state.266 Several cult groups including the Vikings and the Buccaneers saw this as deeply unfair and reacted violently. Some also complained that they were not paid in full for working on behalf of Andy Uba’s campaign during the primaries.267

Human Rights Watch interviewed several cult members in Anambra in February 2007, two months before the April elections. According to then-Police Commissioner Haruna John and to cult members themselves, at least seven people were killed in a series of tit-for-tat assassinations between Black Axe and other cult members in the week prior to those interviews alone. Several of those killed had been gunned down in the streets of Awka, and the violence had the effect of terrorizing local residents.268

Two members of the Vikings cult who had been involved in planning the February 2007 wave of violence compared Andy Uba’s gubernatorial campaign to an “oil well” whose revenues they should be entitled to share. 269 One of them explained:

In our tertiary institutions we have a lot of secret cult families. The politicians use the secret cults. The problem [now] is other families are fighting the Black Axe so that we can come in and get work. Tony [Nwoye] is hijacking everything for the Black Axe because he is Black Axe. Other families are asking questions—why is the money meant for use in Anambra being hijacked for use only by this other group? That money is what they want to eat alone without sharing with other groups.270

The Vikings members were under the impression that Nwoye had recently distributed N10 million ($77,000) to Black Axe members to the exclusion of all other cult groups. Faced with this unacceptable situation, one of them said, “Either we attack them, to get Andy’s attention, or we go to another party.”271

While police sources told Human Rights Watch that they were very much aware of the causes of the wave of cult violence ahead of the elections, they said that they were unlikely to carry out any criminal investigation implicating prominent members of the PDP “because we would not want to be kicked out [of the police force] or transferred or forcibly retired.”272

The 2007 Elections and their Aftermath

By the time Election Day arrived, Andy Uba was facing only weak and fragmented opposition. INEC had eliminated his two most prominent opponents, Governor Peter Obi and Chris Ngige from the ballot.273 Nonetheless the elections were meticulously rigged in Uba’s favor.

Human Rights Watch observed the gubernatorial elections in Anambra and corroborated the reports of other observers. Voting did not even take place across much of Anambra State, leaving out any possibility of unexpected developments at the polling stations. Human Rights Watch witnessed widespread evidence of the intimidation of would-be voters, fraud and the fabrication of results by electoral officials and members of the PDP.274 In most cases, polling stations across several different communities visited by Human Rights Watch simply did not open at all, with no officials and no voting materials present.275 Other independent election observers in Anambra reached the same conclusions and witnessed the same widespread fraud during the Presidential polls there one week later.276

Protest riots ensued in some areas as angry would-be voters and opposition supporters burned down government buildings, INEC offices and burned tires in the streets, but the heavy-handed efforts of the PDP to rig the election appeared to yield dividends. The official results indicated a crushing victory for Andy Uba as Governor and fabricated voter turnout figures far higher than anything observed by credible observers in any part of the state.277

When Human Rights Watch went to the INEC office on the morning after the gubernatorial polls to seek an official copy of the results, staff suggested the INEC officials with access to the results could be found at the Grand Hotel in Awka, where Andy Uba’s campaign was holding its victory party. At the hotel, no one had any idea of the results, but the victory party was in full swing as armed men and uniformed police mingled by the pool drinking champagne.

Uba’s celebration was short-lived, however. Months prior to the elections Governor Peter Obi had filed a lawsuit arguing that he had been robbed of his term in office because of the years-long delay in declaring him the winner of the 2003 election. Days after Uba was sworn in as governor, Nigeria’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Obi in that case, granting Obi the right to serve a full four years in office. Uba’s election was null and void, and gubernatorial elections will not be held in Anambra State until 2010.278

That court ruling did not address the open rigging of the 2007 polls in Anambra; it simply ruled that gubernatorial elections should never have been held in Anambra in the first place. The fabricated results in other races across Anambra are being challenged but still stand as of this writing. The ruling itself is also not without controversy, as its effect will be to force Anambra’s voters to wait seven years from their last chance at voting for a governor to the next election. Nonetheless, in unseating one of the PDP’s most powerful and well connected gubernatorial aspirants, the Supreme Court highlighted the impartiality and independence with which the Nigerian judiciary has generally comported itself in political cases surrounding the 2007 elections.

Anambra’s example, however, also illustrates the limitations of what the judiciary can accomplish by itself. The authors of Anambra’s worst abuses—including murder, illegal possession of weapons, and the wholesale rigging of the 2007 electoral process in the state—continue to enjoy complete impunity for their crimes. Chris Uba no longer has the same political influence as previously, but this was largely the result of his brother Andy’s actions, and he remains a powerful member of the PDP’s national Board of Trustees. Andy Uba may have lost the election, but there has been no effort to investigate him or his associates for his campaign’s open recruitment of cult groups as political muscle. The government and electoral officials responsible for the brazen rigging of Anambra’s elections have not been held to account and there has been no move made to do so. There has also been no investigation into the use of corruption and the threat of selective prosecution to bring about Peter Obi’s impeachment in November 2006.

Anambra’s citizens have remained without a meaningful voice in the selection of their political leaders since at least 2003. Without sustained action against cult gangs and their backers, violence, fraud and corruption are likely to remain features of the state’s political landscape.

226 Uba’s brother Andy served as special advisor to President Obasanjo for nearly the entirety of the Obasanjo Administration and ran for Governor of Anambra State in 2007; his other brother Ugochukwu Uba was a senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District until losing in the PDP primaries in late 2006.

227 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Uba, Enugu, Feburary 12, 2007.

228 Jibrin Ibrahim, “The Rise of Nigeria’s Godfathers.”

229 Agreement “Among the Parties as Partners in the Project of Government of Anambra State and Nigeria,” on file with Human Rights Watch.

230 See below, Annex: Contract and Oath of Loyalty Between Chris Uba and Chris Ngige.

231 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Ngige, Bethesda, Maryland, January 18, 2007. Ngige told Human Rights Watch that “Later events proved that almost all of the [2003] elections including Obasanjo’s own were not legitimate.”

232 Ibid.

233 Ibid. At that time N3 billion was roughly three times the total federal monthly allocation of revenue to the Anambra State Government. Those figures are available online through the Nigerian Ministry of Finance at (accessed July 12, 2007).

234 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Uba, Enugu, February 12, 2007. Uba redacted unknown portions of the “contract” or other signed agreements before providing Human Rights Watch with a copy of what remained.

235 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Ngige, Bethesda, Maryland, January 18, 2007. See also Anayo Okoli, “Anarchy in Anambra,” The Vanguard, July 11, 2003.

236 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Ngige, Bethesda, Maryland, January 18, 2007. See also Anayo Okoli, “Anarchy in Anambra,” The Vanguard, July 11, 2003.

237 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Uba, Enugu, February 12, 2007.

238 Human Rights Watch interview with Anambra state legislator, Awka, February 12, 2007.

239 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Ngige, Bethesda, Maryland, January 18, 2007. See also “’Tensions high’ in Nigeria State,” BBC News Online, November 12, 2004, (accessed July 16, 2007).

240 Ibid. Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper reported at the time that Anambra “is now ruled by hoodlums who have taken over every nook and cranny of the state maiming, killing and attacking public buildings without any resistance by the retinue of policemen deployed to maintain law and order.” Tony Edike, “Awka: A City Where Anarchy Reigned,” The Vanguard, November 15, 2004.

241 Ibid.

242 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Ngige, Bethesda, Maryland, January 18, 2007; Human Rights Watch interviews with civil society activists and opposition politicians, Lagos, Abuja and Awka, February 2007.

243 Human Rights Watch interviews, Abuja and Port Harcourt, February and April 2007. Both sources are acquaintances of the Ogoni youth leader concerned and said that they had been given this information by him.

244 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Uba, Enugu, February 12, 2007.

245 Human Rights Watch interview with Chris Uba, Enugu, February 12, 2007.

246 See Bolade Ominjo, “Obi Sworn in, Promises New Dawn in Anambra,” The Vanguard, March 18, 2006.

247 Obi was reportedly able to produce result sheets from polling stations across the state that displayed results completely different from those later recorded for those polling units.

248 Human Rights Watch interviews with Anambra state legislators, Awka, February 2007.

249 Human Rights Watch interviews with Anambra state legislators, Awka, February 2007.

250 Ibid.

251 Human Rights Watch interviews with Anambra state legislators, Awka, February 2007. When Human Rights Watch visited the Grand Hotel in February 2007, the price of a single room was $223 for one night.

252 Ibid. The promise of “automatic tickets” was not kept, according to the legislators, who cited this perceived betrayal as a primary reason for speaking out.

253 Human Rights Watch interview, Awka, February 12, 2007.

254 Report of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry on Alleged Corrupt Practices of Some Public Officers and Other Persons, on file with Human Rights Watch. See also: Abdul Jimoh, “EFCC Release lists of candidates adjudged corrupt and unfit for elections,” Sahara available at (accessed March 16, 2007). The list also included a surprisingly large number of PDP politicians from the vice president’s home state of Adamawa. The full list is available online at

255 Article 188 of the Nigerian constitution requires a two-thirds majority of all legislators in support of any move to impeach a sitting Governor. Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Article 188.

256 Patrick Ugeh, et al. “Court Condemns INEC on Anambra Guber List” This Day, March 20, 2007.

257 Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, February 12, 2007.

258 Chris Uba complained to Human Rights Watch that all of the state PDP officials allied to him were ousted from office while Uba was on vacation in California. Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, February 12, 2007.

259 Human Rights Watch interviews with PDP legislators, opposition candidates, police officials and others, Awka and Enugu, February 2007.

260 Human Rights Watch interview with Buccaneers member, Awka, February 14, 2007.


262 Human Rights Watch interviews with cultists, politicians, policemen, activists, and church officials, Awka, February and April 2007.

263 Human Rights Watch interview with anti-cult NGO official [name withheld], Awka, April 18, 2007.

264 Human Rights Watch interviews, Enugu and Awka, February 2007.

265 Human Rights Watch interview, Enugu, February 12, 2007.

266 Human Rights Watch interviews with cult members and police sources, Awka, February 2007.

267 Ibid.

268 Human Rights Watch interview with Haruna John, Awka, February 14, 2007; Human Rights Watch interviews with cult members, Awka, February 2007.

269 Human Rights Watch interview with Vikings members, Awka, February 14, 2007.

270 Ibid.

271 Ibid.

272 Human Rights Watch interview with police officials, Awka, February 2007.

273 Obi was disqualified from standing due to a technicality that grew out of infighting within his APGA party, while Ngige won a court decision ordering his name to be placed on the ballot but was nonetheless left off where Human Rights Watch witnessed voting and, according to accredited observers, throughout the state. INEC gave no public explanation for the omission.

274 See “Nigeria: Polls Marred by Violence, Fraud,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 17, 2007,

275 Ibid.

276 Human Rights Watch interviews with international and domestic election observers stationed in Anambra State on April 14 and April 21, 2007, Awka and Abuja, April 2007.

277 Andy Uba was awarded 1,093,004 votes as against 71,296 for Virgy Etiaba of APGA, in second-place.

278 Editorial “Anambra and the Peter Obi case: matters arising” The Guardian June 27, 2007.  Essentially, the Supreme Court ruled that Obi was entitled to a full four-year term in office from the date of his swearing-in as Governor. Because of the years-long delay in resolving his legal challenge to the 2003 elections, that term did not begin until 2006.