From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
This year, 2017 means a lot politically for the people of Anambra State. It is a year the people of the state known as ‘Home for all’ would exercise their franchise to elect who governs them in the next four years.
The election precedes the end of the four year tenure of the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano who was sworn in on March 17, 2014. With the end of his first tenure in sight, there are several permutations already whether Obiano would win a second tenure or there will be a change of guards at the Awka Government House.
But as the famous American Clergyman, James Freeman Clarke would say: “A politician thinks of the next election while a statesman, of the next generation.”
Characteristic of Nigerian politicians, the battle for the governorship race started immediately after March 2014.
The election that brought Obiano in with the usual characteristics of Anambra politics was a battle between several forces. Political gladiators then were of the view that Obiano was a stranger and greenhorn in Anambra politics having been drafted into the race few weeks to the party primaries as against other possible aspirants from the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
But the full backing of the then outgoing governor, Peter Obi changed the whole equation since he and his Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) team with the entire party structure campaigned vigorously for Obiano.
To the people, the Obiano election was like Peter Obi’s third tenure because of the high level of acceptance owing to quality delivery of good governance which Obi’s administration has garnered in his eight years in power. This made churches, market leaders, town unions, traditional rulers, civil servants and major other organised sectors to align with Obi to vote for Obiano because of the continuity mantra
That was how other heavyweights like Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah , Dr Chris Ngige, Chief Tony Nwoye and others who were candidates of other parties during the election lost out and Obiano secured a landslide victory.
Despite the presence of other notable aspirants in APGA then like Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Oseloka Obaze, Prince Chinedu Idigo, Chief Paul Odenigbo and about six others, another factor that worked in Obiano’s favour then was the clamour for power shift to Anambra North.
Obi had backed the power shift to Anambra North of the state in line with the clamour from people in the seven local governments that make up the zone who reasoned that since the creation of the state in 1991, the zone had not produced a governor. The argument was that the Central zone was in power for 11 years from 2003 to 2014 through Obi and Ngige and the South zone also benefited through Mbadinuju between 1999 and 2003.
The clamour led to the formation of different pressure groups from the zone championing the course with the slogan “Anambra 2013:Let’s go North”. Though many of the groups had their individual choices among the array of aspirants from the zone then, immediately Obiano emerged the party’s standard bearer with Obi’s support, the groups and the aspirants all coalesced, though painful for some among them and worked for Obiano instead of allowing the opportunity to pass the North zone by.
And Obiano on assumption of office came up with a blue print known as the “Four pillars of Development “ anchored on Agriculture, Industrialisation, Trade and Commerce but soon after jettisoned the much hyped campaign slogan of “Forward Ever” and the 4Cs of “Continuity, Complete, Commence and Commission new projects”.
Also, he soon silently parted ways with his predecessor, Peter Obi and brought in some of his friends from America whom he appointed into some key posts in his administration. In the eye of critical observers, the governor was in a hurry to run his own show.
Within two years and ten months of being in charge, he made some bold moves which he and his aides have continued to showcase as his trump card that will guarantee him a second tenure in office.
The first achievement which the administration flaunts everywhere is the issue of security where the joint security task force he constituted then comprising of the Army, Navy, Police, DSS, and Civil Defence routed criminals from their hideout and most especially Upper Iweka. The team launched an offensive against kidnappers and armed robbers with the result that many of them were decimated while some fled the state. However, many argue presently, the criminals are returning gradually with reportedly pockets of robberies.
Despite the challenges, there are those who insist that because of the improved security in the state, Anambra has become an investment destination and through the establishment of the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA), the state has attracted investments worth $3.2 billion.
On the area of Agriculture, the Obiano administration has also encouraged farmers and those interested in investing in that sector. The encouragement has already led to the establishment of Coscharis and Excel Farms in Ayamelum area of the state and the operation of Stine Rice Mill in Amichi, hence there is a quantum leap in the production of rice in the state.
Part of Obiano’s achievements is also that the civil servants are smiling because of the regular payment of their salaries when compared to some other states that owe salaries even though there seems to be an embargo on further employment in the civil service since he took over.
The Awka Capital Territory is also being upgraded to have a semblance of a state capital with the building of three flyovers and fixing of street lights.
The gathering opposition
Despite Obiano’s achievements, not all are satisfied with his efforts so far. Like the British statesman, Benjamin Disreali, the 1st Earl of Beaconsfield once said: “No government can be long secure without a formidable opposition”. Obiano as the incumbent governor and the party leader of APGA is assumed to enjoy the massive support of the party and ordinarily, would not face a challenge in clinching the party’s ticket for a second tenure.
But the reality presently is that though he may not have a strong opposition, there is a growing discontent in the party and the governor is fast losing the confidence of the party faithful. Unlike before when APGA was seen as an Igbo party and the symbol of Igbo unity in Anambra to the extent that people were so emotional with the party logo of an Igbo native fowl, today one hardly sees the party members adorning the APGA costume which was once like a state uniform.
Some of the members are aggrieved and grumbling that they are not being carried along by the government and would not hesitate to work for another party or any other credible aspirant or candidate that may likely emerge later. There is the permutation that the 2017 election may be the end of APGA in the state if Obiano fails to return for a second tenure.
Dr. Elo Aforka, an aide to the governor seconded to the Deputy Governor’s office also stunned the party officials recently when he declared his intention to contest the seat with Obiano. His posters are already dotting various parts of the state.
Though some analysts see the man as a joker, others believe that he was being prodded by the former APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh to spring a surprise on Obiano. However, Umeh’s Senatorial Campaign camp, Team Ohamadike, had issued a public statement disowning Aforka in his ambition and also exonerate the former APGA boss from giving him any support.
The Anambra North Support groups who were united in working for Obiano in the 2013 election are also singing different tunes today. One of the support groups tried to rally people and organize support for the governor during the festive period in a hotel at Aguleri but the meeting ended in disagreement with majority grumbling that Obiano has not done anything tangible for the zone to warrant support for a second tenure.
Though the people are insisting that power will remain in Anambra North zone for them to complete their tenure, they are of the opinion that Obiano has failed the zone. One of those who hold the view is a PDP Stalwart, Chief Okwuchukwu Okafor who said that the incumbent governor has failed the state in general and the Anambra North zone in particular that produced him.
Chief Okafor said that it is really embarrassing and shocking that most of the promises made by the incumbent governor during his electioneering campaign are still mere promises almost three years into his administration.
He pointed out that the governor all this while kept mute about his promises to the people only to come up again to start telling the same old stories he told three years ago.
The growing opposition against Obiano has also thrown up such clichés like “Correction 2017” whose protagonists say that the ultimate aim is to ensure that what they called the mistake of 2013 is not repeated.
A political analyst, Ikechukwu Onyia while talking about the cliché had this to say: “When some of us call for correction 2017; it is beyond political party, religious or geographical. It should be a quest by the great people created by a great God to see that the great state of Anambra doesn’t go down no matter how you love the personality of Obiano. Anambra State is in danger due to poor policies and the inability of the governor to take policy precautions in order to save the state from the danger we are already into. We are yet to consider the implications of our today’s gallery playing instead of going for Precautionary Public Policies Initiation (PPPI) as against States Reactionary Propagandist Behaviours( SRPB)” he said.
A political scientist, Kenneth Okoye while commenting on the political situation in Anambra today told Daily Sun that issues that should determine whether Obiano deserves a second tenure doesn’t take rocket science to point out. Making recourse to the Federal Government’s Debt Management Office (DMO), he said that the previous administration in the state handed over a healthy fiscal state to Obiano and that as at December 2014, Anambra has a domestic debt of N2, 876,176,930.03 but as at December 2015 report of the DMO published in June 2016 and modified in October 2016, Anambra under Obiano now has an external debt stock of 60,781,525.58 USD. This. he described as unacceptable.
One of those who also think that Correction 2017 is inevitable in Anambra is Oseloka Obaze, who is also from Anambra North and served in Obi’s administration and partly in Obiano’s as the Secretary to the State Government. In a recent interview he captured the situation this way:
“The last two years of the Peter Obi administration was used to set the foundation and trajectory that would have set Anambra State well ahead of every other state in Nigeria. I was part of that endeavour and we finished strong. Unfortunately, the momentum was lost, our development partners left; the continuity promise was totally abandoned and the enormous saved resources were frittered away. Those who were not part of the grand design hijacked the mantle of leadership and reins of governance without any recourse to the game plan.
“The reality is that you cannot implement an idea which you are not the author or one for which you do not know the genesis or have a full buy in. Those from the North who really campaigned and worked assiduously for the Government House had a clear vision and determination. But those who arrived later scuttled the plan. A second tenure should be predicated on performance. As far as I can see, there is a performance shortfall. So I belong to the cadre of those who believe that Anambra deserves better and that there are ample and plausible reasons for desirable change in 2017/18” he said.
But Obiano’s aide, Prince Oliver Okpala dismissed all those angling to take over from Obiano and maintained that there is no vacancy in Awka Government House because according to him, Obiano is doing very well to guarantee another term in office.
“Unlike his predecessors, Obiano is a complete gentleman, a scholar, auditor and financial management expert. Given his superlative performance, Obiano verily deserves a second tenure. This is on merit as his track-record of performance; especially his able husbandry of scarce resources aimed at taking Anambra State to the next level, has touched the lives of the ordinary people of the state” he said.
An array of possible contenders
Already, the political space is warming up with several aspirants and possible candidates of various parties who will slug it out with the incumbent during the polls. The People’s Democratic Party that used to be the main opposition angling to take over power in the state is witnessing low interests among the aspirants this time unlike before where they used to have between 40 to 50 interested aspirants who bought nomination forms. Many of their former front runners are said to have joined the All Progressives Congress all in a bid to get the party ticket and possibly enjoy federal might in prosecuting the election. This development according to a PDP aspirant, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu is a good omen because it will help create sanity for the PDP and also make the Anambra people whom he described as a PDP state to go for their best in the party.
Apart from Obiogbolu, other aspirants in the PDP presently are Osita Chidoka, Oseloka Obaze and Zeribe Ezeanuna. The APC parades many aspirants including a consummate business man and of the leading philanthropists in Anambra State, Dr. Obinna Uzoh. Others are Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Barth Nwibe, Chief George Muoghalu, Chief Tony Nwoye and Dr. Andy Ubah. Moves by Ifeanyi Ubah and Uche Ekwunife in the guber ticket struggle are yet to be made clearer.
Chief Godwin Ezeemo’s posters are already in the streets and it is yet unclear whether he will fly the PPA flag or will change party this time. There is Okeke Chika Jerry already comfortable in flying the Action Alliance flag where he contested the last election. There are indications that those in the APC fold now may likely seek other party platforms when they fail to clinch the ticket.
Sir James Harold Wilson, a former English Labour Politician and Prime Minister once said: “A week is a long time in politics, ” and what it means is that literally, Anambra is pregnant politically, and only time will unravel what it will deliver.