Obinna Odogwu, Awka
As the day breaks each day, the gradual journey to the year 2021 governorship election in Anambra State draws closer. Already, some aspirants have started taking bold steps to register their interests to run for the prized position through different means. Some, merely by their body languages, have revealed that they might be throwing their hat in the ring whenever they consider the time ripe.
In fact, save for the coronavirus pandemic which has literally shaken the world to its foundation, activities that would lead to the next year’s governorship election in the state would have started taking shape by now.
Across party lines, a number of eminent figures have become very visible for the political game and are strategising on the smartest ways to clinch their parties’ primaries.
Some of the names being bandied about as preparing for the poll are: the senators representing Anambra Central and South Senatorial Districts in the National Assembly, Senators Uche Ekwunife and Ifeanyi Ubah; former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Charles Soludo; and a political economist, Dr Obiora Okonkwo.
Others are: a United States of America-based medical practitioner, Dr Godwin Mmaduka, immediate past President and Group Chief Executive Officer of TRANSCORP Plc, Mr Valentine Ozigbo, a renowned businessman, Mr Godwin Ezeemo, and the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Chief George Moghalu.
Also expected in the political ring are: the member representing Nnewi North, South and Ekwusigo Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Chris Azubuogu; ex-NASS member for Anambra East and West Federal Constituency, Dr Tony Nwoye, and the Managing Director of Wichtech Group, Dr Chidozie Nwankwo.
Others are Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, a philanthropist, Chief Johnbosco Onunkwo, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke, Dr Ifedi Okwenna, former senator for Anambra South Senatorial zone, Senator Andy Uba; former Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka, former Secretary to the Anambra State Government, Mr Oseloka Obaze, Chairman of Stanel Group, Dr Stanley Uzochukwu and others.
But of all the names being dropped as having interest to contest in the next year’s poll, just a few of them would, at the end of the day emerge candidates of their parties.
Given the prevailing situation, some of these aspirants, based on available information at the moment, can be said to be ready to go to the poll with their hearts.
Senator Uche Ekwunife
Generally described or referred to as a ‘woman with capacity’, Senator Ekwunife has no doubts shown that she possesses some political force that cannot be ignored as far as grassroots politicking is concerned. She has, in a number of occasions, shown that she truly has capacity.
A two-time member of the House of Representatives for Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia Federal Constituency, Ekwunife has established her footprints in the political sands in Anambra.
With scores of visible achievements trailing her path while in the Green Chamber, the lady with Midas touch, without doubts, enjoys massive love and support of her constituents and others.
This she proved after her double trouncing of the former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, in 2015 and 2019 to emerge senator for Anambra Central.
Surprisingly, that 2015 election was also contested by the former governor of the state, Senator Chris Ngige, who incidentally was a sitting senator at the time. Ngige, who was the candidate of the then newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC), ended up with third position.
Ekwunife’s trouncing of the two influential men in an election their supporters, and indeed, every other person had expected one of the men to win became a talk of the town. In fact, some cartoonists celebrated that resounding victory in a very hilarious way.
Although Umeh who came second later fought his way to the senate through the courts, Ekwunife who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in that election trounced him again even as a sitting senator at the 2019 polls. That marked the second time the lady defeated a sitting senator.
Umeh, who is equally popular and very influential especially within the APGA circle was said to have been seriously shocked that a woman whose party was not in power in the state could humiliate him at the poll in the manner she did even though his party, APGA, was in power and controlled more funds.
With that 2019 election victory, Iyom Ekwunife proved to her doubters once again that she was, indeed, a strong force to be reckoned with; an experienced politician that has a functional and coordinated grassroots structure that would get her political victory in any poll in the state.
If given the opportunity to contest the 2021 governorship election, Ekwunife may spring up surprises. However, few factors may constitute themselves as stumbling blocks on her political path.
Igbo society, for now, is patriarchal and it may be very challenging to convince Ndi Anambra to accept a woman as their governor. Ekwunife, though may perform very well as governor as her antecedents both in the Green and Red Chambers suggest, may have to work extra hard to convince Ndi Anambra to accept the headship of a woman.
But with skillful approach, Ekwunife can turn this seemingly odd point to her advantage especially now that the people of the state are seriously seeking a competent governor who can perform very well like former Governor Peter Obi did or even better.
Again, she may not have the financial muscle to execute the election considering the number of multibillionaires that are already said to be preparing for the political race.
Professor Charles Soludo
At the moment, it appears time has come for Professor Soludo to govern the Light of the Nation. Everywhere you go, people talk about the erudite professor.
Although he has not officially declared his interest to run for the poll, many interest groups are drumming support for him. Already, a group of young people led by Dr Nelson Omenugha are spreading the good message of the ex-CBN’s chief on the platform of Youths Earnestly Seek Soludo (YESS) and they are seriously watering the grounds for their man with it.
But Soludo may have some challenges securing the governorship ticket of his party, APGA. Wife of the state governor, Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, is said not to be too comfortable with Soludo and was said to be positioning her kinsman, Dr Stanley Uzochukwu, for APGA’s ticket.
Inside sources revealed that the governor’s wife was plotting for a joint ticket of her kinsman and that of her husband’s kinsman, Chief Chinedu Obidigwe, popularly known as Akaoma who incidentally is currently representing Anambra East and West Federal Constituency in the National Assembly.
Mrs Obiano is said to believe that Obidigwe who, at the moment, is seen as the de facto National Chairman of APGA would bring his ‘aka oma’ (good hand) to bear in the governorship election.
Stories were told of how the now federal lawmaker determined who got APGA tickets for the 2019 general election in some states across the country where the party has considerable influence, including Anambra.
If Obidigwe can determine or largely influence who would get the governorship ticket of APGA for the next year’s poll; and if he would accommodate Mrs Obiano’s interest which would also largely be beneficial to him, then Soludo would have a lot of homework to do to upturn that plot.
And if Soludo loses the governorship primary on this ground, he may be forced to go to another party which will not likely be PDP or APC to pursue his political ambition. But such move may not bring electoral success as such other party may not have the structure to win the election.
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo
Dr. Okonkwo is well accepted across the senatorial zones of the state as a veritable option for Agu Awka in 2021. Okonkwo is seen as a great political mobiliser, who in the past played persuasive roles in the making of some past governors. He is well at home with the political elite of the state who believe that he has the capacity and credibility to lead the state. He is also the darling of the traditional institution and the church, seen as critical stakeholders in determining where the votes go in 2021.
Dr. Okonkwo is also blazing the trail in philanthropy and job creation. At the moment, he has more than 600 persons employed in all the businesses he had created. He is also making a venture into the aviation industry with the imminent launch of United Nigeria, a company which has already guaranteed jobs for several Anambra youths including pilots.
Not known to play too much to the gallery, Okonkwo who holds a doctorate degree in Political Science from Russia is well liked among youths of the state. His association and promotion of cultural festival of his native Ogidi, has endeared him to culture buffs in the state who believe that with him as governor, the culture of the people will be well promoted to become a money spinner for them. He is also at home with the grassroots and has been able to win their hearts through his philanthropy.
Okonkwo is also a political bridge builder who has been able to build political structures across the senatorial zones of Anambra with strong followership and a solid support base. He is seen as the underdog to beat. Pundits believe that he may cause an upset in the primary election scheduled for August 2021. There are insinuations from some quarters that the campaign to zone the governorship ticket of the PDP to Anambra south is a plot to stop the likes of Dr. Okonkwo who pundits say is capable of winning the primary election on first ballot.
Regardless, he has continued to power strongly, especially as the party has maintained that its priority is to get a candidate that would win the election for it irrespective of where he/she is from in Anambra State.
Senator Chris Ngige
Former governor of the state and the current Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, according to sources, is contemplating joining the race.
Although he recently denied having interest in the race at a media parley he held in his Alor hometown, sources close to him said that some of his former aides who worked with him while he was governor as well as his political associates were said to be suggesting the move to him.
For them, he stands a good chance of winning the election given his current position as a cabinet minister in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government.
They were said to also believe that he would still gain public acceptance at the poll especially considering his good works while he was governor which has sustained his popularity among the people even years after he left office.
For them, with federal might which includes control of the ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission (INEC), security forces and others at his disposal, he can win the 2021 election with relative comfort.
However, his advisers seemed to have forgotten the 2007 episode allegedly scripted and acted in the state with federal might which collapsed within 17 days.
Again, the APC has not gained wide acceptance in the state and South East by extension. In a free and fair contest, APC may not make an impressive outing in the state except if their candidate is popular as it was with Dr Tony Nwoye who came second in the 2017 governorship election.