Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not announced the date of the next gubernatorial election in Anambra State, it is going to take place sometime next year before Governor Willie Obiano leaves the stage in March 2022. Even though the election is still many months away, the campaign has started subtly. Since Mr. Peter Obi has redefined governance in the hitherto political volcano of South-East region, many Anambra sons and daughters have taken keen interest in their politics. After all, every politics is local.
Just like in business, the politics of Anambra is conducted like a serious business. Just like in the market scenario, Anambra politics is vibrant, colourful and equally dynamic. Anambra can boast of both local and national politicians. It is the home state of the foremost Nigerian nationalist and political colossus, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr, Akwaeke Nwafor-Orizu, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Edwin Umezeoke, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo and the late Biafran warlord, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. This list, I must admit, is not exhaustive. It is also the home state of revered writers and intellectuals such as Chinua Achebe, Chike Obi, Kenneth Dike, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chukwuemeka Ike, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and others.
Since 1999 when the present political dispensation took off, there has been no dull moment in Anambra politics. Those that have piloted the affairs of the state include Dr. Cinwoke Mbadinuju, a lawyer from Anambra South, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, a medical doctor from Anambra Central, Mr. Peter obi, a philosopher and businessman from Anambra Central, Chief Willie Obiano, a banker from Anambra North, Senator Andy Ubah, a businessman from Anambra South, who occupied the post for a very brief period before Peter Obi went to court for concise interpretation of the tenure of a governor which is four years irrespective of when it started.
That landmark judgement and others after it gave rise to staggered gubernatorial elections in the country. Before 1999, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former lecturer from Anambra South, was elected governor of the state during the transition programme of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Therefore, in terms of zoning or rotation of the governorship seat in Anambra among the three senatorial districts or zones, that principle has been fulfilled.
It can be safely argued that practically every senatorial zone in the state has each produced a governor for the state. Anambra South and Central has each produced a minimum of two while Anambra North has produced one, the incumbent Willie Obiano, who has also done his possible best for the state in terms of politics and development. Therefore, the forthcoming Anambra governorship election will be very exciting in terms of candidates, the campaign drama and the likely outcome.
No doubt, the election will be dominated by candidates from Anambra South and Central. While the people of Anambra South can conveniently invoke the zoning principle to lay claim to the coveted post, that alone will not be strong to give them power. One, apart from being unconstitutional, I do not think that there is a written document to that effect. Two, zoning is not binding to all the political parties. In past guber polls, candidates from other zones other than the one it is zoned also participated.
I do not think that the zoning arrangement would apply to the All Progressives congress (APC) whose aspirants may be warming up for the guber contest. I see the contest to be an all comers affair for all the senatorial zones and all the parties in the state. Some people will argue forcefully that the guber seat has gone round all the zones and therefore no longer tenable. Regardless of how the argument goes, we shall see. If not that INEC has in its wisdom and following extant electoral laws pruned down the number of political parties from 98 to 18, almost all the political parties would have fielded candidates for the Anambra guber poll.
Even at 18, I still believe that the number of political parties in the country is many. Nigeria does not need more than five or at most six political parties. The outcome of our elections has even proved this assertion. From the benefit of hindsight, the Anambra guber poll will be a straight contest between three main political parties in the state, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Some of the prominent names that have recently featured as being interested in the contest are the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo and former Governor of the State and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige and others that I cannot categorically pinpoint at this moment. It is very likely that Soludo may fly the APGA flag in the contest based on available facts and body language of those in Awka. But in politics anything can change.
Since Ngige left the government house via a court decision in favour of Peter Obi, the charismatic and grassroots politician has been angling to occupy the seat because of the blue-print he allegedly left there. For APC to make impact in the poll, Ngige is the likely choice. Similarly, the erstwhile CBN boss has romanticized governing the state and making it the Dubai of Africa. Since leaving the CBN, his dream of occupying the Government House Awka has not waned. While Ngige is from Anambra Central, Soludo is from Anambra South.
While Ngige will not contend with any heavyweight aspirants from his senatorial district for the APC ticket, Soludo will be prepared to contend with so many forces including heavyweight contestants. Soludo will have to contend with the Ubahs, Uzohs, Ndukwes and others who may give him a fierce battle on his dream journey to Government House, Awka. Besides, APGA is already at war with itself. It has lost the support of Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, the wife of former APGA leader, Chief Emeka Ojukwu. APGA will contend with the steady and perhaps irresistible march of APC to South-East.
With Imo in its kitty, if APC fields Ngige, which is most likely, the battle will be hot and decisive. APGA lost a strong ally when it denied Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu the senatorial seat. While one can say that Obiano’s tenure is good, critics say it lacks signature projects. They are quick to point out that his dream Anambra airport which he promised to deliver in his first year in office is still in the pipeline. They doubt if he can still do that within the remaining period of his administration.
Despite imposition of candidates and rigging, every candidate for the poll will depend on his or her charisma, personal appeal and grassroots connection to win the election. In all, Anambra 2021 is going to be a hot, fierce and interesting combat between known and little known political gladiators. It is one contest that money, power and influence cannot be discountenanced in determining who takes over from Obiano.