By Chinelo Obogo
As the November 18, 2017 governorship elections in Anambra State gradually approaches, many political parties have begun to align and re-align in a bid to make their platform competitive so as to enable them compete favourably in the elections, yet others are gearing up for new alliances.
Given the political history in the state with its peculiar complexities, the year will undoubtedly be a very busy one as the major political parties jostle for support from voters. There are currently over 30 registered political parties in the country but only few seem to be at the forefront in visibly mobilising support for their parties especially at the grassroots.
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which is the ruling party, may likely field the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano as its candidate and is going to do everything within its power to retain the governorship seat. The opposition parties like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC), the United Progressives Party (UPP), the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and others will also put up a fight.
Can opposition parties pull an upset?
Not a few upsets and surprises have been recorded in the Nigerian political landscape since the beginning of the nation’s return to democracy in 1999. The interesting twist however is that elections in Nigeria get even more unpredictable as its democracy matures.
In 2015 for instance, an incumbent president was voted out of office in a very unprecedented manner. Earlier this year, an incumbent governor, Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, lost his bid to replace himself with his preferred candidate. Just a few days ago also in Osun State, the ruling party lost one of the key senatorial seats to an opposition party.
Progressively, the country’s political space is becoming increasingly dynamic as voters become more enlightened, proactive and discerning in deciding who leads them. More and more, the general polity is beginning to tilt towards issue-based and winning elections a function of credentials, experience and personality, raising hopes also for independent candidature.
An overview of the opposition parties show that a party like the PDP is still quite strong in Anambra State as it boasts of majority of members of the National Assembly from the state and also has its structures on ground. With the backing of the Federal Government, the APC hopes to make an inroad in the South -East and it has indicated that it would work assiduously to gain grounds in the state.
The Hope Democratic Party (HDP) came back into reckoning in the state shortly after the Court of Appeal ruling on the protracted leadership crisis in the PDP, which favoured the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction. Some notable PDP chieftains who had defected from the party were said to have initiated moves for HDP to be adopted for the purposes of vitiating the disappointing outcome of the Appeal Court and beat the factor of time for the November 18 poll. And they are yet to return to the PDP, as at the time of filing this report, despite the Supreme Court ruling sacking Sheriff.
In the midst of these uncertainties, the UPP, founded by the former chairman of APGA, Chekwas Okorie, is beginning to show signs of renewed vigour as it positions to participate in the gubernatorial elections with its primaries coming up in a month’s time. Its leadership believes the party has the clout to take over power in the state.
The UPP didn’t have a good outing in the 2015 general election. It has not performed better at elections at the federal and state levels since then. But with the resurgence of energy in the party, driven largely by the quality of candidates that have joined its rank, the UPP appears to have gained more traction in recent times.
In Anambra State for instance, political analysts believe the party has gained firm roots. They believe the party has gained acceptability among the indigenes as its guiding philosophy and manifestos address pressing questions that need answers in the state.
Okorie, who is also the national chairman of the party, a few days ago, stated that that the UPP would win the November 2017 gubernatorial election. “I can tell you without fear that Anambra election is for UPP, we don’t have a major contender,” he said.
The reason for this optimism is not far-fetched, Daily Sun gathered.
The bigger parties in Nigeria are grappling with issues already. The PDP, once described as the largest party in West Africa, had been bedeviled with leadership crisis which saw it losing many of its seats in the National and State Assemblies. The party also lost the Kogi, Ondo and Edo governorship elections. Though the recent judgement of the Supreme Court resolved the crisis, it is uncertain if the party can easily bounce back and regain its lost grounds in Anambra as many of its state chieftains have defected to other parties.
The APC which rode to victory on the back of change has been largely unable to fulfill its pre-election promises thereby creating doubt and unease among voters especially in South- East. Because of the worsening economic situation in the country, the party will have to fight hard to convince voters that it can improve their economy. Despite being the ruling party in the state, APGA is also faced with leadership crisis as there are two factions, one led by Martins Agbaso and the other led by Victor Oye, both men claiming to be the authentic national chairman of the party.
Okorie, further argues that the PDP may not easily recover from the effect of its prolonged crisis and neither will the leadership crisis in APGA cease. He said; “It will be a surprise if anyone goes to the polling booth and vote for APC. The APC government has not treated the South- East well and it would be very hard for anybody to make any headway with a party like that”, he said.
Contenders for the UPP ticket One of the top contenders for the governorship seat on the platform is Hon. Chudi Ofodile, who served two terms in the National Assembly as Member of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007.
Ofodile, a former PDP member who recently authored the book “The Politics of Biafra and The Future of Nigeria” has expressed interest in contesting for the gubernatorial election on the platform of the UPP.
Another contender for the UPP ticket is Chief Osita Chidoka. He served as the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Minister for Aviation under ex President Goodluck Jonathan. Chidoka boasts that during his tenure, he transformed the FRSC from a ‘docile brick and mortar’ agency to a functional lead agency in road traffic administration and safety Management driven by information and communication technology.
He said: “We introduced ICT to enhance patrol operations; we established modern communication centres, deployed phones to capture offenders as well as increased capacity building for the men and personnel of the corps so as to attain globally acceptable standards.
From the FRSC, I became Minster of Aviation where I set new standards in aviation safety in the country.
“I will replicate what I did at the FRSC and the Ministry of Aviation in Anambra state if given the mandate in the coming elections in November this year. I am ready to serve the people in any capacity even as a councilor because no position is too small or big for me as long as it is service to the people. Since my youth service years, I have been involved in volunteer service; so the driving motive for this ambition is to serve the people of the state.”
Initially dismissed as a weak political platform, some analysts have acknowledged UPP’s extensive grassroots mobilization as a party that has direct connection with the people of Anambra state. This throws up the question of who connects more with the people generally particularly the future generation.
The party’s national chairman stated that the party has already put up structures all over the state to ensure that it effectively defends the collective aspirations of Anambra people. “UPP is the party of the people; it is the party with the true spirit of Anambra; a party that thinks about the people and their welfare. That is why you see a lot of people coming into our fold. These amongst other factors will largely determine the winner. The election would ultimately amount to the battle of the real ‘Igbo’ party between UPP and APGA. Anambra elections would not be won only in Anambra alone but with serious influence of stakeholders in Lagos and Abuja.”