From Magnus Eze, Enugu
As campaigns hot up for the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, below is a glimpse into the four leading political parties
In less than 50 days, precisely on November 6, Anambra people will go to the poll to elect a successor to Governor Willie Obiano. At the moment, the 18 political parties involved in the contest are marketing themselves and their candidates to the electorate. Some are also playing mind games to see where the other falters and how to make political capital out of such failures.
Final list of candidates for the election will be published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in October. Before then, every political party involved in the election is beating its chest as to its perceived chances. Candidates like Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Dr. Godwin Maduka of Accord party; Obiora Agbasimelo of Labour Party (LP) and a few others have tried to be visible especially in the media. But the reality seems to suggest that only about four political parties are considered to be seriously in the contest. Analysts say that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are firmly in the race. It would not be out of place to say that the race may come down to these four.
APGA is the ruling party in Anambra State. It has held sway for 16 years now ending March 2022. Its logo is the cock which many say had long been barbecued and eaten. The party came into limelight in Anambra through Peter Obi after he became governor on the account of a judgment of court which sacked Chris Ngige of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Obi is adjudged as having demonstrated leadership as governor of the state. His achievements in infrastructure development endeared the party to the people of the state, though some pundits argue that Obi delivered roads that were a drop in the standard set by Ngige. However, APGA became Anambra’s choice party not necessarily because of Obi but because of the Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu factor. As it was said, Anambra people would stand wherever Ojukwu stood. And Obi rode on Ojukwu’s acceptability and popularity to make APGA a household name.
However, the centre started falling apart for APGA when Obi singlehandedly, brushed aside every other voice to impose Obiano as his successor. Those who had followed Obiano’s time in office say he is a drawback in leadership and had taken the state back in time. His administration is signposted by broken and dilapidated infrastructure and lack of government presence in every aspect of the state. Many see Obiano as a foreigner to his government as he has been unable to either build on the achievements of his immediate predecessor or even give the people reason to still stand with APGA.
Obiano’s governance of Anambra, analysts say, has eroded whatever interest the people still have in APGA. To many, APGA is now a poisoned chalice. Not many still want to identify with it expect for those from the governor’s homestead who have, through their actions and run on government resources, forced many people in Anambra to nickname the party “Aguleri Peoples Grabbing Alliance.” Many think that the chances of the party winning the November election are slim. It is made worse by the internal problems that have kept the party in court and created a lack of focus in its campaigns. Many people in Anambra agree that APGA lost the people long ago.
Many of its supporters are unhappy with the choice of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as candidate and are internally working for his failure. The anger against Soludo, some people say is because the candidate had, in his previous public service outings, failed to directly touch lives in the state. Many also point to his bootlicking of Obiano as desperation taken too far. He is also haunted by what many say is a political gaffe he made as he carried Obiano’s bag during his campaign for re-election four years ago. Soludo had told people of the state who were crying over lack of development and leadership that Anambra State “is not yet broken”. He is going about the state now telling them that he will build on Obiano’s achievements. And the people wonder what the achievements are. His failure to deliver a hospital in memory of his mother, more than 12 years after a fundraiser, also stand against him as testimony of lack of industry.
There are those who also strongly believe that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is a hard sell in the Southeast. The people seem to have refused to accept the party though they show signs that they may flow with it in 2023 if the presidential pendulum swings to the region. However, at the governorship level, many people in Anambra believe that APC cannot become governor of any state in the region except by a declaration of court as was done in Imo State, or by defection, as is the case in Ebonyi. For them, APC is toxic to Southeast as its leadership style, from the Federal Government, had allegedly been anti-Igbo.
APC’s case is further worsened by the way the Federal Government had managed its relationship with the Southeast region. Analysts say the APC at the centre has been unable to win the confidence of people of the zone because of policies that were translated to exclude them. Many of these dispassionate analysts point to the failure of the APC to ensure rail development as it is doing in the North and Niger Republic. They also point at the abuse of the federal character principle by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in its key appointments. Many Igbo people believe that a vote for APC is an endorsement of the alleged Fulanisation of the Southeast region through cattle grazing rights. Voters in Anambra insist that since the APC Federal Government has been unfair to the Southeast, the party needs not be rewarded with votes.
Another issue is the circumstance surrounding the emergence of Senator Andy Uba as its candidate which clearly brushed aside several leaders of the party in the state including Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
Besides, some people also say the personality of the APC candidate is a burden on its own. Those in this category say George Muoghalu was preferred. Besides, like Soludo, many people in Anambra say that Uba, even as a senator, had been unable to make any direct positive impact on the lives of people of his hometown of Uga.
Regardless, the case of forgery instituted against him at the Federal High Court on account of listing Enugu and Uga, under oath, as his birth place in two different nomination forms (senate and governorship) may rob him of the office even if he wins, but not conceding that he may win.
About two months ago, the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) was virtually unknown to voters and people of the state though it established its presence in Anambra over four years ago. But the story has changed. The party is now considered a leading contender for the Anambra top job. The ZLP has permeated almost every ward of the state, though political watchers in the state say its proponents still have a lot of work to do to make it penetrate deeper into the consciousness of the people. Pundits further say one factor that has propelled the rising profile of the party is the personality of its governorship candidate, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, and his running mate, Dame Jessie Balonwu. There are insinuations that Okonkwo, who left the PDP after the outcome of the June 26 primary election of the party, which many party buffs say was not a true reflection of the feeling of the people, moved to ZLP with his PDP structure. According to political watchers, this may become a more telling reality on polling day as they expect the PDP structure to collapse for Okonkwo before November 6.
Analysts also say that Okonkwo’s personality as an astute businessman and entrepreneur, who has created businesses and employed a horde of workers including Anambra people, stands him out as the best among the top four contenders. Okonkwo is the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines as well as The Dome Entertainment Limited among other companies. He is the only one among the top four contenders with such credential. He has also approached Anambra with a 10-point development agenda for the state.
A philanthropist per excellence, Okonkwo represents a most positive value in Anambra politics. With Dame Balonwu, who is seen as a political amazon and leader of women in Anambra North, Okonkwo and ZLP look good to clinch the top job. Political watchers in the state also say that Okonkwo is the only one among the top four who is in the race without either skeletons or legal challenges to his nomination. He also comes to the race with a support base that cuts across institutions, professionals and trade unions, academia, artisan etc.
His likely challenge is that the party is relatively unknown in the state but people are already singing that “what matters in this election is the candidate not his party.”
For the PDP, dispassionate analysts say its involvement in the November 6 Anambra election may just be academic. This, according to them, is because the party’s ticket, held by Valentine Ozigbo, is laced with legal land mines that promise to make his journey into politics end painfully. According to party insiders, the PDP ticket is challenged on all fronts such that even if the party emerges victorious at the polls, it still may not be in power because outcome of the several suits challenging the legality of the primary election that produced the candidate, may be more devastating. Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu, in his Thursday Homily column in Daily Sun, hit the nail on the head on the subject matter. In an article titled ‘Anambra PDP: Not yet party time’, the columnist stated that “Genevieve (a contestant in the June 26 primary) approached a high court seeking an order restraining Ozigbo from parading himself as PDP candidate on the grounds that the conduct of the primary election did not meet statutory requirements of the constitution of the PDP for the conduct of primary elections. Beside Genevieve, there are other stakeholders, specifically, statutory delegates of the PDP, who had also gone to court seeking an order cancelling out the June 26 primary election on same grounds of having not complied with the statutory requirements of the constitution of the PDP. These are where the hurdles are.”
However, watchers of political developments in Anambra say that the biggest problem confronting the party is the suffocating image of Ozigbo’s godfather, Peter Obi. According to them, Obi has hijacked the PDP against the expectation of the majority of party members and elders. There are insinuations that the ex-governor would not be able to deliver Ozigbo having failed in previous attempt to install Oseloka Obaze also on the platform of the PDP. “Why would Anambra people allow Obi install another governor in the state. Was it not him that brought Obiano? If his handpicked successor failed, what guarantee does anyone have that this one will not be a worse disappointment? Remember that he hijacked the party and tried to install his surrogate, Oseloka Obaze. How did it end? Was he able to win Anaocha his local government area? Was Obaze able to win in Ogbaru? This too will fail because the elders and members of the party are not with him”, one of the analysts said.
It is not known how far Ozigbo’s goodwill and curriculum vitae could push his aspiration.