From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
There is a mixture of hope, anxiety, fear, among others over this year’s Anambra State governorship election which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed for November 6 this year.
That election, when and if it holds as scheduled, would officially mark the beginning of the end of Chief Willie Obiano’s eight-year reign as governor.
Obiano came to power in 2014 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); and at the end of his first tenure of four years, he contested again and got re-elected for a second term.
So, whoever emerges the winner of the November 6 poll, all things being equal, would succeed him on March 17, 2022 or any other date that may be chosen for the handover to the new administration.
At the moment, there are uncertainties hovering over the all important election and who the winner could be. Although APGA is the ruling party in the state, it’s not yet very clear if it would succeed in its current efforts to retain power or not.
This is because a lot of things have changed in APGA since Obiano came to power. Most of the factors that enabled his emergence as governor in 2014 don’t seem to be there anymore.
Obiano first rode to Agu Awka on the back of his predecessor, Mr Peter Obi, who was the first governor APGA produced. Available reports show that Obi, alongside other leaders of the party including its former National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, picked Obiano, brushed him up politically and placed him on the state’s most powerful seat.
In fact, stories had it that Umeh, who later became a senator for Anambra Central Senatorial District, had outsmarted Obi when the issue of choosing his successor became a challenging one. The rest of the story is now history.
Although Obi was adjudged to have performed creditably well, installing Obiano as governor was observably quite challenging for him. This was because there were a number of political heavyweights with seeming enough financial power that contested in that poll too.
And given that it was a fresh election that would bring in a new governor other than the then occupier of that exalted office who was already finishing his second tenure, all persons interested in that post gave the contest a heavy fight.
But Obi was able to convince Ndi Anambra that his successor would perform like him; or even better. He told the electorate that if they loved his eight-year reign, they should be rest assured that Obiano whom he had worked with at Fidelity Bank Plc while he (Obi) was chairman of the bank would perform creditably well also.
Based on Obi’s excellent performance, APGA was able to retain power with Obiano as its second governor in the state and in the country as a whole.
But while he inherited the goodwill gathered by his predecessor, does Obiano have one to extend to the governorship candidate of his party, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo?
For this year’s poll, a number of political parties have fielded their candidates. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has Chief Valentine Ozigbo, Senator Andy Uba holds the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) has Dr Obiora Okonkwo as its standard bearer.
Chief Obinna Uzo is of the Social Democratic Party (SDP); Dr Godwin Maduka, Accord Party; Chief Nnamdi Nwawuo, People’s Redemption Party (PRP); and Obiora Agbasimalo is of the Labour Party (LP), among others.
These eminent personalities, without doubts, are qualified in their rights to govern the state. They have also been making efforts, the best they can, to reach out to the relevant stakeholders. But it’s only one person that would emerge after the poll.
APGA – The issues, impediments, chances
Like never before, APGA has witnessed a high degree of political turbulence since its history this year. Before its primary election on June 23, a committee of the party which screened the governorship hopefuls disqualified two of their three most popular aspirants.
The National Assembly member for Aguata Federal Constituency, Chief Chukwuma Umeoji, and the member representing Nnewi North Constituency in the state House of Assembly, Nonso Okafor, were disqualified for reasons many people have described as very odd and loose.
While Okafor has since dumped APGA for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Umeoji moved on with another faction of APGA where he emerged as a parallel governorship candidate of the party.
Although the legal battle that erupted over it has got to the Supreme Court, Soludo, as of today, is the candidate recognized by INEC following an Appeal Court ruling.
But would APGA be able to win the November 6 election considering the many challenges rocking it? Would the crises that led to the emergence of three factions and many aggrieved members finally sink the party?
One of the aggrieved members of the party, it was gathered, is Mrs Bianca Ojukwu, the wife of the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Her grievances against the party started in 2019 when the party denied her the ticket to contest Anambra South Senatorial Election. In fact, that largely contributed to the reasons why APGA lost to the Young Progressives Party (YPP).
Ifeanyi Ubah who went on to win the election with YPP’s ticket equally had issues with the party, particularly Governor Obiano who had allegedly promised to give him the same ticket Ojukwu’s wife was angling for in exchange for Ubah’s support when he was campaigning for second term.
Following Obiano’s alleged failure to honour the agreement, Ubah allegedly released an audio that was secretly recorded during their meeting said to have been held at the residence of Chief Cletus Ibeto, a billionaire businessman from Nnewi.
The governor had, while the matter raged, denied Ubah’s allegations through his Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba; describing them as untrue.
Many people had wondered why APGA which had recorded many successes in Ojukwu’s name denied his wife who was Nigeria’s ambassador to Spain the ticket to go to the Senate. They saw it as a brazen display of ingratitude.
Many people were not surprised when reports about Bianca’s absence at APGA’s campaign flag off held last Saturday in Awka, the state capital, went viral.
Her conspicuous absence at that all important campaign simply suggests that the peace-mending effort by the Chief Victor Umeh-led Peace and Reconciliation Committee of the party may not have started yielding the expected result.
Again, the reported friction between the former National Chairman of the party, Umeh, and his successor, Oye, may not be entirely over yet. Recall that the former had written a memo to the governor complaining about the latter’s handling of the sale of forms and other issues in Imo State in 2019.
Although the duo seemed to still shake hands today, those who have fair knowledge of the disaffection said that all was not yet well. They said that the two were keeping it low because of the upcoming election.
Recently, the state lawmaker, Okafor, dumped APGA alongside five of his colleagues and moved to the All Progressives Congress (APC). That development has further depleted APGA’s support base.
APGA’s current fate appears to have been worsened by the alleged poor performance of Governor Obiano. Many residents of the state have rated Obiano’s more than seven years in the saddle very low.
Even his predecessor who brought him to power had, at some point, apologized to Ndi Anambra. He said that he felt Obiano would perform creditably; and that was why he brought him to power. He said that he too was disappointed.
Some political pundits have advised Soludo to minimize his leaning on Obiano as many voters might see him as coming out to continue with Obiano’s perceived failures in some areas.
They argued that Soludo’s excellent performance at the CBN was enough to give him a smooth ride to the Government House in Agu Awka. To them, Soludo already has a name unlike Obiano who was not known before Obi made him governor.
At the moment, APGA can be said to have about 30 percent chances of winning the poll ahead of others. This is simply because it is the ruling party in the state with structures on ground. But how far the structure would go would be determined on November 6.
To win the election, the party would really need to pacify all its aggrieved members and get them to fully and sincerely participate in the campaigns.
The PDP and its chances
Like APGA, the PDP has had its own share of internal crises. Before its primary poll held on June 26, a faction of the party emerged at the state level. The new faction led by Sir Chukwudi Umeaba got the court to recognize it as the authentic leaders of the party in the state against the group led by Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu.
On the day of the primary, the national leadership of the party, having dissolved the two factions, organized a primary poll with some of their leaders in the state. They tagged them Super Delegates.
But while the poll which produced Chief Valentine Ozigbo was ongoing at Prof. Dora Akunyili Women’s Development Centre, Awka, Umeaba’s faction conducted its own in the premises of Paul University also in Awka; producing Senator Ugochukwu Uba.
Some legal fireworks erupted afterwards and as a result, INEC did not publish either of the names when it first published others. It cited court orders and counter orders emanating from the courts.
But it recently published Ozigbo’s name following an Appeal Court ruling in favour of his own faction of the party. Ugochukwu has not, however, dropped his struggle.
Spokesperson of his campaign organization, Uchem Obi, a lawyer, told Daily Sun recently that his principal, Ugochukwu, had gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling of the Appeal Court.
“We can only talk of the authentic candidate of the PDP after the Supreme Court decision. Anybody discussing the issue of PDP candidacy must take the above information into consideration.
“Calling Valentine Ozigbo the candidate of PDP is premature, even the INEC knows that. Let’s await the decision of the Supreme Court. Right now, it is 1-1. Uba and Ozigbo are both qualified for the final contest which will take place at the Supreme Court soon”, Obi said.
More than ever before, the PDP, as a party, has a very bright chance of winning this election. APGA seems to have provided it with a good chance to score considering Obiano’s alleged poor performance.
But if the internal crisis continues, the party which lost power in 2006 would remain out of power in more years to come. The then governor of the state, Dr Chris Ngige, was thrown out of office by the court.
It ruled that Mr Peter Obi who was the candidate of APGA in the 2003 governorship election was the winner of the poll; and therefore ordered that he should immediately be sworn in as governor.
Although the party came back to power for about 17 days through Andy Uba in 2007, the PDP has remained out of Government House ever since.
The party has, however, been fortunate with legislative elections in the state. It has won seats in the National Assembly and also in the state legislature.
Chairperson of the party’s campaign council in the state, Senator Uche Ekwunife, had told the party leaders in the state point blank that the party needs to reach out to its aggrieved members.
Ekwunife, during the inauguration of the members of the campaign council in Awka, the state capital, listed Chief Chris Uba and Linus Ukachukwu as some of the eminent persons which the party must reach out to if they are serious about the poll.
However, the candidate of the party, Ozigbo, appears loved by the people because of his seeming humility. Although he is not a career politician, Ozigbo has so far shown that he can satisfactorily pass some political examinations.
The immediate past President and Chief Executive Officer of TRANSCORP Plc, however, didn’t seem to have the political rope to tie down his party’s bigwigs; some of whom have defected to the APC.
Not long after he emerged as a candidate, a Board of Trustees (BoT) member of the PDP and former senator for Anambra North Senatorial Zone, Joy Emordi, dumped the party for the APC.
The current senator for the same senatorial district, Stella Adaeze Oduah, recently dumped the party for the APC. In that senatorial zone, Oduah is a force to reckon with.
With that, Ozigbo and his party would need to double their efforts to be able to win that senatorial zone particularly Ogbaru Local Government Area where she hails from.
The APC and the challenges ahead
Many people, particularly the All Progressives Congress (APC) aspirants, are still trying to understand what happened at the party’s primary election which produced Senator Andy Uba on 26th June this year.
The total rejection of the outcome of that primary poll presided over by Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State suggested that all was not well with the party. In fact, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who is supposed to be the leader of the party in the state, also rejected the outcome of the primary.
It is not expected that the aggrieved members of the party would support their governorship candidate to win. Sources said that already, the aggrieved aspirants were plotting to take their own pound of flesh on the election day.
Again, the unpopularity of the APC in the South East would pose a serious challenge to the party. The people of the geopolitical zone feel seriously marginalized by the APC-led Federal Government; and as such, it is not expected that many people would support the party.
In this election, Uba’s past would be examined. Many people allege that his eight years in the presidency while Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president and another eight years as a senator only benefited him and his household.
In fact, Soludo through the Deputy Director, APGA Campaign Media Directorate, Emeka Ozumba, told Daily Sun that Uba’s 16 years in the two positions were a total waste.
Although Obiano has been rated poorly, Soludo argued that “Ndi Anambra will be willing to have twice an Obiano than an Andy whose eight years in the presidency and another eight years in the Senate is unmitigated 16 years waste.”
Some members of the APC have boasted that their party would be deploying ‘a federal might.’ The calculation in some quarters is that may use the instrument of power at the centre to fight its way to Agu Awka. Some stretch the argument further that the FG may activate the option of going the Imo way through the courts.
ZLP and Obiora Okonkwo
The Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) was largely unknown before Dr Obiora Okonkwo, a billionaire businessman, joined it. Okonkwo joined the party following his unresolved grievances against his former party, the PDP.
The Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines had contested in the June 26 primary election of the PDP where he came second with 58 votes against Ozigbo’s 62.
Okonkwo has given the ZLP a new image; but that would not be enough to win the election. A lot of work would need to be done if the party really wants to win the poll.
It would need to strengthen its structures at the ward level to be able to favourably compete with APGA, PDP; and even the APC.
Okonkwo, a business tycoon and a well known philanthropist, is a grassroots politician who is believed to have what it takes to, not just win the election, but also govern the state well.
A onetime trader in Onitsha Main Market, Okonkwo is believed to have a good knowledge of the streets and can easily identify with the people and their challenges.
Also, the political economist is said to have the financial muscle to execute the election with ease.
With many PDP stakeholders reportedly still working for him secretly, Okonkwo has a bright chance of emerging the governor if the right things are done, and in time too.
Okonkwo’s philanthropy may also win him more support on the poll’s day as individuals and organizations including religious bodies that have benefited from him may wish to pay him back with votes.
To his advantage, ZLP, for now, is the last party on the ballot paper; and as such would not be too cumbersome to be located during voting.
Interestingly, Okonkwo, the Chairman of The Dome Entertainment Limited, has made it clear in several fora that he would not fail to implement every aspect of his 10-point development plan for the state if elected governor.
SDP and Obinna Uzor
Social Democratic Party (SDP) won the first governorship election in the new Anambra State with Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife although its reign was short-lived.
But after the return of democracy in the country in 1999, the party could not make it back to power as the newly formed PDP won that year’s poll with Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju. All efforts made by the party after then to return to power were fruitless.
Today, it has Chief Obinna Uzor as its governorship candidate. Interestingly, Uzor has unsuccessfully contested a number of elections in the state including senatorial elections.
At the moment, it not yet clear how Uzor intends to win the governorship poll that would take place in the 21 LGAs in the state when he could not pocket the votes in seven LGAs in his Anambra South Senatorial District.
Although the November 6 poll is fast approaching, there are no visible signs that Uzor is ready for the poll. Nothing has been heard about his campaign activities.
Chairman of his party in the state, Dr Webster Okonkwo, when asked about the preparedness of his party for the poll, said that the party leadership in the state was still waiting for their candidate to finish his arrangements.
With the poll less than two months away, it is not clear how much time Uzor and his SDP would need to start talking to Ndi Anambra through open campaigns on why their party should be given a chance to governance the state.
Accord Party and Dr Godwin Maduka
When he first declared his intention to run for the poll, not many took Dr Godwin Maduka seriously. Many people saw him more as an American returnee who has “too much money to throw about.”
Their verdict was understandable. Anambra is not a state where anybody comes around and wins election just because he has money. This is because many sons and daughters of the state are multibillionaires and millionaires.
Winning elections in Anambra requires more than having money. It requires being politically sagacious. It requires a lot of street wisdom. Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige, would add that one may also need to carry some ‘political bags’ for some masters.
Many political pundits believe that Maduka could not be found in any of those pictures aside from having a strong financial muscle to execute the election.
But he has since shown that he actually was serious for the poll. Not even his fruitless efforts to get the PDP’s ticket dampened his spirit. He quickly moved to the Accord Party which embraced him with open arms.
The governorship hopeful got only five votes in the June 26 primary poll of his former party where the winner Ozigbo went home with 62 votes.
So far, Maduka has been moving about, from place to place, telling Ndi Anambra about his ambition and what he intends to do for them if he emerges governor.
For many, what would actually count for the Accord Party candidate is his philanthropy which he has sustained over the years. There is no doubt that he has touched many lives in Anambra especially people at the grassroots.
However, the result of those efforts would be seen on November 6 when Ndi Anambra would decide who their next governor will be from among the candidates.