Nov. 2017 Gov election: The battle for the soul of Anambra

ARGUABLY, Anambra is the 8th most populated state in the country and the second most densely populated, after Lagos State. Historically, the state possesses a history that stretches back to the 9th Century AD, as revealed by archaeological excavations at Igbo Ukwu and Ezira. Perhaps, due to the sophisticated divine kingship administrative system that held sway in ancient Kingdom of Nri from 948 AD to 1991 and the power of money, the struggle for elective offices in the state has continued to attract attention.

If the electoral time table, as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is strictly adhered to, the people of Anambea State would file out by the end of November, to elect (or re-elect, as the case may be) a governor to direct the affairs of the state for another four years.

As it is, a league of prominent politicians in the state have indicated interest to contest the governorship election, even as none of them as at the time of going to press has been formally endorsed by their political parties as flag-bearers. A visit to Awka, the state capital, revealed that a good number of politicians have begun strategising and re-strategising ahead of November governorship poll.

Among the speculated top contenders for the number one political job in the state are the incumbent, Willie Obiano; Senators Chris Ngige, Andy Uba and Uche  Ekwunife; Dr Ifeanyi Ubah; Chief George Muoghalu; Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu; Honourable Tony Nwonye; Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo; Dr Chike  Obidigbo; Chief Godwin Ezeemo; Oseloka Obazee; former chairman, Local Government Service Commission, Dr Alex Obiogbolu; Sir Obinna Uzor, and  the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka,

Investigations revealed that while zonal politics will be played up, individual pedigree will largely determine who ascends the throne, party affiliation notwithstanding. Traditionally, Anambra is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-dominated state but its dominance filtered away when those who call the shots in the party could not manage their political differences, giving room to less fancy All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to occupy the seat of power.

It could be recalled that Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju won the governorship election in 1999, while Dr Chris Ngige who was then in PDP took over from him in 2003, but was stopped by Senator Andy Ubah who was eventually eased out by Peter Obi of APGA through the court. Today, events showed that the forthcoming governorship election is going to be dicey as major political parties in the state namely, APGA, PDP, the All Progressives Congress (APC) are expected to field-in their «first eleven players» for the contest.

Matthew Okechukwu, a public affairs analyst, said, “PDP may also have the advantage of re-engineering and re-organising its structures, following the exit of some power brokers who some political analysts believe were a bad reputation for the party in the state and the entry of Obi, popularly called Okwute”

The questions therefore are: is the defection of Obi to PDP not a minus to the APGA candidate as the former governor still wields high influence in the state? Will zonal politics be brought to the front burner?

To a school of thought, political calculations have changed since the last governorship election, making APGA a Lilliput in the state, given the travail of its ex-national chairman, Victor Umeh, who was one of the instruments that aided Obiano in his victory at the polls in 2013.

There is another theory that seeks to waive aside the import of Obi’s defection, insisting that politics is a game of number and that Obiano has carved a niche for himself. Those who believed in this school of thought are of the view that the discordant tunes in the PDP at the national level will invariably negatively affect the party›s fortune in the state.

Indeed, given the political complexity of the state, the election year is going to be a very busy one as the people would largely determine the fate of who will steer the ship of the state. The political parties in the state will feast on the aspirations of many politicians who will seek refuge in any of the 40 registered political parties to realise their ambitions.

According to some political analysts, the ruling party in the state, APGA, is going to do everything within its power to retain its seat as the ruling political party in the state known as the “Light of the Nation”. In the same vein, the opposition parties, especially PDP and APC, in their quest for power will also put up a fight to ensure that they send the ruling party parking from the government house.

Checks revealed that PDP, which is still quite strong in the state with majority of its members in the National Assembly, will use its structure to work very hard to win the election as part of its plan to bounce back before the 2019 general elections. On the other hand, APC, on its own part, will also try its best to ensure that it moved its change mantra train to Anambra State and use it as basis to make an in-road into the South East ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Already, the likes of Muogalu, Uba have made public their interests to join the governorship race. Muogalu said he would be contesting with the incumbent governor, boasting that he would defeat Obiano if his party, APC, offers him the ticket. Moghalu, who is from Anambra South Senatorial District said, by equity, it was the turn of the zone to produce the next governor of the state. Equity is about fairness. Anambra South did one-term tenure of four years under Mbadinuju and the position moved to Anambra Central under the leadership of Peter Obi and Senator Chris Ngige for 11 years.

“After 11 years, it moved to Anambra North, which one-term tenure Governor Obiano would soon complete. Equity and fairness require that the slot should come back to the Anambra South to do another four years before it becomes the turn of any other zone. That is equity; that is fairness; that is good conscience», he said.

Muogalu and his allies could be working on the theory that party affiliation will determine who rules the state for the next four years since formidable structure of a party in a state often depends on the politicians propelling the party, more so as there is no clear cut political ideology among political parties in the country.

It could be recalled that before the emergence of General Muhammed Buhari as the nation’s elected president in 2015, APC was believed to be visible only in Anambra Central where Ngige hails from, while APGA and PDP took the centre stage all over the state. However, considering the defection of political gladiators from outside Anambra Central into APC, the story has changed, making the party now a formidable force in the state.

Another school of thought postulates that Dr Tony Nwoye, a serving member of the House of Representatives and believed to be a political god-son of Chief Arthur Eze, might spring a surprise in the governorship poll, should he decide to run. Arthur’s financial muscle is an added advantage to Nwoye’s quest to rule the state. Both Nwoye and Governor Obiano are from Anambra North Senatorial District which could be a minus to the Nsugbe politician who was a first runner-up to Obiano in 2014 governorship election.

Andy Uba is still a strong force to be reckoned with in Anambra politics. The Anambra South politician and former domestic Aide to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo is expected to bring his experience to bear, having served the state for 17 days before he was eased out of office, via a court pronouncement.

There is a theory that if the APC leadership in the state can reache a consensus by bringing forward one candidate for the election, the party could coast home to victory, more so as PDP seems to have been weakened with the exodus of political gladiators like Arthur Eze, Chief Emeka Offor, Andy Uba, Uche Ekwunife and Nwoye.

But from the Obiano, the governor is of a strong belief that his policies and programmes will return him to power in November. Recently at the Government House, Awka, while presenting an award to the first prize winner of the 2016 Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, Mrs Ify Unachukwu, the governor restated that his administration would continue to cater for the welfare of the people, especially the civil servants in the state. Obiano maintained that what had been achieved by his government so far were as a result of the effective implementation of its economic blueprint and the cooperation of the people.

A large segment of the people of Anambra, including even some of those said to be eyeing the governor’s seat, agreed that Obiano’s performance is above average. For instance, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Soludo while recently delivering a lecture entitled, “Anambra: an emerging start-up state and our collective challenge” as part of activities marking Obiano’s three years in office at Governor’s Lodge, commended Obiano’s administration for consolidating on the achievements of the previous administrations as well as paving the way for continued growth and development of the state economy through the introduction of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative.

Indeed, the political tempo has heightened in the state with an open endorsement of the incumbent governor by the leadership of Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU). If the flamboyant ceremony at the Dr Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, last weekend, where members of ASATU from the 179 communities in the 21 local government area of the state converged to express their unalloyed support for the APGA-led administration can be used as a barometer to gauge the feeling of the people of the state, then Obiano is the man to beat in forthcoming governorship battle.

Another interesting twist is that religion is being played up in the state ahead the next governorship poll. However, some analysts are of the view that religion factor might not sway the decision of a large segment of the electorate, citing the perceived rift between Obiano and his immediate predecessor, Peter Obi, even when both are from Catholic denomination. Be that as it may, the picture of those vying for governorship seat in the state will be clearer with time as campaign for the electoral exercise is expected to kick off by mid-August 20.

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