In this report, Michael Ovat, in Awka, writes on the November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra State, the chances of the contenders and their platforms, concluding that each of the five leading political parties face huge battles ahead of the poll.
EXACTLY one month from today, the people of Anambra State will be at the poll to determine who runs the affairs of the state for the next four years. The political gladiators are putting finishing touches to campaign activities to outwit one another at the poll with the five major parties in the race, the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), United People Party (UPP) and Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) embarking on serious and aggressive electioneering, mobilising and putting in last minute strategies.
Though about 35 political parties are contesting the November 18 governorship race in the state, indications have shown that only the five political parties are ready for the contest, though the rest are also making frantic efforts to be relevant but the other five have overshadowed them.
With all the scheming, mobilisation, rallies and campaigns by these political parties, analysts still believe that the five parties have strongholds where they can conveniently emerge as winner at the end of the day, and where they need to concentrate on to overturn events if really they are keen on winning the election.
As the battle over who will occupy the Agouka Government House in Anambra State heightens, Sunday Tribune highlights some of the five leading candidates.
Chief Willie Obiano (APGA)
The incumbent governor of Anambra State is contesting the race on the platform of APGA. He is among the few who had a smooth sail to the governorship tickets of their parties. The reason for this might be the fact that his party considered him as having performed creditably well in his first term in office. The party announced that it would not entertain anyone else vying against him for the slot and that was to be. Following its primary election on August 15, 2017 at the Dora Akunyilli Women Development Centre in Awka, the party under the national leadership of Sir Victor Oye, announced Obiano as its candidate for the governorship election.
The governor will have so many factors working in his favour in the election; these include his performance, power of incumbency and the financial war chest to successfully prosecute the election, among others. Obiano is considered as having performed well within three and half years in office as the governor of the state. Some of his achievements include the ongoing construction of an International Airport at Umueri, in Anambra North Senatorial District of the state, provision of infrastructure as could be seen in the construction of roads in various parts of the state and his effort to beautify the three commercial cities in the state, Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi.
His performance in various communities of the state, where he initiated the ‘choose your project initiative’, in which he empowers communities with N20million for them to name and build their own priority projects may have also contributed to the love of the people for him and their support for his reelection bid. This may have been part of the reasons he has received endorsement from several communities of the state, which have pledged their support for him. Associations of town unions have also held ceremonies to endorse him for his work in their communities. One of these was the Old Aguata Union (OAU), a political body headed by former Governor of Old Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife. The Farmers’ Association had also done same in view of what they described as his massive support for the agricultural sector.
Today, Obiano is widely known among civil servants as the alert governor, following what they noted has been his administration’s style of constantly paying civil servants their salaries as early as 25th of every month. Though some have argued that payment of salaries should not be seen as an achievement, as the governor is obligated to pay, the civil servants to whom the governor has constantly fulfilled this obligation appear to be appreciative of the gesture, especially at a time that some governors owe backlog of salaries spanning several months in other states. It might be for this reason that the civil servants in the state recently endorsed him for a second term in office, pledging to support and mobilise for him to win the November 18 governorship election.
Obiano’s strength going into the election is considered to be so strategic that even an APC chieftain in the state and Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, noted recently at a meeting of South-East stakeholders of his party that defeating the incumbent governor might not be easy. He enjoined members of his party to work hard to ensure that peace and cooperation reigned in the party, saying that remained the only way the APC could unseat the incumbent governor.
Another key strength of the governor is said to be his Anambra North root. Elders of APGA had, months ago, sat and agreed that power must remain in the northern zone of the state for it to complete the statutory two terms before power would rotate to the southern zone. The strategic appointment of the former national chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh, who has been in the party since it was founded 14 years ago, as his campaign’s Director-General has also been described as an added advantage. Umeh is seen as a grassroots politician who was instrumental in the victory of APGA for eight years under former Governor Peter Obi.
Governor Obiano is, however, not without a few weaknesses, which political observers in the state noted might be potent enough to affect his chances at the polls, if not well-managed. What many see as one of the major weaknesses of Obiano is his frosty relationship with the former governor of the state, Obi, who was instrumental in his ascension to power and is still very much loved by the people.
There are also some political baggage that goes with the incumbency factor, which include unmet expectations and political enemies created as a result of actions and government policies.
The current crisis in APGA, which led to the emergence of two gubernatorial standard-bearers, also appears to be the major challenge of the incumbent governor, as the Supreme Court has fixed December 14, 2017, to determine the fate of the two factional leaders, Victor Oye and Martins Agbaso. The two factions had produced two governorship candidates for APGA, with Oye’s faction electing Obiano as its candidate, while the Agbaso faction elected Dr. Igwebuike Ifeanyichukwu Hygers as its candidate. The two factions have continued to claim that their primary election was monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), heightening confusion in the ruling party in the state.
Tony Nwoye (APC)
Born on September 13, 1974, Nwoye attended the Metropolitan Secondary School, Onitsha, from where he proceeded to study medicine at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, and the Ebonyi State University where he qualified as a medical doctor.
Nwoye started his political career as a medical student where he functioned in different capacities as a leader. He became the National President of the National Association Nigerian Students (NANS) in December 2003.
In 2005, Nwoye became the Assistant Secretary of the Executive Committee of Anambra State PDP and by 2006, at the age of 33, became the chairman of the State Executive Committee of Anambra State PDP.
In 2013, he contested the governorship of the state on the platform of PDP where he came second to the incumbent governor. Nwoye is currently in the National Assembly, representing Anambra East/Anambra West Constituency.
Widely regarded as a strong grassroots politician, his calm and humble mien has been said to have endeared him to many people. Nwoye had, in a surprise primary election, beaten Senator Andy Uba, who is considered as his godfather who brought him to political limelight, to the APC’s governorship ticket a few months ago.
Other heavyweight politicians defeated by the relatively young but promising politician. Nwoye, included Chief George Moghalu, Mr Bart Nwibe, Chukwuma Paul, Mr Nonso Madu, Patrick Nwike, Obidigbo Chike, Dr Obinna Uzoh, Okonwko D., Onunkwo Johnbosco and Uchegbu Adoabi.
One of the greatest strengths of Nwoye is said to be the array of political bigwigs in the state who have lined up behind the APC. The leader of the party of the South-East, Dr. Jim Nwobodo had rallied the aspirants who lost out to support Nwoye to ensure the APC win.
Nwoye is from the same zone with Obiano and somehow appears more popular before the average Anambrian than the governor himself some political observers pointed out, noting that Nwoye has great acceptability and followership in the zone. The fact that as PDP chairman, he had midwifed the political victory and success of most grassroots and middle class politicians would count in his favour.
Another strong factor that can hardly be swept under the carpet is his connection with Prince Arthur Eze, who is widely believed to have given his blessings to his candidacy. The beneficiaries of Eze’s bounties are the foot-soldiers of Anambra politics and they indeed determine the fate of gubernatorial candidates, it has been said.
Also considered as a major strength of the APC candidate is the fact that he belongs to the party that is in control of government at the federal level, a development which observers maintained could ensure that federal might is deployed in ensuring his victory at the polls. As the party kicked off its campaign on Friday, the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; president of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki and several other Federal Government dignitaries stormed Awka with assurances of giving more attention to the state with an APC government in place, a move that political analysts noted might prove to be a master stroke for the APC in a state that has hitherto been considered as an opposition stronghold. Most of the aspirants on the platform of the APC were hoping that the presidency would press the right button for the state to be delivered to APC.
Nwoye is, however, not without his own Achilles’ heel. The Anambra electorate is among the most politically aware and is known to have resisted attempts by moneybags, security agents or thugs to rig elections. And, with a party like APC, it would be easy to start all over again to brand the party as a northern party, and discourage rural voters from voting for it. It is therefore being said that if APC will win Anambra, it might have to do extra work to get the people to believe in it. Nwoye’s choice of APC as a platform to contest the election might pose a big challenge, because an average Anambrian is said to have not yet come to terms with the party. Therefore, the ability to convince the electorate who perceive APC as an Hausa/Fulani party is a major battle he would contend with.
Secondly, Nwoye’s alleged link with a 2004 mayhem in the state, which he has on several occasions denied partaking in and from which the Justice Keazor Panel of Inquiry has exonerated him, may be another blackmail weapon to be deployed by his opponents against him.
Mr Oseloka Obaze (PDP)
An author, seasoned administrator and time-tested technocrat, Oseloka Obaze hails from Ogbaru Local Government in the northern part of the state. Obaze was the Secretary to the State Government under Mr. Peter Obi and was to succeed him before Obiano reportedly outsmarted him.
Obaze caused an upset in the PDP during the primary by defeating other more prominent politicians such as Capital Oil Managing Director, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah and Mr. Alex Obi-Ogbolu. Three other contenders, Senator Stella Oduah, John Emeka and Linda Ikpeazu ‘withdrew’ from the race at the peak of the exercise when Obaze was about to be declared winner.
Obaze, a diplomat from Anambra North Senatorial District, has a track record as a foreign service diplomat. He appears not to have been soiled by the murky waters of politics, especially when compared with desperate Nigerian politicians.
His disposition as a widely-travelled technocrat to not fewer than 64 countries, coupled with the administrative acumen he garnered having worked with various governments, a development which former Governor Obi noted was instrumental in the success of his government in the second four years, has also been considered as a strong advantage to Obaze’s ambition.
Similarly, the PDP platform he contesting on is considered as a major merit to him. PDP, which is arguably the most popular political party in Anambra State, has risen from the ashes of different factions, with a calibre of people forming a leadership that is said to have intimidating credentials in the state. Personalities like Prof. ABC Nwosu, Mrs. Josphine Anenih and Linus Ukachukwu, who form the crop of leaders in the state, are said to be great assets to Obaze. The return of the first set of councillors, local government chairmen of 1999 and legislators of both state and national assemblies, has restored life to the PDP.
Also, Obaze’s Anambra North root will help push his aspiration, just as his personality as a former United Nations official would too. He is known to be highly read, and also very cerebral, and has the backing of the former governor of the state, Obi, who is gradually assuming the position of a kingmaker in Anambra after defying all odds to install Obiano in the first tenure. The presence of Peter Obi in the diplomat’s campaign train, which took place at All Saint Cathedral Onitsha on Monday, 16 October, 2017, was said to be a strategic move that could win the support of the people of the state, who still love Obi. Analysts have maintained that Obi’s antecedents as a perfect and calculative schemer, who understudies the political terrain of all the nook and cranny of state, cannot be underestimated.
However, one factor that has remained doubtful is Obaze’s financial capacity to prosecute the election, but that might be easily overcome, as a source recently told Sunday Tribune that PDP governors are bent on making a political statement, using the Anambra election as a subliminal message by rallying round the party’s candidate for the election.
Also, Obaze’s disconnect from the grassroots, occasioned by his past assignments, which had always taken him out of the state and the country, is a big minus which his opponents could easily cash on. Luckily for him, however, his performance as Secretary to the State Government, a position he occupied for six years, appeared to have increased his acceptability among the electorate.
The Peter Obi connection can as well be a minus to Obaze’s candidature as many no longer seem to be comfortable with godfatherism in Anambra State. For them, his success in imposing Obiano on the state might not work this time round.
Godwin Ezeemo (PPA)
If Nigerian politics had been played in an ideal way, most people in Anambra State would have identified Ezeemo as the best man to occupy the number one position in the state. A philanthropist, farmer, publisher, entrepreneur and manufacturer, Ezeemo is one of the biggest investors in the state. He prides himself as the only candidate who has impacted on the state the most with his investments.
He hails from the Southern part of the state and is the only aspirant for the governorship position, who challenged the zoning of the governorship seat to the North. His argument was that his zone has only had a shot at the governorship seat once, and that having been there before the northern zone, it was pertinent for the zone to take a second term before the North, which produced Obiano, should be allowed to go for another.
Ezeemo, who is contesting on the platform of the PPA, a party formed by a former governor of Abia State, who is now a chieftain of the APC, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, in 2007, once told journalists that as much as people believed that he would make a good governor, they were concerned because his party had been less-rated.
He, however, said he was sure that the people of the state would vote for personality and not party, and that placed side by side with all the other candidates, he was sure to beat them as he has a proven track record of achievements outside office.
Ezeemo could benefit from what political analysts have described as a sympathy vote, as he has had the experience of contesting in the past. He might also benefit from the internal conflicts in the PDP and APGA while his party is unencumbered by similar developments.
Ezeemo also enjoys strong grassroots support in Anambra South Senatorial District where he comes from.
However, the task of becoming the next governor of the state might seem an uphill task for Ezeemo, as his weaknesses included the claim that apart from being inexperienced as a politician, his party’s structure appears to be relatively weak and could not boast of the leading political figures and personalities needed to garner massive support across the nooks and crannies of the state.
Ezeemo’s financial capacity is also a source of worry to analysts, as they have noted that he might not have enough money to prosecute the election in which money might be a huge factor. According to analysts, Ezeemo is battling with different political principalities and financial warlords in the other leading parties. With the APC banking on federal might, the APGA has the power of incumbency while the PDP still has people it could rally together to raise funds, thus, Ezeemo might not be able to muster enough strength to beat them all to win the governorship contest unless something drastic happens in the major parties’ camps, the analysts said. They noted, however, that nothing can be ruled in politics.
Chief Osita Chidoka (UPP)
The young, suave, smart and debonair former Minister of Aviation, who is also a former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corp, is contesting the governorship election on the platform of United Progressives Party (UPP). Chidoka showed his strength weeks back, when he clinched the party’s ticket, beating Hon. Chudi Offodile, a former member of the House of Representatives.
Chidoka, like Ezeemo, is not also known to have any godfather. He told Sunday Tribune recently that he was vying on the power of idea, having been convinced that there was need to move the state forward. His performances at the FRSC and the Ministry of Aviation have been applauded by many, and he recently stated that he was coming to change things for the better in the state.
Chidoka is from Anambra Central zone, which produced the duo of Dr. Chris Ngige and Mr. Peter Obi as governors, a development that might work against his emergence as governor. Sunday Tribune gathered that the refusal of the PDP to field a candidate from anywhere other than Anambra North was the reason Chidoka moved to the UPP. But Chidoka, while making remarks after his nomination to fly the flag of the party, said he had the solution to the constant agitation for a sovereign state, and that he would end such agitation with good governance.
The former minister is said to have strong political structures across the state as a former minister and PDP member. He is also said to have a strong financial base that could match that of other candidates in the major parties in the contest, while he has also been tipped to benefit from a sympathy vote from the PDP and other parties.
However, his UPP gained popularity after a faction of IPOB, through its political arm, Movement of Biafrans in Nigeria (MOBIN), supported it, but Chidoka’s hope of becoming governor might have dimmed further with the withdrawal of group’s support from the party in protest after what it described as the rigging of the party’s primary.
Also, while Chidoka might garner a large number of votes in Anambra Central, many electorate in the northern and southern zones of the state, who are in support of zoning arrangement instituted by the traditional rulers, elders and other kingmakers in the state, might turn him down.
As the state inches closer to the election, watchers of political developments have pointed that different scenarios would unfold which would strengthen or weaken platforms, confer advantage on candidates and deepen the political discourse in the state, noting that in the end, the party that is able to reach out to the electorate outside its party the most, might carry the day.