Politics of 2023: The gathering storm in Anambra
•As permutations begin with Kogi, Bayelsa, Edo Ondo gov elections
With the off-season elections in Kogi, the fast approaching politics of 2023 may actually have begin, MICHAEL OVAT writes that some off-season on the politics of godfatherism playing out in the state in the struggle for relevances in 2023.
THE 2019 elections might have come and gone, but the dust raised by the events is yet to settle. The two biggest presidential candidates in the election, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have just wrapped up months of legal fireworks over the polls and wait anxiously on the election petition tribunal to dispense justice in the dispute.
Similarly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which conducted the disputed elections, has also been reviewing the activities of its personnel, adhoc and permanent, not only against the backdrop of the criticisms that trailed the polls from international groups such as the European Union observers, but also on how operational efficiency can be better enhanced ahead of the next general electoral outing.
Amid all this, the citizenry looks up to governing All Progressives Congress (APC) at the centre for the implementation of its next Level agenda and how it will improve their living conditions as well as fortify the flagging economy.
But for the political class, the 2023 game is on. Consequently, politicians have busied themselves with angling for strategic positioning ahead of the elections and are already plotting various graphs on how to achieve success and outsmart the opposing camps, looking beyond issues of governance.
The tone of the 2023 elections is more than likely going to be set with the outcome of the off-season governorship elections holding in Kogi, Bayelsa, Ondo, Edo and Anambra between now and 2021. In each of these states, a flurry of political activities has been set in motion by those willing to unseat incumbent governors, just as the governors seeking reelection are not slacking in making deft political moves to neutralise the strategies of the opposition camps.
In Kogi, Governor Yahaya Bello has formidable opponents within his own party, APC, and the biggest opposition party in the state, PDP. The governor has harvested a couple of endorsements from groups, but there are those who have come out openly to describe such moves as amounting to a nullity in view of their perception of the performance of the governor in the last four years. APC’s candidate in the election held in 2015, Idris Abubakar, died before the results were announced and was replaced by Yahaya Bello who emerged victorious at the polls. The November 16 election provides an avenue for Bello to prove his electability. The PDP leadership has expressed willingness to prune down the list of aspirants so as to ensure the emergence of a candidate that will be strong enough to pull the rug out from under Bello.
The opposition APC is approaching the November 16 election differently in the oil-rich Bayelsa State. The leader of the opposition in the state and former governor, Timiprey Sylva, has been nominated as minister from the state in a move made described as strategic to the election. The governing PDP is not taking the challenge posed by Sylva’s appointment with kid gloves. Governor Seriake Dickson, who is concluding his second term and hopes to continue the tradition of having the state governed by the PDP, has met with aspirants to drive in them the gospel of unity ahead of the polls.
With the visit of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State to the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, watchers of political developments are waiting to see if the ‘war of the gods’ over the governor’s second term will come to an end soon.
Politics of godfatherism ahead 2021, 2023
In Ondo State where governorship election is also due next year, the visit of a national leader of APC and former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, appears to have doused initial tension in the APC. But cleavages along political camps have re-emerged after Senator Tayo Alasoadura emerged the ministerial nominee from the Sunshine State.
In Anambra State, politics of godfatherism has, since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, remained part and parcel of the game. It is a few individuals that are controlling different political camps.
So, the 2019 general election in the state, indeed, proved bookmakers wrong when political parties’ permutations did not turn out as expected.
Some of the old warlords demonstrated that they still had what it takes to dictate the direction as well as draw a political map of the forthcoming 2021 governorship election in the state. The outcome of the general election also had new power brokers like Honourable Johnbosco Onoukwo, who is among those clamouring to take over from the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, whose tenure is expected to lapse on March 18, 2022, under the All Progressives Congress (APC). The serving House of Representatives member for Anambra East/West federal constituency is on the ticket of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
There is also Honourable Chinedu Obidigwe, who rumour within his party has it that is now the deciding factor of who becomes leader in APGA across the five states of Igboland.
Also, there are Honourables Peter Nwosu, Tony Nwoye and Chris Azugbu, another serving House of Representatives member representing Nnewi North/South on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who a source in the party told Sunday Tribune that a former governor of the state and vice presidential candidate of the party in the last elections, Mr. Peter Obi, is positioning to fly the party’s flag come 2021. All of these are determined to continue to be relevant for a long time in the scheme of things in the state.
During the last elections, they deployed every arsenal in their armoury, in their bid to emerge victorious. But at the end of the contest, like in any other battle, there were casualties in some polling units across the state. The veterans showed their resilience and new powerbrokers emerged.
The joint force of both the old and new political game planners is what makes the electoral process an interesting one in Anambra State, where some of the stakeholders like Senator Andy Uba of the APC and his younger brother, Chief Chris Uba of the PDP held sway. Analysts say they had their chances in the 2019 senatorial election for Anambra South senatorial district, but that the chances were snatched away by the candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Senator Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah.
The APC also, despite its stronghold at the national level, could not win a single seat at the state and National Assembly elections. The elections also witnessed the failure of Senator Andy Uba, a two-term senator for Anambra South district. He lost to Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of YPP.
Dr. Chris Ngige, who is the leader of the APC in the state, also lost the presidential election and his federal constituency of Idemili North and South to the APGA; and he equally lost Anambra Central district election to the PDP, led by Senator Uche Ekwunife.
Despite the perceived control APGA had in Anambra North senatorial district where Obiano comes from, the PDP candidate, Senator Stella Oduah, was returned against expectations that former deputy governor, Chinedu Emeka of APGA, would emerge victorious.
Similarly, the only APGA senator and former national chairman of the party, Sir Victor Umeh, lost to the PDP candidate, Ekwunife, in Anambra Central district.
On the whole, the PDP won two senatorial seats, while both the APC and APGA had none. The PDP won five House of Representatives seats, while APGA won seven. In the state House of Assembly, APGA won 24 seats, while the PDP got six. APC had none.
Since after the elections, these political parties have commenced heavy political horse-trading towards the 2021 gubernatorial election in the state.
APGA and zoning crisis
The rotation of the gubernatorial seat of Anambra State is seen as the brain child of the ruling APGA and not the consensus of stakeholders currently the touted possible candidate of the party from Anambra South, Professor Charles Soludo, who is already having challenges within the party, as about three strong are said to be gubernatorial hopefuls. These include Obiano’s Special Adviser on Petroleum Matters, Honourable Peter Nwosu. They are said to be determined to wrest the ticket from him.
At the moment, Governor Obiano is said to be at the centre of the storm, as chieftains of the party feel that the choice of Soludo may not win the election in a contest with the two major opposition parties, the PDP and APC.
Similarly, the lingering face-off between former national chairman, Chief Umeh, and the current national chairman, Victor Oyeh, has also deepened the crisis in APGA. This may not have been unconnected with the manner the last party primary elections were conducted. The aspirants who were reportedly shortchanged are said to be ganging up against the governor and the national chairman is alleged to be remotely fuelling the crisis.
Also, the choice of a running mate for who will be APGA’s candidate is said unsettling the party, as there are reported plans to pick a running mate from Anambra North senatorial district, if not from the governor’s local government area.
PDP’s consolidation agenda
The victory of the PDP in the last general election appears to be the tonic that is driving the party’s come back plot to Anambra Government House in Awka. The party is said not to be tinkering a zoning arrangement already in place in the state, but the caliber of the candidate that will fly its flag in the 2021 governorship election. PDP is said may pick its candidate from Anambra Central district and the likes of Senator Ekwunife; former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka; and Chris Azugbogu are being considered. Though the state chairman of the party, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, told our reporter that it was too early to make preparations, the party’s body language speaks volumes of its underground plan. Possibly, it is still waiting for the position of former Governor Obi, who is the leader of the party in the state.
The party is also believed to be cashing in on the cracks in the wall of APGA to win defectors from ruling party in Anambra State, particularly those who were said to have been shortchanged by APGA during its last primary elections. Some said they have been talking with the PDP in a bid to whittle down the hold of APGA before the commencement of the 2021 gubernatorial poll.
Gladiators and their burden
The 2019 election in the state remains the bane of gladiators and stakeholders in the Anambra political circles. The like of self-styled godfather, Chief Chris Uba, and his elder brother, Senator Andy, are currently licking their wounds, following their failure at the senatorial election. They were dusted by another political heavyweight in the YPP, Ifeanyi Ubah, who it has been said will likely take a shot at the governorship election when the time is ripe. Ubah has seven local government areas in his kitty, out of the 21 available. Andy Uba, no doubt, may try his luck once again to get the ticket of APC, but winning the ticket and the election is a different issue. Senator Ngige is, indeed, neck-deep in tackling the anger of his party members in APC and it has been said that it is not likely that the presence of Vice-President Osinbajo in the matter would help matters. Ngige now has to battle with Mrs. Sharon Ikeazo who is also a minister-designate from Anambra State. She is also being touted to emerge as candidate of the APC in the 2021 governorship election.
Party members, during a stakeholders’ meeting held in Awka recently, where Osinbajo declared that the party was ready to take over from the ruling APGA, contended that Ngige had not been carrying them along; and they
preferred the leadership of Dr. Tony Nwoye, their former gubernatorial candidate; and Ikeazor, who they said they felt were capable of taking the party to the next level agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Meanwhile, in APGA, the Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu influence is, indeed, suffering major setbacks, since the face-off between the late politician’s wife, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu; and Governor Obiano, which may explain why Emeka Ojukwu Jr returned to APGA in place of Bianca. But it has been observed that the late Odimegwu-Ojukwu’s trump card may not better the lot of the party in the next election, unless issues are well addressed.
Mr. Obi’s silence about Anambra politics also said not to be golden and it is not clear the role he would play next. However, he appears to have the game-plan close to his chest.
What, indeed, is certain about Anambra politics is uncertainty; and despite the permutations inherent in the state’s politics, the gladiators, like Chief Arthur Eze, Chief Emeka Ofor and the Uba family, who have remained godfathers in the scheme of things, have the great challenge of proving bookmakers wrong.
A legal practitioner and a former Publicity Secretary, Atiku/Obi Presidential Campaign Organisation during the 2019 elections in Anambra State, John Okoli Akirika, while speaking with Sunday Tribune on the danger of godfatherism in politics, said the issue of godfatherism in Anambra State was a fading concept, but for the monitisation of politics by the current government and the ruling APGA. He said this resulted in the party’s fractious primary.
“Ndi Anambra value competence and place high premium on a person’s pedigree and antecedents. Consequently, in free and fair elections godfathered candidates do not win on their own,” he said.
However, he added that there was a dangerous perspective to the matter of using accusation of godfather interference as a devious subterfuge for misuse of state resources and non-performance on the part of the state government.
According to him, the trend by the aides of the ruling power in the state was to label “reasonable and justifiable criticism” as an attempt by godfathers to arm-twist the government.
He added that the truth and glaring reality on ground was that the government, which cannot justify “its profligacy and explain clear absence of verifiable achievements” is resorting to trumped up and imaginary actions of godfathers as “unavailing defence.”
Peter Nwosu, who is also aspiring for the number one seat in the forthcoming election, on his part, said APGA’s, decision to choose its candidate for the 2021 gubernatorial election from Anambra South senatorial district was sacrosanct.
Nwosu explained that APGA’s decision was predicated on its strong belief in the principles of justice, equity fairness and good conscience, adding that given the fact that Anambra Central and Anambra North senatorial districts had respectively had their turns of occupying the governorship seat of the state since 2003, it would be fair for Governor Obiano’s successor in 2022 to come from the South senatorial district, “without the intrigues of godfatherism.”
He pointed out that APGA’s constitution didn’t give room for godfathers, unlike other political parties in the state. The special adviser maintained that the zoning and rotation formula of APGA would continue to promote peaceful coexistence and harmonious relationship among the people of the three senatorial districts of Anambra State.
He disclosed that the restoration of peace and stability, in addition to the unprecedented delivery of democracy dividends by the APGA-led government in Anambra State in the past 13 years had endeared the party to the citizenry.
Also a political analyst and a chieftain of the APC in the state, Comrade Otimkpu Pascal Chizuba, who spoke with our correspondent on the issue of godfatherism in the state and Nigeria as a whole, said there had been “a lot of crisis in Nigerian politics and administration; a crisis of confidence in our elected officials; a loss of faith in our democratic government and an increasing frustration at government, and more also, an increasing frustration at the irrelevance of individuals’ vote in our political process.
“All these crises are caused by the unholy alliance of godfathers. This is creating a political process in which vested interests predominate; and public interest is
forgotten; and influencing the outcome of public policies for the interest of few (godfathers) and to the detriment of the Nigerian populace is rife.”
In this coming election, Chizuba said, the electorate should be allowed to vote for their preferred candidates during political parties’ primary elections and the main election, “without intimidation by political thugs who are part of the instruments of godfatherism. I believe godfatherism is gradually being eliminated in Anambra politics, with the latest experience being Obi versus Obiano.”
According to him, the APC, as a party, has a lot of chances in the coming election. The leadership of the party, led by Chief Basil Ejidike, he added, has taken a lot of proactive steps to reposition it, “which is a right step in a right direction.
“Also, the stakeholders of the party should unite. If there is unity in the APC in Anambra State, the sky will be the starting point.”