Voters in Anambra State will on Saturday, November 18, choose from the 37 candidates of different political parties who is best situated to be their governor for another four years
By Olu Ojewale
IN a week’s time, Anambra State electorate are going to exercise their franchise to elect a candidate of their choice to lead the state for another four years. The governorship contest in the state slated for Saturday, November 18, is something that will divert attention to the state on the day as no fewer than 37 political parties are fielding candidates for the election.
As the count-down begins in earnest, Anambra State is now politically charged with all manners of jingoism and manoeuvring as the political field is fraught with a lot of activities of different dimension and colouration. It has also put Governor Willie Obiano, the incumbent, on his toes and he has been kept busy with campaign rallies across the state, receiving chieftancy titles, commissioning and promising projects to communities as he battles opponents to get elected for a second term in office.
With the election rapidly approaching, Obiano definitely has some 36 other contestants to beat for him to return to the state house. The list of candidates released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Wednesday, September 27, in Abuja, indicated that 37 political parties would be presenting candidates in the governorship election scheduled for November 18.
The commission, in a statement by Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, its director of Publicity, released a list of the candidates, with five women vying for the governorship seat. The list also have eight others vying for the office of deputy governor.
The candidates included Obiano, the incumbent governor, with Nkemakonam Okeke, his deputy, contesting under the flag of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. On the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is Oseloka Obaze with Chidi Onyemelukwe, a woman, as his running mate.
There is Tony Nwoye of the All Progressives Congress, APC, with Dozie Arinze, a woman, as his running mate. Others on the list are Nwezi Amechi and Njideka Okeke, a woman, as his running mate, for All Grand Alliance Party, AGAP. Oby Okafor and her running mate Onyekwuluje Uzoma, as candidate for Advanced Congress of Democrats, ACD, also made the list.
Osita Chidoka, a former minister of Aviation, is carrying the flag of United Progressive Party, UPP, with Okeke Ogbonnaya as his running mate.
The rest of the political parties with candidates on the list include Alliance Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN; African Democratic Congress, ADC; Action Alliance, AA, and Action Democratic Party, ADP. Others are APDA, African People’s Party, APP; Better Nigeria Progressive Party, BNPP; Democratic Alternative, DA; Democratic Peoples Congress, DPC; Green Party of Nigeria, GPN; Hope Democratic Party, HDP, and Kowa Party.
The Labour Party, LP, as well as Masses Movement of Nigeria, MMM; Mega Progressive Peoples Party, MPPP; National Democratic Liberty Party, NDLP, and United Democratic Party, UDP, also have candidates.
Candidates of National Conscience Party, NCP; New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP; Nigeria Peoples Congress, NPC; National Unity Party, NUP, and People for Democratic Change, PDC, would similarly contest. Also listed as parties with candidates are the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA; Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN; Peoples Redemption Party, PRP; Social Democratic Party, SDP; and United Progressive Party, UPP.
The rest are Young Democratic Party, YDP, and Young Progressive Party, YPP.
The commission, in the statement, also disclosed that it had approved the applications of 44 observer groups, comprising 38 domestic and six international groups, to observe the election.
Notwithstanding the large number of candidates in the race for Anambra State’s plum job, which, perhaps, the highest yet in the state elections in Nigeria, it seems the race has been narrowed down to a contest of the three main political parties and their candidates namely, Governor Obiano of the APGA; Obaze representing the PDP, and Nwoye of the APC.
Although it is generally believed that both the PDP and APC, which are the major opposition parties in the state have the financial muscles to dislodge Obiano from office, but both parties appear to be engulfed in crisis emanating from the primaries held to elect their flag-bearers, which stands to jeopardise their chances at the coming election.
According to available information, Nwoye is not receiving the necessary support from chieftains of the party to enhance his chances. One of his major obstacles is Andy Uba, a senator, who lost to Nwoye in the primaries election, has allegedly refused to work for the success of the party ahead of the polls.
Irked by his inconsolable behaviour, Nwoye did not hesitate to tell the media recently that Uba was the only aggrieved person in the party after the primaries which he won to clinch the APC ticket. “Nobody is aggrieved; the only person who is aggrieved is Dr. Andy Uba. He was my boss; then he is the only person that was aggrieved, he is still aggrieved. I went severally (to meet with him), he refused to see me; I made phone calls, he refused to see me. What would you want me to do?” he questioned.
Nevertheless, Nwoye expressed confidence that he would be able to deny Obiano a second term in office, despite the strength of the APGA in the state. He claimed that the orchestrated blackmail against him by the ruling APGA party aptly showed that the party was afraid of him. “APGA is afraid of me, that is why they have been manufacturing propaganda.
APGA is a strong party to beat but we believe that when we get the support of my people we are going to beat them,” he said.
Facing a similar problem is Oseloka Obaze, the PDP candidate and a former secretary to Anambra State government. Since his emergence as the party candidate, he has not been able to enjoy the full support of the PDP hierarchy in the state.
In fact, some analysts said his emergence had only created a big gulf in the party as some of the aspirants in the party primaries and their supporters have decided to pitch their tent with Obiano of the APGA. Prominent among those that have reportedly pitched tent with the Obiano is Ifeanyi Uba, an oil magnate. Uba, who was one of the strong contenders in the PDP primaries that produced Obaze, has never hidden his disgust for the conduct of the primaries, which he alleged was not free and fair. This has prompted some members of the party to defect to the ruling APGA.
Besides, Obaze was said to have been imposed on the party by Peter Obi, an immediate former governor of Anambra Sate, who crossed the carpet to the PDP shortly after leaving office as an APGA candidate. The move was seen in some quarters as a betrayal of the ruling party, hence some of those who disapproved of Obi’s tactics decided to leave the party for APGA. In the same vein, reports also indicated that some of the PDP governorship aspirants who chose to remain in the party have also refused to campaign for him. Instead, they are said to be campaigning for Obiano, some openly, and others, privately.
That notwithstanding, Obaze seems to have secured the support of the political family of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and one of the founding fathers of the PDP, when he picked a daughter of the elder statesman as his running mate.
It was reported that before Obaze picked Alexandria Chidi Onyemelukwe as running mate and his current health challenge, Ekwueme had declared his support for Obiano. But once his daughter was chosen as the deputy governorship candidate, the elder statesman now started urging all Anambra people to support the PDP candidate. “I am calling on all Anambra people to support the winning team of Obaze and my daughter Chidi, because they are good candidates. Anambra State is a PDP state from inception. We shall now continue with PDP. Time has come for us to take away power from APGA,” Ekwueme said.
Despite the support, Anambra Grassroots Movement, AGM, a faction of the PDP, which made up of original PDP members, reportedly claimed that Obaze was not a registered party member and consequently should be replaced with one of the aspirants.
Speaking on behalf of the group at a rally, Kenneth Emeakayi said: “We are calling on the PDP leadership to do the needful. There are credible and qualified members of PDP. Stella Oduah, John Emeka, Linda Ikpeazu, Alex Obiogbolu and Ifeanyi Ubah all bought forms and contested. We are calling on the national leadership of the PDP to choose from any of the five. Any of them chosen will be a legitimate candidate of the party.”
Many political pundits believe that because of the crisis rocking the two main opposition parties in the state, Obiano remains a formidable candidate to beat in the November 18, governorship election in Anambra State.
Prominent among his supporters are Chukwuma Soludo, a former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN; Bianca Ojukwu, widow of the late Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, an elder statesman; Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the first civilian governor of the new Anambra State; Virgy Etiaba, a former governor of Anambra State who once served as a deputy to Obi, and Emeka Sibeudu, who was also a deputy governor to Obi, among others.
The governor is also reported to enjoy the endorsement of Cosmas Maduka, the versatile industrialist, and Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Car manufacturers.
Apart from that, Soludo has described Anambra as a fast growing economy with vast enabling opportunities in a public endorsement of what Obiano has been able to accomplish for the state.
Soludo, who said this in October at Saint Mary’s Field, Nnewi, Nnewi South Local Government Area, said the Obiano administration was driven by vision. He noted that the vision of the administration was aimed at making the state the first choice investment destination and the most preferred location to site new industries.
Addressing a mega rally of the APGA, the former governor of the CBN said: “From my analysis, the administration of Governor Obiano has stabilised the economy of this state. Very soon, Anambra will be among the fifth largest economies in the world.
“This can only be achieved by creating the enabling environment for investors to come, thereby making the state the hub for industrialisation. I give credit to APGA government for this vision. Obiano is a man with high level of humility, endowed with divine wisdom, full of administrative ideas and political prowess to transform the state to global height.”
Also, Akai Egwuonwu, the executive producer, Anambra Rice, stressed that Obiano administration had increased commercial production of rice, and other farm produce.
Egwuonwu said the investment of the present government in agriculture enabled export of tubers of yam and vegetables to the United States, and had surpassed rice consumption capacity of the state.
Bianca Ojukwu, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Spain and widow of former Biafran warlord, the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, urged the people of Anambra State to support Obiano for a second term in office. Bianca, who has been seen at many campaign rallies of the APGA reminded the electorate the governor being the flag bearer of the APGA represents the main Igbo party and legacy left behind by her late husband.
Notwithstanding the support and power of incumbency he enjoys, Obiano is not without challenges.
The division in the APGA reared its ugly head again recently when Ifeanyi Igwebuike, who emerged as candidate of the APGA faction, dragged Obiano to a federal high court in Abuja, praying the court to issue an order of interim injunction restraining the INEC from recognising the governor as candidate of the APGA, which the court declined.
Apart from showing that there is leadership crisis within the party, it also served as a reminder that two candidates actually emerged from the party for the same scheduled governorship poll.
Obiano won the primaries conducted by the Victor Oye-led faction of the APGA, while Igwebuike emerged candidate of the Martin Agbaso – led faction of the party.
The governor does not also have the support of Sylvester Nwobu-Alor, a founding member of APGA, and chairman of the party’s Stakeholders Forum. Nwobu – Alor is backing Obaze, the PDP candidate for the governorship seat.
Defending his position, APGA chieftain said he withdrew his support for Obiano because he surrounded himself with the wrong people who continuously feed him with wrong advice.
“Oseloka Obaze is the right man to lead the state. He is very well introduced; he is a calm, collected, intelligent and committed person. With him on seat, we can turn Anambra State around. That is my stand on this issue,” Nwobor-Alor said.
Besides the opposition of renegade party chieftains, another huddle that may plague Obiano’s re-election bid is an allegation making the report that he threatened Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and that he was part of those who worked for the federal government to detriment of the separatist group.
The governor’s campaign group has fingered Peter Obi, his predecessor, as being behind the negative campaign to ensure his defeat at the election.
Ironically, it was Obi who anointed Obiano and worked tirelessly to get him elected as his successor when he finished his tenure in office in 2013. Even as the story goes, Obiano and Obi were friends before they joined politics having served together on the board of a Nigerian bank. Prior to leaving office Obi encouraged Obiano to return to Nigeria and campaigned for him to succeed him as the governor of the state under the platform of the APGA.
But shortly after Obiano’s assumption of office, things fell apart leading to Obi’s defection to the PDP. Little wonder that Obi is now siding with Obaze, his former secretary to the state government, to unseat Obiano as governor.
Before then, Obi had accused his successor of non-performance and frittering of billions of naira he met in the state’s coffers, but Obiano alleged that the former governor was working against him because he refused to give him N7 billion he allegedly claimed to have spent on Obiano’s election.
Obi has denied the allegation, saying that the crux of the matter was that he left N25billion in government coffers and which Obiano frittered away. “I left N25 billion in the savings of the state and set aside N48.626 billion for important projects. The present government received N185 billion and between April 2014 and September 2017 the state received the sum of N109.9 billion from Local Government allocation. What have they done with the money?” he asked.
But Oliver Okpala, senior special assistant on to the governor on Media and Strategic Communication, said in a statement that the former governor by making the statement had again exposed himself to public ridicule, odium and contempt.
“It is shameful for Obi to be lying so openly and playing on the intelligence of the people of Anambra State. Governor Obiano has not only exceedingly surpassed what he met on the ground by completing most of the existing projects, he has gone ahead to embark on very strategic projects,” he said.
Okpala insisted that the real crux of the matter was not bad governance but the proceeds of godfatherism which Obiano has reportedly refused to pay to Obi.
He said: “This is the reason for Obi’s sudden negative turn against Governor Obiano. The governor’s refusal to pay the N7 billion he claimed to have expended on his election is the bone of contention. This is the financial disagreement which is fuelling this sudden bad blood.
“Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah confirmed this during a recent interview and challenged Obi to a public debate. Obiano has said he would not pay and that there is no room for godfatherism in Anambra.”
On the governor’s alleged threat to Kanu and support to the federal government clampdown on the IPOB, Chinedu Obigwe, APGA Media Warriors Forum, denied the charge saying: “It is not in Governor Obiano’s character to threaten people because he is a man of peace.”
Even as the date of election draws near, it remains very clear that the contest will be based on a number of factors, which only the electorate can use as the yardstick for their support.
In any case, the likes of Chuks Iloegbuna, a former adviser to Obi, have nothing but kudos for Obiano. He said: “Obiano has restored peace and stability of an Anambra State previously reduced to criminal fiefdom, as Chinua Achebe put it. He has transformed Awka into a real capital city.”
Obinna Ezugwu, a political analyst, on his part, agreed that only the electorate would decide which way the pendulum swings on Saturday, when they cast their votes. He reasoned: “If it were to be decided on popularity and probably number of votes, Oseloka Obaze of PDP would win. If state power plays a key role, then Governor Willie Obiano would win. In terms of overall popularity Obaze has that going for him. APC, on the other hand, is very unpopular and the candidate, Tony Nwoye, is not really liked by the people.”
Be that as it may, it is not out place to say let the most acceptable candidate win. But whether the most acceptable is the best that the state can offer is another matter altogether. What is certain is that baring all unforeseen circumstances, gubernatorial election will hold on the day and one of the candidates will emerge as the winner. Who will that be? Only time will tell.
– Nov 10, 2017 @ 15:20 GMT |