Battle for the Soul of Anambra State

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The November 18, governorship election in Anambra State promises to be a four-man race as the day draws by and from the looks of things, even incumbent Governor Willie Obiano is facing formidable opponents

By Olu Ojewale     /Sept. 1, 2017 @ 13:52 GMT /

THE COUNTDOWN has started. All the major gladiators in the November 18, gubernatorial election in Anambra State are now known. In their own individual standing, all of them are formidable and by their own definition, capable of leading the state.

In the race are Governor Willie Obiano, seeking for a re-election; Osita Chidoka, a former aviation minister; Oseloka H. Obaze, a former secretary to the state government in Anambra State and Tony Nwoye, a member of the House of Representatives, all representing the main political parties in the state.

Nevertheless, each of them would need to convince the electorate that he is the best for the job as the election draws nearer each day.

Perhaps, having the upper hand in the whole process is Willie Obiano, the incumbent governor of the state, who is looking for a second term in office. Unlike most of his opponents he has four years experience on the job. Not only that, he is the incumbent state governor. This possibly places him at an advantage to get the support of those who are benefitting from his administration and huge resources to spend on his election campaign. Besides, he has a record of service to showcase, having served the state in the governorship capacity for four years.

What will possibly speak for Obiano, who is contesting on the ticket of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, are his achievements in office in past four years as the state governor. For a start, Anambra State under Obiano is one of the very states that do not owe workers salary and pension.

In fact, Ejike Anyaduba, a writer in a recent article, enumerated why he would want the governor to be re-elected. Anyaduba wrote of the Obiano administration: “If the Obiano government is standing on a pinnacle today it is not because it fixed security of the state hitherto in a whirl. It is not because it gave the state’s infrastructure that existed in outline some uplift. It is not because it resuscitated investments, which had hit the nadir. It is not because it boosted agriculture until then in active decline. It is not because it gave healthcare a shot in the arm and sustains the progress in education. No, not in the least! It is because, in addition to all these, the government has shored up effort in the intangible sector.”

The intangible sector being referred include providing upkeep for the less privileged in the society; giving scores of prisoners who, on completion of their terms, N1 million each to start a new life on a fresh, clean slate; automatic employment for the disabled in the state’s Civil Service, among others.

All these probably gave the APGA the confidence to give him an overwhelming support at its primaries held on Tuesday, August 15.

Besides, another issue that may work in favour of the governor is the fact that he belongs to the APGA, the main pro-Igbo party. A good number of core Igbo people have sympathy for the party because of the late Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a foremost Igbo leader and one of the founding fathers of the party.

In fact, Bianca Ojukwu, the widow of the late Biafran leader, literally went on the soap-box to call on the people Anambra State to vote for Obiano to preserve the sanctity of the Igbo party in the state. During the inauguration of the Akpokuodike Fans Club, in Awka, Anambra State, she said that the APGA remained the voice of Ndigbo and the party should be supported. She told the club members that they had a major role to play as the APGA and its leadership serve replica and model of the late Dim Ojukwu’s dream of a region where excellence prevails. She, therefore, pleaded with the people of the state to return Obiano for a second term for posterity’s sake and to sustain the dividends of good governance.

The governor could not have asked for a better supporter and campaign ally. Nevertheless, Obiano has to convince his critics and skeptics that he is the best man for the job.

He also must convince the electorate that he is better than the likes of Chidoka, candidate of the United Progressives Party, UPP. Chidoka came to the national prominence when he was made corps marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, under the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The government of the Goodluck Jonathan later made him a minister, based on his hard work and innovations he introduced in the FRSC.

Chidoka
Chidoka

In the campaign for the governorship seat, Chidoka has maintained a constant presence, taking the press along with the way his team has been bombarding the media with information on his various activities across the state. The Osita Chidoka Campaign Organisation has also been at work across the country. In the course of doing all this, the campaign organisation has been riding on the crest that the UPP is now the main pro-Igbo party.

The UPP formally handed him the baton to be the party’s flagbearer in the November 18, gubernatorial election on Saturday, August 19.

On the development, Bright Nebedum, the campaign’s director general, said: “This unmatched support for Osita Chidoka indeed goes to show without equivocation that our people still identify, value and reward the undying Biafran spirit of hard work, resilience and determination…

“Today, among all the governorship contenders, the Osita Chidoka Campaign has the highest demography of grassroots volunteers across all the 326 electoral wards and 21 local government areas in Anambra state. In the same vein, our great party, the UPP, with its pro-people ideology has the highest demography of genuine followership in Anambra State. With the people, we will make a difference. With them, we will realise their yearning to take back their state and institute a bold, people-oriented and resourceful administration, which Osita Chidoka and the UPP represent. We will, therefore, continue to work hard and with the backing of the people and the Almighty God, victory is sure.”

It is, however, instructive to know that Chidoka left the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the UPP. In a newspaper interview, the former corps marshal said he did not leave the former ruling party out of fear of not getting the party’s ticket but out of realisation that the party would need a lot of internal mechanism to work out of the woods. He said: “I was a key member of the PDP. But like every political party, the PDP needs a rethinking; it needs a refresh; it needs to be reprogrammed and as I can see, the crisis that came between (Ali Modu) Sheriff and (Ahmed) Makarfi-led faction was a test of the need to refresh the PDP brand. I don’t know whether the refresh is going to happen sooner or later but it is not going to happen before the Anambra election definitely.

“On the second stage, Anambra State has an endemic problem of multiple factions of PDP in the state. The state has a bad history of PDP. The court cases following the 2015 elections over the senatorial and House of Representatives election are still on in the Supreme Court. So, Anambra has endemic problem in the PDP that the Sheriff-Makarfi problem does not resolve. So, I have to figure out if I have to run this election, I have to create a platform and I have to deploy the three factors I named earlier on to make it happen.”

That notwithstanding, the PDP has a candidate that may be a threat to his ambition in Oseloka Obaze who emerged on Monday, August 28, as the governorship candidate of the party. Obaze is regarded as one of the political movers and shakers in Anambra State. A diplomat, he was one time secretary to the state Government of Anambra from 2012 to 2015.

Obaze
Obaze

He served under former Governor Peter Obi and was re-appointed by incumbent Obiano, who succeeded him in office.

Obi had openly supported Obiano and helped to the governorship election on the platform of the APGA in 2013. Obaze, managing director and chief executive, Selonnes Consult, also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012. He was a member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service from 1982-1991.

This is not the first time he would be attempting to become the governor of Anambra State. On August 12, 2013, Obaze had resigned his position as the SSG to seek the ticket of the APGA for the gubernatorial election held November 6, of that year. He was, however, disqualified on the ground that he had no voter’s card.  To compensate him, Obi then re-appointed Obaze as the SSG, and was subsequently retained in office by Obiano, who came to power in March 2014.

In the Anambra State politics, he was largely seen Obi’s confidant. Little wonder that Obaze followed the former governor to the PDP when he joined the party shortly after leaving office in 2014. In the PDP primaries held for the PDP, informed sources said it was Obi that really did ground work that gave Obaze the party ticket. He polled 672 votes to beat the duo of Alex Obiogbolu and Ifeanyi Ubah who scored 190 and 94 votes, respectively.

Other aspirants, sensing defeat, had pulled out from the race after issuing one claim or the other. The two women initially in contention, Stella Oduah, a serving senator and former aviation minister and Linda Ikpeazu, a serving member of the House of Representatives, also backed down.

But whether Obi can install Obaze as he did for Obiano is left to be seen. But the reasoning in the state is that Obaze would have to be his own man and not wear the toga that he is been sponsored by Obi if he really wants to make any headway.

Mercifully, Obi is no longer in government to be able to scheme for him. Besides, the governor is also contesting and it is on record that he is no longer in alliance with his former benefactor.

Incidentally, Tony Nwoye, a member of the House of Representatives, is also a former PDP, contesting the governorship race on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Saturday November 18. Nwoye, who represents Anambra East and Anambra West Constituency, polled 2146 votes to defeat Andy Uba, a serving senator and his closest rival, who scored 931 votes in the party’s primary election conducted on Saturday, August 26.

The APC candidate hails from Nsugbe in Anambra East Local Government Area, the same area with Obiano. He is a former chairman of the PDP in Anambra and its governorship candidate in the 2013 election. A medical doctor, politician and former student activist, Nwoye’s defection from the PDP to the APC, is riddled with intrigues that could soon inflame the political landscape in the state.

Nwoye had become the Anambra State chairman of the PDP in 2006 and because of his political sagacity and mobilisation prowess, his leadership was credited for producing all the 30 members of the Anambra State House of Assembly, the three senators, 10 out of the 11 members of the House of Representatives and the state governor.

Nwoye
Nwoye

In fact, the primaries conducted under Nwoye’s leadership are still adjudged as the only free, fair and credible primaries of the PDP since the current democratic dispensation. During those primaries, there was no rancour as all the candidates that emerged campaigned freely and the PDP won almost all elective offices then.

But things turned on its head when in 2011, when Nwoye contested and won election into the House of Representatives to represent Anambra East and Anambra West constituency without the support and backing of the PDP. However, because of the parallel primaries deliberately conducted to undermine him, Nwoye was not sworn-in as a member of House of Representatives that year. Again in 2013, he contested the governorship primary of the PDP along with political heavyweights like Andy Ubah and Nicholas Ukachukwu and won.

It was understood that before the primaries, there was an understanding among the contestants and the party hierarchy, that whoever won as candidate must be supported by the rest. But his emergence as the PDP governorship candidate after the primaries apparently came as a rude shock to other contestants, which subsequently triggered conspiracies and sponsored litigations by chieftains of the party in contravention of the earlier agreement.

In fact, due to litigations and deliberate efforts by the PDP leadership, Nwoye could not campaign until 10 days to the election. Besides, there was no formal support from the party in terms of finances or materials. To complicate the matter, the then President Goodluck Jonathan was quoted as urging Anambra people to vote according to their conscience in the governorship election, even when Nwoye was representing his party.

It was alleged that there was an agreement between the leadership of the APGA and PDP that the PDP would leave Anambra State governorship for the APGA, while the party in turn would support Jonathan for the PDP presidential election. Nwoye was said to have defected to the APC in June 2016, out of frustration and lack of support from the PDP leadership.

Nwoye, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, was born on September 13, 1974. He studied medicine at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, and at the Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki. He is largely seen as a good mobiliser and astute politician, but whether these would translate into victory at November poll is anybody’s guess.

Based on the current reality on ground, it is, however, very difficult to predict who is likely to win the race. A lot of analysts believe that the race is very close at the moment because of those in the contest.

Gabriel Onyekachikwu, a political watcher, said the race would be between Obiano, Chidoka, and Obaze because “the APC can never and will never rule Anambra State” Impossible. No space for northern and islamic political party.

Besides, an unconfirmed rumour making the rounds suggests that Nwoye had reached an agreement with Arthur Eze, a political godfather, to cede 30 percent of the state’s internal generated funds to him for his sponsorship. If that is true, it would mean returning to the dark age of when godfatherism was ruling the state.

In the case of Obaze, it appears that Obi’s factor may be his undoing because to a lot of people that he handpicked Obiano to succeed him in office and giving the state to another person out of the blues would not be tolerated.

“This is absolute injustice against Anambra South. In the last 14 years, Anambra South has suffered highfalutin marginalisation in the scheme of things in the state. The debilitating state of infrastructures and roads in Anambra South gives immense concern to stakeholders in the state since 2003,” Timothy Godson, a public affairs analyst, said.

That notwithstanding, Godson believes that the PDP candidate would be a better option.

But another analyst, who simply called himself Edwin, disagreed. he said; “Chidoka is well versed, deep and all round intelligent. His work is renowned for being hinged on achieving results, ensuring productivity and targeted deliverables whatever the assignment is. Sadly, Anambra is in the grip of certain retrogressive political alliances that might ensure victory to either the APC, PDP or APGA…

“Where the average Anambra voter to be clever, forward thinking, averagely exposed, enlightened and conscious of the place of their kids in the next eight years – they will put aside archaic sentiments and overwhelmingly vote Chidoka.”

Perhaps, another worry for the election is the threat by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, saying there would be no election in the state on November 18, as scheduled, but all the candidates seemed to be in unison in their statements that the election would hold on the day. They said the worst that could happen is for members of the IPOB to boycott the election.

Nevertheless, from the current standpoint, it is very difficult to know who is going to get the people’s mandate, but what is apparent is that the race will not be a two horse-race as it was in the previous election. This time fighting four the soul of Anambra State is a contest by four somewhat heavyweights.

 

 

 

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