As Anambra voters go to the polls this weekend, the question that begs for an answer is: Governor who?
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Nov. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
BARELY one week to the governorship election in Anambra State slated for November 16, the political temperature in the state is said to be very high. Already, campaigns of the major political parties in the state are in top gear. But the question on the lips of stakeholders in Anambra is which of the governorship candidates is well structured to pick up the baton to replace Peter Obi, the incumbent governor of the state.
Though about 23 political parties that registered for election, only four are considered to be strong contenders. They are: Willie Obiano of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; Senator Chris Ngige, All Progressives Congress, APC, Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, Labour Party, LP and Tony Nwoye, People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
Although APGA controls power in Anambra state and its candidate is enjoying the power of incumbency, the lingering incident of the recent stampede at the Holy Ghost adoration ground in the state in which many lives were lost, is likely to affect its performance in the gubernatorial election even though Governor Obi is shifting the blame to Senator Ngige. Already, the APGA has called for the arrest of Senator Ngige, alleging that he masterminded the commotion. Victor Umeh, national chairman, APGA, had called on the Inspector General of Police, to arrest Senator Ngige. He demanded that Ngige should explain what his supporters were doing at the crusade ground with their party symbols and the governorship candidate’s posters. Ngige described Umeh’s allegation as preposterous because he was not even in the place when the tragedy happened.
Obiano is a retired banker and undoubtedly a new comer in the politics of Anambra State. But he believes that his years of experience in the oil and gas and banking sectors as well as his geniality will also come in handy in helping him to deflect political missiles that will come his way either from his fellow political gladiators or from the media. His experience as a distinguished banker and technocrat, a seasoned and proven public policy leader on economic development, financial accountability and human resource development are all the attributes that will help him steer the affairs of Anambra state if he survives the odds against him to win the governorship election.
However, his game plan is anchored on continuity. That is, continuing from where Governor Obi stopped. Obiano, who rose to become the number two man in Fidelity Bank Plc, retired in 2012 after 23 years of meritorious service to the financial industry in Nigeria. His vision is to make Anambra State the first choice investment destination and a hub for industrialisation and commercial activities. His mission statement is to create a socially-stable and business-friendly environment that will attract indigenes of Anambra, Nigerians and foreigners to seek wealth creating opportunities in Anambra State.
The APC, with Senator Ngige as its flag-bearer, is no doubt, the strongest opposition to the APGA-led government in the state. Ngige is a charismatic politician. He was governor of the state from May 2003 to April 2006. During those years, he was largely harassed and hounded by his political godfather, Chris Uba, to the extent that he was abducted by policemen who allegedly acted on the instruction of the godfather. Ngige, who contested and won the 2003 gubernatorial election on the platform of the PDP, left office in April 2006, following a court ruling that he never won that election in the first place. It gave the electoral victory to Peter Obi of APGA. But before then, he had delivered a large chunk of dividends of democracy to his people.
His exemplary performance as governor was largely responsible for his winning the senatorial election in 2011 to represent Anambra Central Senatorial district in the upper legislative house on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Today, as a member of the APC, a mega opposition party, the question is whether his popularity in the party will win the election for him come November 16 despite the deportation and adoration ground stampede politics.
Senator Ngige had already explained to the Anambra electorate the reason behind the recent deportation by Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state, of some Ndigbo of Anambra extraction to Onitsha, on the basis that they were destitute, stressing that Fashola had apologised and that the blame also goes to the APGA led government in the state who reneged on the agreement it had with the Lagos state government to receive the rehabilitated destitute who were moved from Lagos at Onitsha. Nevertheless, Senator Ngige’s goodwill built over the years, as well as the support of his candidature by some notable politicians, has paved the way for a muched needed support in the state during his campaign rallies.
Like Ngige, Ubah the flag-bearer of the LP, is in the race without internal crisis in his party. He left APGA for his new party after he was convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that the party would ditch him at the last moment. A multi-billionaire businessman with tentacles in oil and gas, Ubah’s greatest assets are his spirit of philanthropy, courage and determination to succeed in whatever he lays his hands on. He has re-energised the party in the 326 wards that make up the state, providing logistics and the wherewithal for the party to function effectively at the state level.
His foundation has given scores of university scholarships to indigent students from the state. This is in addition to providing healthcare to hundreds of Anambra people. He has promised to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in the state as well as provide security to drive investments in the state if elected governor. He believes that if he can use his private funds to transform the lives of hundreds of people in the state, he would use public funds judiciously to take the teeming masses away from the throes of unemployment, poverty, disease and squalor. But he is a political neophyte compared to Ngige.
Unlike Ngige and Ubah, Nwoye, candidate of the PDP, has to battle in court to affirm his candidature. On November 5, the Supreme Court declared him the authentic candidate of the PDP in the forthcoming election. He is an activist and a unionist. He was a former Speaker of the Students Union House of Representatives and the National president, National Association of Nigerian Students. Nwoye also led many struggles in pursuit of student and youth welfare.
On political the front, Nwoye was a former assistant secretary of the PDP in Anambra state, state chairman of PDP, from 2006-2009 and member representing Anambra East/West federal constituency at the National Assembly. He has also served the country in various capacities both at the state and federal levels.
As election gears up in the state, there is no doubt that politicians would make political gains out of the Uke Adoration Prayer Ground stampede which resulted in the death of 28 people, families of the affected victims have been left alone to lick their wounds and mourn their departed ones. The stampede at the Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, Uke, in Idemili North local government area of Anambra State, has many versions. Reports in some section of the media quoted eye witnesses as saying the stampede occurred when Obi started campaigning for his gubernatorial candidate amidst shouts of disapproval, causing his security aides to fire tear gas into the crowd. According to the governor, this allegation is a product of mischief and vain attempt to blackmail him and APGA.
Another version put out by Aloysius Attah, chairman, Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, in the state, stated that trouble started towards the end of the prayer session after a fire spark from the make-shift stall of a fried plantain seller at the ground. Worshippers, who saw the spark, then shouted ‘fire’ causing a stampede. People started running for their lives. Many fell in the process and were trampled upon by other fleeing worshippers.
As reported in the media, Governor Obi, who also claimed to be a regular attendee of the crusade went there this time around in the company of 10 persons, including Umeh, Obiano, candidate of the party in the November 16, governorship election, as well as two siblings of the governor. Obviously, one doesn’t need the services of a soothsayer to unravel what prompted Governor Obi to grace the crusade ground with such a powerful team. Without doubts, he was there to solicit for votes and to appeal to the electorate.
While addressing the media, the governor said: “When the spiritual director gave me the opportunity to speak, I noticed something unusual as I saw people carrying the posters of politicians at the adoration ground. I have been going for the crusade there and, on this occasion, I stayed for six hours and left. Our vehicles were parked two kilometres away and this is a place people have been visiting for a long time without any incident. It was later that I heard what happened and we are working hard with security agencies to find out those behind the incident. A holy place should not be a place for playing politics.”
Emmanuel Obinma, officiating priest and organiser of the crusade, where thousands from across Nigeria throng to for prayers, healing and spiritual retreat, obviously had no slightest knowledge of the fact that politicians had plans to hijack the gathering for that day. But instead of harvesting souls for God, dead bodies were harvested while several other worshippers sustained varying degrees of injuries. According to reports, an estimated 100,000 worshippers reportedly attended the crusade because, besides coinciding with the Feast of All Saints, it was also the first Saturday of the month. So one cannot truly ascertain the number of those killed and those injured.
The question on the lips of many is, would the organisers of the Uke Adoration Ground crusade have also allowed candidates of the APC, PDP, PPA or SDP to mount their rostrum and address their congregation had they walked up to them? Many are, indeed, worried that politicians, have devised various means of hijacking whatever event, be it a religious or a social gathering, to choke Nigerians with their boring, uninspiring and unintelligent speeches. It is high time our clergymen are told in clear terms that criminals and people of questionable character shouldn’t be celebrated or given special recognition in our places of worship.
Undoubtedly, had Governor Obi not mounted the rostrum to sell the candidate of his party and equally drag rival parties candidates’ names in the mud, the crusade would have gone peacefully without any reasons to regret hosting it in the first place. Expectedly, politicians across different party platforms in the state have since pointed accusing fingers at Governor Obi and his team for being responsible for the attacks and subsequent deaths recorded.
Senator Ngige has condemned the reaction of Governor Obi to the recent stampede, describing it as a dance of the dead. Ngige believes that Obi is merely playing politics with people’s lives. He also dismissed announcement by the governor to set up a probe panel on the tragedy, saying such a panel is nothing short of a government parastatal, and that Obi cannot be a judge in his own matter.
“The manner and desperation which the APGA government has shown and the way the incident was being addressed by the governor shows that he is celebrating the dead, and has chosen to play politics with people’s lives. To put the records straight and help these men regain perspective, the Holy Ghost Adoration Ground is purely a House of Prayers where traumatised Anambra people go to reconcile themselves with God and seek succour from pains inflicted on them by the poor governance in Anambra State.
“But Governor Peter Obi, APGA national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, took their candidate in the Anambra governorship election, Willie Obiano, with their entire campaign in full campaign rally and there is no doubt it was the same protests by the congregants that eventually culminated in this avoidable deaths caused by stampede. One thing stands out clearly which can never be dimmed by any desperate campaign: this tragedy could have been avoided if the APGA campaign train did not visit the Adoration Ground at such ungodly hour to campaign for votes: better still, if the Governor had heeded the protests of the congregants not to turn their prayer ground to a campaign rally,” Ngige said.
In support of what Ngige said, Chucks Nwokoh, public affairs analyst, said Governor Obi should account for the lives that were lost as a result of the stampede. He said it was unnecessary for Obi to turn the religious gathering into a political rally. “I think it was actually unnecessary and reckless. I believe that the presence of Governor Obi at the programme at this very point in time was very unnecessary. As a citizen of this country, I make bold to say that the presence of Governor Obi at that place was uncalled for and it was unnecessary. I think he should take responsibility as the chief security of the state and account for those lives that were lost that night. And we need to begin to hold these people accountable, their lives are not better than ours.
“I agree he is a governor but I’m a citizen of this country, he should account to me why my relations should die because of his presence in that place. That was not a campaign platform and therefore, if someone who is a leader misbehaves, we should make sure such a person account for his actions. I think that you people as journalists and those of us in the public, we should make them account for such lives. We are representatives of God, we understand what the Bible says and we understand politics as well. They are two different things. When you mix them, this is what you will get. So, somebody needs to account for what has happened,” he said.
As the election draws closer, except the APGA takes proactive measures to resolve the festering crisis as a result of the stampede, the battle for the control of government house Awka, would be between the APC, the PDP and the LP.