Battle line drawn in Anambra
The stage is set, once again, for an interesting, but fierce contest for the number one position in Anambra State, as old political foes square up against each other. Felix Nwaneri reports
The battle line for the November 18 governorship election in Anambra State has been drawn with emergence of the candidates of the major political parties that have their eyes on the Anambra government house. Already, the signs are that the poll would not be a departure from the past, where governorship polls in Anambra are keenly contested like presidential elections in most African countries.
This is not unconnected given the vast majority of indigenes of the state, who at various times, have tasted power and most importantly, have the financial muscle to embark on expensive political projects like the governorship contest.
As these political heavyweights cum candidates, oil their machineries and structures for the battle of the titans, the incumbent governor, Obiano is definitely not oblivious of the onerous task ahead of him as he strives to equal the record of his predecessor – Mr. Peter Obi – as the second person to be elected governor twice in the history of the state.
As it stands, there is enthusiasm among the electorate in Anambra as they wait for November 18, so that they can either give Obiano a nod of satisfaction with a second term or bid him farewell by electing another person.
Some people in the state believe that Obiano has done well by building on the foundation led by Obi, and therefore deserves a second term. To those who hold view, the governor’s achievements in infrastructural development and security are enough to guarantee him a second term. But, there is another political school that believes that Obiano is beatable despite his achievements and the incumbency factor.
Members of this group point to some policies of his government, which they say are “harsh.” They also argued that electoral victories are not determined by achievements alone, but several other factors, especially political structure, which they say, the governor lacks.
To members of this political school, the Anambra governorship is an open contest. They premised this assumption on the lingering crises bedeviling almost all the major political parties in the state. According to them, with APGA facing a leadership crisis, PDP also in crisis as witnessed during its primaries and APC yet to be totally acceptable in the state, the various candidates contesting the poll would be banking on their personal strength as none of the political platforms could be said to have an edge over others.
Scores of parties are contesting the poll, but there is no doubt that the race is between the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state, the centre’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and United Progressive Party (UPP). While the incumbent, Chief Willy Obiano, would fly APGA’s flag, the member representing Anambra East/West in the House of Representatives, Hon. Tony Nwoye is candidate of the APC. For the PDP is a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Oseloka Obaze while former Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka is UPP’s flag bearer. Other candidates in the race are Godwin Ezeemo (Progressive Peoples Alliance – PPA), Ifeanyi Okonkwo (Action Democratic Party – ADP), Yul Edochie (Democratic Peoples Congress – DPC), Franklin Ndife (Independent Democrats – ID) and Dame Uju Ozoka (Action Alliance – AA). Obiano emerged at the party’s primary held on Tuesday, August 15. Although he was the sole contestant in the primary, he still had 11 “no” votes against his candidature while 1,070 people voted “yes”.
The total accredited delegates were 1,092 as 11 votes were declared invalid. For Nwoye, it was a shocking victory for the former National President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) at the APC primaries.
He won the hotly contested poll after beating 11 other aspirants of the party, including Senator Andy Uba, who was tipped to pick the ticket. Nwoye polled 2,146 votes to beat Uba (his closest rival), who had 931 votes.
Obaze, a former Secretary to the Anambra State Government, who is flying the PDP flag, defeated the likes Dr. Alex Obiogbolu and oil magnate, Ifeanyi Ubah in the party’s primary. He polled 672 votes, while Obiogbolu and Ubah scored 190 and 94 votes, respectively.
Chidoka, who served as Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) before he was appointed Minister of Aviation at the twilight of the immediate past administration, beat Chudi Ofodile for the UPP ticket with 1,222 to 87 votes.
Obiano: APGA’s sentiment and incumbency factor
The incumbent governor was elected on the platform of APGA in 2013. He hails from Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area of the state. His emergence was greatly influenced by his predecessor (Obi). Part of the sentiments Obi raised then that worked for Obiano was the seeming marginalisation of the people of Anambra North Senatorial Zone as regards the governorship position of the state.
However, upon assumption of office, Obiano fell out with Obi which has greatly diminished his chances of getting the type of support he got from his benefactor in the last election. Many in the state believe that Obiano deserves a second term having leveraged on the foundation led by his predecessor to improve on the state’s infrastructure. Also on the cards for the governor is his achievement in the area of security.
The governor would also be banking on incumbency factor. There is no doubt that he has dispensed one form of favour or the other to certain individuals since assuming office, and it is expected that such individuals will pay back during the poll.
He will also enjoy the support of followers of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. The defunct Biafran leaderwas APGA’s leader until demise and his teeming followers still see APGA and one his legacies. While the coast seems to be clear for Obiano’s return, the leadership crisis in APGA is a major problem he has to contend with.
The Martin Agbaso faction of the party has elected Dr. Hygers Igwebuike as its flag bearer for the November 18 election, while waiting for the judgement of the court on its suit on the party’s national chairmanship position.
It is also believed that even if the factions in the party close ranks, the governor does not have the foot soldiers, who can match those of the other parties. According to some analysts in the state, even some of his party members, who, ordinarily would have worked for his return to power, see the poll as a payback time, given Obiano’s strained relationship with Obi. Some people also believed that Obiano’s policies and decisions are “anti-people.”
The tax regime of his administration is seen by the business community as harsh. Many also wonder how the banker turned politician will contend with the various political interests in the state.
To some political watchers, the incumbent governor has not done enough to convince voters in the state on why he should be given a second term. Though, the leadership of APGA overtly snatched the admiration of Anambrarians from PDP following the giant strides of former Governor Obi while he held sway, they said the party appears to have lost steam as the people are now calling for change as witnessed at the federal level.
No doubt, Obiano has tried to measure up like Obi through his developmental strides, but it seems the more he tries to do the right thing, the more enemies work to pull him down. With a lot of discredit going for him in terms of achievements which many say, are like a painted sepulcher with no solid base.
For example, the three fly over bridges he built within the first year of his tenure on the Enugu/Onitsha road have been tagged “a monument of cement” which may collapse at any time, hence the reason for the barricade to prevent heavy duty vehicles from plying it. Also discredited by his critics is the famed export of vegetables and other agricultural products by his administration. With all the hurdles to cross, one wonders if the governor will have enough muscle to soldier on and this time around do it on his own and win without leaning on any back up.
However, with the power of incumbency on his hands, anything can happen. Beyond the incumbency factor, sentiment over zoning may still work in Obiano’s favour as it did in the last governorship election.
Obaze: Rich profile and Obi’s support
The former diplomat, who hails from Ogbaru Local Government Area of the state, has an intimidating profile. He was Secretary to the State Government (SSG) from June 2012 to June 2015. He first served under Obi before Obiano re-appointed him in March, 2014. Over the course of his diplomatic career spanning three decades, he was involved in various aspects of preventive diplomacy and post-conflict peace building work.
He has also been involved in the conceptualization, drafting and finalizing various strategic policy papers and reports of the Secretary-General to the United Nations General Assembly and its Security Council.
He has worked on the African and Europeans dossiers and most notably, on Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Georgia. With a lot of bright ideas, Obaze has his varied experience, dynamic and charismatic personality going for him coupled with his earlier presence in the corridors of power during the eight years leadership of former Governor Obi, who incidentally is backing him in the governorship project.
Obi is said to be using the governorship election to prove to Obiano that without his hand gloves and cheer leading, he wouldn’t have been able to grace the tumultuous political arena of Anambra politics and not be drowned.
Most people in the state view him as an articulate man, who will work in the steps of his former boss, in the area of development. He is also viewed to have wide connections abroad that could be brought to bear to develop the state.
However, the obstacle in the way of Obaze is financial power. Anambra is a state known for money politics and he may not have the kind of money to withstand the heat. But, what he lacks in financial power may be made up by his rich profile and the goodwill Obi (his benefactor) enjoys in the state.
Nwoye: Federal might and godfathers to his advantage
The rise of lawmaker, who hails from Nsugbe in Anambra East Local Government Area of the state, to the top echelon of the national politics, has been nothing short of meteoric. He rose through the political ranks from his university days to become Assistant Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Anambra State PDP in 2005. By 2006, he was elected chairman of the party in the state at the age of 31, making him the youngest state chairman of a political party in the county at that time.
Most remarkably, he went ahead to deliver for PDP and recorded a resounding victory in the state and federal positions in the 2007 general elections. He contested and won election to represent Anambra East/West constituency in the House of Representatives in the 2011 general elections. In 2014 he unsuccessfully contested for Anambra State governorship. He came second after Obiano. He was re-elected into the House of Representatives during the 2015 elections. He however defected to the APC last year.
It was his bid to take another shot at the governorship of the state after flying the PDP’s flag in the last governorship election that motivated his defection to the ruling party. Nwoye may not have the money to march the other contenders, but he has the backing of the oil magnet billionaire, Prince Authur Eze. He also has support of the youth, but not that of the elite, who view that his emergence as governor may see them loose political relevance given the influence his political godfather (Eze) wields. There is also the fear that Anambra would return to the era, when political godfathers held the state to ransom given his relationship with Eze.
Chidoka: Riding on Biafran sentiment
The former Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), who later became the Minister for Aviation under the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, is a new entrant into the Anambra guber race. Many believed that though he had a rapid growth in politics to have reached the top position in terms federal appointment as a minister, he is still a green horn in the politics of the state, especially the governorship. He dumped PDP, the party he had earlier projected its strength in the state for the UPP over what many have termed the South-East undertone of the party.
There is no doubt that he has the followership of the youth, especially those who have sympathy for the Biafran agitation going for him so far, but the hurdle to cross remains a daunting task as Anambra politics is not a game for the faint hearted. Also, he comes from Idemili in the central senatorial zone of the state may be a clog in the wheel of his progress during the poll as the belief is that the governorship has been zoned to the northern zone, where Obiano, Obaze and Nwoye come from. Chidoka’s name is already a household name but in politics, he is a neophyte.
Though he is rich, young, and articulate and has graced the corridors of power, how he would win the coveted seat remains uncertain. There is also the issue of his party not having a strong hold in the state yet even though it claims to be an alternative to APGA.