WHEN the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in September released the list of 23 candidates for the November 16 Anambra governorship election, expectations were high that the election would be keenly contested.
But events in the state have since shown that majority of the shortlisted candidates appear to be more of the pretenders than contenders in the election, as they were nowhere to be found engaging in robust campaigns or canvassing for votes across the state ahead of the election.
The development was a confirmation of The Guardian report then that majority of them were being sponsored by the candidates of the major parties in the race to achieve political mileage in the run-up to the election.
So far, so good evaluating the campaign rallies, debates and scheming just a week to the election, it is becoming clear that it may be a five-way race among the candidates and their following political parties namely; Dr. Chris Ngige -All Progressive Congress (APC); Mr Willie Obiano-All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Comrade Tony Nwoye-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah Labour-Party (LP); and Chief Goody Ezeemo- Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).
While the likes of Ngige, Ubah, Obiano, and Ezeemo have been on ground, campaigning in all the nooks and crannies of the state, Nwoye, and his party, who had been in a protracted legal battle since the party primaries, was finally confirmed the authentic candidate of the PDP on Monday by the Supreme Court.
Up for battle by the candidates in the election are votes of 1, 711, 061 registrants spread across the 4, 608 polling units in the 21 council areas in the state
Unfolding programmes for the election some months ago, INEC, in a statement said that between August, 19 and 25, 2013, the Commission would conduct Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in the State, preparatory to the governorship election.
It reads: “Before the CVR, the commission will conduct voter verification from 16th to 18th August, 2013. During this exercise, the Register of Voters for the state will be displayed at polling units statewide, for voters to verify their registration status.
“Following the voter registration exercise conducted in 2011, INEC declared a figure of 2, 011, 746 registrants in Anambra State.
“The commission has since subjected that data to Register Optimization Process, which involved data consolidation, the use of the Automatic Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS) software to eliminate multiple registrations, and the application of business rules for printing of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs); ending up with a valid voter figure of 1, 711, 061 registrants.
“The impending CVR offers opportunity for persons, who have turned 18 years since 2011, or who were 18-plus at the time but did not register, or who had less than two fingerprints captured during the 2011 registration exercise, to get themselves registered ahead of the Anambra governorship election.
“There are 4,608 polling units in the state, spread across the 21 Local Government Areas. The Commission, at the stakeholder meeting, identified 53 polling units in nine council areas that are without data. It also disclosed the identity of four polling units that have been found to be located in the forest, assuring stakeholders that the status of these polling units is being verified and the commission would make its decision on them known very soon.”
But since then, people in the state had continued to ask questions, to know if the commission had removed the 53 illegal polling units it said it discovered in nine council areas in the state.
Also interesting is the fact that the three senatorial zones in the state- Anambra Central, Anambra North, and Anambra South zone have seven council areas each and each of the major contenders has a political stronghold in the zones.
The council areas in Anambra Central are Anaocha, Njikoka, Dunukofia, Idemili North, Idemili South, Awka North, and Awka South.
Political bigwigs from the zone include the APC candidate in the election and senator representing the zone, Dr. Chris Ngige; Governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi; APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh; the new godfather of Anambra PDP, Prince Arthur Eze; Senator Annie Okonkwo, Senator Ben Obi, Prof. Dora Akunyili and others.
In the North zone of the state are Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Anyamelu, Oyi, Anambra East, Anambra West and Ogbaru council area. It is also the zone of the APGA candidate, Willie Obiano and the PDP candidate, Comrade Tony Nwoye. The duo comes from the same council area, Anambra East.
Others are Ngige’s running mate, Chief Ralph Okeke, Dr. Tim Menekaya, Senator Joy Emordi, Senator Emma Anosike, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Senator Mrs. Margery Okadigbo, the wife of former Senate President, late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo and senator representing the zone on PDP platform.
In the South zone of the state are Ihiala, Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Aguata, Orumba North, Orumba South and Ekwusigwo council area.
Political figures from the zone include the candidate of LP, Mr Ifeanyi Ubah; candidate of the PPA, Chief Goddy Ezeemo; Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Senator Andy Uba, representing the zone in the Senate and his younger brother, Chief Chris Uba.
Others are Sir Emeka Offor, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Chief Chuma Nzeribe, former governor of the state, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Dr. Obinna Uzoh and others.
Apart from this, another determining factor in the election may be the politics of religion, which has become so obvious in the state since the present government came into power. The two former governors of the state, namely, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju were Pentecostal. But however majority of the major contenders in the next Saturday’s election are Catholics, pointing to the direction that the votes of Anglicans and Pentecostals may be a deciding factor in the election.
Comrade Tony Nwoye (PDP)
Before the PDP primaries for the election, it was alleged that the choice of Nwoye by the party leadership, Presidency and new godfather of PDP in the state, Prince Arthur Eze, was to spite Senator Andy Uba politically. Not many believed it then because there were insinuations that President Goodluck Jonathan had struck a deal with former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for Uba to be made governor.
But days after the parallel primaries conducted by the factions of the party in the state, it became obvious that Uba had lost out. Nwoye, once Uba’s political godson was the preferred candidate of the power-that-be in the party.
Even Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu’s legal attempt to thwart Nwoye’s candidature was nipped in the bud by Monday’s Supreme Court judgment that confirmed Nwoye the rightful candidate of the party for the election.
Nwoye was a former Medical student at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC).
While at the campus in 1998, Nwoye contested and won a seat to represent the Medical Students at the University of Nigeria House of Representatives, Students’ Union. That same year, he was elected the Speaker of the Students’ Union House of Representatives.
Between 2000 and 2004, Nwoye became very prominent in the youth and student movements, and in December 2003, he was elected the National president, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).
It was from there that he caught the attention of Chief Chris Uba and his elder now Senator Andy Ubah, who were in control of Anambra politics after Mbadinuju’s godfather, Sir Emeka Offor, was dislodged.
In 2005, Nwoye was elected the Assistant Secretary of the PDP in Anambra State, a position he held till 2006. While holding that office, Andy Ubah moved him to occupy the vacant of the office of the State Chairman of PDP in Anambra State, which he occupied from 2006-2009, and worked assiduously for the interest of Andy Ubah in the 2007 general elections.
In 2011 general elections, he contested election for Anambra East/West Federal Constituency seat at the National Assembly, but the Certificate of Return was issued to Chriscato Ameke.
He went to court to challenge the action and on July 13, 2011, the court declared him as the winner of the election into Anambra East/West Federal Constituency.
However, the leadership of the House of Representatives did not allow him to take his seat in the House. Their argument was that the matter had to be finally decided by Supreme Court in line with the 1999 Constitution.
Nwoye allegedly blamed his predicament on Andy Uba, whom he had fallen out with. The source of their quarrel was not revealed, but Nwoye immediately sought succor with the business mogul, Chief Arthur Eze, whom happens to be President Jonathan’s man Friday in the state.
Nwoye hails from Anambra North zone just like the APGA candidate, Obiano. In fact, he is from the same council area, Anambra East, with Obiano, a development that is already raising fears among the people, who have been clamouring for the governorship seat, that there may be a division of votes in the zone in the election.
Apart from Obiano, Ngige’s running mate, Chief Ralph Okeke, a two-time chairman of Anambra West council area, and one-time member representing Anambra East/West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, will be another hard nut to crack for Nwoye and Obiano in the zone.
Like Okeke, Nwoye is seen by many as a grassroots politician with followers, but how far such will go for him in the election will be seen on November 16.
Another factor that may work against him is the crisis in the state chapter of the party. It is believed that Uba and Ukachukwu supporters in the party may work against his interest especially in Anambra South where they hail from.
While some people even quarrel with age and antecedents, Nwoye enjoys the support of the party leadership, and the Presidency which The Guardian learnt yesterday, had released huge sums for his campaign’s flag-off today in Onitsha, Anambra State.
Senator Chris Ngige (APC)
Ngige, a medical doctor was also a renowned public servant, who retired voluntarily in 1998 as deputy director, Federal Ministry of Health, to join politics.
He was a foundation member and national officer of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before emerging governor of the state in 2003.
His political battle with the then godfathers in Anambra politics and his achievements in office boosted his political image and endeared him to the people of the state. He was removed from office in 2006 via an Appeal Court judgment procured by the incumbent Governor Mr. Peter Obi.
He co-founded the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2006, and won the Anambra Central senatorial election on the party platform in 2011.
Ngige is a staunch Catholic and a Knight of St. John (KSJ). When allegation was leveled against him that he slapped a priest at a function in Anambra State recently, the Catholic Diocese debunked the allegation, describing it as a calculated attempt to malign him ahead of the election.
He is from Anambra Central just like Governor Obi, Chief Umeh, Prince Arthur Eze, Prof. Dora Akunyili and others. His council area is Idemili South.
There is no doubt that the Central zone is Ngige’s stronghold.
Popularly known as Onwa, (the moon that shines), Ngige is seen by many in the state as a courageous, rugged and grassroots politician.
He has a strong following in the state, as many see him as a man who, as governor, opened the eyes of the people to what the government could with prudent management of state’s resources.
He has been running serious campaigns which flag-off was witnessed by who is who in his political party; a clear evidence that he enjoys the support of the APC governors and leadership.
Being the only major contender from the Anambra Central in the election, Ngige may get the bulk votes from the zone. With his deputy’s influence in the North zone coupled with the cosmopolitan nature of the commercial cities of Nnewi, Ogbaru and Onitsha, he is expected to garner votes in the South zone.
Many people are of the view that the race is between him and Obiano or Uba, but election, especially in Anambra State, is not and can never be mathematics, in which one plus one is two.
Before now, some people saw his party platform as his undoing, but such appears to be fading out, considering that party is just a vehicle to take politicians to where they are going.
Willie Obiano (APGA)
He is a professional banker and chattered accountant, before being lured into politics by Governor Peter Obi, to see if he could succeed him in office. He was the dark horse, who later, against all expectations and permutations emerged APGA candidate for the election through Obi’s support.
His emergence ruffled feathers in the party as the faction loyal to Mr. Maxi Okwu, had also picked Dr. Chike Obidigbo as the party candidate.
Obidigbo was the choice of the Anambra North political and traditional leaders whom Obi has mandated to search for his successor from the zone, only for Obi to make a u-turn and hand-picked Obiano.
Before the Supreme Court judgment that confirmed Comrade Tony Nwoye the authentic candidate of the PDP in the election, everything appeared to be working for Obiano for good in the zone. But since the judgment was delivered, the situation appeared to have changed, with the people of the zone now divided between Obiano and Nwoye.
Poll watchers are of the view that unless the people of the zone come together to make a choice between Obiano and Nwoye, the votes would be divided in the zone. As it is now, Anambra North is the only zone with two formidable candidates for the election.
Obiano may be having an edge against Nwoye because he enjoys the support of the Governor Obi and his political structures in the state.
Both Nwoye and Obiano have political godfathers in the persons of Prince Arthur Eze and Governor Obi respectively, a political syndrome the people of the state may not like to risk again, considering the experiences of the Ngige/Uba crisis in 2003.
Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah (LP)
He was among the first that declared his intention to run for the governorship election. He hobnobbed with the Chief Victor Umeh-led faction of the APGA when Umeh fell out with Governor Obi. Many had thought that Ubah would be contesting the election on the APGA platform, but when he saw that the coast was not clear there, he quickly moved over to the Labour Party.
He has run a robust campaign and established offices in all 21 council areas in the state. He has continued to tell those who care to listen that if he did not win, he would not contest again. Ubah is the Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil and Gas, which is being run temporarily by the Asset Management Company (AMCON)
He has age on his side and has the financial muscle to finance his campaign. He is a Catholic and has done enough for churches in the state, especially the Catholic Church.
He is from Anambra South, the same zone as the candidate of the PPA, Chief Goddy Ezeemo. He is also a Catholic by faith.
Observers believe that he may garner majority votes in the zone, but he has to contend with the some influential politicians in the zone like Sir Emeka Offor, Senator Andy Uba, Chief Chris Uba, Prof. Charles Soludo and others.
Besides, his zone is that of late Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu. So, it is expected that APGA may make an inroad in the zone.
Chief Goddy Ezeemo (PPA)
He is a London-based businessman. After losing out in the party primaries of the APC to Senator Chris Ngige, Ezeemo switched to the PPA where he was used to substitute the initial candidate of the party, who also happened to be a London-based legal practitioner.
The gist is that he was initially planted in the APC by the state government to thwart the emergence of Dr. Chris Ngige. But Ezeemo has since denied the allegation, claiming that he is in the race to win the election.
He has been running a robust campaign. He is from Anambra South zone just like Ubah.
Finally, it is certain that between now and next Saturday (Election Day), there will be a lot of political alignments and re-alignments among the candidates and the political parties, major political stakeholders, the churches, town unions and the people that may alter or strengthen the current political permutations or calculation.
So, there is air of anxiety, surprises and uncertainties ahead of the election which many are praying to be decided at the polling booths instead of the courts.
In view of these, all eyes are on the INEC, security agents, voters and the political parties to make the election a free and fair contest, where losers will congratulate the winner, and winner embraces the losers.