This Saturday, November 16, the people of Anambra State will go to the poll to elect a successor to Governor Peter Obi, whose tenure expires on March 17, 2014. With the exercise certain to be a four-horse race, Charles Onyekamuo reviews the situation in the state with respect to the political parties, their candidates as well as their standing
At first, it was as if nothing was happening on the turf. The political parties were in the limbo and the aspirants were literally out of sight. Of course, differing explanations were offered as to why that was to be. Initially, it was that some of the major parties were in crisis and bitterly factionalised. The situation had subsequently propelled allegiance by aspirants, their supporters and even stakeholders to a party chairman of choice because of the palpable uncertainties.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for instance, had four claimants to the state chairmanship of the party with each of them in one court or the other struggling to legitimise his authority. The party’s primary elections on August 24, was a direct reflection of the self-afflicted leadership crisis in the state PDP.
Parallel primaries were held by the two claimants to the leadership of Anambra PDP and produced three candidates – one recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the others by the national office of the party. It took the Supreme Court last week, to put paid to the crisis when it pronounced Mr. Tony Nwoye, the valid candidate of the PDP in the state.
The other reason adduced was that Governor Obi had zoned the governorship to Anambra North zone. But all that soon gave way. The parties suddenly woke from their slumber upon the release of the election time-table by INEC and campaign frenzy returned to the turf.
The stage was therefore set with the candidates of serious parties among them the PDP, APC, APGA, LP, and PPA, campaigning for votes which climaxed with the debates organised for the 23 of them at the Women Development Centre, Awka, Anambra State.
However, if the debates were a yardstick to measure the standing and the chances of the candidates, then such parties like the SDP, AD, ACD, AA, PPN, KP, UPP, MPPP, UMPP and some other fringe political parties which candidates failed to mount the rostrum to tell the Anambra people their programmes for development are not in the race.
With the Supreme Court decision affirming Nwoye as the candidate of the PDP, calculations in the governorship election have since changed. Although Nwoye and the other candidates of the PDP had before the Supreme Court verdict been campaigning; the candidates of other political parties appeared not to have keyed him into factor, much less reckoned with the PDP because they believed, albeit erroneously, that the PDP was out of contention.
But as things continue to assume shape for the PDP and its candidate in the election, candidates of other parties appear to have been forced to reckon with him, more so that the case has been settled by the apex court. With campaigns intensified, Nwoye, who officially kicked off his campaign last Saturday with vice-president Namadi Sambo and the National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, in attendance, has since proved that he was not a push over.
Since cleared for the race less than a week ago, Nwoye was said to have visited at least 30 wards and two local governments everyday where the youths and women were said to be receptive to him. From the way he is being received and the sudden re-awakening of the PDP in the people’s consciousness, Nwoye, may yet spring up a surprise.
But Nwoye is coming into a race already defined by other candidates who had been going round the states and beyond to sell their candidacy. From Chris Ngige to Willie Obiano, Godwin Ezeemo and Ifeanyi Ubah, the Anambra electorate has been treated to different types of campaigns, all of which will define the election this Saturday.
Besides, Anambra’s political environment, many reckoned, had been drab in the last eight years of APGA’s administration and the ruling party, for whatever reasons, has fielded a complete technocrat believed to be lacking that needed political engineering to blend self with an equally indifferent and highly unmotivated grassroots. This is what will make the race tight and ultimately throw up one amongst the four major contenders to the seat as governor.
If nothing is certain in the Anambra election, the fact that the ruling party and its candidate are not going to find this funny is palpable. Already, there is the thinking that barely with a week to the election, a candidate like Nwoye could make an impact in certain critical areas like the Omambala triangular local governments of Oyi, Anamabra East and Ayamelum because the people are said to see him as a credible alternative to Obiano.
Thus, if his making an impact in Oyi and Ayamelum council areas is understandable since the council areas had always been PDP strongholds in the past, his rating in Anambra East where he and Obiano hail from is predicated on some internal contradictions that could play in his favor, part of which is the impossibility of Umueri voters, a densely populated community in the area voting for Obiano, from Aguleri which fought an internecine war with them over ownership and control of Otuocha land, a water port serving several other communities in the area.
Votes are likely to be keenly shared between Ngige, Obiano and Nwoye in Anambra west, another Omambala enclave because of Ngige’s deputy who hails from there, as well as the influence of the divided political class that may sway the votes either way.
Although Onitsha North, Onitsha South and Ogbaru council areas are in Anambra North, Ngige’s APC will most likely make a greater inroad than expected because most of the traders there are believed to like him and actually live in Nkpor, Ogidi and Obosi all in Idemili North, Anambra’s central zone where Ngige hails from and where many of them registered to vote. But local governments like Anaocha and Njikoka, where Obi and Umeh hail from will most likely be picked by Obiano, including Awka North and perhaps, a good showing at Awka South and Ihiala. Against such postulations, another look at some of the candidates with respect to their standing in the race has become imperative.
A 38 year old man whose rise to national politics has been somewhat meteoric, Nwoye hails from Nsugbe in Anambra East Council Area of Anambra North Senatorial zone. An alumnus of Metropolitan Secondary school, Onitsha and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and later Ebonyi State University Medical School, Nwoye was in 2003 elected the President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and was in 2005 elected the substantive chairman of PDP in the state at 31, a period often referred to as PDP’s golden era in the state when the party won resoundingly in both the state and federal elections.
He is known as a youth movement activist and grassroots mobiliser, who mixes freely. In Nwoye is a leadership material. He has also served the nation in various capacities including but not limited to his membership of the presidential committee against illegal Arms and violent crimes in 2004, National political Reform conference in 2005, Federal committee in 2006 census, and leader of the Nigerian Delegation to the World Youth Submit in Venezuela the same year.
Nwoye holds the view that his mission is to transform the state through industrialisation, human capital development, job and wealth creation, youth and women empowerment, thereby creating an enabling environment for security, peace and progress. There is the belief that Nwoye would make an impact in Saturday’s election, the short period of his official campaign notwithstanding.
In spite of these, Nwoye is believed to lack the experience and maturity to govern a politically volatile state like Anambra. Although his youthfulness counts as strength; it is also a huge minus, given what is at stake.
Chief Willie Obiano served as an Executive Director of Business Banking at Fidelity Bank Plc, having started his banking career as a supervisor with the First Bank of Nigeria in 1981 from where he moved to Texaco Nigeria plc., an oil marketing company as an Accountant. Obiano rose to the position of Chief Internal Auditor in Texaco before joining Fidelity.
At Fidelity, he worked in various departments ranging from operations to marketing and internal audit. A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Obiano has attended many courses within and outside Nigeria. But he is battling the problem of perception.
First, he is largely seen as an unwilling candidate dragged into the race by his god father, Obi who ironically was accused of engineering the disqualification of many aspirants in the governorship position including former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Chinedu Idigo even after he had asked leaders and stakeholders from Anambra’s North to agree on a candidate with whom to work only to push them aside and brought in Obiano.
This is being considered as the major cause of his recent disagreement with Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha. Obiano himself is not helping matters. At many of his campaigns, he hardly talked, leaving Obi and the APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, to do the talking for him.
The candidate and his party also have the penchant for dropping the name of the late Igbo leader, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. No doubt, Ojukwu was a great leader of the Igbo, Obiano’s constant reference to him including Umeh and Obi, is seen as adding no political value to his candidacy.
People also detest the fact that Umeh has made it a point to occasionally go to the grave side of Ojukwu to draw strength, supposedly. That was the case when he won the several legal battles against Obi, who wanted to strip him of the chairmanship of the party. The marriage of convenience between Umeh and Obi after the court verdict had brought both of them together for Obiano. But by referencing unguardedly Ojukwu, they have branded APGA as an Igbo party, a trick that may not work against the backdrop of performance and credibility.
Deploying Ojukwu’s name at campaigns has shown that APGA is his legacy and which most of the times takes the shine off the party’s campaign such that instead of discussing issues and telling the people how to improve on their lives and infrastructure, what Obiano does is to harp on continuity, continuity and continuity of Obi’s programme, summed up in the Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) initiative.
Unfortunately, what the APGA chieftains have not come to understand is people’s renewed understanding that reference to other parties as belonging to some ethnic nationalities doesn’t stick anymore even as they have begun to question their grip on the party. To counter this mindset, it is now being alleged that those who founded APGA were actually the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Chief Chekwas Okorie, among others as a way to fight back what they thought was an injustice meted out to Ekwueme at the Jos convention of PDP in 1999 and not even Ojukwu who was then in the All Peoples Party (APP).
Therefore, it is being argued that all those championing the course of APGA today were not the original founders of the party and that its original vision may have been lost. But that is not to say that Obiano cannot assert himself. He prides in telling the people that he would be one governor if elected, to have his own mind and would restore the hopes of Anambra people. He promised to continue from where Obi stopped because as a trained banker of many years experience, he has the magic wand to walk into the offices of the World Bank and donor agencies and ask for funds. Experience and maturity may count for him.
Chief Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah was born on September 3, 1971, to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Alphonsus Ubah of Umuanuka in Otolo, Nnewi, Anambra State. His parents were teachers by profession. As teachers and role models, they instilled in their son, such virtues that have come handy for him in the course of life. This ensured that he obtained proper post primary education, the result of which was his proceeding to Okongwu Memorial Grammar School, (OMGS), Nnewi.
However, Ubah and his Labor Party appear to be drowned of late in the campaigns. The initial grandstanding and glitz that he brought to his campaign now seem to be mere window dressing. His campaign management has been depleted with people like former Speaker of House of Representatives, Chief Ajunwa Anekwe and former PDP chairman in the state, Chief Ivy Ifeatu as well as Obi Okoye, who have found their way out of his team for obvious reasons. Though he now campaigns skeletally, it is not expected that he would pose any serious challenge in the election.
First, there is the belief that he is broke and that recently, an attempt to raise money through AMCON failed, a move believed to have dealt his campaign a major blow. He is also seen as having image problem, with a poor educational background and ill-managed personality in the corporate world, his recent brawl with Mr. Cosmos Maduka, the owner of Coscharis, has remained a major setback for him. But he has carried on with what many considered a lousy following that may not lead him anywhere, ultimately. While his supporters believe in him, Ubah is dismissed by analysts as non-issue in the race.
Godwin Ezeemo, the chairman of Orient Group and President, Charity Ezeemo Trust for the Less Privileged, was born some 58 years ago to the family of Nze Umeaku Godwin Ezeemo and Lolo Ahusie Charity Ezeemo of Umunwayiekwosiduru Dim Kindred of Umuojogwo, Amanasaa, Umuchu, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.
The loss of his father at an early age, half way into his primary school, had prepared him for a challenging life of hard work, determination and care for others. These qualities were sure to compass him through the St Thomas Anglican Primary School, Umuchu; St Peter’s Secondary School, Achina and Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, in Ogun State where he obtained a Higher National Diploma.
Ezeemo is of the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA). It is rumored that he joined PPA, a party without any visible structure, on the grounds that he lost out in the APC primaries to Ngige and decided to split his support base to spite Ngige. The PPA like the LP, in spite of its supposedly lofty programmes, is not expected to turn the apple cart in the Saturday election.
Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, born on August 8, 1952, is about the biggest of the candidates in terms of experience and followership. A former governor of the state and medical doctor by profession, Ngige graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1979. He immediately went into the civil service and served at the National Assembly and State House clinics at different times. He retired in 1998 as a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Health, and thereafter, turned to politics as a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
By 1999, he was Assistant National Secretary and Zonal Secretary of the PDP in the South-east region of the country. He was elected governor of Anambra State in 2003 under controversial circumstances, but quickly broke ranks with his political godfather, Chris Uba, brother of Andy Uba, after an unsuccessful attempt on July 10, 2003 to have him removed from office, through a fabricated letter of resignation which the state assembly had accepted.
However, sometime in August 2005, an election Tribunal led by Justice Nabaruma, nullified Ngige's 2003 victory. He appealed at the Federal Court of Appeal, but the annulment was affirmed on March 15, 2006, in a judgment that awarded victory to the incumbent, Peter Obi of APGA. No further appeals were possible, and Ngige accepted the judgment in good faith, calling on the people of Anambra to give their total support to his successor.
Ngige's 33 months in office were characterised by populist programmes, especially road construction, leaving him in good standing with the electorate. He has since been in the senate after his victory at the last National Assembly election.
The APC and Ngige are often seen as formidable contenders in the race.
For this reason, the ruling APGA has always seen the APC candidate as the candidate to focus on. If his billboards were not destroyed today, the news would be that he had slapped a reverend father at a funeral or that his supporters caused the stampede at the Uke Adoration Ground in Idemili South council area of the state.
The crossfire between the Ngige campaign organisation and the Anambra State Government has remained constant. It is no wonder, therefore, that many often argued that the November 16 electoral battle would be a tripartite among Ngige, Nwoye and Obiano in that order because of the incumbency factor.
One thing appears to be going well for Ngige and it is his antecedents and pedigree during his stint as governor of the state. Mention is always made of the durable roads he tarred, the hospitals and schools he upgraded even with lesser funds at his disposal. His workaholic approach to governance then and the results made the people to dub him “a happy” mistake and wished that even if he didn’t win the 2003 governorship election as the court later pronounced, he should have been allowed to continue.
He is a grassroots mobiliser and loved by the people who in the course of what he had called his second missionary journey contributed their window’s mite to his campaign funds.
Ngige has a clear vision of his mission and talks of his desire to wipe out kidnapping, ensure that students of higher institutions in the state don’t pay through their noses, their school fees, even as he proposed free education at the primary and secondary levels, as well as make Awka a model capital city at par with its counterparts in other states of the federation.
In all, analysts believe this election would be won by a candidate who is able to distinguish himself from the rest through his programmes, experience and antecedents as one tested and trusted in leadership. Yet the Anambra electorate is largely unpredictable, it is for this reason that the Saturday governorship election is considered a no man’s game, incumbency or not.