After months of intrigues and high-wired politics, the frenzy that had so far characterised the first phase of the Anambra State governorship election would simmer this Saturday when the electorate in the state would go to the poll to elect a governor of their choice. The battle will, of course, shift afterwards to the Election Petition Tribunal as the second phase and subsequently, to the different stages of the court, being the third phase of the legal cum electoral battle in Anambra.
As the first phase of the exercise runs to a close this weekend, it is expected that the political parties would have begun to perfect their strategies with a degree of certainties, while the bookmakers would also be putting some finishing touches to their projections, in lieu of their understanding of the situation with regards to the parties and their candidates.
For instance, there used to be a perception that if the election had taken place a month or two earlier, it would have been a walkover for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Although his performance in office has suddenly become a subject of debate, Governor Peter Obi and APGA, whose candidate he literally handpicked, had enjoyed some positive perception that eluded other political parties which at that material time were battling to give shape to their campaigns.
The power of incumbency and its ancillary benefits which the APGA government had availed various governmental and non-governmental intitutions as well as individual Anambrarians, were and still a strong weapon in the hands of the APGA leadership in driving home its quest for continuity. Several projects worth billions of naira were daily being unveiled at every campaign to stand APGA strong on its feet.
Besides, the emergence of its candidate from Anambra North, whose case for equity in the geo-political balancing in the state, commands immense value to the APGA project. What more, APGA’s supposed major opponent in the election, Dr. Chris Ngige of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has had to do a major battle following the deportation of some Anambra indigenes by the APC-led government in Lagos State, an action that Ngige, although an irredentist Ndigbo, was believed to have tacitly supported for sake of his ambition.
Again, the thesis and the perception of APGA as purely an Igbo platform had ignited an age long ethnic survivalism and rivalry in which the Igbo and the Yoruba view each other as enemies. APC being a party led by the westerners was seen as a minus for Ngige and a plus for Obiano, the APGA candidate.
Unfortunately, Obiano has not been able to shake off the cocoon of godfathersim as no major pronouncement was recorded against his name in an electioneering that had taken the APGA to practically everywhere in the state. His performance at the governorship debate, at which many people had thought he would dust the other candidates as a consummate banker, did not quite meet the expectations of the people.
The drama between him and the Labour Party candidate, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, where the latter reportedly snatched and exposed a piece of jottings which the former took to the debate went viral on the internet, raising curiosity about the issue of competence.
The adoration tragedy, penultimate week, has also robbed off badly on APGA. Its damage control has not undone its alleged complicity in the tragedy. In addition to this was that some politicians who though worked for Obi are said not to be so willing to work for Obiano, whom they hardly know. If Obi is good, it is no guarantee that Obiano would be good too, they allegedly reckon. Thus, APGA’s domineering influence in the polity has been whittled down considerably by other opposition parties and the dynamism of developments.
In the APC camp, the low turn which heralded Ngige’s campaign in the past months has changed drastically. The man has bounced back somewhat, sweeping through the length and breadth of the state like a hurricane. “I have done it before; I can do it even better,” has been the central theme of Ngige’s message. He has stoutly defended his membership of the APC on matters of principle which he claimed was lacking in most politicians. “I am not a bread and butter politician and I don’t need to be in the ruling party to survive. Service to the people is the utmost.”
The APC candidate has also succeeded in forcing the people to compare what it was while he was briefly governor of the state and what it is today. He is a front runner, no doubt. He is believed to have the benevolent spirit fighting for him to the extent that market women are said to be contributing money to assist his campaigns. He is about the most popular face on the billboards and also the centre of all the missiles being served by the APGA media machine.
Ironically, it appears the more the man is heckled, the more popular he becomes. He remains one of the very few politicians who do not need to hire a crowd for an impressionable outing. But whether or not this will translate to some quantum votes for him will be seen on Saturday, the election day.
Enters Tony Nwoye, the game changer, perhaps! A young man whose late entry, no thanks to a protracted legal battle, has changed the face of the contest is Nwoye. Like Obiano, Nwoye is from the North and is seen by many as the real face of the people of Omambala’s quest for governorship of the state. Indications are strong that he may have taken over the zone’s support base from Obiano. Backed by Arthur Eze, Emeka Offor and Cletus Ibeto – all titans, the PDP candidate is just another personality to watch out for in Saturday’s election.
He boasts a network of youths round the state who are ready to die for him and his eventual entry into the race is believed to have sent the APGA back to the drawing board. Although many worry about his experience and maturity to govern a state like Anambra, that is ultimately a decision in the hands of the Anambra people and would be put to test this Saturday.
Ubah has obviously had one of the most impressive campaigns and has made vital contacts across all the zones. He took the turf by storm as his campaign was typified by glitz. Unfortunately, he has not been quite visible in these last few days, in what many thought was not unconnected with the issue of funding. While there is a Labour Party government in Ondo State led by Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Ubah said during one of his interviews that he had not received any money from the government, describing himself as an orphan who has been left to tend to himself, unlike the other candidates.
Lately, he is believed to be broke to the extent that he once allegedly approached the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) for a loan to prosecute the rest of his campaign. There is also the story doing the rounds that he now does his publicity on personal cognizance, an indication that his campaign has suffered serious cash crunch. But he is believed to have some kind of following to leverage, at least, for participation purposes.
The candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, has not made as much impact in the campaigns. A former member of the APC who quit in the aftermath of the governorship primaries in the party, Ezeemo is believed to have a good manifesto as well as an idea of what it takes to run a state.
Chairman of the Orient Group, there is the general feeling that Ezeemo has not really had a good showing in the campaigns and that his rating in the overall has not been impressive. But there cannot be an absolute submission in order not to undermine him hence the Saturday election will situate everyone as they so stand in the equation.
However, everything being equal and given a free and fair election, the battle will be won and lost through some of the following voting patterns as explained by the voting strength and popularity of each candidate in his area. The Omambala region with four local government areas of Oyi, Aghamelum, Anambra East and West, with a total voting capacity of about 243,000, may be shared between the PDP and APGA, even though observers fear that the PDP might have an upper hand.
The APC will also garner some votes from the same area, especially from Anambra West, where Ngige’s running mate is said to be lord, having been a two-time member of the House of Representatives and local government chairman.
The remaining three local government areas of Onitsha South and North as well as Ogbaru all in the same Anambra North with the voting capacity of 379,000 may be free for all with the APC expected to lead and followed by APGA and the PDP. The reason for APC’s lead is anchored on the heavy presence of the Idemili and other people of the Anambra Central, including the non-indigenes from Enugu and Ebonyi States who are also believed not to be happy with the deportation of their kits and kin in Onitsha by the APGA-led government of Obi in 2010.
Anambra Central where Ngige is a serving Senator and where Obi as well as Victor Umeh come from, may have been conceded to Ngige outright. His Idemili South and especially North with the highest voting strength in the state, where he is also a political prince will be hundred per cent for him. The voting strength from the two local government areas is about 258,000.
Anaocha is the birthplace of Obi with the voting capacity of 76,000; it will surely go the way of APGA. Thus, Njikoka, Dunukofia, Awka North and South may be shared amongst the candidates with Ngige likely to command emphatic victory in Dunukofia and Awka South and Awka North. The voting Strength of the three local governments put together is 232,000.
The battle will rage like fire in Anambra South. Nnewi North is the home town of Ubah and he commands a good followership. But traditionally and in a fit of irony, the APC candidate has always won the place. The voting capacity for Nnewi North and South is 169,000. The battle would be same in Nnewi South where the influence of Mr. Nicholas Ukachukwu, a governorship hopeful in the PDP will be felt. Ukachukwu is believed to have given his support to Nwoye in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling on the crisis that trailed the choice of candidate.
Also instructive is the fact that the Cletus Ibeto influence would be a factor to count for the PDP in Nnewi North while in Ekwusigo, the Emeka Offor factor would add some great value. Yet, the APGA and the APC are all on the grounds too.
Ihiala with a capacity of 113,000 votes is likely to fall for APGA while in the old Aguata comprising Aguta, Orumba North and Orumba South, victory will be too close to call, even though APGA won here in 2010, alliances have since changed, factoring in strong links for the APC. Voting capacity for the old Aguta is about 208,000.
In the final analysis, while the election looks good, somewhat, for the APC and Ngige, given these calculations, some of which are subject to change in the event of any dramatic twist in the equation; Nwoye of the PDP follows closely and could cash-in on any opportunity in the event that there is an upset. The APGA and Obiano will no doubt give a good fight since a lot is at stake, but they would be battling many odds, while Ezeemo may as well be a spectator in his own game.
The above submission is contingent on the subsisting equation as it were. And knowing that 24 hours is a long time in politics, it is therefore safe to presume that these calculations remain fluid and may be subject to several unforeseen changes as the countdown to Saturday continues.