Published On: Sun, Sep 17th, 2017

Anambra 2017: The godfathers confront power of incumbency

Obinna Ezugwu

 

Last week at a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stakeholders meeting in Awka, the Anambra State capital, the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi vowed to aggressively prosecute the November 18 governorship election in the state.

“I will be at the forefront of the Anambra governorship election, and we will prosecute it aggressively as never before,” the former governor said.

“I have served this state and I know where we left it. So we are working to take her to the deserved height.

“We have visited all the people who contested against Obaze, and if you know more people we should visit, just tell me, and we will go there. I am free and will be involved in the election fully.”

Obi is backing PDP’s candidate, Mr. Oseloka Obaze. He is back to haunt the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano with whom he had fallen out after helping him to take power in 2014. It is a revival of godfather politics in the state, a phenomenon the former governor had put a stop to in 2006.

It had taken Obi’s emergence as governor in 2006, following his dethroning of Chris Ngige through the court, to break the shackles of godfatherism in the state’s politics.

Prior to 2006, godfathers called the shots, made and unmade governors as they deemed necessary. With the return of democracy in 1999, Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju took office largely due to the influence of Chief Emeka Offor who later ensured that his government turned out to be a disaster.

In 2003, Dr. Chris Ngige was allegedly hired and installed as governor by the Uba family, notably Chris Uba on an agreement purportedly signed at Okija Shrine that he would pay a certain percentage of the state’s allocation to him in addition to appointing commissioners and special advisers. It was the governor’s reneging on the agreement that triggered the series of events the culminated in his ouster by Obi who actually won the 2003 election.

Ngige paid the price. Obi’s reign ushered in a government not bogged down by sack-clutching godfathers demanding that the state’s money be used to fill them. The result was improved infrastructural development and better management of state resources.

As an outgoing governor in 2013, Obi was instrumental to the incumbent governor, Obiano’s emergence as governor, but the duo fell out shortly afterwards. Ahead of the November 18 governorship polls, the former governor is back to haunt the man he made in 2013 this time, as a godfather fronting his former Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Obaze. But he is not the only godfather Obiano is contending with, the age old billionaire Prince Arthur Eze is also supposedly fronting a candidate in Dr Tony Nwoye of APC.

The primary elections of the two major political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – threw up surprising candidates in Obaze and Nwoye respectively. The simple reason adduced is that both are from Anambra North Senatorial zone, the zone favoured to produce governor in the spirit of equity.

This is a fact, but may not adequately explain what transpired during the primaries. In the PDP, Obaze whose sojourn in the state’s politics started in 2012 when he was recalled from the United States where he was serving at the United Nations and appointed Secretary to the State Government by Obi trumped Senator Stella Oduah who incidentally is the senator representing the Northern Senatorial zone, and Capital Oil CEO, Dr Ifeanyi Uba in what seemed like an extraordinary feet, but it would be obvious, he had Obi’s weight behind him.

Nwoye who won APC primary, beating the likes of his political boss, Senator Andy Uba and the party’s long serving national auditor, George Moghalu, it must be admitted, is more popular than both individuals in the state. In fact, Uba, despite being a former governor and now a two-term senator, is still largely unpopular with the generality of Anambra people. Hence, the APC, according to Mr. Okey Ejidike, a party stalwart put this into consideration in choosing the House of Representatives member to fly its flag.

“We chose Dr. Nwoye because he can win and change the fortune of the state for the better,” he noted.

Nonetheless, given the reach and financial capabilities of Uba, Nwoye may still have found it a little difficult against him, if not for the said backing of Eze.

Prior to the party’s primary election, it was alleged that there had been a secret agreement between Eze and Nwoye which would allow the later produce 10 commissioners, as well as receive 30 percent of the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR) if he wins the election.

Prince Eze had, however, denied the allegations, labelling it as fake and the handiwork of criminals. But sources say he is indeed backing the APC candidate.

When the chips are down in November, it would be the godfathers: Obi and Eze as represented by Obaze and Nwoye up against the power of incumbency in Obiano in what is effectively a battle of the Northern Senatorial Zone where the three come from. Although there are also former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka of the United Progressive Party (UPP) and Godwin Ezeemo of the Progressive Peoples’ Alliance (PPA) in contention, they may not have what it takes to pose serious challenge; more so Ezeemo.

“Neither Ezeemo nor Chidoka, has enough political reach and just what it might take to be able to win,” said a top political figure in the state who prefers not to be named. “But anything can still happen. However, from what is on ground and what people say, it would be unlikely.”

On paper, the election is a three horse race between Nwoye, Obaze and Obiano, but in reality, observers say, it is between the incumbent and the PDP candidate.

The APC which Nwoye represents is unpopular in the state, and with the recent military “invasion” of the South East, the unpopularity has largely turned into resentment.

Apart from this, Eze who is touted as Nwoye’s godfather can at best, provide financial support. He has little political influence and is not particularly loved by the state’s populace. Nwoye on his own ordinarily ought to be popular, but his popularity has been dampened by his party.

“In Anambra here, everybody knows Arthur Eze as a big man,” said Ebere Nwafor, an indigene of the state. “But beyond that, he has no such influence.He is not somebody you could say is noted for a lot of good things, and the fact that he is said to be in APC makes the matter worse. No reasonable Anambra man will vote for APC, especially considering what is happening now.”

With the backing of Obi, Obaze is tipped to do well in the election, and according to observers, it is indeed going to be decided between him and Obiano.

“It depends on who you speak with, or which group you interact with,” said Nwebe Emma, a resident of Awka, the state capital.

“Some people are for Obaze, in fact, a lot of people are supporting him. But Obiano is the incumbent, and also has a lot of support. So, I think it is going to be between them.”

Nwafor notes further that top civil servants in the state are not happy with the governor because he has usurped them with his numerous special advisers.

“Obiano has close to 200 advisers and aides, if not more. Civil servants are not happy with this because they say the advisers are relegating them to the background.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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