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Published On: Mon, Jul 10th, 2017

Anambra: Obiano – the battle of his life

OBINNA EZUGWU |

It is exactly five months to the November 18 governorship election in Anambra State. As expected political activities are picking up, and politicians are positioning themselves in key political parties with the sole aim of dislodging the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano.
Although none of the political parties has yet picked a candidate, aspirants are already involved in high level politicking characterised by mind games in what observers say, will most likely be a battle of personalities rather than parties. Nonetheless, parties,   zoning and ironically, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are other factors expected to come into play in determining the outcome. Of the three, nonetheless, personality may be key, and already, a few individuals stand out.
In the 2013 election that produced Obiano, it was largely a four horse race involving Tony Nwoye, then of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Chris Ngige of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Ifeanyi Uba of Labour Party. The governor beat Nwoye to second position, Ngige third, Uba fourth, with Godwin Ezeemo of Progressive Peoples’ Alliance (PPA) coming a distant fifth. This year, both Uba and Ngige are yet to throw their hats in the ring, but as was the case in 2013, Nwoye is a candidate to beat. But now in the APC, he would face another formidable candidate in Senator Andy Uba for the party’s ticket.
Apart from the incumbent governor, and the APC duo of Nwoye and Uba, other potential candidates to look out for are former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka of the United Progressive Party (UPP); oil and gas business mogul, Barth Nwibe (APC); Oseloka Obaze of PDP; Godwin Ezeemo of PPA, and Chudi Offodile, a former member of the House of Representatives also in the UPP.

How the aspirants stand
Obiano:
Like in most elections that have an incumbent in contention, there is already a favorite in Obiano who has been at the saddle since 2014 under the APGA platform, a party that has ruled the state since 2006 when the immediate past governor, Mr Peter Obi upstaged Dr Chris Ngige then of the PDP through the court of law.
Obiano as an incumbent has a few factors going in his favour. He is from Aguleri in Anambra North Senatorial Zone, the zone some actors in the state are already insisting should be allowed to complete their eight years. Apart from that, he is believed to have done relatively well in the past three years. For instance, despite the prevailing economic situation in the country which has put most states in financial distress, he is paying workers regularly and has been able to put up few infrastructure projects. Some of which comprise the construction of the Awka axis of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, including three flyovers adorned with street lights; the ongoing eleven kilometre MmiataAnam-Nzam Road, and a number of others.
But one singular effort that has made him stand out is the N20million “choose-your-project” scheme he initiated wherein various communities in the state choose a development project that it considers dearest to it and the state government would execute it with a sum not exceeding N20 million. So far, over 180 communities have benefitted  from the scheme.
His critics however, say he has performed poorly overall when compared with his predecessor, Obi; many people even argue that much of his achievements is courtesy of the former governor’s financial prudence.
“As much as they may not want to admit it, much of the credit for what is happening in Anambra goes to Peter Obi,” said Mr Ikedi Isuguzo, publisher of “The Oracle,” a weekly newspaper based in Onitsha. “Obi did well as governor, he saved money, and that’s why Obiano found things relatively easy.”
Education wise, under Obiano, Anambra has moved from being first in Senior School Certificate Examinations to just among the top ten.
“Obiano’s popularity is waning,” Chidi Nwafor, a young graduate based in Awka told BusinessHallmark. “The truth is that he is not even doing much, apart from this N20million community project he has not done anything else that I know. The road from Awkuzu to Awka is bad, the roads in Aguleri, none has been completed. All the roads he awarded, none of them has been completed,” he noted.
Generally speaking however, the governor is a clear favorite as most people spoken to across the state attested to. But he faces real threat of being stopped on his tracks by some members of his party. Some weeks ago, a Federal High Court sitting in the neighbouring Enugu State, and presided over by Justice A.R. Ozoemena sacked Victor Oye, the National Chairman of APGA from office and recognized the party’s former governorship candidate in Imo State, Chief Martin Agbaso as the acting chairman in what BusinessHallmark learnt was part of the ploy to ensure that Obiano does not emerge candidate for the upcoming election.
“Okorocha and APC have been instigating crisis in APGA,” a chieftain of the party, Okey Okoroji told Business Hallmark. “Their plan is to make sure that Obiano does not emerge APGA candidate.
“Okorocha wants to destroy APGA in the South East to make sure that the APC retains Imo and takes over the South East. He is the one sponsoring these people.”
He further alleged that the culprits had met Obiano in private to demand that he pays them a sum of N3billion for them to stop their plans, a request the governor turned down.

Tony Nwoye:
But for his insistence on remaining in the PDP prior to the 2013 election, Nwoye currently a serving member of the House of Representatives could very well have been the governor of Anambra State. The indigene of Nsugbe in Anambra East Local Government was said to be the favoured Anambra North Senatorial District candidate of the then governor, Obi, but who later had to settle for Obiano because he (Nwoye) refused to defect to APGA when Obi insisted on him doing so as the only condition for his support. Nwoye had allegedly decided to stay put in the PDP, hoping to use federal might to wrestle power from APGA and Obi but failed.
This time, the 42-year-old is back in contention under the platform of APC, and there are reasons he is not only expected to beat Andy Uba for the party’s ticket, but also give Obiano a tough challenge. He is a very popular figure in the state, a grassroots mobiliser and a man of means who has been in the political scene from his undergraduate days when he served as president of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in 2003. By 2006, he was already the Chairman, Anambra State Executive Committee of the PDP at age 31.
But more importantly, he is from the core Anambra North and already, with the insistence of traditional rulers in the state that the zone must be allowed to complete their eight years, the APC is said to be considering him over Andy Uba who is from the South Senatorial District.

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Andy Uba:
The Ugah, Aguata Local Government Area indigene, who is presently the Senator representing Anambra South has become something of a colossal figure in Anambra politics, made by former president, Olusegun Obasanjo whom he had allegedly assisted financially during his time in prison. When Obasanjo took power in 1999, he was appointed Special Assistant on Special Duties and Domestic Affairs. He was Obasanjo’s right hand man and the gatekeeper for people to the President. During this time, Andy, and by extension, the Uba family called the shots in the state politics. They were said to be behind the bullying of Dr. Chris Ngige during his time as governor over his alleged refusal to pay a certain percentage of the state allocation to the family as royalty.
In 2007 Uba was elected governor in that year’s general election. However, the former governor Peter Obi challenged the election, saying that because the courts had only accepted that he had won the April 2003 elections on 15 March 2006, he still had three more years or his four-year term to serve. The courts accepted this argument and on 14 June 2007 nullified Uba’s election.
But Uba had established himself as a force in the state politics. In 2011, he won the Anambra South Senatorial election under the PDP, the party under whose platform he also won in 2015. Earlier this year, he declared for the APC with the intention to run for governor under the ruling party’s platform.
Still heavily backed by Obasanjo and now a member of the ruling party, Uba is no stranger to using federal powers to assert himself, and should he emerge the APC candidate, it would be a task stopping him.

Osita Chidoka
The former Corps Martial of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and former Minister of Aviation has certainly established himself as a popular figure in Anambra politics. Until recently, the Obosi born politician was the most visible aspirant in the PDP, but he has since defected to the UPP where he is the clear favorite to clinch the party’s ticket.
The UPP is an emerging political party, which more than any other, has fallen in line with the self determination aspirations of the IPOB and affiliate groups, a decision that has helped to boost its acceptability in the state. With Chidoka as candidate of the party, it certainly will not be a walk over.

Oseloka Obaze
With Chidoka out of the picture in the PDP, Obazee who served as Secretary to the State Government in both Obi and Obiano administrations is the most visible and most vocal aspirant in the party. He has been vocal and full of confidence, assuring that he would emerge top at the November polls.
However, PDP is a party in a seemingly irredeemable crisis and observers say, the party is no longer of much relevance in Anambra politics. Nonetheless, the Ogbaru born politician will be looking to cash in on his coming from Anambra North. Dr. Alex Obiogbolu is nonetheless, another prominent aspirant in the party who can indeed emerge candidate.

Barth Nwibe
The Group Managing Director of SEGOFS Energy Group is a man of means and one of those hoping to ride on federal might that the APC is expected to provide. He is a relatively popular figure, but would have to contend with obviously more powerful aspirants in Nwoye and Uba in the ruling party. Engineer Nwibe is from Igboukwu community, Aguata local government area of Anambra state.

Godwin Ezeemo
In the governorship election of 2013, Ezeemo as candidate of PPA came fifth. This year, he is back and is expected to fly the party’s flag once again. The Umuojogwu-Amanasaa, Umuchu, Aguata Local Government Area born farmer, industrialist cum publisher has seen his political profile rise over the past few years, due to his philanthropic gestures and visibility in the media. He would be looking to build on this ahead of the November polls.

Chudi Ofodille
The one-time member of House of Representatives has not had much of electoral success since 2007. In 1999, he won the Awka North/South Federal Constituency of the State and would serve for two terms. But after two unsuccessful attempts to get elected to the Senate in 2007 and 2011, he left the political scene.
But he returned to the limelight recently with the launch of his new book, “The Politics of Biafra and The Future of Nigeria,” in 2016. He is one of the notable aspirants in the UPP and had declared to adopt the self determination aspirations of the UPP should he be elected as governor. However, with individuals like Chidoka now in the party, his chances of emerging candidate would be dampened. A reality not lost on him. When BusinessHallmark contacted him last week to learn about his aspirations, he said he would only talk after the primaries.

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Possible deciding factors
Apart from the personalities involved, the election may eventually come down to the zoning. But political parties and IPOB will play roles in deciding the outcome.

Zone:
Anambra has three Senatorial Zones of Central, North and South. The return of democracy in 1999 saw the emergence Chinweoke Mbadinuju from Uli, Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra South Senatorial Zone as governor. He served for four years and was succeeded by Dr Chris Ngige who is from Alor, Idemili in Anambra Central Senatorial District in 2003. Ngige was eventually replaced by Peter Obi after just two years. Obi, from Agulu, Anaocha in the same Anambra Central secured a notable court victory that declared him the actual winner of the 2003 governorship election and would go on to rule for eight years.
Thus, in 2013, much emphasis was laid on power shift to Anambra North leading to the emergence of Obiano. This time, the argument in many quarters is that the North should be allowed to complete eight years before power is returned to the South. Few days ago, traditional rulers in the state under the aegis of Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council (ASTRC) met and decided that zoning remained the only way to stem bitter acrimony, stiff competition and waste of funds that trail governorship polls in the state and therefore called on political parties to field only candidates from Anambra North so as to allow them complete their eight years in office. Should this be the case, the contest may come down to Obiano, Nwoye and Nwibe who are the notable aspirants from the zone.
Nonetheless, left to the electorate, Anambra is a state with homogeneous population and the question of zone would play minimal role.

Party:
Although it is an election expected to be decided more on the basis of personalities, party affiliation will also be a huge factor. APGA, the ruling party in the state, save for its internal wrangling, remains the favorite party. The party has over the years come to be associated with the late Emeka Ojukwu, a very respected figure in the state and indeed the South East. If Obiano is able to emerge the party’s candidate despite the ongoing attempt by some members allegedly sponsored by the APC to stop him, he stands a clear chance.
The APC is the country’s ruling party, and it is expected that the federal might will play heavily in its favour. This explains the recent defection of notable political heavyweights in the state to it. But in terms of popularity, the party remains the least popular and should the election be decided strictly on majority votes, the APC cannot win. Survey carried by BusinessHallmark across the state revealed utter dislike for the party as many people spoken to said it would be impossible for the party to win.
“APC is an Hausa party,” said Mr Linus Nwokoye, an octogenarian in Amawbia, Awka. “Nobody will vote for the party here.”
His view reflects a general perception that would be hard to alter, not minding the candidate the party parades.
The UPP is generally not a party one can say is popular in the country. But in Anambra, it is second perhaps only to APGA in terms of popularity because the PDP which ordinarily ought to have been quite popular is engulfed in crisis. It is not surprising that the party now parades personalities like Chidoka, Offodile and others.  In fact, it is being rumoured in some quarters that Obiano is considering defecting to it should the crisis in APGA threaten his chances of emerging candidate.
The PDP is generally popular in the South East mainly because of the support for former president, Goodluck Jonathan. However, since Jonathan’s defeat in the 2015 election, its fortunes have dwindled considerably. More so in Anambra where it had already split into factions before it did so at the federal level.
“PDP has already destroyed itself,” said Nwede Emmanel, a resident of Awka, the state capital. “The way I see it, APC may even do better than PDP in the election.”
PPA is another party that has visibility in the state and parades Godwin Ezeemo as its foremost aspirant. The party with Ezeemo is expected to do well, but perhaps not well enough to stop APGA.

IPOB:
Recently, Nnamdi Kanu, the director of IPOB declared that the Anambra election be boycotted. This triggered series of condemnations by the political class, notably APGA and Ohanaeze Ndigbo. But it would be foolhardy for anyone to take Kanu’s order for granted. Already, the campaign for the boycott is gaining ground, and while it would not stop the election from taking place, it sure will affect voter turnout and perhaps, lead to the emergence of an otherwise unpopular candidate.
“Let me tell you, there will be no election in Anambra State unless they conduct a referendum,” Nwafor told BusinessHallmark. “That thing is going to work. The election will be held, but the turn out will be very scanty.  I’m telling you the truth. People listen to Kanu on daily basis here.”
In another breath, Obiano has been under intense attack by the IPOB of late. He is being accused of aiding and abating the killing of pro-Biafra agitators in the state, and of having consistently in closed discussions referred to the victims as miscreants. This will probably affect him.

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