By OBINNA EZUGWU
The announcement, early Monday morning, by the returning officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the Anambra State governorship election held on Saturday, Florence Obi, that polls did not hold in Ihiala Local Government, and that as a consequence collation of results was being suspended until supplementary election is held on November 9, has delayed what was looking certain to be victory for the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and its candidate, Professor Charles Soludo.
Ahmadu Umar, the collation officer for Ihiala, had earlier said there was no election in the entire area, prompting the decision.
Soludo, and other leading candidates, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Andy Uba of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of Young Progressive Party (YPP), now wait with bated breath, while the state electorate hope for the best.
Apart from, Ihiala, the Orumba North Local Government election, which APGA won with 1908 votes, followed by PDP, 840; APC, 755 and YPP, 381, is being contested, with the collation officer claiming he signed the result under duress, as what is contained therein is not the true reflection of actual voting in the council that has 93,620 registered voters.
But after collation of results from 20 out of 21 LGAs, including Orumba North, on Sunday, out of which 17 have been called by INEC, Soludo secured 103,946 votes, followed by Ozigbo who got 51,322 votes, while Uba had 42,942.
The margin between Soludo and Ozigbo currently stands at 52,624, and according to the collation officer for Ihiala, there are 148,407 registered voters in the LGA, which is more than the margin of victory. And citing relevant sections of the constitution, the returning officer said the final collation of results cannot be done until the polling units in Ihiala LGA are covered.
These are anxious moments, but obvious from results announced so far, is that Soludo is poised for victory, and is set to be the next governor of the state, what would be his eventual breakthrough after three unsuccessful attempts.
Of the 20 local governments, he lost only two, Nnewi North, to son of the soil, Ifeanyi Ubah, and Orumba South to the PDP. Meaning that even in the highly unlikely event that any of the candidates wins enough votes in Ihiala to overturn his lead, such candidate would not secure the 25 percent spread, meaning that there would be a runoff.
The poll had initially looked set to be a tough contest, with separatist groups, notably, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), initially insisting that there would be no election in the state, even as violence threatened to mar the outcome. But in the end the group backtracked and encouraged voters to step out and cast their ballot, and the heavy deployment of security by the federal government, ensured a largely peaceful poll.
For the former CBN governor, it’s years of strategic work paying off. Having, as PDP candidate, failed in his bid to beat Peter Obi, Chief Willie Obiano’s successor in the February 6, 2010 governorship election, coming third on the occasion behind Obi and Dr. Chris Ngige, then candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he must have realised it would be nearly impossible to topple APGA in Anambra, stooped, and eventually defected to the party.
In 2017, when Obiano sought reelection, he threw his weight behind the governor, resisting the urge to contest, especially given that it was only proper for Obiano’s zone, the Anambra North Senatorial Zone to complete its eight-year term.
His support for Obiano, brought the two men close, to the point that long before APGA held its primary election earlier this year, there was little doubt that the governor would back him to emerge candidate. And once he did, he became a clear favourite to win the poll.
The APGA platform, and Obiano’s support has eventually proved critical, ensuring that he did not meet same fate that befall him in 2010.
When in 2010, Soludo, riding on the back of his perceived strong performance as governor of the apex bank, sought to govern Anambra under the PDP, then ruling party, his aspiration ended in a heavy defeat in the hands of Mr. Obi who was seeking a second term after a troubled, but nonetheless impressive first term performance.
But there were more to the defeat than met the eye. It was down, perhaps, to two critical factors: the strong intervention by the late Biafra leader, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, who used his influence to calm the nerves of many big wigs in the state who had become infuriated by Obi’s alleged frugality, and were determined to ensure his reign as governor ended after his first four years.
The second, and perhaps the more critical factor, was the indisposition and subsequent death of then Nigerian president, Umaru Musa Ya’Adua and the elevation of then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan to the position of acting president, and subsequently president. There had been talks about Soludo replacing Jonathan as vice president in 2011, and Ya’Adua’s plan, it was alleged, was to ensure that Soludo became governor so at to use the platform of governorship to gain more political clout. However, his illness and subsequent death put spanner in the works, and Jonathan upon becoming president made sure not to allow a “rival” achieve political prominence.
Obi thus retained his seat, and Soludo took his lessons, and played his politics better. Knowing that in 2021, it would be the turn of his Senatorial Zone, the Anambra South Zone, also called the old Aguata Zone, he bided his time, made friends with Obiano and has apparently achieved the outcome he wanted.
In what eventually became a battle Aguata big boys, featuring him, Ozigbo, Uba, among other candidates, the factors of incumbency, people’s emotional attachment to APGA, a platform that remains the only legacy of the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu, and his reputation as capable professional, combined to see him beat his opponents decisively in the results announced so far.
But the rotational governorship practiced in the state, helped to narrow down his potential opponents, and perhaps contributed in making his job easier.
With the return of democracy in 1999, Chinwoke Mbadinuju who is from the South Senatorial District became governor. He would, however, spend only four years as both lack of performance in office and a rift with his then godfather, Emeka Offor, ensured that he lost the PDP primary ticket to Dr. Ngige.
Ngige from the Central Senatorial Zone, would go on to be declared winner of the 2003 governorship election in the state. He governed until 2006 when Mr. Obi defeated him in the court to emerge new governor.
Mr. Obi, also from Anambra Central, would go on to do eight years in office before handing over to Obiano who is from Anambra North Senatorial Zone.
Therefore, it was natural that upon the completion of Obiano’s eight years, power would naturally return to the South Senatorial Zone. And Soludo being, easily the most notable political figure in the zone, stood a good chance.
But with APC, the country’s seemingly interested in taking the state, major concern for many was whether it would deployed federal might to impose itself. However, that was couldn’t have been the case, given Soludo’s close relationship with Abuja, and the fact that the APC is unpopular in the state, while it’s candidate, Uba, cuts a controversial figure.
Regardless, the election has not been without controversies, as exemplified by the Orumba North and Ihiala episodes. The leading parties have been accused of vote buying. And APGA particularly, is is being accused of engaging in malpractice.
The state APC is already vowing to drag the party and its candidate, Soludo to court, hoping, perhaps, to get similar judgement as the one that brought Hope Uzodinma to power in Imo State, despite coming fourth in an election won, according to INEC results, by Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
The state Chairman of the party, Basil Ejidike, in a statement on Monday, said the party has rejected the results so far declared by INEC, insisting that if the electoral body goes ahead to declare Soludo as the winner of the election, the APC will take the case as far as the Supreme Court which will then decide the state governor like it did in Imo State.
Ejidike vowed never to accept the election’s outcome because the people of the state wanted an APC governor and had voted massively for the party but “Obiano and Soludo want to change the wishes of the people.”
Collated results for 2021 Anambra governorship election
(1) Awka South LGA
(2) Dunukofia LGA
(3) Oyi LGA
(4) Anaocha LGA
(5) Ayamelum LGA
(6) Anambra East LGA
(7) Idemili South LGA
(8) Onitsha South LGA
(9) Njikoka LGA
(10) Nnewi North LGA
(11) Orumba South LGA
(12) Ogbaru LGA
(13) Onitsha North LGA
(14) Aguata LGA
(15) Ihiala LGA
(16) Idemili North LGA
(17) Ekwusigo LGA
(18) Nnewi South LGA
(19) Orumba North LGA
(Result Contested. Not Declared)
(20) Awka North LGA
(21) Anambra West LGA
Note: APGA won 17 out of 19 local governments whose results are not being contested at the moment.