BY OBINNA EZUGWU
When few days ago, governorship hopeful and senator representing Anambra South senatorial district, Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, held a rally in his home town of Nnewi, Anambra’s second largest commercial hub, after Onitsha, to declare his intention to run for the office of governor in the upcoming November 6, 2021 governorship polls, there was fanfare.
Thousands abandoned their businesses to welcome and cheer on one of their illustrious sons attempting to achieve what none has achieved: govern Anambra.
The November governorship polls is fairly certain to be a battle among political heavyweights from the state’s Southern Senatorial Zone, which, by the state’s zoning formula, is to produce Gov. Willie Obiano’s successor. But even within the Anambra South, the Nnewi bloc has a peculiar agitation for power, and Senator Ubah, embodies that aspiration.
Easily one of the most prominent towns in Anambra – a town noted for enterprise and its consequent production of several billionaires, perhaps the most of any town anywhere in Africa – Nnewi has not managed to replicate its success at business in politics.
Despite producing many individuals of note, both in politics and commerce, such as Nigeria Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, business mogul and founding president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, whose son Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, would become the military governor of old Eastern Nigeria and consequently, head of state of the secessionist state of Biafra.
Others include Innocent Chukwuma, founder and CEO of Innoson Motors; Cletus Ibeto, chairman of Ibeto Group; Cosmas Maduka, Coscharis Group, among others, Nnewi has yet to produce a governor of Anambra State, despite several attempts in the past.
The inability may well be down to time and chance. But the reason often adduced is that the Nnewi bigwigs often undermine one another, yet the people themselves see it in terms of other groups ganging up against them fearing that a town with such economic power could not be allowed to equally take political power; all of which exist in the realm of political gossip.
However, as the state prepares to elect another governor in November, the people of Nnewi appear to have resolved to change their story and are rallying behind their son, Senator Ubah, who is certain to fly the flag of Young Progressive Party (YPP) under whose platform he was elected senator, almost against the run of play, in 2019.
“You can’t take him for granted. And from what I hear, the people from Nnewi side are determined to make sure that they produce the next governor,” said Mr. Collins Okeke, head, public sector practice group, Olisa Agbakoba Legal. “And I understand that a lot of the prominent people there support Ifeanyi Ubah.”
Ubah had relied largely on the backing of his Nnewi constituency to emerge senator in 2019 under the relatively unknown YPP, which coincidentally had Kingsley Moghalu, a Nnewi son, as presidential candidate, defying the odds on the occasion to beat both trio of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
And going into the November polls, his people are once again upbeat, hoping to replicate the success of 2019.
“Ubah will give Anambra State what it has been yearning for all these years,” said Mr. Chris Ifesi, Southeast chairman of YPP. “You could see that he is a grassroots man. From the locals, you will be able to know the strength of a politician.”
In some ways, Ubah’s emergence as senator was a protest against the incumbent governor, Obiano, whose decision to deny him the APGA ticket, was largely interpreted as a betrayal of the Nnewi people.
Ubah, among several other prominent sons of Nnewi, had supported Obiano and campaigned for him when he sought a second term of office in 2017, with the possible understanding that he would be supported by the governor in 2021. However, both men fell apart when the Obiano led APGA, in the lead up to the 2019 election, denied Ubah the party’s Anambra South senatorial ticket.
Ubah understandably sought the APGA senatorial ticket, hoping to use the senate as springboard to launch his governorship bid. But Obiano apparently chose to make his intention of not wanting him near the Awka government house known early enough by ensuring that he never took the party’s senatorial ticket. Ubah would join the YPP and through the platform, actualised his senatorial ambition.
Supported by those who saw Obiano’s move as betrayal, and particularly, people of his Nnewi constituency to whom the governor’s action was yet another ploy to keep them out of power, Ubah defeated candidates of the PDP, APGA and APC to emerge winner of the zone’s senatorial election.
His victory meant that an open war was now declared between him and the governor who is evidently determined to stop him from becoming governor.
But Ubah has enough political muscle to give any opponent a headache. His emergence as senator under a relatively unknown political platform was perhaps a good demonstration of his grassroots support base, and going into the polls, he has reasons to be hopeful.
“You can see the crowd here,” he told reporters when he took his campaign to Aguleri last week. “As you know, Aguleri is the home town of the current governor. That shows you how people love this party. YPP has come to stay. By the grace of God, YPP will win this election on November 6th.”
Ubah s, without a doubt, is a political heavyweight in the state, and has the support of his constituency. And although he is running on a relatively unknown platform, former governor of the state, Peter Obi who became governor under APGA in 2006, after reclaiming his 2003 mandate in court, at a time when the PDP was dominant, is enough prove that a “small” party can cause an upset.
At the moment, the list of contenders is long. Under the ruling APGA, notable aspirants include, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, Hon. Thankgod Kenechukwu Ibeh, Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, Hon. Okwudili Ezenwankwo, Hon. Nonso Smart Okafor, Evang. Nicholas Ukachukwu, Mr. Akachukwu Sullivan Nwankpo and Chief Damian Okolo.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) also boasts of a long list of aspirants. They include, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, Dr. Winston Udeh, Sen. Dr. Ugochukwu Uba, Sen. Uche Ekwunife, Dr. Godwin Ezeemo, Dr. Godwin Maduka, Mrs. Chidi Onyemelukwe, Mrs. Genevieve Ekwochi, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo and Mr. Ike Oligbo.
Others are Hon. Chris Azubogu, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, Emeka Etiaba, Chief Walter Okeke, Hon. Tony Nwoye and Hon. Chuma Nzeribe
The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) has 10 aspirants lined up, including Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo, Engr. Johnbosco Onukwo, Sen. Dr. Andy Uba, Rev. Godwin Okonkwo, Chief George Moghalu, Chief Paul Orajiaka, Mr. Ben Etiaba, Hon. Azuka Okwuosa and Dr. Igwebuike Hygers. Although only three of the aspirants have obtained the party’s nomination form yet.
Ubah has only one challenger for the YPP ticket, Emma Nkwocha, but he is certain to take the ticket and face the eventual candidates of APGA, APC and PDP, in what will, on paper, be a four-horse race, which may in reality, boil down to a contest between him and former CBN governor, Charles Soludo, who is projected to take the ruling APGA ticket.
Of all the candidates, however, the odds greatly favour Soludo for a number of reasons. He is likely to emerge the ruling APGA’s candidate. He is a widely popular figure in the state, with experience in public service, and international exposure to boot, and feelers suggest he is being propped by the country’s ruling party, the APC, with the possible intention of him running as vice presidential candidate in 2023.
“Soludo is clearly the candidate to beat, if he manages to take the APGA ticket,” Okeke said. “I cannot see anyone in the line-up who can challenge him credibly, maybe Ubah.
“Ifeanyi Ubah is the only candidate that may turn it into a bit of a challenge. Otherwise, I would say that Soludo stands a clear chance of winning.”