By Ismail Omipidan
Before the election in 2013, it was clear from the onset that the then candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Willy Obiano was going to carry the day. And two factors made that prediction easy to make: one, the then governor, Mr. Peter Obi had raised the governance level in the state such that the people of the state were almost unanimous in their resolve that he be allowed to ‘install’ a successor. Two and most importantly was the alleged backing of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.
Although the PDP had a candidate in the race, in person of Dr. Tony Nwoye, the party made sure it did everything to allegedly frustrate his chances of winning the race by keeping him busy in the courts, until about two weeks to the election, before the Supreme Court’s judgment that declared him the authentic candidate.
Nwoye lend credence to the above fact in a recent interview when he declared that: “Jonathan sold me out, which he later apologised (for) anyway. I lost the election before (it was conducted) because the then president Jonathan gave all the support to them – to Peter Obi who installed Obiano and that was why they kept me in court. His (Jonathan) men assisted people that I contested primaries with, and they kept me in court; I only campaigned for less than 10 days.”
The rest as they say is history. Nwoye is back in the race again. So also is Obiano. But they are not the only two in the race. There are 35 other candidates, as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in September.
In the full list, as released by INEC, five women are vying for the governorship seat, while eight others are vying as running mates.
While Obiano retained his deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke as running mate, the APC candidate, Dr. Nwoye, has the son of former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dozie Ikedife Jr as his running mate, with PDP’s Oseloka Obaze pairing with the daughter of the former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Mrs. Chidi Onyemelukwe. Former Aviation minister, Chief Osita Chidoka, who is running on the platform of the United Progressive Party (UPP) has Chief Marcel Okeke, an economic strategist, multi-talented administrator and philanthropist, as running mate.
Others on the list are Nwezi Amechi and his running mate Okeke Njideka, a woman, for the All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), and Oby Okafor and her running mate Onyekwuluje Uzoma for the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD).
Also in the race are the Alliance Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Action Alliance (AA) and Action Democratic Party (ADP), African People’s Party (APP), Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), Democratic Alternative (DA), Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC), Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and Kowa Party.
The rest are the Labour Party (LP), Masses Movement Of Nigeria (MMM), Mega Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP), National Democratic Liberty Party (NDLP) United Democratic Party (UDP), National Conscience Party (NCP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Nigeria Peoples Congress (NPC), National Unity Party (NUP), People for Democratic Change (PDC), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Democratic Party (YDP) and Young Progressive Party (YPP).
But of the lot, Daily Sun investigations reveal that four stand out. And from all available records and statistics, it was further gathered, the four candidates, otherwise dubbed the big four are the frontrunners in the race. They are Obiano, Obaze, Nwoye and Chidoka. Of the four, three are from Anambra North Senatorial District, an area where traditional rulers, elite and other major stakeholders in the state believe should have another shot at the governorship, in line with its unwritten zoning arrangement in the state. Chidoka is the only one from Anambra Central Senatorial district, an area the people believed has had its turn as far as the governorship of the state was concerned.
He is the incumbent governor. Naturally the incumbency factor should work in his favour. He is a Catholic and they are in the majority in the state. His candidature is seen as the surest short cut to having the south senatorial district have a go at governorship after four years based on the zoning and rotation principle.
He is also running on the platform of APGA, a party seen largely as an Igbo party. Although the original founder of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie is not from the state, but because the late leader of the party and former Biafra warlord, Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu hails from the state, Anambra is seen as the home of APGA. Those who hold this view believe that irrespective of whether Obiano is doing well or not, the party must not be allowed to die.
The slogan is “Nkea bu nke anyi” (meaning: this is our own). They see the party as one that could be used to negotiate Igbo’s fortune in Nigeria. Two prominent chieftains of the party who have been pushing this position through in the media, especially is the immediate past national chairman of the party, who incidentally is leading Obiano’s re-election campaign, Chief Victor Umeh and former Information commissioner, Chief Tony Onyima.
Umeh, in one of the party’s campaign rallies in Idemili North said: “Anambra election is not only to re-elect Governor Obiano but to ensure that APGA did not go into extinction; we will not allow the only Governor elected under APGA to be removed from office.
“Governor Obiano is the only governor the Igbo race has, so the election is not only for Obiano’s re-election but to make sure the Igbo race is not wiped out in Nigeria.
“The way Igbo are treated in Nigeria has exposed the injustice against the Igbo people and we must struggle harder like never before to ensure that we remain in Nigeria, you should not listen to the people who are coming here to tell you to join them, their end will soon come.”
Onyima, on his part, in a recent interview with Daily Sun said: “If for whatever reason, Anambra decides to embrace APGA, and APGA has retained the power for the past 11 years, what is wrong with that? If you look at the political history of this country, which party has ever been a truly national party? It requires a handshake across the divide to be a national party. Obiano has promised to do that. In the last governorship election in Abia, he gave all the necessary support to the candidate there, and he nearly got or he got it, but for some unforeseen circumstances. In Imo State, recall that Rochas Okorocha first won election on the ticket of APGA and later he defected; AD started that way, and from AD to AC, ACN and, today APC. So, APGA is in the same trajectory.”
Obiano’s supporters are of the view that he has performed. And those in this league will readily point at the beautification of Awka, the capital city, building of roads and flyover, maintenance of security and his investment in agriculture, to buttress their position.
For Obiano, the major attraction for now is his dolling out of N20 million to each communities for projects. Because the traditional rulers and some elite are in charge of the disbursement of the fund, Obiano is expected to have them on his side. He also boasts of paying salaries of workers regularly. All these which are some of his strengths are expected to work in his favour.
However, there are other factors also likely to work against him at the poll. His performance is seen largely in some quarters as a fluke. Interestingly, during the last governorship debate organised and televised live by Channels Television, Obiano could not adequately respond to the issue when he was asked to show any tangible results on the ground of the series of MoUs he had signed in the last three and half years.
His government is also seen as clownish, as his appointments revolve mainly around his area- the Aguleri axis. And even some of the roads he constructed are said to be concentrated in his own area of the state. There is also a gang up against him, from within his party, APGA.
For instance, Chief Sylvester Nwobu-Alor, founding member of APGA in Anambra State, who is presently campaigning for the election of Oseloka Obaze of the PDP believes that Obiano does not deserve a second term. He said among other things that “it is preposterous and prevaricating for a properly constituted government with huge allocations and IGR to point at the payment of salaries and pension as achievement. By the way, it is legal, moral and natural to pay all workers at the due time. It is unconscionable and despicable really to owe a worker who has completed his task. Therefore, Obiano’s government should not see the payment thereof, as an achievement. Besides, governments before it (that is Ngige and Obi’s) paid salaries and pensions and still performed and packaged the infrastructures to the admiration of Ndi Anambra. More so, Obiano’s government has no reason not to pay salaries and improve on the lives of Ndi Anambra because a solid financial foundation was availed by the preceding government of Peter Obi. The street light project, good as it is, is not enough to showcase given the enormous fund at Obiano’s government disposal.
“I believe in objectivity and not swayed by parochialism and sentiments. Honestly, the government of Obiano has not done anything positive to warrant a second tenure. I say it again, giving Obiano a second chance means total liquidation of Anambra State. To this end, therefore, I urge Anambrarians to give Oseloka Henry Obaze their mandate come November 18, 2017. He is already tested and trusted having brought his Midas touch to bear on both Obi’s and Obiano’s incipient administration. The now famous and glorious MDG’s miracle in Anambra so far is the handwork of Oseloka Obaze. Truly, as an elder statesman and a stakeholder in Anambra polity, Obaze’s international diplomatic exposure and human management acumen, including the expertise of Chidi Onyemelukwe are sure the right steps to progress and prosperity in Anambra State.”
He is a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG). He served former governor Peter Obi and incumbent governor, Obiano in the same capacity. But for the crisis that engulfed APGA in the run up to the 2013 governorship election, he would have succeeded Obi.
Obi, Daily Sun gathered, had zeroed in on him, campaigns were on, and suddenly crisis broke out between Obi and Umeh, who was the then national chairman of the party. But when the dust settled, part of the compromise reached was that all those who were on the side of Obi, and who had already been pencilled down to run would have to give way. And that was how Obiano, who was never part of the government and the initial campaign, came into the mix and became the beneficiary of the crisis.
But Obi and Obaze today are in the PDP. Like Obiano, he is also a Catholic. Daily Sun gathered that the Catholic Bishops at some point mooted the idea of backing a candidate, but the idea did not fly.
Obaze, as many have come to know today is the unsung hero of the Obi’s magic in Anambra State. Interestingly, if outcome of debates before elections have impact on the voters, Obaze, from last Sunday’s outing would have carried the day. Most Nigerians including those who are not from Anambra gave the day to him. He is sound, articulate and appears to have a clear idea of what he wants to do in Anambra. His major strength is Obi. But that could also undo him.
Obi is largely seen as fighting a vendetta. But Obi too has explained his reasons for leading a campaign against Obiano. He told Daily Sun in a recent interview that: “I governed this state for eight years. I can tell you that there is no candidate in this present election that can work better than our (PDP) candidate, Obaze. Some people wrote that Peter Obi and Obiano are quarrelling. I don’t have any issue with Mr. Willie Obiano, but I have issues with Governor Obiano. We are not quarrelling, Obiano is still my friend.
“…the issue I have with Obiano is very simple. When I took Obiano round Anambra State for campaign, wherever we went to, the markets and so on, the people kept asking me, ‘Peter are you sure this man would do well,’ and I said ‘yes.’ They asked, ‘if he fails to do well what will happen? I told them ‘I would be the one to lead a campaign against Obiano if he does not perform well in his first term.’ Today, can anyone show me what the governor has done within his first term? He has nothing to show for it. I am a businessman; you don’t introduce a product twice in the market.”
However, the crisis within the PDP would largely work against Obaze. If the PDP had put its house in order, analysts believe the governorship would have been it for the take. Those who argue along this line believed that Anambra was originally PDP and that all the major actors in the different political parties today, especially the major ones, were once members of the party before they all went their separate ways.
Ironically, all the aspirants who contested against Obaze on the platform of the PDP are not with him. While some are working for the APC, others are with Obiano. Yet, there is a group who believe in working for the party so that in the event that the party wins, they would find a way round their challenges. One of those in this category is Dr. Alex Obiogbolu. He believes that he could still be the governor, if the party wins, since he is already challenging the emergence of Obaze in court.
In all, majority of the PDP members are angry that Obi has allegedly hijacked the party. They say his man picked the party’s ticket, a running mate was picked without recourse to them and that the campaign team was put together without carrying them who are the mainstream PDP members along. All these are expected to work against Obaze.
He is also a Catholic like Obiano and Obaze. Like the two of them too, he is also from the northern senatorial district. But unlike Obaze, this is not his first attempt. He ran against Obiano in 2013, but lost. However, to prove a point, he ran for the Anambra East/West Federal Constituency election and trounced the governor’s candidate. He believes strongly that if he could defeat the governor in his “backyard” in 2015 to go to the House of Representatives, he could repeat similar feat this Saturday.
Though, a grassroots person, Nwoye himself is of the view that the race won’t be a tea party. He admitted that APGA was a “strong party” to beat in the state, but nonetheless expressed confidence that he would win the election.
The youths, especially students are his greatest assets. Being a former students’ union leader, the youths see him as one of their own. He also enjoys reasonable support from the womenfolk, largely because of his major backer, Chief Arthur Eze, who is said to be a philanthropist of legendary proportion.
He is one that keeps to agreement. If you have an agreement with him, he is not the type that would betray it. Although he hasn’t say so, his opponents believe that he would be relying only on federal might to make it to Awka Government House.
But Nwoye and his supporters think otherwise. He said: “Rigging is not possible in this election. Votes must count; one man, one vote. APC will win this election convincingly. APGA would be the complainant while APC would be the defendant after the election.”
However, Nwoye’s major challenge is his party. Despite the fact that some of the ‘who is who’ in the South East today are in the APC, the party remains a hard sell in the zone, including in Anambra State. His party is seen largely as being responsible for the marginalisation of the Igbo.
Incidentally, Nwoye and his supporters too are aware of this fact. What they have now resorted to do is to convince the people that they should put it at the back of their minds that they are voting Nwoye and not any Hausa or Yoruba man.
Daily Sun can authoritatively reveal that were it possible to have candidates’ photograph on the ballot and not party logo, Nwoye would have been one of the greatest beneficiaries of that.
Apart from his party, there are also a few of his party members who are also not happy with his emergence. Prominent among them is Senator Andy Uba. All these may work against him.
A former Aviation minister, Chidoka is one politician who appears to be looking beyond this Saturday’s election. His party though very new, appears to represent the new thinking in Igbo land. Its ideals appear to be in tandem with some of the positions being canvassed by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The party is being seen in so many quarters as an alternative to APGA. Maybe if the elite and the traditional rulers had not taken side concerning the issue of zoning in the state, Chidoka may perhaps have been dubbed the underdog in the race. Regardless, he appears like one.
Like Obaze, Chidoka gave a good account of himself during the Anambra governorship debate last Sunday. He was rated second best after Obaze by Nigerians on the various social media platforms. He believes he has what it takes to build Anambra into the “first truly world class state in Nigeria and to trigger the processes that would deliver double-digit growth in the GDP of Anambra State and transform it into a middle-income economy by the year 2022.”
Unlike the other candidates, Chidoka is an Anglican. And the church plays very significant and important roles in influencing the choice of electorate.
Chidoka’s experience in the public sector is one of his greatest assets. He became the Chief Executive Officer of Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) at the age of 35. But for now, his senatorial district remains his greatest albatross.
However, since he is the only one from the Anambra Central Senatorial district, and since the area has the highest voting population in the state, the people might just decide to spring some surprises. Anambra is never in short supply of political surprises.
Like all the other three major political parties, Chidoka also has some challenges with members of the UPP, some of whom have since left the party shortly after the primary election that produced him as candidate. Also, many believed that since his brother is a current member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP, he should not have bothered showing interest in the race.
The battle ground
Like every state, Anambra too has three senatorial districts. There are 21 councils in all, with each of the senatorial district having seven councils. Obiano’s running mate is from central, while those of Chidoka, Obaze and Nwoye are from the south. But Obi and Ngige are from central. Both men are well respected in the area. Ngige is backing Nwoye, while Obi is backing Obaze. Senator Uche Ekwunife also has reasonable followership in this zone. She is backing Nwoye. Umeh, who leads Obiano’s campaign is also from central. From all indications, Anambra central which has the highest number of voting strength remains the battle ground and any of the candidates that makes appreciable impact in the zone may as well carry the day.
Regardless, for Obi and Obiano, Daily Sun investigations can reveal, the election is a contest for pride and ego between them. And since all the other three major candidates see Obiano as a non-performer who should not be given another chance to return, the collaboration between two of any of the three would make the race a very tight one for Obiano. But where they all go into the race the way they are at present, Obiano may perhaps carry the day.