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Anambra 2017: Crisis of endorsements, shortlist of contenders

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CAN/ACP To Weed Out Pretenders

By now all pretensions that the November 18 governorship election in Anambra State would be an all-comers affair have dissipated. The state chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in collaboration with the Anambra Consensus Project (ACP) is working on a shortlist of serious governorship contenders and a programme of activities to ensure that the best candidate emerges, and also to facilitate critical appraisal of the contenders by voters.
 
The novel approach to Anambra governorship comes just as the endorsement of some candidates by some notable interest groups have elicited disagreements. While the campaign for zoning of the governorship seat to Anambra north for the next four years bore relative success, Anambra south, which laid equal claims to a second term, has become the super vote mart.  

Anambra South And Chaotic Endorsements
PRIOR to the emergence of governorship candidates on various political platforms, the people of Old Aguata Union (OAU), comprising Aguata, Orumba north and Orumba south local government areas, decided to throw their weight behind the sole candidate of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Chief Godwin Ezeemo.

At an elaborate ceremony held at Neros Stadium, Nanka in Orumba north local council, delegates from the 45 communities making up the Old Aguata division, said they have endorsed the PPA governorship candidate as their consensus choice.

During the meeting, which was organised by Odimma OAU Forum, the people lamented that despite the fact of having enormous human and material resources, the area failed to work for their collective political interest.

In a welcome address signed by Prince Joe Emenike and Hon. Dan-Chibo Umeh, chairman and secretary respectively of the organising committee, OAU noted that its sons and daughters were power brokers in the state, but regretted that “they never saw any need to use the opportunity to advance the development of the area or project their own to the highest level of power in the state.”

“We are plunged into political slavery from which we are yet to regain freedom, otherwise why are we in the habit of holding the ladder for other zones to climb to power only to turn round and grumble that we are kicked out and sidelined?” the organisers stated.

Although the Odimma OAU stopped short at mentioning names, their speech alluded to the 2003 governorship imbroglio, when powerful elements from OAU led by the self-acclaimed political godfather in the state, Chief Chris Uba, engineered the rejection of a second term for Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju on the grounds of poor performance, without sourcing his replacement from Anambra south.

While the struggle for which zone should take a second shot at the governorship lasted between Anambra north and south, the people of Omambala in Anambra north argued that since Governor Willie Obiano was perceived to have performed below expectation, it should be fair to allow the zone additional four years to correct the mistake of the first four years.

Frontline advocate for the retention of zoning in Anambra north for the next four years, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, pointed out that Anambra north should be allowed to field candidates for voters to choose from, stressing unlike Anambra south, which championed the ouster of Mbadinuju without looking inwards, Anambra north wants to be the ones to correct the mistakes of 2013 to 2017.

But as if prepared to repeat the political mistake of the past, some influential politicians from the area, including former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Professor Chukwuma Soludo, led OAU to endorse Governor Obiano for a second term. Obiano’s foot soldiers had before the endorsement spread the erroneous impression that second republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, had endorsed Obiano for a second term. If the spin was intended to coral Ezeife and Soludo to engineer a bloc endorsement, it succeeded. But no sooner had the Old Aguata Union announced the purported endorsement of Obiano for a second term than voices of dissent arose. First was the leadership of United Progressive Party (UPP) in the area.

In a swift repudiation of the attempt to sell the OAU meeting as intended for endorsement, chairmen of the three local government chapters, Ugochukwu Nwosu, (Orumba north); Otti Patrick, (Aguata) and Abuchi Okeke, (Orumba south); disclosed that Soludo was advancing his personal political interest.Rejecting the endorsement the UPP council chairmen declared that “the Old Aguata Union meeting, which was organised by former governor Ezeife and Soludo at Amaokpala in Orumba north local council, took a position that did not reflect nor represent the political interest of Old Aguata people.”

They expressed dismay that “these eminent sons of Old Aguata could stake their integrity and honour for a mess of political porridge,” adding that while Ezeife turned himself over as a political jobber, Soludo was deluded by the false assurance from Obiano that he would hand over to him in 2022.

The UPP leaders stressed that as grass roots leaders; they know that the people of Old Aguata Union “are more interested in a candidate that will bring radical and revolutionary change and development in the area and Anambra State.” They pointed out that the nomination of Chief Marcel Ogbonnaya Okeke, as running mate to Chief Osita Chidoka, represents “a giant step forward in addressing the obvious marginalization of Old Aguata by the Willie Obiano government.”

In what seemed another blow to the purported endorsement of the incumbent, former Vice President Ekwueme, while receiving leaders of the OAU among others, in his country home at Oko, Orumba north; declared that time has come to unseat Obiano and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and enthrone a PDP government in the state.

Turning 360 decrees from his earlier support for Obiano, Ekwueme recalled that Anambra State had been a PDP state from inception of the present democratic dispensation, stressing that “we shall now continue with the PDP.”Although his first daughter, Mrs. Alexandra Chidi Onyemelukwe, is the PDP governorship running mate for the November poll, the former Vice President explained that APGA was able to take over the affairs of the state in the past 12 years owing to the protracted PDP leadership crisis in the state.

While announcing that his support for his daughter and Mr. Oseloka Obaze, the PDP governorship flag bearers; was total, Ekwueme maintained that APGA hold on Anambra governorship would practically end on November 18.

Former governor Peter Obi, used the opportunity to reiterate his claim that he handed over N75b to Obiano and he did not make Obiano to succeed for a financial consideration, insisting that he never asked the incumbent to reimburse him N7b as erroneously being peddled.Obi told the gathering that but for Governor Obiano’s provocatively abysmal performance, which was behind his support for his ouster; he had no personal animosities with the incumbent.

Separating Contenders From Jobbers
THE state chapter of CAN and Anambra Consensus Project (ACP), have introduced a range of programmes to ensure that the best candidate not only emerges as winner, but also to mobilise the people to support the victorious candidate at the end of the poll.

Some of the activities lined up to expose the serious candidates for public scrutiny, which kicked off with a prayer summit last Friday, include a debate by the national chairmen of frontline political parties, a debate by the deputy governorship candidates, debate by governorship candidates and organised lectures and conferences to stress free and fair contests and election.

The Guardian gathered that already, seven governorship candidates have been shortlisted by CAN/ACP for the series of activities. For instance, in a letter sent to some of the shortlisted candidates and the national chairmen of their political parties, the organisers explained for instance, that “the debate will be a platform to demonstrate your readiness for the poll.”

Signed by Senior Apostle Tim Okpala (CAN), Dr. Emeka Eze (ACP), Okey Okoye and Charles Ideli (Chairman and Secretary respectively of the organising committee), the letter to the national chairmen informed them that the occasion presents “a platform for you to sell your party’s manifesto to Anambra electorate.”

Political parties and candidates invited so far include APGA (Obiano), Action Democratic Party (ADP), Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo; All Progressives Congress (APC), Tony Nwoye; Kowa Party (KOWA); PDP (Oseloka Obaze); PPA (Godwin Ezeemo) and UPP (Osita Chidoka).

Investigation by The Guardian revealed that some candidates and political parties have expressed dissatisfaction with the decision of the organisers to narrow the process to only seven candidates, saying that it does not bear a true reflection of the status of the candidates in the field.

One of the candidates that were not invited for the debate confided in The Guardian that he has reached out to the organizers, stressing that whatever parameters were used to arrive at the shortlist, he qualifies to be included.

But when contacted, President of Anambra Consensus Project (ACP), Dr. Emeka Eze, said the partner organizations are very credible and sensitive to their reputation and public image. He explained that serious due diligence was carried out to separate serious contenders from those who are merely parading in readiness to trade their ticket or influence.

“I cannot say that the list is conclusive yet, but we have been carrying out in-depth background checks on the candidates and their political parties. We are all from Anambra and we know those who lack active presence in the field. We are continuing with the evaluation and I believe that before the debate by national chairmen on October 24, 2017; we would have come up with what should be the comprehensive list of those actively involved in the race,” Eze explained.


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Godwin EzeemoJoe Emenike

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