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Anambra 2017: Flag bearers and the burdens they carry

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Hygers Igwebuike


Political parties have done their bit in the process of candidate selection for the November 18, 2017 governorship poll in Anambra State. The three front row parties, namely, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA1 and 2), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the old hanker, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); have presented their candidates on the starting block for the final lap of the race to Agu Awka Government House.

It is necessary to do a brief analysis of the primary elections so as to be able to evaluate the burdens on the shoulders of the finalists.
Primary Matters Arising

VIEWED against the back drop of APC’s version, the PDP primary left a lot to be desired from close watchers of the former ruling party. It was obvious that the old habit of insider dealing within PDP dies hard. From the accounts of aspirants that stepped aside or dropped out there were indicators as to the perception of members about the state of internal democracy in the various parties.

A lot of people have remained in suspense as to how the former Secretary to the Anambra State Government (SSG), Mr. Oseloka Henry Obaze, trounced established stalwarts in PDP. Senator Stella Adaeze Oduah, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah and Prince John Emeka have been in the party long before Obaze joined and collected a conditional clearance to contest the governorship primary.

But after polling a total of 672 votes of the delegates to beat Obiogbolu and Uba, who had 190 and 94 votes respectively, it became clear that only the hand of a godfather could have lifted the new comer higher than the old members.

Yet, while he rendered a profusion of appreciation, Obaze’s victory became a subject of protest by some of the older party stalwarts, who threatened to hold parallel primary to produce rival candidate in the usual Anambra PDP tradition.

While he looked forward to “a good night sleep,” Oduah, who addressed journalists in Abuja said the contest was not wholesome, stressing that she withdrew from the primary when she noticed the attempt to impose Obaze on the party.

Stressing that there must be incentive for loyalty, Senator Oduah maintained that a situation where people that were not involved in the struggle to preserve PDP during the crisis should be imposed as candidate was unacceptable.

On his part, Prince Emeka, who quit the race also, complained against the irregularities in the delegates list, insisting that the mutilation of the list was not in good faith. Prof. Akolisa Ufodike, from Nnewi, Anambra central senatorial district, had earlier withdrawn, ostensibly in deference to the zoning arrangement, which ceded the position to Anambra north.

Within the APC, although the only aspirant who withdrew before the primary, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, did not blame the process, the winner of the primary, Mr. Tony Nwoye, was a surprise to some members of the party.

In his statement titled, All is well that ends well, Obidigbo who had earlier written the national leadership of the party on August 24, 2017 announcing his withdrawal for personal reasons, said: “I hope in the near future political parties would move from delegate system to direct primary elections in the selection of their candidates. APC is a great party and I believe it has learned a lot from years in opposition. I have always said that opposition helps to sharpen the instincts of a good leader and guides him to think, plan and perform better.”

Perhaps, Obidigbo was alluding to the volume of money that exchanged hands on the eve of the APC primary, or he could have also been disappointed that the adherence to zoning, which he championed, did not profit him.

The complaint in APGA is of a different sort. Two factions of the party exist by virtue of the suspension of the national chairman, Mr. Victor Oye. Ochudo Martin Agbaso, who stepped in as acting national chairman, was recently affirmed at a convention of the party in Owerri, Imo State.

Speaking on the leadership crisis in the party, Agbaso told The Guardian that going by APGA constitution, “when a national chairman is suspended, the next in line from the same zone automatically takes over,” adding that Oye convened a meeting of NWC and members of the NWC tendered a 13-point charge against him.

But while the position of national chairman was occupied by Agbaso, Governor Obiano traveled to Abuja and obtained his expression of interest and nomination forms from Oye, the suspended national chairman.

Also, while the Oye faction held its primary to endorse the incumbent, on August 21, 2017; the Agbaso faction held its governorship in Ezira Primary School in Orumba local government council of the state. Dr. Hygers Ifeanyichukwu Igwebuike, defeated two other aspirants, Dr. Elo Afoka and Mr. Chinedu Idigo, to clinch the parallel APGA flag.

In a bid to demonstrate transparency, the Agbaso faction adopted the option A4 system as supporters queued behind their preferred aspirants. Attempts by the faction to hold the primary in Awka proved abortive as security operatives barricaded both the Emmaus House and Marble Arch Hotel, earlier chosen for the event.

Dr. Igwebuike expressed dismay that the authorities should resort to the use of force to tackle what was clearly a political issue, pointing out that the governor had the opportunity to work with Chief Agbaso to reposition APGA and take it away from those who insist on running the party as personal source of easy money.

With the handing over of the certificate of return to former Aviation minister, Chief Osita Chidoka, UPP seems to have settled its post governorship primary hangover, despite the fact of resignations of some party stalwarts and functionaries from the party.

Hope Democratic Party (HDP) held its primary and affirmed the nomination of Engineer Sam Osita Oraegbunam and Arthur Regis Odidika, as governorship candidate and running mate respectively. Apart from the HDP, no other party has paired up its governorship ticket. And that may constitute part of the bargaining chip to reduce the burden on the candidates.

Candidates’ Baggage
FORMER Governor Peter Obi emerged as the silent political godfather in the processes leading to the November 18 governorship poll. Apart from the former governor’s efforts to requite his estranged political godson and incumbent, Governor Obiano, Obi spread his influence across party platforms.

Indications emerged after the APC primary that Obi assisted in funding Nwoye’s election, ostensibly to ensure he sets up an all Anambra north contest.

Obiano
HE is the incumbent whose house is not in order. With the emergence of two governorship candidates from his zone, Obiano may have it hard enjoying the benefits of a bloc vote as happened in 2013. The lack of a strong political figure with shining pedigree behind his second term is a great burden the governor is shouldering.

Above all, the friction and factionalisation of APGA may prove his greatest source of headache. Did the governor align correctly with the proper faction recognised by the law, particularly the constitution of the party? For instance, at the time he picked and submitted his nomination form, who was the authentic national chairman of the party? Was Obiano right to side with Oye, in spite of the fact that a superior court did not vacate his suspension from the party?

Hygers
DR. Igwebuike is running on the shadow of an incumbent, his challenge is how to shape his campaigns without hurting the platform, knowing that attacks on Obiano’s performance may adversely affect his chances in the long run. Furthermore, the rival APGA candidate would have to contend with apprehension over judicial rascality and conflicting pronouncements.

Nwoye
THE APC has the burden of perception to contend with. He was a creation of the Ubas. First he was assisted to mount the saddle as President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). While engaged in Aluta struggles and politics, through the help of Andy Uba, he attended the National Political Conference and became chairman of Anambra State chapter of PDP.

His sneaky academic passage through the university and roles in the destruction of government property in Anambra during the administration of Dr. Chris Ngige, as well as, the fact that he is being propelled by a godfather, are some of the minuses of his candidacy. The general perception among voters is that Nwoye, though in touch with the grassroots, is a taint product. He must rebrand.

Obaze
ONE issue the former SSG and PDP candidate would contend with while he campaigns for the governorship is the hangover of the primary, where other aspirants repudiated his emergence. Additionally the fact that he is coming much the same way as Obiano, the shadow of the very same godfather will cast a halo of doubt on his capacity and correct appreciation of the situation on the ground. Obaze could be seen as a pawn in a proxy political chessboard.

Chidoka/Oraegbunam
BOTH the UPP and HDP candidates appear to be swimming against the tide of zoning. They are from the same Anambra Central Senatorial district that produced Senator Ngige and Obi as governors for 11 years.

However, with their emergence amid some procedural and perception issues, the bulk of the work on the assessment of the five frontline candidates, including the right assessment of the position of zoning has shifted to the voters. There is every likelihood that the next governor would triumph based on personal pedigree, campaign theme, in addition to general acceptability and strength of platform.



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