Controversy trails Anambra decision to enforce N9million election poster fee
•APC, PPA, HDP, ACD, aspirants resist move, say they will not be cowed
Opposition parties and aspirants in the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State have kicked against the government decision to implement the N9million fee for placing campaign posters across the state.
The aggrieved aspirants and political parties alleged that the policy was deliberately conceived to give the state governor, Willie Obiano and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) advantage in the election billed for November.
The state chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Emeka Ibe, described the levy as unconscionable, which would be resisted by the party.
In particular, APC said that it would challenge the decision in court, on the grounds that it violates the fundamental human rights of participants in the Anambra governorship election.
He claimed that the move is a plot by the state government to stifle the opposition in the electioneering process, warning that APC will resist any attempt to intimidate its aspirants in the election.
The state chairman of Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Sam Oregbulam also condemned the levy, contending that the Obiano’s administration plans to deny the opposition the opportunity to campaign freely in the state.
He cautioned the governor against using his office to hound opposition parties thereby denying them platforms to express their political aspirations.
Oregbulam dismissed the claim that the money was meant to generate revenue for the state government, and sought to know if the state governor has paid for all his posters displayed all over the state.
According to him, no threat or manipulation by the government would prevent aspirants from the party from exercising their rights to campaign freely, vowing to pursue the matter further in court.
Also speaking on the issue, the candidate of Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) for Anambra Central Senatorial district, Kate Oby Okafor, described the levy as ‘worthless,’ wondering why the state government should make such demand from politicians.
She said: “You can’t be in your own state and want to campaign, and the government comes out to say you must pay a certain amount to do so. Is it constitutional for a Nigerian that wants to campaign and they tell you to pay for it? We will not accept that.
“I am a Senatorial candidate; how can I pay. That levy is uncalled for. You pay when you are advertising a product. If President Muhammadu Buhari is coming to campaign in Anambra, will he pay, will Obiano pay, to who”?
She described the State Signage and Advertising Agency law prescribing N9million fee is impractical law, which must surely fail.
A governorship aspirant of the Progressive People Alliance (PPA), Chief Godwin Ezeemo said no form of intimidation could stop him from contesting to rule the state.
Ezeemo was reacting to a question on the state government’s directive to aspirants to pay the required levy of N9 million before pasting their campaign posters.
The PPA aspirants said it was unfair for the government or anybody to want to deprive others their legitimate right to be heard in the country’s democratic setting.
According to him, “Not even the court case against me or the directives from the state government could hinder me because I don’t understand it and it cannot work.”
He described the government decision as an attempt to encourage one party system in a state where the constitution has entrenched democracy, saying: “It is not possible to introduce law to eliminate others.”
On his position on the issue of independent candidacy, Ezeemo said that Nigeria is not yet ripe to practice such a political system, pointing out that there are many political parties, which could accommodate everybody.
According to him, “We have not in any way organized ourselves for such, therefore, it will not work in Nigeria until we have an organized society.”
He said his interest to serve the state was triggered by the passion to salvage the hardship of Igbo people who have been subjected to so much trouble over the years.
“What I have learnt is that a leader must see himself as a servant to the people that voted him or her to power. The person should serve the people well by making them happy first for them to repose their confidence on him or her.”
On his agenda, the aspirant said, “My first priority is power generation, which will be to encourage investors to the state.”
A PDP stalwart in the state who would not want his name mentioned also condemned the levy, saying it is not realistic and admonished the Obiano administration to be open minded in the forthcoming election.
He said that the government is for all Anambra people and not for APGA alone urging that they should endeavor to provide a level playing ground for all the political parties in the state.
Observers argued that the timing of the policy was wrong, as it appeared that the move was a calculated attempt by the APGA-led government to strangulate opposition from realizing their ambitions in the state.
The state government had slammed a fee of N9 million for any governorship aspirants who desire to paste his or her posters in any part of the state.
According to the Anambra State Government Signage and Advertisement Agency (ANSAA) only on the payment of the fee would aspirants be permitted to have their posters displayed publicly.
The managing director of ANSAA, Mr. Jude Emecheta, warned that any aspirant who contravenes the rule would be dragged to court, as indiscriminate pasting of posters, have now been outlawed.
Besides, he said politicians who wished to put up billboards must go through registered advertising agencies domiciled in the state, asserting that no poster or election material of the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano would be posted without payment.
He explained that the agency need the money to clean up the mess generated by such posters after the every elections, stressing that nobody would allowed to de-face the state environment with papers and billboards.
The government disclosed then that a public enlightenment program on the modalities for putting up election posters would be undertaken places to avoid such as public buildings, electric poles, bridges, road dividers, roundabouts and others.
“Any politician, who fails to pay their bills before making campaign posters public, would have the agency to contend with in the court of law. So we are asking politicians not to say Willie Obiano is pursuing you or APGA is chasing you around; do the needful to avoid prosecution,” Emecheta stated.
Meanwhile, the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka, told journalists in Lagos yesterday where the Professional Excellence Foundation of Nigeria (PEFON) inducted him as a distinguished fellow, that his decision to run for the position of governor in Anambra is born out of the desire to serve the people.
He dismissed the fear that the ruling party was trying to intimidate other contestants out of the race, saying: “The only force that can accept or reject any aspirant or party are the electorate through their votes.
“Any interested person in the state who meets the electoral requirements to contest have the right to do so as long as the platform through which such person intends to actualise his aspiration accepts him.”
On how the lingering crisis of leadership ravaging the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may affect his chances either within the party or the election proper, peradventure he wins the governorship primary, Chidoka, who was also a former Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) said, “Hopefully, we are waiting for the Supreme Court and immediately the court decides this crisis will go. I don’t see the issue disturbing my chances as long as the people of Anambra want me.”
He said the time has come for the PDP to take over power in Anambra, saying that the issue of zoning, propounded by APGA would not be considered by PDP in fielding a candidate.
However political pundits are of the view that the November election is going to be a fierce battle between the ruling APGA and the APC.
In the last two years, the APC have been making spirited efforts to gain inroad into the South East ahead of the 2019 elections while the PDP is also not relenting in its efforts to regain the state with the hope of using it to stabilize in the region.
For the ruling party and average citizens of the east, APGA remains the only party that carries the symbol of the Igbo and also serves as a remembrance to the legacies of late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, the founder of the party. To lose Anambra therefore, means that the only party that represents the indigenous Igbo people in the region is gone.
Whatever the case, Anambra governorship election means a lot to the APC, APGA and PDP and as well to the Igbo people ahead of the 2019 general elections.
This is because it would act as pointer to the direction of the electorate especially whether the efforts of the APC in the region, has paid off.