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Anambra 2017: Gladiators change parties towards a blistering governorship contest

By Leo Sobechi
15 January 2017   |   3:16 am
Like Nwoye, Obidigbo is from the same senatorial zone as the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano. Though the governor did not pay much premium on Nwoye’s defection to APC, he described Obidigbo’s cross over as a betrayal...
Governor Willie Obiano

Governor Willie Obiano

Obiano, APGA Jittery

Up until the recent defection and declaration of intention to contest the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election by the swashbuckling former initiator of Transformation Ambassadors, Chief Patrick Ifeanyi Uba, political activities in the state have been defined by quiet search for political parties. And as a man given to clamorous campaigns, Ubah’s recent about face from the embattled Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), merely raised the stakes in what has become a frenzied rush for new political platforms in Anambra.

Consequently, savouring its new status as a beautiful bride, the All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to be transforming itself from the status of a rejected stone to a major beam in the expected gubernatorial melee. And in a bid to forestall the likely negative backlash the floodgate of defections may leave on the party, APC is said to be quietly raising some recommendations to moderate its governorship primary election, such that it does leave a sour and divisive aftertaste as happened recently in Ondo State.

However, at the back of the minds of those who have decamped and others still contemplating a move to the federal ruling party, should be the experience of the first defector from PDP: Senator Uche Ekwunife. Shortly after the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, for inexplicable reasons bordering on nomination, sacked her from the Anambra Central Senatorial seat; Ekwunife had quickly crossed over to the APC, ostensibly to take part in the ordered rerun poll.

After facing a screening committee headed by the erstwhile spokesperson of the Southeast leadership caucus and now the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, the senator was described as a fair weather hen that takes pleasure in crisscrossing political parties.

Although Ekwunife was later given the green light to partake in the APC senatorial primary to select a possible replacement for the party’s candidate in the 2015 election, Senator Chris Ngige, it was obvious that she was not the preferred choice of the party for the senate seat. The primary election between Ekwunife and Barrister Sharon Ikeazor was stalemated in confusion; even as Ikeazor on the strength of Ekwunife’s non-clearance appeared most likely to fly the party’s flag had the election held.

Ever since, that event of the contest between Ekwunife and Ikeazor became a reference point in discussions about the lot of defectors in their new party’s selection process. But, after the revealing outcome of the Ondo governorship, the lesson seems to have been lost on gladiators in the ongoing promiscuous defection to APC in Anambra.

Coming into the 2017 election year, politicians from across party divides have been exploring and changing platforms, a development that presages a blistering governorship contest in a state reputed for electoral tension and horse-trading.

Rattled by the changing dynamics, Governor Willie Obiano, was said to have elicited the support of his counterparts from Niger and Kaduna States, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello and Malam Nasir El Rufai, to join him and prevail on President Buhari, to okay his defection to APC. Although the three governors succeeded in meeting with the President last week, the outcome or details of their discussion are not known as yet.

Those Who Have Moved
NOT long after his group lost out in the PDP state congress, Dr. Tony Nwoye, who represents Anambra East and West in the House of Representatives crossed over to APC. And being a sitting lawmaker, many people expected that the PDP would begin a recall process to punish the legislator for absconding with their mandate.

But the fractionalization and leadership crisis in the party between Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi proved to be Nwoye’s saving grace. The lawmaker, who was once state chairman of PDP, as well as, the 2013 governorship candidate of the party has not hidden his intention to contest the 2017 edition.

Backed by former PDP financier and political investor, Prince Arthur Eze, Nwoye has continued to mobilise his supporters, made up mainly of youth and former ward and local government officials of PDP for the governorship on APC platform.

But signs that the state chapter of APC was serious in its bid to convince the national leadership of its zeal and hard work, emerged when the members of the State Working Committee wooed and succeeded in bringing on board, the founder and members of Osisioma Foundation, Dr. Chike Obidigbo,

Having run both as the consensus choice of Anambra north senatorial zone and rival governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Obidigbo’s defection alongside some members of the APGA faction loyal to him, dealt a big blow to the ruling party in the state.

Like Nwoye, Obidigbo is from the same senatorial zone as the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano. Though the governor did not pay much premium on Nwoye’s defection to APC, he described Obidigbo’s cross over as a betrayal, saying that it renews the consensus arrangement, which former Governor Peter Obi truncated to anoint him (Obiano) as preferred APGA candidate.

Another defector from APGA is Chinedu Idigo, who joined PDP in a bid to take advantage of Peter Obi’s membership to seek the party’s ticket for the impending governorship election.

Of the defections so far, only Ifeanyi Ubah is a known governorship aspirant from the populous Anambra South Senatorial zone.

Since the state was created, only Anambra North and South have not done two terms on the governorship. But prior to Obiano’s governorship, the north has never occupied the office. In 1991 when the zone would have clinched the position through Okey Odunze, some entrenched political forces from outside the state pushed up Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife.

This time around, the north and south are also angling for who should be the first to do two terms, although the popular sentiment in the state and which the APC seems to have adopted is that since the incumbent is from the north, the field should be left free for the north. It is against that emotion that the south is asking for an undertaking from the candidates from the north to just one term. And given their age disparity and integrity quotient, Obidigbo is believed to be the plausible candidate to give such commitment.

Those Still Contemplating Defection
FORMER Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Oseloka Obaze, apart from announcing his interest to contest the governorship, has not as yet disclosed his party of choice. But there is every indication that the former scribe in Peter Obi’s administration would leave APGA. Sources say he is studying APC and Hope Democratic Party (HDP) to ventilate his governorship aspiration that was botched in 2013 by Obi’s intrigues and high wire politics.

But in the entire defection politics trending in Anambra, one bid fish whose defection is being awaited with gusto is that of the Senator representing Anambra South: Andy Uba! No doubt, the expected defection of Ugomba, as the Senator is called by his admirers and his Igwekamma political machinery, would leave political dent on Anambra politics to earth-shaking proportion.

Primarily, the defection of the well heeled Senator and his group would greatly deflate the capacity of PDP in the state, even though it could leave enormous leg room for Peter Obi and his supporters. On the other hand, should the Senator join APC as is being speculated, it would bring new pressures on the party, given the fact that Andy’s former principal, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, remains the navigator in chief of the party.

And just like Obidigbo in Anambra north, Senator Uba, who briefly occupied the governorship in 2017, is believed to be a governor-in-waiting from Anambra South. However, it is left to be seen how the emergence of Ifeanyi Ubah on the scene would alter the calculations in Anambra South.

Following the recent defection of former Abia State governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, to APC, it is also being speculated that former governorship candidate of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) Godwin Ezeemo could be heading back to the APC camp, from where he defected after Chris Ngige emerged governorship flag bearer in 2013.

Surprise Underdogs And Possible Third Forces
2003 governorship aspirant on the platform of Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, caused a stir in Anambra and the cyberspace recently, when he announced his defection to the United Progressives Party (UPP).