Amid Anambra zoning crisis, APGA, Obiano tighten incumbency factor
There are three voting blocs in Anambra South Senatorial District of Anambra State. They include the old Aguata Union, comprising Aguata, Orumba North and South local councils; Nnewi bloc, made up of Nnewi North and South and Ekwusigo local councils, as well as Ihiala bloc of the Okija and Ihembosi precincts.
By November 2021, the state would be going for another governorship poll to elect a successor to incumbent Governor Willie Obiano, who hails from Anambra North Senatorial District of the state. However, some politicians from Anambra South Senatorial District are agitating for power shift to their zone in a bid to sidetrack governorship aspirants from the more cohesive Anambra Central Senatorial District.
Barely one year to the end of Obiano’s second term and citing the 2013 bargain by former Governor Peter Obi that Anambra North Senatorial District should be allowed to produce his successor, politicians from Anambra South have been clamouring for their zone to produce the next governor.
Although various stakeholders and organisations have faulted the attempt to zone the governorship, arguing that the electorate should have the final say in the election of the next governor, some stakeholders in the South Senatorial District have also expressed apprehension that the zoning agitation might throw up new challenges.
Micro-zoning within divided South
The agitation for zoning of the governorship to Anambra South recently took a controversial dimension after politicians from Nnewi and old Aguata Union accused a former Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Akachukwu Nwamkpo, of clandestine plot to have the governorship micro-zoned to his Ihiala area. Nwamkpo has been using various campaign tools to champion the agenda.
Deploying a multiplicity of flyers and banners, some of which read: “I stand with Anambra South for Governor 2021”, “Support Anambra South for Governor 2021, it is right; it is fair”, Nwamkpo maintains that it is the turn of Anambra South to produce the next governor in 2021.
Recalling that he aspired to be governor in 2013, a grassroots politician from Nnewi South, Mr. Anselm Nwosu, said Nwamkpo was interested in the governorship and wants to cleverly manipulate things to favour Ihiala/Okija, where he hails.
According to Nwosu, “He has brought back similar gimmick that surrounded the formation of Ohanaeze Foundation and mass transit investment. Ihiala has produced a governor in the person of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju. Aguata has also been governor through Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
“So that leaves us with Nnewi and Ekwusigo that have not produced governor or senator for Anambra South until Ifeanyi Ubah won the 2019 Senatorial election, which Obinna Uzor and others from Ihiala wanted to snatch through the backdoor.”
Unlike in the instance of 2013 when Governor Obi made a case for Anambra North as the political leader of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), there is neither a unanimity of voices nor political leadership in the zone to moderate the quest for zoning to the South.
Of the four major political parties that are showing strong structural presence to contest the 2021 governorship, including APGA, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Young Progressives Party (YPP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), three, namely APGA, APC and YPP, seem inclined to picking their governorship candidates from Anambra South.
While APC has established politicians like Dr. Andy Uba, George Moghalu and Tony Nwoye, YPP, with its circumscribed presence in the state, has Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, as gladiator for the governorship poll.
Although Governor Obiano does not have similar political clout as Obi, he has been siding the clamour for powershift to Anambra South, ostensibly to ensure that the APGA gubernatorial standard-bearer could emerge from there. APGA stakeholders in the state claim that Obiano has resolved on making the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, his successor.
But opponents of zoning have faulted the governor’s scheme, arguing that the inability of proponents of zoning to mobilise the entire people of Anambra South to put forward a consensus candidate, like Obi did in 2013, weakens the zoning argument.
Yet others maintain that since political jobbers hijacked the process and imposed Obiano, instead of Dr. Chike Obidigbo, who was the consensus choice of Anambra North in 2013, nobody should be talking about zoning.
A cursory look at the electoral dynamics in the state shows that in his desperation to play godfather and implant a successor, Governor Obiano seems to be apprehensive that opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with its strength and spread, could jeopardise his succession plan. Consequently, the machinations for zoning the 2021 governorship in the state seem to be precipitated by two main factors, namely, APGA’s apprehensions and jostling within PDP.
A run down of PDP aspirants reveals billionaire political juggernauts with easy name and face recognition, as well as evident presence across the length and breath of the three senatorial districts of Anambra State.
They include: Dr. Obiora Okonkwo Iyom, Senator Uche Ekwunife, Hon. Chris Emeka Azubogu, Dr. Godwin Maduka, Chief Godwin Ezeemo and Valentine Ozigbo. Of the pack, only Okonkwo is from Central, while others are from the South Senatorial zone, though Ekwunife enjoys dual citizenship, having married to Anambra Central from Anambra South town of Igboukwu within the OAU bloc.
In a move to underscore its insistence on competence over narrow sentiments, the PDP Southeast Zonal Working Committee, dissociated the party from what it called APGA-induced zoning format saying that Anambra, with its even distribution of local government councils, should settle for the best.
In a communiqué after its emergency meeting in Enugu, the PDP ZWC said Chief Ndubuisi Nwobo remains the party’s chairman in Anambra State, even as it condemned the fractious activities of a nebulous group parading itself as the authentic state working committee.
Denouncing the group, the zonal chairman, Austin Umahi disclosed, “By the facts of law and party convention” there is no other state working committee in Anambra State except the one headed by Chief Nwobo.
The communiqué cautioned overambitious politicians who want to destabilize PDP in Anambra State, because of the approaching gubernatorial election, to stay clear of the party.
“PDP has vowed to put its acts together this time around and rescue Anambra during the next gubernatorial election in that state,” the communiqué stated.
APGA, incumbent frenzy
But not prepared to leave anything to chance, the governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is harnessing everything in its power to ensure that all political parties pick their standard bearers from Anambra South.
The Guardian gathered that the party and Governor Obiano are covertly working through the state council of traditional rulers to decree the zoning arrangement, so as to tie the hands of political parties into the zoning arrangement.
Already, the plan, which has been described as authoritarian and undemocratic, has elicited political tension in the state, as stakeholders have risen to insulate the state’s traditional institution from partisan politics.
In an interview with The Guardian, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, lamented that he has been at the receiving end of political attacks and betrayals in the state, adding that his decision to join YPP was based on the refusal by APGA leaders to respect promises made to him before the 2017 governorship election.
Maintaining that he has no personal problem with any politician in the state or APGA for that matter, the lone Senator on YPP Platform said of all those making noise about the 2021 governorship, he was about the only one who is already a candidate of a political party.
The Senator, who is also an oil magnate, disclosed that none of those jostling for the governorship has approached him to use the YPP platform to contest the forthcoming governorship poll.
Although the Senator denied that APGA leaders had approached him not to contest the forthcoming guber poll, he disclosed that a lot of influential persons, especially from the Nnewi axis, have been pleading with him to run for the governorship.
Expressing disgust at pressures being mounted on Anambra monarchs to endorse a resolution zoning the 2021 governorship to Anambra South, a pan-Igbo professional youth organisation, Anambra Ekunie, urged Governor Obiano to exercise caution.
Rising from an extraordinary emergency meeting, the group warned all those sowing the seeds of discord in the state, in the guise of pushing a partisan zoning arrangement, to desist.
In a statement made available to journalists, the President General of Anambra Ekunie, Dr. Ifeanyi Anachusi, said the idea of zoning ended with the election of Governor Willie Obiano, adding, “Every citizen, from any zone of the state, is qualified to contest for the governorship, because the governorship seat has effectively rotated among the three zones since 1999. None of the zones can honestly say it has not taken a shot at governing Anambra State since 1999.”