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Anambra 2017: Invocation of money as ultimate decider

By Leo Sobechi
23 July 2017   |   3:55 am
Despite the ambush against his second term ambition on APGA, Governor Obiano, is said to have told his foot soldiers that no governorship candidate can outspend him in the poll.

Regardless of the much talked about recession or economic downturn, the forthcoming November 18, 2017 governorship poll has come to a level where money speaks. Money had always defined politics in Anambra State and chances are it is not about to cease.

Various political platforms have released their schedules of fees for expression of interest and nomination forms. Barring any unforeseen about turn, virtually all the five parties considered to be in serious contention for the governorship seat have fixed their nomination fees above N5m.

Before the July 12 Supreme Court ruling that restored Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to serious reckoning after the prolonged leadership tussle, only four parties were looked up to with serious consideration based on their stature and presence at the grassroots. They include the incumbent All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC), Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and United Progressive Party (UPP). But for the personality of Chief Godwin Ezeemo, the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) stands like an old tattered flag in the state. Although there is no indication of a rival, Ezeemo has doled out N7m for the expression of interest and governorship nomination forms of PPA.

Prior to the release of guidelines by the political parties, Senator Andy Uba and Dr. Tony Nwoye waved the red flags announcing in words and gestures that the governorship of Anambra State is not a beggars’ affair.

While Nwoye crisscrosses the length and breadth of the state noising the financial support of the billionaire oil magnate and political investor, Prince Arthur Eze, Senator Uba decided to astound other aspirants with a donation of 30 buses to state functionaries of APC.

APC has announced that on payment of the necessary fees, aspirants would be handed over the delegates list to assist them make their campaign pitches. Now, with the fees announced and the parties ready for governorship primary elections, aspirants have begun to draw budget for possible inducement of delegates. In APC, for instance, Nwoye has been boasting to his supporters that the Chairman of Oranto Petroleum, Eze, has assured to spend twice whatever Senator Uba would offer delegates, even as Engineer Barth Nwibe, is also said to be ready to demonstrate his ‘preparedness’ to contest the election.

Despite the ambush against his second term ambition on APGA, Governor Obiano, is said to have told his foot soldiers that no governorship candidate can outspend him in the poll. Obiano’s lieutenants confided in The Guardian that their principal is sure to emerge from the primary elections on each of the two APGA rival factions to ensure his appearance on the ballot.

Within the HDP, which has been waxing strong on the contributions of its members, it is not yet clear those aspiring to contest the governorship on the party, but given its drive towards populism and internal democracy, there are indications that the expression of interest and nomination fees would not be as high as N5m.

The cost of purchase of forms in the UPP has become an issue. National Chairman of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie, had to explain to members that the N5m nomination fee is meant to scare aware aspirants, stressing that the party charged the same amount is the last governorship poll in 2013. Okorie maintained that since the party was going to compete with bigger spenders in the main election, the agitation for review is not on point.

Until the issue of nomination fees schedule tossed up, two aspirants, Hon. Chudi Offodile and Osita Chidoka, had been visiting the wards and donating sums ranging from N200, 000 to N250, 000 to each. With the 326 electoral wards in the state, what the handouts mean is that either of the aspirants has expended approximately N65, 200, 000 on the ward tours.

It is left to be seen what manner of gestures they could spend when they compete for the votes of the 1,750 delegates expected to determine the governorship primary. One aspirant that has been on the forefront against the stress on big money in the governorship chase is rights activist, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo.

Incidence Of Money Politics, Political Corruption
During the Ibrahim Babangida experiment with diarchy and two-party system, Okonkwo kicked against the use of exorbitant fees to trim the number of governorship aspirants in the National Republican Convention (NRC). In protest he threw his weight behind the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who eventually won the governorship poll in 1991.

Also at the threshold of the fourth republic in 1998, Okonkwo tackled Dr. Alex Ekwueme over what he described as outrageous nomination fees. Then, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had fixed expression of interest and governorship nomination fees at N2.1m. “We decided to raise the amount payable by aspirants for nomination forms so as to weed out unserious candidates,” Ekwueme was said to have told Okonkwo.

Not satisfied with the response, Okonkwo dragged PDP, Solomon Lar and PDP leadership in Anambra State to court. He was given a favourable judgment after seven years and awarded a cost of N7.1m and PDP account was garnisheed. Also in 2013, Okonkwo instituted an action in Federal High Court Awka against PDP aspirants that paid as much as N15m for the expression of interest and nomination forms of the party, averring that none of them paid any tax that represented the amount of money they used in buying ticket, which is their earning.

Okonkwo, who is a stalwart of UPP, told The Guardian that his campaign against political corruption is that it nurtures other forms of graft. He said: “Political parties are sidelining the Electoral Act on financing of candidates; they depend on those that will bring in their own money with the invested corruption in it and to go and finance their election themselves. Thereafter when these candidates win elections, they entrench and enrich themselves, introduce impunity and relegate the party to the background. Because they are not products of the party, but of the corrupt money they used in financing their election.”

Okonkwo maintains that “any political party that is selling its ticket to rich people is encouraging corruption. This is the genesis of corruption in Nigeria; that a person will use more than what he paid in income tax to buy a party ticket. He must be a corrupt person.”

That retort by the former Vice President could be described as the first pointed explanation of how money factor came into play in Anambra politics.

Hearsay versus Confident Tricks
As part of the fall out of the influence of money in Anambra governorship, it has been discovered that tentative delegates spew all manner of rumour regarding what amount different aspirants have proposed. This way some aspirants whose offering are considered way down too low are compelled to raise their bids.

However, it is at the time of actual delivery of the largesse that some otherwise serious aspirants step down for a particular aspirant with deep enough purse to write off his campaign expenses. These antics of aspirants may have informed Ekwueme’s postulation that payment of high nomination fees is a veritable way to whittle the number of aspirants on a particular political platform, which often as far as Anambra is concerned, happens to be the party with power of control and command in the centre.

Going by a combination of factors, including the demonstration of populist flavour for restructuring, resurgence of PDP and the tepid nature of the ruling APC, the tide may be against the party at the centre in the forthcoming Anambra governorship poll.

Whether it is money or popular appeal that would limit the number of candidates that would eventually feature on the ballot on November 18, 2017 governorship election would be seen in the next few weeks when forms are purchased, filled and returned. Until then, it still looks as if Anambra 2017 would throw up surprises and new tendencies.

The inability of opposition political parties to streamline their candidates sometimes is occasioned by the incumbent governor who may have energized the aspiration of rival candidates on other platforms to crowd the ultimate electoral space. Most often the activities of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) become a pointer as to where the pendulum will swing or the political shrewdness or antipathy of the governor. It happened recently in Osun. Wherever IPAC goes, chances are that the wind would blow in same direction.