Anambra 2017: Parties gear up, as APC faces PDP syndrome
• Obi Explains Gordian Knot In Senatorial Rerun
• Ngige Waits In The Wings
The most competitive election known to Anambra State in recent memory was the senatorial contest between the late Minister of Information, Professor Dora Akunyili and present Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige in 2011. While Ngige contested on the platform of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Akunyili, who just quit the federal cabinet stood on the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
So keen and hard fought was that singular electoral battle that during the repeat election in areas where polls were cancelled, money could not favour a decider. At one of the communities in Dunukofia, for instance, while Ngige reportedly dropped N30m for logistics, Akunyili was said to have provided N45m. The difference in fiscal strength was explained in part by the fact that the former Information Minister had the backing of then state governor, Mr. Peter Obi.
But the difference in deciding votes was attributed to gender factor and desire by the populous Idemmili north and south not to see their son disgraced politically by a woman. Apart from the fact that Akunyili hailed from Nanka in Anambra South Senatorial district and married to Agulu in Anambra Central Senatorial zone, her combined efforts with the incumbent was not enough to dim the political ascendancy of Ngige, a former governor of the state.
Though Ngige went ahead to represent the zone in the Senate, details of what really transpired in that senatorial contest have not been made known. But the fallout of that bitterly contested election include the alleged resolution by the people of Idemmili north and South, particularly Ogidi, Obosi and Oba communities not to support Ngige in any other electoral battle in the state.
That misgiving is said to be one of the reasons the Labour Minister is not in a hurry to decide whether to contest the governorship or not. In terms of voting strength, Alor, where Ngige hails from does not frighten anybody, especially with their two wards.
In 2015, Ngige made an unsuccessful attempt to get a second term in the senate. There was nothing, however, to suggest that his electoral loss was caused by the misgivings against him by some communities in Idemmili north and south local government councils. The immediate past governor of the state, Obi, had not only crossed over to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but was also tacitly supporting another lady married into the zone from Anambra South, Senator Uche Ekwunife.
With Ekwunife, a well heeled grassroots politician on the ballot, as well as, the backing of federal might, things were made difficult for the bearded one from Alor. Incidentally, at the Idemmili north and south where the bulk of his votes would have come from, election did not hold due to jumbled voter register.
Events of the 2011 senatorial contest are helping to shape up the forthcoming governorship election in the state. And some of the characters involved in the epic electoral battle are taking positions, thereby reenacting similar scenarios.
Anambra Central Gladiators
EFFORTS to find out whether Ngige would appear on the governorship ballot on November 18 have been like searching for a needle under the Niger Bridge. But what appears to be a present diversion for the Minister of Labour is talk about his willingness to participate in the Anambra Central Senatorial rerun poll.
Last week, former Governor Peter Obi was at Arthur Mbanefo Hall of Golden Tulip Hotel for an interactive session with Agulu indigenes in Lagos. Apart from cause of his quarrel with Governor Willie Obiano, most of the questions posed to him concerned issues surrounding the Anambra Central Senatorial seat, the non holding of the rerun poll and his rumoured involvement.
Obi disclosed that he supported Ekwunife for the senatorial race, “because she is not only a better candidate, but she has superb experience, having served at the House of Representatives and with lots of great result to her credit.”
“I am talking from experience, because I contested against her on gubernatorial level,” Obi stated, adding, “I won her, but with lots of heat, in fact after that election I discovered that she is a full force that is better on your side than opposing you.”
On why he supported Ekwunife instead of his former national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, Obi declared: “She left a legacy in the House of Reps…some candidate have never vied for Local Government chairman, no iota of experience and yet they want to start with Senate. You don’t send a nursery team to international debate when you have tertiary first class, such place are not for neophytes who will cut political milk teeth at the detriment of the zone.”
“So, when I was asked to contest for Senate, I told them that Uche Ekwunife has all it takes to bring back our portion of the bacon and even more. Imagine as a member of PDP she was able to grab the most profitable portfolio, which is chairman Downstream Petroleum. It shows she is a power house. It pains that despite her land slide victory and great position in the Senate, some people out of mischief used funds meant to better the lives of state and masses, channeled it into taking away the only better position ceded to Alaigbo (Igbo land).”
He added that the same people kept on running from one court room to another to make sure that the election did not hold. Maintaining that he has no case in court anywhere relating to the senatorial seat, the former governor explained that he joined the race “when it became obvious that Senator Ekwunife has been conspired against by those who should have shown her love and support for being active in the House of Representatives.”
“I was brought into the race by major former PDP governors,” he added, stressing; “since most senate committee chairmanships were given to two-term ex-governors from other states, it was better that Nd’Igbo sent another two-term ex-governor for maximum impact, as he would be among his mates and colleagues without introductions.”
The former governor maintained that “anytime APGA stopped or withdraws all the court cases they instigated and gets ready for election of Anambra Central, it will hold.”
Ngige, APC And PDP Disease
CURRENTLY, a serious underground battle is raging within the All Progressives Congress (APC), where Ngige is at the centre of a lot of schemes. Recently, multi-millionaire oil magnate Barth Nwibe, stood in for former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, at University of Nigeria, Nsukka; where he was invited to deliver a keynote address at the Department of Business Administration.
While most APC stalwarts in the state debated the rationale for Nwibe’s selection for the speaking slot, fliers announcing the governorship aspirant as the next governor of Anambra State circulated in Awka and nearby towns. Later, word started making the rounds that Ngige recommended Nwibe to the Nwobodo election committee as the person to fly the party’s flag.
However, Ngige’s loyalists confided in The Guardian that the Nwobodo committee insists that only aspirants that have the financial wherewithal should dream of flying the APC flag in the election.
But others say Ngige is pushing up Nwibe, who is said not to have any electoral experience so as to ostensibly generate debate over his ability to defeat incumbent Governor Willie Obiano, and thereby create an opening for him to emerge on the basis of consensus.
Minister of Labour perceives that apart from possession of deep pockets Nwibe does not seem to be a match for Dr. Obinna Uzor and Senator Andy Uba. Sources indicated that recent cycles of damaging reports, protests and controversies surrounding Uba’s aspiration are geared towards reducing his appeal for the APC ticket. Again, in terms of consistency, Dr. Obinna Uzor, who has been doing a lot for the people through his Foundation, ranks high in terms of face and name recognition.
Yet, many people wonder why the Nwobodo committee seems to be looking towards Anambra South instead of Anambra North where the incumbent governor hails. Of the 12 aspirants for governor on APC, only two: Dr. Chike Obidigbo and Dr. Tony Nwoye, are from Anambra North.
It was perhaps on account of speculations that it was evaluating aspirants on the basis of their purse, that the Nwobodo committee held a meeting recently, where it announced that a total of 1.2 million persons registered as members of the party in the revalidation exercise.
Aspirants that attended were: Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Dr. Andy Uba, Dr. Tony Nwoye, Dr. Obinna Uzoh, Chief Barth Nwibe, Ralph Okeke and national auditor of the party, Chief George Muoghalu.
But while the committee seeks ways of doing damage control, it is obvious that APC has inherited PDP’s disease, which is the contest of big money. For now, unless APC produces a flag bearer without bitterness and rancour, it would be walking the courts instead of embarking on much needed electioneering to sell its candidate.
WHILE Governor Obiano, devoid of electoral field marshals, takes his political destiny in his hands by riding on his performance, APGA remains cold and sidelined. Its rival, United Progressive Party (UPP) is doing all in its power to supplant the ruling party.
The rivalry led to a renewal of the verbal exchanges between the founder of parties, Dr. Chekwas Okorie and immediate past national chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh. Perhaps, seeing the serious inroad UPP was making, Umeh, whose dream of going to the senate was fast becoming a nightmare, took aim at Okorie with unpleasant anecdotes about the founding of APGA.
In the midst of the gyrations with the parties, Hope Democratic Party (HDP) continued to elicit questions as to its backers. Apart from touring the 21 local government councils of the state, HDP held a meet the leaders rally in Awka.
State Chairman, Sam Osita Oraegbunam, disclosed that HDP decided to host all the party’s structures in Anambra to a thank you ceremony. Oraegbunam explained that the forthcoming governorship poll in the state has raised the disposition of the people to participate in the electoral process, stressing that improvement in the electoral system and disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari not to deliver anybody against the wishes of the people is responsible for the turnaround.
“I think the disposition of the President is the key to this increased enthusiasm for participation, because people now rush to get their PVC. People have seen that apart from having the right to choose who they want as their leaders, they have stake in governance,” he added.
Oraegbunam denied that there is any moneybag or financier behind the exploits of the party, pointing out that the harmony in HDP could be summed up in leadership values.
The party chairman disclosed that members contribute money to grow the party, without complaining, saying, “Today they moved themselves from various wards and council areas without anybody giving them a kobo. So their willpower is that they want to have their own party, finance it and have a say in whom becomes their governor, chairman, senator and what have you.”
Oraegbunam said whoever eventually becomes the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), should note that most times, especially during 2013 and 2015 elections the process was always compromised through ad hoc staff. He therefore pleaded with INEC to “be as open as they can to allow Anambra people choose their governor through a free and fair election.”