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Anambra 2019: Factors that may swing the pendulum

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Willie Obiano


After the tenure interpretation judgment by the Supreme Court that affirmed the tenure of Governor Peter Obi in 2007, Anambra, where since 1999, governorship elections always attracted external interests, became the first state to witness staggered election in the country’s election calendar.

Many analysts are of the opinion that the state attracts more than cursory electoral interests because of its strategic importance to regional and national politics coupled with its human and material endowments.It is however not surprising that less than a month to the November 18 governorship election, high level intrigues, scheming, backstabbing and a lot of undercurrents have dominated the state’s political space pointing to some factors that will shape the outcome of the poll. These factors include Federal might, incumbency, religion, intraparty squabbles and conspiracies.
 
It has been obvious since 1999, outcomes of Anambra governorship elections have always been decided by outside powers especially from Abuja, the seat of Federal might. In 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket was initially won by Prof. ABC Nwosu, but the then godfather of the party in the state, Sir Emeka Offor used his contacts in the Presidency to hand his new godson, Chief Chinwoke Mbadinuju the ticket.

In 2003, Dr. Chris Ngige was to contest Anambra Central senatorial seat on PDP ticket, before Chief Chris Uba drafted him into the governorship race and ensured that he was declared the winner of the election. When he fell out with the Ubas, his major challenger in the election, Mr Peter Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who was challenging the outcome in the court allegedly connived with the Ubas with the support of the presidency, to ensure that Ngige was removed through the tribunal.
 
In 2010 election, while Obi was seeking second term on APGA platform and Ngige contesting on the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) platform, the ruling PDP in Abuja was determined to make former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo the governor of the state.

Before the election, the President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar Adua became critically ill and was flown abroad. Immediately his vice, Goodluck Jonathan took over as Acting president, the whole political equation in Anambra changed and all the PDP members who were not happy with the choice of Soludo pitched their tenth with Obi with the backing of the presidency.
 
It was alleged that the then Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Prof. Maurice Iwu was invited to Biafran warlord Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu’s house in Enugu by some prominent Igbo politicians including PDP members where Iwu was asked to respect Ojukwu’s last wish by allowing Obi to return for a second term.

Allegations of manipulation of the Voters Register followed the alleged directive and there were uproars and confusion on Election Day but the infuriated and confused voters were subdued by the presence of large security personnel. Mostly affected in the disenfranchisement were Ngige and Soludo’s strongholds. Not even the INEC leadership was able to explain to Nigerians what happened. At the end of the exercise, Obi was declared winner of the election with 300, 000 votes, out of the 1.4 million registered voters.
 
In 2013, despite the fact that PDP had a candidate in the person of Dr. Tony Nwoye, President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP leadership worked closely to ensure that Peter Obi’s chosen godson, Willie Obiano of APGA won the election.Even when Jonathan attended Nwoye’s campaign rally, he refused to endorsed his candidacy openly but rather told the people to vote according to their choice. On election day, the Returning Officer for Idemili North/South which is Ngige’s stronghold, allegedly disappeared with the materials. Election for the areas was later rescheduled for the next day, being Sunday but before it was conducted it was clear that Obiano had won the exercise.
 
Ahead of next month’s exercise, despite the intense campaigns already going on, all the major candidates in the race- Tony Nwoye of APC, Obiano of APGA, Oseloka Obaze of PDP and Osita Chidoka of UPP, are seeking the support of the presidency. Obiano was recently in Aso Rock where he allegedly appealed for support with a pledge to defect to APC after the election. He was said to have been taken to the Presidency by an APC governor in the Southwest whose son married from Anambra.

A few days after the visit, Nwoye visited the Abuja seat of power alongside Bauchi State governor and Chairman of the APC Campaign Committee on Anambra Election, Alhaji Abubakar Mohammed. After the meeting, Nwoye gave assurance that the APC would win the election. Investigations revealed that Obaze and Chidoka that have not visited the Presidency openly, have done so by proxy thus establishing the fact that Abuja’s position is a factor especially because all the major contenders, except Chidoka, are Catholics from Anambra North.
   
Apart from, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife a Pentecostal who was the governor briefly during the ill-fated Third Republic, all other governors of the state till date are Catholics. Catholics are in the majority and its leadership is deeply involved in the politics of the state. It became more pronounced during the tenure of Obi, whose siblings are Catholic reverend father and sister. That is why it has become very difficult for Anglicans or Pentecostal to produce governor in the state. Anglicans have been allowed to play the second fiddle by being chosen as running mates in the election.
 
With the current three major contenders Catholics and their running mates Anglicans, votes will be divided along religious line, especially considering that Obi, the estranged godfather of Obiano and the new godfather of Obaze will stop at nothing to stop Obiano from being re-elected.
   
Ordinarily, the incumbency factor in the election favours Obiano, but that will be dependent on how sincere and committed his loyalists are, because majority of them were inherited from Obi, who is now his political enemy. The political difference between Obi and Obiano has divided APGA in the state and they are going into the election as a divided house. The division may also affect the Ojukwu sentiment that is always used by APGA faithful during election. Whether this magic wand may work in favour of APGA in this election will be seen in the days ahead.

   
All these squabbles in APGA may work to the advantage of APC as PDP is being seen as an extension of APGA. This showed clearly during the PDP campaign flag-off, when a faction of the party who claimed to be original members of the party, organised a protest rally accusing Obi and Obaze of hijacking their party. Some prominent PDP chieftains and governors even from the Southeast stayed away from the party flag-off in Anambra. 
 
It will be also recalled that one of the aggrieved PDP governorship aspirants, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah and ex-chairman of the party in the state, Chief Ken Emekayi, were suspended by the party national leadership following the crisis and intrigues that characterised the primary. Apart from the duo, there are other aggrieved PDP stakeholders whose silence in the face of the unfolding drama is not golden. They are believed to be working seriously behind the scene to ensure that the party loses the election.
 
Despite the seeming peace in APC, investigation revealed that some major stakeholders within and outside the state are not happy with Nwoye’s emergence especially with the support of Chief Arthur Eze. These stakeholders are working secretly with the opposition parties in the state, especially APGA to ensure that APC lose the election. One of them facilitated Obiano’s visit to Buhari.
 
One of the APC governors from the North told The Guardian that the party leadership is not unaware of this development.He said, “The party leadership and the presidency are aware of these stakeholders who are engaging in anti-party activities ahead of the poll. We know them and we are closely monitoring their activities. We will expose them after the election and they will pay dearly for it.”
 
Many believe that if APC fails to make a great impact in the Anambra election by winning the exercise, it will be obvious that the party has been completely rejected in the Southeast and it will foreclose the party making an inroad in the zone in 2019.
 
Although some PDP bigwigs in the zone have defected to the APC after the 2015 polls, the development has not taken away completely the reservations and sentiments the people of Southeast have for APC as a party. The alleged marginalisation of the zone in the appointments by the Buhari presidency has also not helped the party as well as the proscription and tagging of separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group.

Since Buhari assumed office, the cry for marginalisation has become louder and consistent in the Southeast like never before. But the president and his supporters will always say that the people of the zone are just raising false alarm, considering that several appointments have been given to them, while infrastructural works are ongoing in the zone.
 
Another determinant factor in the election is the issue of zoning although there was never a time the zoning agreement was discussed and endorsed in the state. It was a tool Obi deployed at the peak of Obiano campaign and his point then was that it was the turn of Anambra North. Obi who was governor for eight years before Obiano is from Anambra Central, the same senatorial zone with Ngige who was governor for three years before Obi. The Anambra South has produced Mbadinuju between 1999-2003.
 
It was for this obvious reason that during the party primaries, major political parties bought into the sentiment of zoning by systematically ensuring that their candidates emerge from the North. This contributed to the emergence of the three major contenders. While both Nwoye and Obaze picked their running mates from the South, Obiano retained his own who is from Central zone. It could be rightly said that while votes may be divided in the North among three major contenders, the Central and South will be the battlegrounds to determine the winners.

 
While, Nwoye’s running mate is the first son of ex-Ohanaeze President general and founder of IPOB, Dr Dozie Ikedife, Obazee’s running is the first daughter of ex-Vice president, Chief Alex Ekwueme. How the choice of the children of these two prominent personalities in the state will shape the election, is left to be seen.

Also the influence of some political godfathers like Sir Offor, Chief Arthur Eze, the Uba brothers and other major stakeholders like Ngige, Chief Victor Umeh, Senator Stella Odua, Senator Uche Ekwunife and others, will go a long way. Investigation revealed that majority of them have decided to work underground and through proxies, making it a bit difficult to understand where their loyalties lie. 
 
One certain thing is that the next governor of Anambra will come from Anambra North, unless the unexpected happens and derails the permutation. The outcome of the election will not only shape political equation in the state, it will also shape calculations in the Southeast zone in 2019.
               



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