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Anambra North holds ace as zoning shapes APC Guber race

By y Leo Sobechi, Assistant Politics Editor
20 February 2021   |   3:03 am
Governor Willie Obiano is faced with two conflicting scenarios: he should be feeling relieved and fulfilled that his eight years’ ‘imprisonment’ in Awka Government House is coming to an end

Willie Obiano

Governor Willie Obiano is faced with two conflicting scenarios: he should be feeling relieved and fulfilled that his eight years’ ‘imprisonment’ in Awka Government House is coming to an end. Then, the governor must also be under pressure to see that he implants a benevolent successor that would not concern him/herself with the past as a prelude to post-Obiano governance.
Come March 17, 2022, Obinao would be handing over the reins of governorship in Anambra State to any of the standard-bearers of four major contending political parties.

Meantime, the following parties are showing visible signs of seriousness to participate competitively in the November 6, gubernatorial poll taking place in the state later this year: All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Young Progressives Party (YPP). There are indications that bad losers from any of the four parties could congregate in the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Apart from the governing APGA, which is still sweating in court over the issue of authentic leadership at the national level, the incumbent has little or nothing to do with the nomination processes in the other three platforms.
That observation is however not prejudicial to apprehensions within the federal governing APC that the governor might join the party in the event that the outcome of the many leadership processes in court do not favour his faction of APGA.

Sources have, however, doubted the likelihood of Obiano defecting to APC at the twilight of his tenure, particularly given that he does not appear interested in a possible Senate seat. But, one great obstacle to Obiano’s likely move to APC is the current row between the governor and leader of the party in the state, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
However, despite whatever hurdles that might inhibit the governor’s crossover to APC, Obiano has caused him to worry about the federal governing party for two major reasons. In the first place, his second term electoral victory was aided by strong establishment’s support from the Federal Government, which allowed the coercive institutions to take it easy with his electoral interests in 2017.
Secondly, APC and its governorship candidate, Dr. Tony Nwoye, were able to emerge as the first runner-up in the 2017 poll despite the inclination of federal might and an internal cocktail of betrayals and anti-party disposition of its stakeholders. 
Although APC is yet to give notice of its plans for the Anambra governorship, Dr. Nwoye has indicated his intention to participate in the election, not minding the fact that his zone, Anambra North Senatorial District, from which Obiano hails, is about completing its eight years in office.
Nwoye’s supporters argue that in so far as aspirants from other senatorial zones contested the 2017 poll, the fact that Obiano is in his final term does not vitiate his right to contest on the APC platform.
Despite the strong zoning sentiments within the APC fold, most governorship aspirants in the party acknowledge Nwoye’s strong grassroots presence and dismiss insinuations that he would be a pushover in the governorship primary.
Not that alone, Nwoye and another strong governorship contender in opposition PDP, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, are said to be the two hopefuls being penciled by the populous Catholic denomination in the state.

APC, Beyond Obiano
THE 2017 governorship candidate of APC, Nwoye, is as yet the only contender from Anambra North in the party. The implication of Nwoye’s position as one of the contestants on the APC is manifold. Given that about seven other aspirants are from different towns in Anambra South, he could stand a great chance if the party adopts the indirect mode in the governorship primary.
But, the situation could also definitely be dicey if the direct methodology is put in place because in the event that he garners the votes from the entire Anambra North, he would be fighting with the eight other aspirants for ballots of members from Anambra Central and South Senatorial Districts. 
One question on the lips of APC members is whether Nwoye was in the race for revenge or to serve as the beautiful bride to the other stronger contenders like Senator Andy Ubah, Azuka Okwuosa, George Moghalu, Dozie Nwankwo and JohnBosco Onunkwo. 

Whatever path the former national President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) chooses, between running to requite those who worked against his election in 2017, and positioning as a potential beautiful bride, there are inherent risks.
All permutations depend on whether the former federal lawmaker ultimately picks the expression of interest and nomination forms for the November poll or he goes into an electoral understanding with any of the five contenders prior to the governorship primary.
Checks by The Guardian revealed that Nwoye, who represented Anambra East/Anambra West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, is actually desirous of having a shot at the Senate. Even as some of his close supporters, who did not want to be identified on print disclosed that the Senate is the ultimate game plan, especially given that it would be near impossible for the majority of the Anambra electorate to choose him as governor on the heels of another Anambra North occupant.   
“But, in politics, you know anything can happen,” said the source a member of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS). He added that the former federal lawmaker was however not relenting in his plans to be competitive in the governorship poll, starting from the APC primary.

Funding Concerns
DURING the 2017 governorship poll in the state, it was public knowledge that the Chairman of Atlas Oranto Petroleum, Prince Arthur Eze, bankrolled the APC standard-bearer, Nwoye. Sources disclosed that the billionaire oil magnate and philanthropist decided to fund Nwoye’s campaigns not only because of his acclaimed love for younger leaders, but also to spite Senator Andy Uba, for past misunderstanding during the President Olusegun Obasanjo era.
During a recent strategy meeting of APC stakeholders in Anambra State, the issue of funding dominated talks as most speakers harped on the paucity of funds available to the state chapter.

A member of the party from Anambra North, Senator Emma Anosike, was emphatic on the need to empower the state APC, regretting that the 2017 governorship was funded by individual contributions rather than strong backing from the party.
Anosike said it was unheard of that a party that, which controls the levers of political power at the federal level should be complaining of funding, especially during state elections. He had stated: “I have never seen a party in power at the centre, but when there is an election in Anambra, we are given money from the back pocket to prosecute it.
“When there is an election in other states or other zones of the country, they give money from the front pocket. If they do not want us to be a part of the election, they should tell us early, so we go and rest.”
Perhaps, speaking as the man who once wore the shoe, Nwoye had urged the state executive committee of APC to liaise with the national leadership of the party for support and encouragement.
Nwoye traced the weak performance of APC in the 2019 general elections to funding issues, adding that apart from returning the least votes at the presidential election, the state could not win any Senate, House of Representatives or House of Assembly seat.
“If we must grow, we must eschew all the past acrimonies and tell ourselves the truth and chart a course as to how we can win the forthcoming election,” he stated.
Eight months to the governorship poll, it is evident that much water has passed under the Niger Bridge as regards the political situation in the state. Unlike in 2017, when the political entrepreneurs or election funding machines in Anambra lined behind different candidates, all 10 of them have resolved to mass around one candidate.
According to a multi-billionaire oil and gas investor, who spoke to The Guardian in confidence, their decision to pool resources behind one candidate is to ensure that the next Anambra State governor is one that would “focus on governance and avoid dangerous politics that could rub-off negatively on our individual businesses.”
He maintained that as state renown for entrepreneurship and blessed with many men of means, Anambra deserves to excel in the areas of good governance, infrastructure and socio-economic development.
The billionaire, who hails from the Anambra South Senatorial district, said their group wants to avoid the mistakes when our children could not go to school for one academic year due to hyper politics and when godfather and godson engaged in supremacy fights. 
Speaking when he visited the state secretariat of APC in Awka, a former Deputy Director of Tony Nwoye Campaign Organisation in 2017, Sir Azuka Okwuosa, disclosed that the party set up a committee that reviewed why the party lost the governorship. He stressed that the party was poised to make amends and win the governorship with ease.
Announcing a donation of one million naira to the party, Okwuosa enjoined the State Working Committee to give the party a facelift, assuring that he would assist in equipping the party secretariat with necessary electronic gadgets to be a functional office.
In his response, the state APC chairman, Chief Basil Ejidike, told the party faithful that the experience of the 2017 governorship dictates that only a candidate nominated by members would be the APC governorship standard-bearer.
He decried the situation whereby candidates were imposed on the party, stressing that it was such developments that provide an opportunity for rival aspirants to betray the party by working at cross purposes. 
Ejidike said APC in Anambra State has decided to put the ugly experiences of the past behind it, noting that the time is long gone when candidates that are unknown to the members are imported from outside to stand for election.
Former Chief of Staff to Governor Chris Ngige, Chief Chibuzo Obiakor, told party faithful that he was pleased that Okwuosa, who he described as a unifier and stabilizer, was coming forward to take interest in contesting the governorship slot. 
Obiakor said Anambra State APC has only one goal regarding the 2021 governorship. “Our goal is to win the governorship of Anambra State, by all means, necessary,” he declared, adding, to achieve that purpose, the party needs unity of purpose and unity in purpose.

Bridge Building

ALL said, the greatest challenging Anambra APC would confront in the build-up to the November poll is getting that one candidate that would lead the party to victory. The issue of consensus has been mooted, but stakeholders believe that going for a consensus arrangement could heat up the party and make room for imposition.

However, in a bid to get around that bottleneck, stakeholders have begun talks in Abuja, Lagos and Awka with a view to achieving a seamless governorship primary that would leave no scars on the structure. 
As the talks and possible scenarios on the other platforms are being undertaken, Nwoye is being touted as a beautiful bride as it is believed that whoever he decides to align with would carry the day.
State Coordinator of Buhari Legacy Continuity Initiative (BLCI), Ozo Engineer Sam Osita Oraegbunam, explained that what Nwoye has going for him is that having been a state chairman of PDP and governorship candidate of APC, he maintains a formidable political structure that cuts across the three senatorial zones.
Donating this structure, therefore, could be the main bargain assuming the former lawmaker decides to pitch tent with any of the five contenders.

For Andy Uba, Nwoye owes his political ascendancy to the Senator, given that he was instrumental to his emergence as NANS President during the Obasanjo era. Would Uba, who is running as a governor in waiting be disposed to allowing Nwoye the political visibility he needs to cinch the Anambra North Senate seat?
How would Nwoye be disposed towards Okwuosa and the Chairman of WICHTECH Industries, Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo? Nwankwo is coming into the political fray for the first time. And as a fresh face, his supporters insist that he fits the bill as a friend of all.
On the other hand, depending on what transpired during the 2017 governorship, Nwoye would not be meeting Okwuosa for the first time, especially given that both men range around the same age bracket and have been around in Anambra politics. Okwuosa is running on the strength of servant leadership, political experience and first-hand knowledge of the state’s challenges.
It could not be ascertained whether the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, would be disposed to a working arrangement with the Nsugbe-born former youth leader. Moghalu is running on the strong points of experience in opposition politics and party loyalty.
Unlike Moghalu, Onunkwo, who has been touring all the nooks and crannies of the state, would need the leverage from Nwoye, particularly given his modest experience and limited financial muscle.
It could be safely said that Anambra North, nay Tony Okechukwu Nwoye, could sway the pendulum in the choice of who eventually picks the APC ticket. But, a lot still depends on Abuja and the club of billionaire investors.