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APGA’s rebound, Obiano’s Southeast game plan

By Leo Sobechi, (Assistant Politics Editor) and Samson Ezea
06 September 2018   |   3:05 am
Indications have emerged that the All Progressives Grand Alliance’s (APGA) decision to field a presidential candidate in next year’s general election is upsetting calculations for the exercise, particularly the political dynamics in Southeast geopolitical zone. The APGA leadership had shortly after the November 2017 Anambra State gubernatorial poll was won and lost, ruled out the…

Buhari (right) and Obiano

Indications have emerged that the All Progressives Grand Alliance’s (APGA) decision to field a presidential candidate in next year’s general election is upsetting calculations for the exercise, particularly the political dynamics in Southeast geopolitical zone.

The APGA leadership had shortly after the November 2017 Anambra State gubernatorial poll was won and lost, ruled out the possibility of fielding a presidential candidate hinting that the National Executive Committee (NEC) would meet to decide which party’s candidate it would support.

However, that off the cuff announcement by the national chairman of the party, Sir Victor Oye, was said to have ruffled some feathers in the party hierarchy.

Oye was said to have been reprimanded, not only for going public before the NEC met, but also because coming shortly after the Anambra poll, which most observers believe APGA won through a deal with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), it was giving credence to the perception.

Perhaps, on account of that perceived collaboration, none of the rival gubernatorial candidates in Anambra challenged the outcome of the poll, which delivered 21-0 (euphemism for winning the entire 21 local councils of the state) in favour of APGA.

It was therefore against that curious background that the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) recently met in Awka and impressed it upon Governor Obiano that going into the 2019 poll without a presidential candidate would permanently damage whatever remains of public goodwill for the party.

But, owing to the perceived gentleman agreement between him and President Muhammadu Buhari’s handlers, Obiano was said to have told the BoT members that he was not disposed to such for some reasons, which include assurances to the President of support during the 2019 poll.

However, some leaders of Northern Political Stakeholders Assembly were said to have piled pressure on a close confidant of Obiano, who was a highly placed former public officer in the financial sector.

After several meetings with the northern leaders, the Anambra-born stakeholder was said to have approached Obiano with compelling reasons to yield the APGA platform as a fallback for the north in the likely event that their preferred candidate did not get the ticket of a particular political party.

It was based on those considerations that the governor summoned an emergency meeting of APGA BoT, during which the single item on the agenda was the issue of presidential candidate in next year’s election.

Elated by that surprising turn of events, the BoT members gleefully moved and passed a motion to the effect that the party not only fields a presidential candidate in the February 2019 election, but also that the presidential slot be zoned to the north.

The BoT resolution was subsequently announced on national television, not by the national chairman, Oye, but APGA national secretary, ostensibly to save the chairman the discomfort of eating his word.

Fuss over tickets

However, the decision remains imprecise, because no northern candidate has declared an intention to contest the presidency on APGA platform. Nonetheless, some APGA insiders believe that the understanding with the ruling APC could be activated to ambush the candidates of the main opposition PDP.

It must be in line with that reasoning that Governor Obiano is said to have penciled two women, including the wife of the late APGA leader, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu and Senator Adaeze Stella Oduah, for Anambra South and North Senatorial districts respectively.

But, signs that the governor’s plan might run into serious hitches emerged when some Presidency insiders privy to the plan instigated the wife of former Senate President, the late Chuba Okadigbo, to join APC preparatory to contesting the Anambra North Senatorial seat currently occupied by Oduah.

Another snag to Obaino’s plan to play into the national turf is the belief in certain quarters that he did not consult stakeholders before taking certain decisions. For instance, the plan to draft Mrs. Ojukwu into the Senate race is causing ripples in the family.

SOME members of the immediate family of the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu have vowed not to support her even if she emerges the candidate APGA.

In an interview with journalists in Anambra, Dr. Ike Ojukwu, a director in Ojukwu Transport Company Limited, said it would amount to “a let down to allow a woman from Ngwo in Enugu State to represent Anambra South Senatorial district,” stressing that there are several prominent people in the Senate.

Contending that Ojukwu’s wife is not from Nnewi, Dr. Ike Ojukwu, said he prefers “a son of the soil, and because I come from Nnewi, I would like an Nnewi indigene to represent us.”

But another member of the family, Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu (Jnr) said the fact that Bianca “is apparently coming out under APGA” makes it an entirely APGA business.

However, he added: “That should not be my business, as far as I am concerned, but I do find it curious that you want somebody from Enugu State to come and represent us in Anambra South.”

Apparently alluding to the lack of consultation, Emeka Ojukwu, who is a chieftain of APC said: “Has anybody asked the Odimegwu household whether we believe in her to represent us?

This is a woman we don’t interact with. She doesn’t talk to us.

She can’t cross into our properties. She can’t cross the gate legally anyway in the village. She doesn’t associate with the members of the family.”

Sources in Nnewi however, said it was not enough for APGA to be winning elections on the late Ojukwu’s name without doing something to indemnify his original wish to be in the Senate in 1983, when he was rigged out by the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) in the old Anambra State, shortly after he returned from exile in Ivory Coast.

It was also gathered that a former gubernatorial aspirant on the PDP platform who defected to APGA after losing the party’s ticket in 2017, is behind the flurry of family opposition to Ambassador Ojukwu’s Senatorial ambition.

Obiano’s journey to the centre

Prior to the change of tactics by APGA, Governor Willie Obiano wanted to replicate the tactics of his predecessor and benefactor, Peter Obi.

While in office as lone APGA governor, Obi had devised a surviving political strategy, which entailed aligning with then ruling PDP in such a way to preserve the governorship and House of Assembly seats, but allow PDP access to the National Assembly seats.

Obiano therefore saw the reason in toeing a similar path by taking to such an alignment with the ruling APC ahead of the 2019 elections.

Having fallen out with his godfather and predecessor, Peter Obi, who abandoned him and defected to PDP, Obiano in cahoots with some APC bigwigs within and outside the state, established a political relationship with the Presidency.

Following their loss of APC governorship ticket, the Senator representing Anambra South, Andy Uba and Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige’s preferred candidate, Paul Chukwuma to member representing Anambra East/West federal constituency, Comrade Tony Nwoye, Obiano quickly sought the assistance of Ngige and Uba.

It was obvious that Ngige and Uba were irked by Nwoye’s emergence. As such they consented to Obiano’s plea for support.

The duo also joined the governor to reach out to the Presidency ahead of the November gubernatorial poll, as well as enlisting the support of an APC governor from Southwest, whose son is married to the daughter of Ngige’s close political ally in Anambra.

It was the Southwest governor that eventually took Obiano to President Buhari in the villa before the election in November last year.

Also involved in the arrangement was a powerful Minister from South-South, who married from Anambra, whose brother is a member of House of Representatives on APGA.

These back-channel discussions between Obiano and the powers-that-be in Abuja culminated in his electoral success to the chagrin of Nwoye and PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze.

To reciprocate that second term gesture, it was gathered that Obiano had pledged to work for Buhari’s re-election, not only in Anambra State, but entire southeast zone.

In furtherance of that deal, shortly after the gubernatorial election was decided, the protracted legal tussle over the Anambra Central Senatorial seat was resolved with an order for immediate rerun.

Most observers knew even before the rerun that it was sure to go the way of APGA in furtherance of the handshake between Obiano and the federal forces.

Incidentally, Chief Victor Umeh, who happened to be the only strong contender in the election, sailed through, thus making his victory the first of its kind for APGA in a senatorial contest in the state since its formation and years in power in the state.

In the euphoria of that surprising electoral success, APGA national chairman, Oye, disclosed that APGA would reciprocate Buhari’s gesture in 2019, even as he praised the President for allowing ‘free and fair election’ in the state.

Ahead of 2019 and as political parties are busy preparing for primaries, especially those of the presidential seat, APGA leadership is neither here nor there.

The party leadership has not made any public statement on its presidential primaries, but is busy with preparation for primaries for governorship and other elective positions.

This development has fuelled speculation between APGA faithful and Nigerians that APGA is working for Buhari’s candidacy and may not after all field a presidential candidate in line with that understanding.

Alternatively, the party might end up fielding a weak northern candidate to negotiate opportunities for other electoral positions.

In Anambra Central Senatorial District, the Minister of Labour, Ngige has declared for the senatorial seat he occupied from 2011 through 2015.

Many are wondering what he is looking for again, having been governor, senator and now minister.

The Guardian learnt that Ngige is working to return to Senate in anticipation of possible shot at Senate Presidency in the ninth National Assembly.

A move many, including some of Ngige’s estranged aides and allies have decided to work against by challenging him in the party primary.

Some of these estranged allies include Barrister Ebere Obi, Sir Chibuzor Obiakor and others

However, Ngige is also said to be banking on Obiano’s support to reciprocate his assistance during the 2017 guber.

But, in that zone, Obiano’s dilemma would be how to handle the incumbent, who is ex-APGA national chairman, Sir Victor Umeh.

For Ngige and his supporters, it is obvious that his returning to the Senate in 2019 appears to be a tall order.

Also, in Anambra south, where Obiano has penciled the wife of the late ex-Biafra warlord, the likes of Ifeanyi Uba, Nicholas Ukachukwu and others with political IOUs are waiting on the wings.

Even at that, whoever wins the APGA ticket, would contend with the incumbent, Senator Andy Uba of the APC.

Uba, apart from lending a helping hand to Obiano, has been in the Senate from 2011 after serving the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, as Special Assistant on Domestic Matters for eight years.

Whatever happens, chances are that most APC bigwigs having issues with their state governors, like in Imo State, would fall back on APGA platform.

Analysts however say the best path for APGA would have been to use next year’s poll to rejig the platform for 2023 general election.