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Clash of top dogs, underdogs as Anambra votes today

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
06 November 2021   |   4:20 am
Nothing best captures the general feeling about the Anambra State governorship election than the song by Diana Ross: Upside down. The election has turned the state inside out through security concerns, spectre of unknown gunmen, inter-party attacks...

Wilie Obiano. Photo: ETIMES

Bianca’s Lament: Dirge Or Derogation
Nothing best captures the general feeling about the Anambra State governorship election than the song by Diana Ross: Upside down. The election has turned the state inside out through security concerns, spectre of unknown gunmen, inter-party attacks, sit-at-home order and counter order.

But at last, today has dawned. The moment of decision has come for the much talked about Anambra State governorship election. Today’s poll is one of the eight off-cycle gubernatorial contests in the country.

Many things have gone into permutations about the ballot. The governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state is putting all efforts to ensure that it retains control of Anambra State, which has remained its lone state in the last 16 years.

Former Governor Peter Obi successfully waged a battle over his succession plan by implanting the outgoing Governor Willie Obiano. After today, and perhaps some days through the courts, it would be seen whether the outgoing governor would equal Obi’s record by producing another successor on the APGA platform.

The governing APGA is being challenged by two other formidable parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which dropped the ball in 2006 after Obi recovered his mandate through a successful election petition against the return of Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige as the winner of the 2003 governorship poll.

Also charging ferociously to disrupt APGA’s hold on Anambra State governorship is the All Progressives Congress (APC), the federal governing party, which unlike PDP has never won the governorship contest after its birthing in 2013.

Apart from the aforementioned three big political parties, which could be described as the top dogs in the governorship showdown, there are also about six other serious contenders that could pull a surprise in today’s ballot.

These half a dozen platforms, which could pass as underdogs include the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC). Others are Action Alliance (AA), African Action Congress (AAC) and ACCORD Party (AP).

Baring any unexpected incidence to disrupt today’s ballot, therefore, Anambra voters will return one of the following nine men from those nine political parties as Obiano’s successor. They include Prof. Chukwuma Soludo (APGA), Senator Andy Uba (APC) and Mr. Valentine Ozigbo (PDP).

Others are Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo (ZLP), Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo (ADC); Mr. Bennett Etiaba (AA); Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo (AAC) and Dr. Godwin Maduka (AP).

As registered voters go out to vote today, there is the possibility that the outcome of the poll at the end of the day would either elicit joyful surprise, wondrous consternation. Whichever way the pendulum swings, part of the blame for anticipated voter apathy should not be levied on either the militarisation of the election environment or the contradictory positions on the sit at home declared by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Rather, the bulk of the blame should rest squarely on the political behaviour of Ndigbo, who display indifference towards civic responsibility, but are ready to support any outcome, no matter how fraudulently procured. For instance in 2003, when it was obvious that the result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which returned Dr. Chris Ngige, then of PDP, as winner, there was no public show of rejection of the ballot.

Nonetheless, feelers from across Anambra State indicate that the people want the election to be done with. INEC has also sided with the general mood by going ahead with the poll.

Voting Pattern
THE election will be hotly contested in Anambra South Senatorial district, which boasts of 17 out of the 18 candidates on the platforms of the 18 political parties recognised by INEC.

Among the nine strong contenders, eight are from Anambra South, which has three major political blocs, namely old Aguata bloc, known as OAU (old Aguata Union); Ihiala bloc and the Nnewi bloc. Of the three blocs, the OAU boasts of five strong contestants, including Prof. Soludo (APGA); Senator Uba (APC); Mr. Ozigbo (PDP); Dr. Nwankwo (AAC) and Dr. Maduka (AP).

Two strong candidates, Senator Ubah (YPP) and Etiaba (AA) are from the Nnewi bloc, while the ADC standardbearer, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, comes from the Ihiala bloc.

If Nwankpo (ADC) garners the maximum votes from Ihiala, Ubah and Etiaba divides the available ballot from Nnewi, it is possible that Prof. Soludo (APGA) and Senator Uba (APC) and Ozigbo’s (PDP) vote tally from the OAU would depend on how far the duo of Nwankwo (AAC) and Maduka (AP) were able to nibble at the bulk vote from the area.

Although Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of ZLP happens to be the only strong contender from Anambra Central Senatorial District, he would have to contend with the attack of APGA and APC governorship running mates, who hail from the zone. Senator Andy Uba’s runningmate, Chike Okafor, is from Nnobi in Idemmili South Local Government Area, while Dr. Ibezim, Prof. Soludo’s deputy, hails from Mbaukwu in Awka South Local Government Area.

Also, Senator Ubah’s (YPP) deputy is from Ukpo in Dunukofia Local Council of Anambra Central Senatorial District. Therefore, how voters from Anambra Central Senatorial, particularly the populous Idemmili North and South Local Government Areas behave towards Okonkwo’s gubernatorial run and the running mates would bear on the outcome of the poll.

Anambra North Senatorial District stands out as the major ballot-shopping mart. In fact, Anambra North is the beautiful bride as far as today’s governorship race is concerned. The vote tally from this zone would indirectly serve as a referendum on Governor Willie Obiano’s eight years’ governorship of the state.

Ordinarily, the fact that the governor is from the district should have massed maximum votes for the APGA candidate, Prof. Soludo. But given the divided tongues about the attitude of Obiano’s administration to various communities in Senatorial zone, by way of development projects, APGA will struggle for votes from there.

At the end of the day, if APGA wins the maximum votes from the zone, it would be more of personal endorsement of Prof. Soludo’s candidacy more than the influence of power of incumbency.

All in all, the governorship running mates of ZLP, Dame Jessie Belonwu and that of ADC, Pastor Lawrence Ughamadu, would approximate maximum vote hauls from their Onitsha and Ogbunike communities respectively.

Today’s election would also present a picture to Senator Stella Adaeze Oduah, who switched to APC in the frenzy of objections to the governorship primary. Oduah, who backing Senator Uche Ekwunife for the PDP ticket, but felt that the use of super delegates was intended to skew delegates against the female governorship aspirant.

Apart from her Ogbaru natives, how far would voters from other communities in Anambra North donate the same winning votes that propelled the Senator to win the 2019 Senatorial election?

From the foregoing, it is evident that today’s election would be very competitive and to close to call.

Ojukwu’s Lamentation
WIDOW of the respected leader of APGA, late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ambassador Bianca, delivered what many observers described as a possible dirge for the governing APGA.

In a letter to her late husband, Mrs. Ojukwu, complained of her sad reflection on the fortunes of the party, stressing: “Today, I hear the bells tolling, and the chimes send shivers down my spine. Today, chaos reigns supreme in our once stable party; our party faithful are despondent and embittered.

“And many of them have taken their fate in their own hands by bolting away from our party like rats desert a sinking ship….”

Should things go south for APGA after today’s balloting, it could be said that Lady Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu saw it coming. However, in the event that the verdict of voters goes the other way then, it is obvious that the former Ambassador to Spain should be invited to ‘Soludozie’ Anambra State.

She complained of the exclusivist style of leadership by few individuals calling the shot in the party. Her words: “Ikemba Ndi Igbo, you stood for justice and equity, and fought relentlessly for the protection of your people, for the poor and the downtrodden …Yet, these party leaders always chose to play dumb in any critical issue affecting our people, neither did they condemn the unjust imprisonment and wanton killings of their Igbo brothers.

“Nna Anyi, they removed your image from our party uniform, boldly labeling you a dead man who was no longer relevant, even to the beloved party you nurtured. Who is that Herod that seeks to erase your memory from this noble cause, this roll of honour, this last stand for Ndigbo in the twilight years of your life?

“Amuma n’Egbe Igwe, Intercede for us. The eleventh hour is upon us. We are advancing into this electoral battlefield with untreated sores and bleeding wounds, but with our heads held high. Should we fail to make it, let it be on record that Willie Obiano destroyed APGA.”

Could it be that Ojukwu’s widow was still bemoaning the disgrace she suffered in the hands of APGA, when she was endorsed to contest the Anambra South Senatorial ticket of the party? Alternatively, was the dirge inspired by the mournful look of things in the party, where the national chairman, Ozonkpu Victor Oye, became subdued at a time of great political challenge?

Within the APC, the Federal High Court, Abuja, deferred its ruling on the case filed by Dr. George Moghalu against the APC, Senator Andy Uba and INEC over the June 26, governorship primary of the party.

Although the court had fixed November 4 to deliver its ruling on the pre-lection matter, it had to defer to the letter written by Senator Uba’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, asking for the judgment to be put off till after today’s ballot so as not to escalate the tension already enveloped the state.

With the seeming confused state of things with the two major political parties -APGA and APC- the election environment remains open for an upset. However, whether the ongoing exercise would elicit an inconclusive ballot or produce a winner, the electoral process remains subject to the ultimate verdict of the courts, unless one of the underdogs clinches the prize.