Monday, 2nd October 2023

Hard choices before Anambra voters as guber poll beckons

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
30 October 2021   |   4:02 am
Whichever way you choose to assess the 18 candidates presented by that number of political parties for next Saturday’ s governorship poll in Anambra State, you are bound to be confronted with very tough options.

Prof. Chukwuma Soludo

• How Gladiators Are Winning Attention

Whichever way you choose to assess the 18 candidates presented by that number of political parties for next Saturday’ s governorship poll in Anambra State, you are bound to be confronted with very tough options.

Apart from the challenge of personal safety and security of the election environment, registered voters in Anambra State would be saddled with making very difficult choice, come next Saturday, from the array of highly qualified governorship candidates that are standing for election.

Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) assured that despite threats of disruption, it was ready to conduct the poll, stressing however, that the November 6 exercise is already proving to be more expensive than similar gubernatorial ballot in Edo and Ondo States.

Speaking at the different fora, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and the commission’s Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, disclosed that the amount spent on rehabilitating the burnt INEC office and election materials in the state jacked up the cost of prosecuting the November 6 poll.

Okoye said that unusual circumstances of the Anambra State gubernatorial election contribute to the relatively high cost of organising the ballot, stressing that the commission’s Local Council offices in Nnewi North and Idemmili North, which were razed had to be rebuilt.

On his path, the INEC chairman, Yakubu, who spoke during a meeting with Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), restated his commission’s determination to organize the November 6 ballot.

While disclosing that he had received assurances of enhanced security presence in Anambra State during the election period, the INEC chairman declared: “We are confident that the professionalism and neutrality being displayed by the security agencies during the Edo and Ondo polls would be replicated on November 6. INEC is determined to proceed with the Anambra state governorship election as scheduled.

“The safety and protection of voters, our personnel, accredited observers, the media and materials are cardinal considerations in any election. We have been assured by the security agencies of a secure environment for the election.”

However, despite those assurances from the INEC chairman, some civil society groups, including Intersociety for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Southeast chapter of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and Southeast-Based Coalition of Democracy and Human Rights Organisation (SBCHROs), urged for a shift of the poll, citing the climate of fear and tension propelled by agitators’ threat to disrupt the process.

In their joint statement signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi and Chidimma Udegbunam (Intersociety), Prof. Jerry Chukuwokoro and Okezie Kelechi (SBCHROs), as well as Aloysius Attah and Vincent Ekwueme (CLO), the rights groups noted that both Electoral act and Constitution support a shift.

The statement said: “According to Section 178 (2) of the country’s 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 25 (8) of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended), ‘election into the office of governor shall be held not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder or outgoing governor’.

“In the case of Anambra Governorship Poll, therefore, the tenure of office of the outgoing governor elapses on 17th March 2022. This means that INEC is on point by fixing the Poll “not earlier than 150 days before the expiration of the term of office of the last or outgoing holder (William Mmaduabuchukwu Obiano)”.

“INEC is also on point if the Poll is shifted to 6th Dec 2021 which is still within the literal letters or meaning of ‘not earlier than 150 days’ or ‘not later than 30 days to the last holder’s office term expiration’.

The group stated that unless INEC has a different motive, “otherwise, the only credible option available to the commission is to shift the poll for one month; exception being unless the agitators rescind their sit-at-home call scheduled to start from November 5. The meaningful timeline popularly appropriate for agitators to rescind or rewind is Monday, 1st Nov or Tuesday, Nov 2nd 2021.”

The groups also noted that clarifications by the agitators that their seven days’ sit-at-home protest scheduled for November 5 through 10, was not intended to scuttle or targeted at the Anambra Governorship Poll does hold water.

Legal Intrusion
BUT, while the issues of cost and security, as well as calls for postponement were being contemplated, the legal challenge against the participation of four parties and their candidates heightened the uncertainty pervading the state.

In suit No No FHC/AWK/CS/71/2021 filed by Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo at the Federal High Court, Awka, the plaintiff prayed the court for an order disqualifying four candidates and their parties from the November 6, Anambra State governorship election.

The four parties and their candidates include, All Progressives Congress (APC); Senator Andy Uba; All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Prof. Chukwuma Soludo; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Mr. Valentine Ozigbo; Young Peoples Party (YPP); Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.

Both Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Anambra State; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), were also joined as respondents. The plaintiff accused the respondents of breaching the Electoral Act and submitting false information to INEC.

Okonkwo, in his statement of claim, asserted that the “constitution empowers any person, who has reasonable ground to believe that any information given by a political party or its candidate like the defendants submitted to the 10th defendant is false, to file a suit at the Federal High Court or a High Court against such person/party and seek a declaration that such information is not true.”

He therefore contended that the four parties and their governorship candidates should be disqualified and excluded from participating in the November 6 ballot.

Going by the complex mix of issues dogging the Anambra State gubernatorial poll, it has become obvious that if the poll holds, voters that summon courage to approach the polling units would be confronted with the task of choosing between alternatives in a crowd of potential governors.

Despite the legal affront against some of the candidates, the following subsets, the streetwise, the career/business stars, the men about town and the public intellectuals; have come up as categories confronting the electorate, based on what they represent, sell and how they tried to enhance their tickets:

Soludo/Etiaba: Ndi Obobo Akwukwo (Public Intellectuals)
Prof. Chukwuma Soludo emerged as standard-bearer of incumbent party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) after a lengthy nomination process and rigorous litigation.

The former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is well known for his intellectual accomplishments as a technocrat. This is his second attempt to become Anambra State governor. He has been telling voters that he is the most qualified and competent to govern the state based on his past performances in various challenging appointments and global connections.

Soludo selected a medical doctor, Onyekachukwu Ibezim from Anambra Central as his running mate. The APGA ticket is seen as a textbook case.

Similarly, after the curious governorship primary in All Progressives Congress (APC) and against all odds, Chief Bennet Etiaba, crossed over to the Action Alliance (AA), where he clinched the party’s ticket for next Saturday’s contest.

A brilliant accountant, Etiaba has been engaging the voters, but most appeals to the professional cadre as the ideal material for governorship. He chose a woman as running mate to complement his run for the governorship. He is advocating prudence and data-driven governance to develop the state.

Okonkwo/Akachukwu Ndi Ama ama (Men About Town)
Obiora Okonkwo and Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, represent what voters call the Anambra candidates. Prior to their emergence as governorship candidates of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC), the governorship hopefuls had been about town through community interventions.

For instance, through Pro-Value Humanity Foundation, Dikeora, as Okonkwo is called, had been offering humanitarian care to the less privileged and aged as well as philanthropic gestures. Okonkwo says he is in the race to win and repair the damage done by APGA in the past 16 years. His governorship credo is Maka Ilu Oluoma (For good works).

Recently at Okpoko where his campaign train went to flag off the construction of a dilapidated street road, Okonkwo was moved to tears when he witnessed a struggling nursing mother as she slumped while struggling to vend her sachet water.

Apart from lifting the woman with N200, 000 to raise her business capital, Okonkwo said his Foundation would take up her medical care. After the gesture to Amara Nwachukwu, traders in Ndida Market at Okpoko recalled how the ZLP candidate set up a foundation with Nnamdi Azikiwe University for the study and elevation of the Igbo apprenticeship scheme to ensure that indigent young traders get access to education and develop their business skills.

Okonkwo went to Onitsha, in Anambra North to select his female running mate, Dame Jessie from the popular Belonwu family.

“What we have done here today is not about politics but about our common humanity. It is simply a continuation of what we have been doing and which we will continue to do election or no election”, he said.

“I am already sponsoring research in this university. I do not only sponsor research; in the next few days I will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with this university with my airline company.

“I will be taking from 10 to 20 engineers from the mechanical department on an internship. We will be introducing them to the aviation industry. It is a formal MoU. It has been negotiated and my company will come and sign it.

Similarly, the ADC standard bearer, Nwankpo, who was Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Technical Matters, deployed his personal resources to assist victims of the 2012 flood disaster in the state.

Nwankpo was also about town in the build up to the 2021 Anambra State governorship through his ‘Lets Go South’ campaign for zoning the governorship to Anambra South Senatorial District.

Like the ZLP flagbearer, Nwankpo went to Anambra North (Ogbunike) to select his running mate, Pastor Lawrence Ughamadu. He has been engaging with the 326 communities of the state marketing his Umunna democratic system of grassroots governance.

Being hailed as Ochiagha Umunna, the ADC candidate said, “Anambra voters have found ADC the best platform to scale up development in the state,” stressing that from March 17, 2022, Anambra State would move from Akpokue to Ochiagha Umunna. He maintains that every Umunna must have both a voice and seat in the governance of the state.

He told voters:  “I, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, have sworn to run an inclusive and accountable administration through the Ministry of Umunna Affairs. Transparency in project conception, budgeting and implementation would be the hallmarks of the government under my watch. That is why I am called Ochiagha Umunna, because when Umunna proclaims a battle, it is usually fought powerfully.”

Ozigbo/ Nwankwo/Maduka Ndi Nka (Career, Business Stars)
THE candidates of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Valentine Ozigbo; Accord Party (AP), Dr. Godwin Maduka and African Action Congress (AAC), Dr. Chigozie Nwankwo, are giants from the boardroom, professional career and business.

Although these men have had no prior political experience by way of electoral contests, their success stories have been their unique value proposition. For instance, the PDP standard bearer, Ozigbo, is touted as a multiple award-winning global CEO and inspirational leader.

The former President and CEO of Transcorp, has been marketing his candidacy with the pay off of Ka Anambra Chawapu. He promises to continue with youth empowerment and talent promotion if elected governor. He accepted Mrs. Azuka Enemuo, from Anambra Central Senatorial District, as his female running mate.

At a recent campaign stop in Atani, Ogbaru Local Council, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, described the Ozigbo/Enemo governorship ticket as the best choice for Anambra and Igbo nation.

“Valentine Ozigbo is a consummate professional. His running mate is an astute administrator, an exemplary mother, and a good Christian. They are the best combination in the race,” Abaribe stated.

Like Ozigbo, the duo of Maduka and Nwankwo maintain that success in their private endeavours enough to propel them to the governorship. However, unlike Ozigbo, the AP and AAC candidates depend on their personal attributes to lift their political platform to such an extent that the average voter would not have to sweat at the polling booth to remember their parties.

Uba/Ubah Ndi Anefo (The streetwise)
IT is only the ‘h’ suffix in their surnames that differentiates the candidates of APC and Young Progressives Party (YPP). Both Senator Andy Uba and Ifeanyi Ubah share easy name and face recognition having contested for the position at various election cycles in the state on different platforms.

Like Uba, Ubah once ran for the governorship on Labour Party (LP) platform. As representatives of Anambra South Senatorial District in the Senate, both candidates have deep pockets and fell back on their street wisdom to raise foot soldiers in readiness for the November 6 showdown.

While the Uba from Uga stoked the defection of election field marshals from other parties to APC, the Ubah from Nnewi chose to use technology to register his supporters and followers by giving them identification cards such that after the election closes, he would ascertain before hand how the voting went.

Additionally, the APC candidate’s closeness to the powers that be, and his rich fund of goodwill have been throwing his name about in the state. In a bid to dismiss the tantrum of Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige’s aversion to his candidacy, the APC standard bearer settled for the Minister’s cousin as his running mate from Anambra Central.

Likewise, the YPP governorship hopeful ambushed the business mogul and oil magnate, Prince Arthur Eze, by selection his cousin, Dr. Emeka Eze, as his running mate.

Baring any hiccups, next Saturday, it would be seen how voters respond to these electoral plots by the gladiators as they fish for superior number of ballots to become the next governor of Anambra State.