Political Odyssey of major candidates: Odds and even
By March 17, 2018, it would be 12 years of continued dominance of the governorship seat of Anambra State by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). In the building up to the November 18, 2017 governorship poll therefore, the background of the frontline candidates would either enhance or dog their electoral fortune.
APGA (1) Governor Obiano
Out of the five candidates that emerged as flag bearers of the first and second row political parties, only the incumbent, Governor Willie Obiano, does not have a past of political junketing. Until his last minute introduction into the 2013 governorship contest, Obiano was not only enjoying his retirement from a banking job at the Fidelity Bank Plc, but also not known to have associated with any political party, as a member.
A lot of people say that the greatest source of political faux pas of the incumbent was his outsider status as a non-politician. Even when he became governor on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Obiano could not easily connect with the party and its membership, such that when he was to appoint his chief of staff, he appointed an academic, Prof. Joseph Asike, another political outsider.
Perhaps, to make up for his scant political exposure, the governor sourced almost 94 percent of his staff from his Aguleri town. It is this recourse to kith and kin, as well as, preponderance of politically naïve appointees that has continued to burden Obiano’s administration with declining public image.
Even when the governor was to replace the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Oseloka Henry Obaze, who resigned, following irreconcilable differences with their common benefactor, he settled for Prof. Solo Chukwuelobe. To this day, many political actors in the state wonder whether the SSG has brought value or detracting from the administration.
APGA (2) Dr. Hygers Igwebuike
RIVAL candidate of APGA, is not without a history of political peregrination. Popularly known as Ebube Anambra (Glory of Anambra), Igwebuike has, before venturing into partisan politics, been a prominent member of the Catholic Charismatic Ministry, both in Lagos and in his Umuomaku community.
In 2013 shortly after the merger of some opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hygers, who was a member of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), crossed over to Accord Party (AP) on which platform he contested the November 16, 2013 governorship poll.
Intriguingly, on November 12, 2013, he organised a mega rally at Ekwueme Square, Awka and publicly declared for APGA, alongside his supporters. Buoyed by that grand entry, he secured APGA ticket and ran for the Orumba north/south federal constituency seat in 2015. Although he was acclaimed to have won the election convincingly at every polling unit, he was outsmarted by the superior forces. The election result was declared in Nnewi, rather than at Ajalli or Umunze, the constituency headquarters and polling unit.
PDP, Oseloka Obaze
LIKE Obiano, the PDP candidate, Obaze, had no prior membership of any political party. Obaze was in far away United States where he was a staff of United Nations, before former Governor Peter Obi prevailed on him to return and take part in the politics of the state.
Based on his outsider status and issues surrounding his voter registration, Obaze was disqualified by a team of APGA governorship screening committee in 2013. Sources disclosed that Obaze was Obi’s first choice in his succession plan, but that the former governor had to settle for Obiano due to combination of factors, including the leadership crisis in APGA.
Burdened by his outsider status, fellow aspirants in PDP point to his recent defection to the party as an aberration. While the likes of Senator Stella Oduah and oil mogul, Ifeanyi Ubah are kicking against Obaze’s emergence at the party’s governorship primary, members of the state Executive Committee that was dissolved by the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) allege that Obaze is a product of imposition.
But, in a deft political move to avert the possible deleterious effect of his political past on Obaze’s candidacy, efforts are being made by stakeholders to compensate the losers with positions of running mate and possible appointment as SSG if the party wins the governorship.
Whether therefore, Ifeanyi Uba or Senator Andy Uba’s younger brother, or even any older member of PDP, ends up as Obaze’s running mate, depends on the political wizardry brought to bear on the development. Should that happen, Senator Uduah, who hails from same Ogbaru constituency as Obaze, may be the ultimate sacrificial lamb. That is if the former Aviation minister does not defect to another party.
APC, Tony Okechukwu Nwoye
NWOYE’s political journey began from his days in the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), where he rose to become the National President with the backing of strong political figures. And for his contributions to the furthering of the political interests of those powerful men, Nwoye was rewarded with the position of state chairman of PDP.
Scaling up his aluta political antecedents through the office of state chairman, Nwoye featured in several governorship polls, such that on two occasions he displaced very experienced political figures in the state, including Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, to fly the PDP flag.
Despite the fact of a political understanding between former governor Obi and former President Goodluck Jonathan, Nwoye came close to winning the 2013 governorship poll, when he beat former governor Chris Ngige, then of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to the third place.
In 2016 during the rescheduled state congress of the party, Nwoye and his group defected to the APC, protesting the attempt to favour a rival faction unduly by the Ike Abonyi-led congress committee.
Having moved into APC, while enjoying his position as PDP member of House of Representatives, Nwoye stepped up his ambition to run again for the governorship seat. At a time when APC members were left desolate as sheep without shepherd, Nwoye placed critical members, particularly the potential delegates on monthly stipend.
At the APC governorship primary, Nwoye’s political investment paid off, as delegates shunned late entrants to reward the long time gesture of the member of House of Representatives.
With his surprise emergence, especially against the backdrop of subdued protests by a cross section of members that the flag bearer imported PDP culture of corruption and underhand method of inducement to win the primary, it is left to be seen how far Nwoye would build much needed party cohesion to win the governorship poll.
HDP, Sam Osita Oraegbunam
AS a foundation member of Alliance for Democracy (AD) the HDP flag bearer is seen as a great grass roots politician that has traversed many political parties and groups.
Oraegbunam moved through PDP to the Labour Party (LP), where he became the state chairman and later to Hope Democratic Party (HDP). Based on his political mobilization skills, Oraegbunam has been severally consulted by various aspirants during electioneering periods. He served as campaign Director General at different times to Senator Uche Ekwunife and Dozie Nwankwo.
Perhaps, it was in recognition of his high network of followers and knowledge of the Anambra election environment that members of HDP nominated him as the governorship candidate.
Oraegbunam deployed his political skills to ensure that Hope Democratic Party (HDP) stood out as the only party without a divisive or disputed primary. The general perception in the state, judging by the mixed crowd that attended the governorship primary, is that HDP may reap from the protest votes and anti-party activities of those who lost from other parties.
United Progressive Party (UPP), Osita Chidoka
CONTROVERSY dogged the entry and every step of the former Aviation Minister, from the time he joined UPP up until he clinched the governorship ticket. Shortly before the completion of his term as corps marshal of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Chidoka was appointed the minister of Aviation when the former occupant, Oduah, was forced to resign for issues relating to the purchase of bullet proof cars by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), a parastatal under her ministry.
Chidoka defected from PDP shortly before the apex court ruled on the protracted leadership tussle in the party. Having benefitted from PDP, most people see his defection as sign of political desperation, to save his political future, especially against the background that his younger brother’s presence in the House of Representatives could have hurt his governorship ambition in the PDP.Whether therefore his defection to UPP was a wise tactical decision or negative political move would be seen by his performance at the November 18 poll.