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Readings from Anambra governorship contest

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
09 November 2021   |   4:15 am
There were many sides to the Anambra State gubernatorial contest, which is about running its full course with the expected declaration of a winner. Not minding the infringement on the run of play of the electoral exercise last Saturday, a definite pattern of voter preferences was discernible from across the 21 Local Government Areas of the state.

Willie Obiano. Photo: TWITTER/WILLIEMOBIANO

• Losers, implications on Southeast politics
There were many sides to the Anambra State gubernatorial contest, which is about running its full course with the expected declaration of a winner. Not minding the infringement on the run of play of the electoral exercise last Saturday, a definite pattern of voter preferences was discernible from across the 21 Local Government Areas of the state.
    
Final collation and subsequent announcement of winner of the poll had to be put forward to today following the interplay of overzealous partisanship and desperation of supporters of one of the political parties.  
   
The postponement of the poll in Ihiala Local Government Area, which was reported by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to have resulted from insecurity and failure on its part to deploy, still left the governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) soaring away with stunning performance.
   


Therefore, by declaring the poll inconclusive, INEC could be said to have merely postponed APGA’s victory dance. But, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which was trailing APGA at a distant third position, insists that it is not over until it is finally over today, when the Ihiala ballot is added to the collation basket.
   
Going by the interest generated by the Anambra State poll, which is one of the off season governorship elections in the country, a number of crucial inferences could be drawn from the exercise so far concluded in 20 out of the 21 councils.
  
In all, there were rejections, assertions, repugnancies and stress on the issues of party platforms and zoning. However, as the make up ballot holds today, it is expected that the leadership of APGA would be pondering on the steps to adopt in implementing the lofty electioneering promises of its standard bearer, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo.
  
That is assuming that boasts by the opposition APC to replicate the Osun State governorship wonder and Imo State magic during today’s supplementary balloting do not come into full expression.
  
Action has shifted to Ihiala Local Government Area, which is believed to be the strong hold of two candidates, namely Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo of African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Dr. Obinna Uzor of Social Democratic Party (SDP).
  
However, given the established voter preferences across the state, even if any of the two carries that day, their vote tally out of the 148,000 potential ballot would not be enough to displace the APGA candidate, Prof. Soludo’s over 103,946 votes.
   
Similarly, the insinuations in some quarters that the APC candidate, Senator Andy Uba, has a strong enforcer in the person of Hon. Chuma Nzeribe and as such capable of turning the tables do not seem likely. The issue of spread has been settled by the results already collated and announced.
     
Of the four front row political parties in the race-APGA, PDP, APC and Young Progressives Party (YPP), only APGA has crossed the 14 Local Government Area threshold, which is the equivalent of two third of 21 council areas of the state.
   

Therefore, in the event that APC, PDP or YPP appropriates as much as 99, 000 votes from Ihiala, that may not thrash the relevant constitutional provision for two third spread.
  
But, perhaps in a bid to improve on their results, the gladiators have focused attention on Ihiala Local Government Area, where Governor Obiano’s advance team was attacked by some unknown gunmen in the course of APGA’s electioneering.
 
On account of the make or mar status which the Ihiala supplementary poll has acquired, the state government issued a public service announcement, informing residents and voters in the council area that today’s exercise would hold peacefully.
 
The announcement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, declared: “Anambra State government working with relevant security agencies hereby assure Ndi-Ihiala that adequate security arrangements have been made to protect life and property during the election. 
   
“All are encouraged to come out and vote for the candidate of their choice. As Ndi Ihiala may have observed, elections were successfully and peacefully held in the other 20 local government areas of Anambra state and INEC has duly announced the results. No incidence of violence or voter molestation was recorded in the gubernatorial election, which held on Saturday, 6th November, 2021.”
  
The state government emphasised that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had previously cancelled the sit-at-home order earlier announced and encouraged Ndi Anambra to come out and vote. 

APGA’s resilience
ONE major observation from the governorship poll is the resilience of the governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as well as Ndi-Anambra. Despite the perceived disaffection within the party, which culminated in the defection of high profile stakeholders, including the deputy governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke, member representing Aguata Federal Constituency, Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji, who contested the party’s ticket, as well as six members of the State House of Assembly, APGA proved too entrenched to be uprooted by affected internal opposition.
  
It was a measure of APGA’s strength and the wide acceptability of its standard bearer, regardless of the uproar that attended the governorship primary, that the party was able to win 18 out of the 20 Local Government Areas with convincing wide margins.
 
Also contrary to his perceived political naivety and debatable track record of performance in office, Governor Willie Obiano, proved true to the party’s tradition of standing behind a preferred candidate on the basis of zoning.

INEC’s fairness/neutrality
DESPITE the malfunctioning of the much-touted BVAS (Biometric Voter Accreditation System), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed that it was determined on its promise to deliver on credible elections in the country.
   
Right from the 2015 Bayelsa State governorship poll, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has continued to make impressive innovations that have tended to win voter confidence and credibility of ballot outcomes.
   
In the build up to the tension-soaked poll, there were speculations that the electoral body was working in cahoots with a particular political party to return a winner against the wishes of the electorate. But, as polls opened, albeit amidst delays, it was obvious that no such plot was afoot.

Assertive electorate
CONTRARY to insinuations, the Anambra electorate proved that they are enlightened enough and capable of independent judgment and choice. Such assertiveness played out in Enugu-ukwu, where voters rejected gratification to vote for a particular candidate, as well as shunning the entreaties by the recently defected deputy governor for them to vote according to his dictates.  
 
The voters’ independence, which could be defined as Igbo renaissance, made it impossible for politicians that defected to other parties to influence the outcome. Like the Edo State electorate, Anambra voters decided to speak in one voice by distancing themselves from internal godfathers, and outside manipulation.
    
The voter turnout, although scanty, showed remarkable emphasis on the mostly three strong contending parties, as most holders of Permanent voter cards (PVCs) did not want to waste their votes on other parties.
   
While observers noted that the ballot sustained aversion to the APC, they argue that protest against the manner of emergence of the PDP standard bearer impacted negatively on the party’s showing for a second place. However, voter preferences indicated that the electorate focused on the strength of the candidates more than their platforms.
 
Meanwhile, unfazed by the general inclination towards APGA and its standard bearer, the leadership of APC in the state rejected the outcome announced so far, even as it called for a total cancellation of the entire exercise.
   
In a statement by its state chairman, Basil Ejidike, APC lamented: “What is happening in Anambra is never an election, but big time electoral fraud and malpractice. We want the whole world to hear our voice that we will never accept the outcome of the Anambra Gubernatorial election.
  


“The candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the sitting Governor Willie Obiano manipulated the whole electoral system and we’ll stand to resist it. Ndi Anambra wants an APC Governor and there’s nothing anyone can do to deny them that opportunity. We virtually won in all the local government but Willie Obiano and Charles Soludo through instrumentality of corrupt minded INEC officers subverted the whole process in favour of APGA. 
   
“We want INEC to cancel the election and fix a date for a fresh election devoid of manipulations and malpractices. But, if INEC goes ahead to announce the results, we will definitely challenge the election process at the court of law, up-to Supreme Court. Nobody can intimidate us.” 

Resolving zoning controversy
RESULTS from Idemmili North and Idemmili South Local Government Areas, as well as Onitsha Local Government Area, showed a pattern that tended to underscore the primacy of voting according to zoning format.
   
In the build-up to the election, the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), whose standard bearer, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo and his running mate, Dame Bessie Belonwu, hail from Ogidi, Idemmili North and Onitsha, Onitsha North Local Government Areas, boasted it would garner the maximum votes cast in the populous council areas.
    
The inference that voter preferences underscore the agitation for power shift to Anambra South Senatorial District does not seem to be totally true, because the strength and spread of the party structure must have contributed to the outcome.
  
Perhaps, it would have been a different ball game had Okonkwo clinched the PDP ticket, which would have confronted voters with the inevitable challenge of focusing on candidates and less on platforms.
   
Okonkwo must have exacted his pound of flesh against former governor Peter Obi, who is accused of last minute intervention in the PDP governorship primary.

Losers
LOOKING back at the outcome of the Anambra State governorship ballot, winners and losers interlaced. Prominent among the losers are some political actors that were not on the ballot, but supported candidates that fell by the way side.  They include former Governor Peter Obi, who must have lost his bragging rights within PDP by two straight losses of his preferred candidates to Governor Obiano, first in 2017 (Oseloka Obaze) and 2021 to Obiano’s preferred candidate, Soludo through Valentine Ozigbo.
  
Although, Obi, in one of campaign appearances declared that Prof. Soludo was a better alternative to Senator Andy Uba, it would be seen how far his (Obi’s) politics would fare after the recent governorship poll.
  
No matter what the Federal High Court rules in the matter he filed against the return of Senator Andy Uba as the candidate of APC, Dr. George Moghalu, would be heaving a sigh of relief that his party has paid for its mistake of siding his rival and shunning his loyalty over the years in opposition.
  


Another heavyweight loser is Senator Stella Adaeze Oduah, who moved over from PDP to APC to support Senator Uba and protest the loss of PDP ticket by Senator Uche Ekwunife. Will the Ogbaru-born Senator retrace her step to PDP or remain in APC to seek a third term in the Senate? The fact that PDP won in her Local Government Area puts a dent on the former Aviation Minister’s political capacity and clout.
    
For Senator Ekwunife and wife of late Ikemba Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Bianca, it is left to be seen how the outcome of the governorship would reflect on their political behaviour in the coming months as a new governor takes over from Obiano.
  
Would the ultimate outcome of the Anambra State governorship poll lead to a recalibration of politics of Southeast geopolitical zone? The answer is in the affirmative, because the resurgence of APGA has given credence to its founding principles as a platform for the national political expression of Nd’Igbo.
   
If the massive outpouring of positive sentiments towards the governing party is anything to go by, there would be cross defections into APGA both in Anambra State and across the states. The party has shown its staying power as a major regional player.
  
This is where Prof. Soludo’s 11 years of political tutelage would be tested if he gets to receive the ultimate crown after today’s make-up ballot in Ihiala Local Government Area.