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The campaigns, the candidates and the climax

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
17 November 2017   |   2:29 am
The intrigues associated with political campaigns for this year’s Anambra governorship election will peak tomorrow when the electorate files out to vote for candidates of their choice among the 36 contenders for the state’s top seat.

Dr. Tony Nwoye emerged the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Nov.18 governorship election in Anambra.

The intrigues associated with political campaigns for this year’s Anambra governorship election will peak tomorrow when the electorate files out to vote for candidates of their choice among the 36 contenders for the state’s top seat.

The campaigns climaxed with candidates even taking their messages to the doorsteps of opponents and in their attempts to swing victory to their sides, political parties have employed their greatest assets to convince the people.

To showcase what they have got, some of the leading political parties, especially those in government, integrated serving and former state government officials into their campaigns.

Perhaps, the most elaborate are the campaigns by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the United Progressive Party (UPP) and Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).

The APC began its campaigns on a resounding note as it drew almost all the who-is-who in the party at the national level to the flag off held in Onitsha. Its National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, led other national officers to the All Saints Field where the event held, while Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha led other governors on the platform of the party to the venue among other dignitaries.

And to cap it all, President Muhammadu Buhari, who had earlier promised to be personally present on the last day of the campaign, was in Awka on Wednesday to solicit for votes for the party’s candidate, Dr Tony Nwoye. The team is also enjoying the support of billionaire Arthur Eze, who is believed to be the financial pillar behind Nwoye.

For the PDP, its National Caretaker Committee Chairman, Ahmed Makarafi, led other members to the campaign flag off, which also held in Onitsha but the governors were not there. There were also National Assembly members. A two–term governor, Mr Peter Obi, is personally leading the campaign of the party’s candidate Dr Oseloka Obaze with other members of the state caretaker committee of the party led by a former Minister of Health, Dr. ABC Nwosu and former Woman Affairs Minister, Mrs. Josephine Anenih. The team is also enjoying the support of ailing former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, whose daughter has been picked as Obaze’s running-mate.

Former National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh, led the APGA campaign team. Others who have joined the team since it started are businessman, Dr Ifeanyi Uba, Mrs Bianca Ojukwu, Mr Nicolas Ukachukwu, Annie Okonkwo among others. They have traversed the nooks and crannies of the state to solicit support and vote for the reelection of the party candidate Chief Willie Obiano.

Although the UPP is a newly registered party, it has enjoyed support of its National Chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie among several others in the zone who feel aggrieved with the APGA and the state government. Its candidate, Osita Chidoka is also riding high among other contenders in the contest. It is evident from the campaigns that the four listed political parties and their candidates are the ones leading in the election. Chief Godwin Ezeemo of the PPA also deserves a listing having personally brought his party to prominence with the campaigns and grassroots reach.

Statistics obtained by The Guardian showed that the election would hold in the 21 local governments, 326 electoral wards, 4608 polling units and 179 communities of the state. There are 2,158,171 registered voters, with 23,000 Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) personnel and about 34,000 security personnel, which is likely to increase before tomorrow, for the election.

With these in place, certain other factors that include pro-Biafra agitations, general discontentment, godfather politics, incumbency, zoning, money, religion, campaign pledges among others, will come into play when the process gets underway to determine a winner.

However, with the close of campaigns and the electorate getting set to vote tomorrow, there are many factors that may likely influence their choice. For the candidates themselves, what have they got that could swing the pendulum to their side.

Tony Nwoye of APC
A former student leader, he is a member of the House of Representatives for Anambra East and West Federal Constituency and a former chairman of the PDP in the state. He contested the governorship in 2013 on the platform of PDP and finished second, securing over 96,000 votes. He hails from Nsugbe, in Anambra North Senatorial District. He left the PDP shortly after the 2015 general election to join the APC. Nwoye’s greatest support is the financial backing he is receiving from the billionaire, Arthur Eze. He is young and energetic and regarded as a grassroots politician and mobilizer. Although Nwoye is new to APC, he is not new to Anambra politics. The fact that he outwitted other big wigs in the party including George Muoghalu, Andy Uba and others to clinch the ticket of the party is seen as evidence of his strength and a great advantage to a candidate who is also believed to have Federal Government support.

Bookmakers say he is a lucky candidate going by the determination of his party to win the election as a mark of serious inroad into the southeast in 2019. He is also being seen as a strong contender since he was able to come second after the crisis that erupted in his PDP that was sorted out a week to the 2013 election. Many believe that he remains a hard nut to crack should he reenact same spirit.

But a few things are really not going in his favour. These are the fact that his zone, Anambra North has produced the incumbent governor and going by the unwritten rotation of power in the state, other zones would prefer that the four years window be allowed to be served out by the incumbent. Those who hold this view said that should he be given power, he might ask for a two-term tenure, thereby jettisoning the arrangement.

Nwoye is often mentioned for his alleged roles in the commotions that resulted in arson in Awka and disruption of Chris Ngige’s governorship in 2013. Those close to his federal constituency accuse him of not attracting any project since he went to the House of Representatives. They also accused him of borrowing and investing much in his campaigns, stressing that, it was indication that he could mortgage the state if elected to power to enable him settle his campaign debts.

Willie Obiano of APGA
The incumbency factor is the major strength of Obiano who has, in the last four years, been steering the ship of state. As a sitting governor, he has access to state influence, resources and machinery that can be deployed to his advantage.

His critics however said the last four years have been disastrous. His predecessor and estranged godfather, Obi, has labeled him a failure and accused him of squandering about N200 billion he left in the coffers of the state although the government denied the claim and insisted that over N100 billion debt was left by the former governor.

Obi has apologized to the people of the state for nominating and bankrolling Obiano’s 2013 campaigns, saying, “Can anyone show me what the governor has done within the first term? He has done nothing. That is why I am here to lead the campaign for his removal.”

But those favourably disposed to Obiano said he has always paid salary and ensured that the state did not witness recession. They also argued that the zoning arrangement favours him, since he hails from Aguleri in Anambra North.

They point at projects that he has executed in the last four years as well as uncompleted ones that would be completed if given a renewed mandate. They insist that pensioners are smiling under his administration as well as agricultural developments among others.Relying on the strength of the zoning factor, Obiano said “I am the only person among those contesting that will govern for four years. Others are coming out to rule you and will not govern for only four years.”

Oseloka Obaze of PDP
A former diplomat and former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under Obi, who also worked in the same capacity under Obiano for 15 months before quitting in protest, Obaze hails from Ogbaru in Anambra North and has the active backing of Obi and former Vice President, Ekwueme and many others. He has extensively campaigned on development issues and has promised to spend only four years if voted into power.

Obaze, having been involved in governance in the state, has a deep knowledge of the workings of the administration. He was also part of the success story of the Obi years for which he is acknowledged for the vast international connections that the regime enjoyed. He is widely traveled and his global experience in running governments and development matters, are believed to be his strongest points.

Some analysts however see the massive support being given to him by Obi as an example of godfather politics as well as elongating the grip of the former governor on the state. They insist that his voice may be swallowed by those who brought him up should he be elected governor. His emergence is said to have further widened the crisis in the party, as many felt that he was not properly registered before he got the ticket. Those within the PDP, who believe that his emergence was an imposition, are also working against his interest.

Godwin Ezeemo of PPA
He is a notable grassroots politician who has impacted the people through his philanthropy. He has investments in the media, oil sector, haulage, tourism and many others. He is considered a rich person by every standard and also known for his consistency. Ezeemo has supporters who are fanatical in their belief in him and he is also known to be a man of ideas. He is one politician who believes that things must be done right if the state must continue to progress. He has vied for the office in 2013 and tells anybody that cares to listen, that he left his luxury overseas to contribute in the development of the state. He was the first to emerge as governorship candidate in the state.

Factors against his ambition include the fact that it is not the turn of his zone to produce governor. Others are that the political party (PPA) which he is using to pursue his ambition is weak and that its founder, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State, had jettisoned the party.

Anambra people are allegedly skeptical about how he could transform a political party whose founder has dumped. Not many people in the state have identified with the party and indeed, not many have registered with it.

Osita Chidoka of UPP
A former Minister of Aviation and former Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Chidoka has brought the UPP to a new height since he became the candidate of the party. According to him, his optimism on winning the election is premised on the fairness of the INEC in the conduct of the exercise. Chidoka who hails from Obosi, in Idemili is also testing his luck for the first time in competitive politics. A strong and firm personality, Chidoka left the PDP and clinched the ticket of the UPP against the likes of Ifeanyi Okonkwo among others.

One thing that stands him out is his oratory skills as well as the fact that he has no godfather. He has run his campaigns single-handedly and appears like one who understands the problem of the state.

Apart from the zoning arrangement, which does not favour his Senatorial zone, it is believed that the Chidoka family has had its fair share from the scheme of things, taking cognizance of the fact that he was a former Minister and Road Safety head and his younger brother is presently representing his constituency at the House of Representatives. It is also true that his party, the UPP is not yet popular in Anambra, a factor that may create a hurdle for him in garnering sufficient votes to win the governorship poll.