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Anambra’s shining light

A review of the recent governorship election in Anambra State

BY CHUKS ILOEGBUNAM

We have been treated to tons of analysis since February 6, 2010, when Anambra’s electorate returned Governor Peter Obi for a second term of office. Everyone seems to know in great detail the factors that produced the result that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared. Finding nothing wrong in joining the Joneses, I should have my take on the topical issue.

My first point is that Anambra State is not PDP territory. Any pundit that discounts or misses this critical factor isn’t employing the proper instruments of analysis on the gubernatorial election. This meant that Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the PDP candidate, was going to walk strictly in the right direction and work 48 hours each day for the earthbound to crush the airborne. He did neither, and I should come to expatiate on this shortly.

Since the single tenure of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, the political apparatus of the PDP has done very little to convince Ndi Anambra that they were mistaken in giving their mandate to Mr. Peter Obi in 2003. They invariably reported on political radar screens as a fractious lot of “carry go” political characters. In the crucial matter of achievement while in power, they remained bested by Peter Obi’s record. Only an upheaval of unprecedented proportions could have turned these critical deficits into electoral capital.

Yet, Soludo’s nightmares were far from over. He didn’t earn his governorship candidacy on account of longevity in the PDP, or on account of party primaries adjudged to be transparent. These ranged implacable forces against him. Practically, all the serious candidates that contested against Obi are or were of the PDP. That’s hemorrhage of the insidious strain. There was a penultimate problem. Everyone knew that Ide Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the former Nigerian vice president, was Soludo’s godfather.

But the Ide hardly went barnstorming with his ward. In contradistinction, Anambra was plastered with the image of Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu endorsing Obi, his “beloved son.” Not only that, the Ikemba helicoptered to major campaign venues to preach his candidate, topping it all up by dramatically weeping at the APGA rally in his hometown of Nnewi.

Thus, at another level, the governorship poll was also the latest battle in the endless war regarding who the real Igbo leader was!

To discuss Soludo for the final time. He had a mountain of litigations to fight. He did emerge from all of them victorious, but not unscathed. Yet, his greatest drawback would seem to be a campaign that was far from scientific. The African Dubai Taiwan (ADT) mantra of his campaign may and, in fact, does have merit. But it was arcane. In Anambra, the immediate problems relate to jobs, meals on the table, security to lives and property, not a flight to the Emirates or the instant importation of its paradise to our shores.

Chief Andy Uba, who was fronted by the Labour Party, wasn’t going to win the election. Neither were Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu of the Hope Democratic Party and Hon. (Mrs.) Uche Ekwunife of the Progressive Peoples Alliance. While Uba was bogged down by intractable litigations of his own institution, Ukachukwu and Ekwunife did better grassroots work and more vigorous campaigning, to be sure. But nobody who is serious minded ever confuses din with impact, or the peripatetic for the ultimate prize winner.

The case of Dr. Chris Ngige is begotten of a different mother. His second-place ranking in the poll underscores the popularity his campaign machinery invariably claimed. His message hit home more than those of all the other losers. Those who are insiders say that the Onwa was prevented from wielding his broom in an avowed second missionary journey of cleaning up the Augean stable by poor funding. But that is not all the story. This leads us to Peter Obi.

Mr. Obi and Hon Ned Nwoko, a former member of the Federal House of Representatives, surprised me in different ways. Obi called me in a week to the vote. We were on a topic when, without warning, he looked me in the eye and said, “Chuks, I am going to win this election, and I am going to win it decisively.” The surprise wasn’t in the victory Obi claimed before the contest but in its reiteration to me. As for Ned, he phoned me from Abuja every day to say that Obi was going to be re-elected and that I must do the utmost for him. However, he surprised me by accurately forecasting the order in which the candidates will emerge in the ballot.

Now, how did Obi do it? In answering this question, I speak on areas that are self-evident but must preface my discussion on the assertion that Peter Obi is a tough cookie himself. He prefers to slug it out over 15 rounds than be the beneficiary of a walkover. That has always been his style. His first means of winning a second term was the systematically organised tours of his projects. Those projects are there to be seen; the impact of their being seen was never compromised by the argument that he earned much more from federal allocation than all previous governors combined.

Obi did a coup in having Chief Ojukwu, the Ikemba, by his side. Whatever is said to the contrary, Ojukwu retains a very special place in the Igbo psyche. Obi capitalised on this. This capital is tied to the matter of identity. So, Obi goes on the soap box and says this: “Ngige’s hand was raised by Alhaji Akande. Soludo’s hand was raised by Anthony Anenih. My hand is up, courtesy of Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

Who will you vote for as Ndigbo?” Then he takes the points raised by the opposition slice by slice and demolishes them. “It is not true that a state loses out when it is governed by a party not in power at the centre. Look at Kano State. It is ANPP. Yet it commands three federal ministers. Look at Lagos. It is AC. Yet it is not in any difficulties on that account.” And so on…

In other words, Obi re-hoisted the APGA as the voice of the Igbo. You counted for nothing in the entity if you didn’t have a platform. APGA represents, not just the party in power in Anambra State, but also the vehicle by which Ndigbo might get a fair hearing in our federal setting. It is the kind of situation that turns every political analyst into an instant prophet. Permit me, therefore, to prophesy that if the cards are played differently and with a broader vision this time around, APGA will register a resurgence that will surprise the cynics in 2011, put a new heart in the Igbo and re-configure the entire body politic.

And so the election came and went. But some are not certain as to who the true winners are. The real winners are Anambra State and Nigeria. The honest among us will confess to the premonition that February 6 would initiate a season of bloodbath. It didn’t happen.

The event passed off peacefully for which some credit must also go to Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, the inspector general of police (IGP). This gives the hope that next year’s general elections will benefit from the example of Anambra State.


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