BY VINCENT UJUMADU
THE nomination exercise of the governorship candidates of the political parties participating in the November 16 election in Anambra State had come and gone, but beneath the party primaries were intrigues that caught many gubernatorial aspirants napping.
Indeed, two months to the party primaries, the political atmosphere in Anambra State was so lull that many people were wondering why politicians developed cold feet in the inevitable battle that would see one person succeed Mr. Peter Obi at the Agu Awka. Government House.
Unlike in the previous governorship elections in 2003 and 2010 when politicians polluted the entire landscape of the state with posters and bill boards several months to the party primaries, and their impact was felt in all parts of the state, the situation in 2013 was totally different as most of the governorship aspirants were either in Abuja trying to maneuver the process, or spent more time trying to make up their minds whether to join the race or not.
By May this year, some notable names began to make the rounds in political circles as those likely to declare interest. Such names include Senator Andy Uba, Senator Chris Ngige, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Senator Emma Anosike, Chief Paul Odenigbo, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, Mrs. Stella Oduah, Senator Joy Emodi, Mr. Dubem Obaze, Dr. Obinna Uzoh, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, among others. Though foot soldiers of some of the names mentioned were doing some underground work in the State for their masters, the affected individuals were hardly seen in the state.
However, while the aspirants were emerging, intra party crisis was also taking the center stage. Prince Ken Emeakayi was battling with Chief Ejike Oguebego in PDP, Chief Maxi Okwu was fighting with Sir Victor Umeh in APGA, the emerging mega party, APC, was trying to chart an acceptable course for the emerging parties of ANPP, ACN and CPC, the Labour Party was involved in leadership crisis between Basil Iwoba and Sam Oraegbunam.
But four months to the date of the election, politicians woke up from their slumber and the phrase, ‘Your Excellency’, became the common expression in the state. Bill boards and posters began to litter the streets of Awka, Onitsha, Ekwulobia, Nnewi, Otuocha, Ihiala and many other places.
Political parties began making preparations for their party primaries and at the end of the exercise that officially ended on Monday, 2nd September, no fewer than 15 political parties had nominated their flag bearers for the governorship election.
In the PDP, while the national leadership of the party dispatched the Governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Shema to organize its primaries at the Women Development Center, Awka, a factional state chairman of the party, Chief Oguebego, held a parallel primary at the Emmaus House, also in Awka. From the results, Chief Tony Nwoye, a former students’ leader and later state chairman of PDP emerged winner at the primaries by the party leadership, Senator Andy Uba was nominated by the Oguebego faction. Expectedly, the battle for the PDP ticket shifted to the courts and injunctions and counter injunctions began to fly.
By Wednesday, the Federal High Court that earlier granted Ubah the leeway to be fielded by the party for the November election, vacated it, paving the way for Nwoye to fly the party’s ticket. Nwoye’s emergence was the greatest surprise in the state considering the fact that apart from being the youngest aspirant, he was ranked among the richest in the fold.
There was, however, a report that Nwoye is being financed by the billionaire businessman, Prince Arthur Eze who, it was gathered, ensured that he (Nwoye) mobilized delegates more than every other aspirant during the primaries.
But Nwoye is likely to face another battle from Nicholas Ukachukwu who came second in the primaries. Ukachukwu is challenging the qualification of Nwoye to carry the PDP flag for the election. Again, the last may not have been heard of the Senator Andy Uba’s governorship ambition as the senator’s younger brother, Chris, is not likely to let things go that way without a fight that may inflict bruises on some people.
The intrigue in APGA is even more interesting. Before the exercise that took place on August 26, 2013 at the Women Development Center, Awka, there was a sudden shift in political alignment among aspirants and members of the party.
For instance, with the disqualification of Oseloka Obaze, Dr. Chike Obidigbo and Prince Chinedu Idigo, who are from Anambra North senatorial zone by the party’s screening committee, the coast became clear for the new entrant into the race, Chief Willy Obiano, who had a member of House of Representatives, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, to contend with.
With the alleged government massive support for Obiano, most people knew where the pendulum was swinging to, Ekwunife was prepared to give him a good fight. However, she complained that those who organized the primaries made it difficult for her to have access to the elected delegates from the wards. In the end, she managed to garner 150 votes to Obiano’s 817.
As Obiano was visiting those who contested with him with a view to carrying them along, one of the disqualified aspirants of the party, Dr. Chike Obidigbo flew a kite as Maxi Okwu, the erstwhile national chairman whose position was cut short by the Court of Appeal judgment in Enugu, announced that Obidigbo had been nominated by him as the candidate of the party. It is still not clear the message Okwu wanted the convey until it is time for the submission of candidates’ names to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
APC even witnessed more intriguing experience in its primaries. Three politicians namely, Senator Ngige, Senator Annie Okonkwo and Mr. Gowin Ezemo indicated interest to vie on the platform of the party, but from the look of things, it was obvious the party favoured Ngige to clinch the ticket.
Without state leadership that ought to emerge from the congresses, Governor Rochas Okorocha announced that Ngige was the choice of the party for the ticket and Okonkwo was prevailed upon to withdraw his aspiration since he already occupies the position of Deputy national Chairman of the party.
At a rally before the primaries in Awka, Okonkwo was named the campaign manager for Ngige and the task of running the party was given to him. The next he did after that rally was to organize a state congress at Sun City Hotel in Awka in which his erstwhile supporters emerged APC officials in the state.However, Ezemo insisted that proper primaries must be conducted. He continued with his mobilization at the grass root in readiness for the impending showdown with Ngige.
But rather than adopt the delegates method, the party chose to adopt option A4 in all the 326 wards in which the people queued behind their favorite candidate. At the end of the exercise, Ngige won with 63255 votes to Ezemo’s 9554 votes. Some people had argued that if the delegates’ option had been adopted, Ezemo, who has the capability of influencing the known delegates, would have clinched the ticket.
Though he had accepted the outcome of the exercise, he accused organizers of the primaries of having a hidden agenda that was aimed at ensuring that he did not win. The situation in LP was totally different. From Day 1, the oil magnet, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, cornered the party and no other governorship aspirant had the courage to aspire on the platform of the party.
Expectedly, he picked the LP ticket without stress and he had since picked Dr. Emeka Eze, a former loyalist of Chief Chris Uba, as his running mate.Other political parties that had picked their candidates include NNPP (Prince Uchendu), Accord Party (Mr. Hygers Igwebuike), PPN (Basil Iwoba), KOWA Party (Denis Oguguo), PPA (Mrs. Ngozi Ulasi), among others. One obvious thing is that some of the candidates may be substituted by September 17, 2013, which is the final date for the substitution of candidates.
It is still possible that some of the big names that lost out during the primaries of the big political parties may pick tickets of the smaller parties. There are also candidates from the smaller parties that are actually working for candidates of the big parties and they will eventually step down for them at the appropriate time.