BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
EXACTLY 367 days to the expiration of Governor Peter Obi’s second term, the Anambra political firmament is astir. A horde of aspirants are on the prowl seeking to occupy the office that will be vacated by the Aguata, Anambra Central-born politician, who is the first person to win re-election and complete eight years as governor of the state.
To gain an upper hand in the electoral battle that is expected to be held anytime between November 2013 and January 2014, each of the leading aspirants has embarked on intense grassroots mobilization, sensitization and consultation with critical stakeholders. They are also building and strengthening political platforms as most of the leading parties are engulfed by one crisis or the other.
At the last count, about 27 aspirants have emerged from the three senatorial districts of the state. They include Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Andy Uba, Mr. Ifeanyi Uba, Chief Akachukwu Nwamkpo, Chief Paul Odenigbo, Dr Obinna Uzoh, Dr Alex Obiogbolu, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Senator Emma Anosike, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife and Senator Annie Okonkwo.
There are also Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Pat Nwachi Obianwu, Dubem Obaze, Oseloka Obaze, Dr Godwin Ezeemo, Dr Chike Obidigbo, Mr. Paul Odenigbo, Barr Chijioke Ndubuisi, Chief Mike Udah, Afam Ogene, Dr. Emmanuel Okafor, Mr. Chima Anene, Prince Chinedu Idigo, Chief Udoka Charles Udoagalanya, former chairman Lagos League of Political Parties,LLPP and Comrade Godwin Ibekwe, a former chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.
Factors that will shape election
Whether or not any of these aspirants will win the election depends on a number of factors. Chief among this is popularity of the aspirant, political platform, and senatorial zone.
Currently, four parties, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Labour Party (LP) have a foothold in the state with APGA, PDP and ACN being the leading parties.
However, apart from the ACN the other leading parties are facing one crisis or the other which might hurt their chances if not amicably resolved before the polls.
While PDP has been wading through a series of factional crises occasioned by diverse and cross-purpose interests of its leaders, a faction of the APGA is part of the ongoing merger efforts of the All Progressive Congress (APC), which also consists of the ACN, All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and Congress for Progressive Change.
Given that there is a thin line between political platform and politicians in AnambraState as aggrieved politicians who are denied tickets freely migrate from one party to the other, popularity may play a crucial role in who emerges victorious at the end of the day.
There is also the question of zoning. Anambra North Central District, which has never produced the governor of the state since creation in 1991 and has always played the second fiddle, is insisting on producing the next governor in the interest of equity and justice. It is little wonder the zone accounts for 14 of the 24 aspirants. But leading aspirants from the other two zones are insisting that merit and not zoning should be the deciding factor and it will be interesting to see how this question would be answered.
En route the 2010 elections, the then leading governorship candidates, Governor Obi of APGA, Ngige of ACN and Soludo of the PDP, were said to have agreed that Anambra North would produce their successor if they won.
Currently, only Obi is identifying with the said agreement and has promised to back Anambra North to produce the next governor. Obi’s stance is said to be one of the factors responsible for his face-off with factional National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, and the steaming crisis in the party.
A peep into the aspirants
A peep into the profile, financial muscle, political pedigree and clout of the aspirants indicate that some of them are at best pretenders whose aspirations will not scale party hurdles. There are also those who are expected to mount stiff challenge for the plum job and whose aspirations will charge and electrify the contest.
In spite of losing the plum job through the law court, Ngige has managed to endear himself to Anambra citizens because of the aggressive populist projects he executed during his three-year illegal stint at the Government House. He opened most parts of the state through road construction and rehabilitation and ensured payment of salaries, which was a pipe dream before he mounted the saddle.
Now a veteran governorship aspirant of sorts, having waged relentless battles to reclaim the seat without success, Ngige, who is a senator on the ticket of ACN, is fondly remembered for demystifying godfathers, who made delivery of democracy dividends almost impossible in the state christened “Home for All.”
Ngige, who is against power-shift to Anambra North on the alter of merit, is hugely favoured to pick the ticket of the APC for the 2014 elections where if he loses, he would retain his senatorial mandate and if he wins, there would be a bye-election for the Anambra Central seat.
Senator Annie Okonkwo is one politician who is expected to give Ngige a good fight for the APC ticket. The immediate past Anambra Central mandate wielder at the Senate is a key member of a political group known as C21, which is involved in the merger that gave birth to the APC.
Indeed, he led a faction of APGA that merged into APC and was leading light in the merger committee that screwed and bolted the nuts of the APC merger. He decamped to Accord Party when the PDP denied him senatorial re-election ticket. He lost the polls on the banner of Accord Party and later decamped to APGA.
Also a veteran governorship aspirant, it is to be seen how would checkmate Ngige, who also hails from his local government area in the battle for the APC ticket.
Senator Andy Uba, who holds the record of the shortest stay in office as governor in Nigeria is one of the veteran aspirants on the prowl. On the banner of the PDP he won the governorship election in 2007 with more than one million votes and was sworn-in. He however lost the seat 17 days after following the declaration by the Supreme Court that the tenure of Governor Obi had not ended.
Now a senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District, Andy Uba, who cut his political teeth from serving as Personal Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo contested the Anambra gubernatorial election in 2010 on the ticket of Labour Party and lost.
Commanding wealth and goodwill from his numerous charity works, Andy is one leg of the Uba tripod in the politics of Anambra, the other two legs are his brothers – Chris Uba and Ugochukwu Uba. Chris Uba is remembered for his role in the Governor Chris Ngige kidnap saga of 2003, which is now a snag of sorts that opponents could use as campaign against Andy.
Currently, Uba is angling to get the PDP concede the ticket to him on the ground that since the Supreme Court set aside the election that brought him to power in 2007, he should be compensated this time.
Like Ngige, Senator Uba is a serving senator. He would quietly return to the hallowed chambers if his governorship aspiration turns awry.
The former governor of AnambraState was the only PDP governor, who was not allowed to run for second term in 2003. His entanglement with godfathers ensured he executed little or no projects during his tenure. He was fought to a standstill by his godfathers led by Sir Emeka Offor, who constituted the opposition within the state to make the state ungovernable for him. Mbadinuju, who hails from Ihiala in Anambra South Senatorial zone is lobbying that as the only governor who was denied a second term, he should be allowed to complete his term.
The Ihiala-born politician contested the governorship election in 2003 but lost out in the PDP to Ngige because of what his supporters viewed as imposition of candidate. He would to decamp to the National Democratic Party, NDP, pick the gubernatorial ticket and run the race. But he also lost in the contest that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Ngige as winner. Later, the court annulled the victory of Ngige and gave it to Governor Obi.
Now back in the PDP, Uzoh, who holds Bachelor’s degrees in Law and Business Administration, Master’s degree in Marketing and PhD in Economics, is being pressured to throw his hat in the arena. Catholic Church youths and South East Students Association have endorsed him to run so that he would have the opportunity to expand his philanthropic gestures at a larger scale.
Chief Paul Odenigbo, a Knight of St. John (KSJ) from Ayamelum in Anambra North is reputed as one of the strong bidders for Obi’s job. The immediate past Secretary to the Anambra State Government (SSG) has the backing of traditional rulers in the zone, students, religious and pressure groups to run in the governorship election. A fortnight ago, traditional rulers of Olu Clan that comprises monarchs from Anambra East and West Local Government Areas, Ayamelum, Awka North, Oyi, Onitsha North and South and Ogbaru Local Governments came together to appeal to Odenigbo to contest.
Some of the royal fathers who made the appeal included Igwe Kelly Nzekwe, Okalakwu Igbariam; Igwe Alex Nwokedi of Achalla; Igwe Kenneth Okonkwo of Amansea; Igwe Ben Okeji of Omasi; Igwe Roland Odegbo of Nteje and Igwe Lawrence Nnaegbuna of Ebenebe.
The monarchs under the aegis of Olu Traditional Rulers’ Council with colleagues from other zones came together and disclosed their readiness to produce the governor of the state in 2014. The royal fathers made this known during their conferment of “Chinemeze of Olu Clan” chieftaincy title on Odenigbo.
Speaking on behalf of the council, Igwe Nzekwe said the zone was in dire need of a good man that could pilot the affairs of the state adding that the contributions made by
Odenigbo should not go unrewarded.
The monarchs anchored their support for Odenigbo on Governor Obi’s charge that Anambra North should present a credible and acceptable candidate for the post.
Addressing the press after the event, Odenigbo said he was humbled by the clamour from various quarters to make him available for the office of the governor of the state. He said he was still consulting and would soon make his position known to the people and thanked the traditional rulers for their support.
Aside the monarchs, groups that have endorsed Odenigbo include Coalition for Equitable Distribution of political and Appointive Offices in Anambra State (CEDPAAS) an organization that cut across the three senatorial zones of Anambra state, religious groups and Anambra Youths.
Anosike has always featured in all elections in Anambra. He was a member of the House of Representatives and a senator on the plank of the PDP. His tenure in the Senate was cut short when the court fired him and handed the mandate to Mrs. Joy Emodi. He was the deputy governorship candidate to Prof Soludo in 2010 and they lost the election.
This PDP chieftain is now building his structures to, once again, contest the governorship. He insists that Anambra North should no longer play the second fiddle and must be given the Awka top seat this time to ensure equity in the state.
Former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and PDP candidate in the 2010 elections hails from Anaocha Local Government Area in Anambra Central. Although, he has not publicly declared his bid, Soludo is said to be interested in running again to actualize his quest of accelerating development of the state. But for his controversial emergence as PDP candidate in 2010, his supporters said he could have won the race. It is to be seen how far he would go this time if he decides to run.
The only woman in the race so far, Ekwunife is a political titan, who has shown her might over the years. The Anambra Central politician is a flamboyant member of House of Representatives. She contested the governorship race in 2010 as a candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and lost. She started out as a member of the PDP and won election in the House of Representatives. She went for governorship on the banner of the PPA before decamping to APGA, on which platform she won the last election to the House of Representatives in her constituency.
Although Ekwunife is popular is popular in her constituency and her involvement in philanthropy is well-known. As the only woman in the race, it is to be seen if she could swing the gender factor to her favour.
Chief Nwamkpo, who hails from Okija, in Ihiala Local Government of Anambra State, is secretary of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) and special adviser to the President on Technical Matters.
Currently, Nwamkpo has not declared his ambition, he is said to be working underground and would make open his bid at the appropriate time. A classmate of President Jonathan, he hopes to utilize his relations with the president to realize his quest.
Former Minister of Water Transport and an indigene of Mmiata Anam, in Anambra West Local Government Area, Prince John Emeka had earlier contested and won the senatorial seat for Anambra North Senatorial Zone, but his election was nullified by the Supreme Court, which gave the victory to Senator Margerie Okadigbo.
Emeka, who recently summoned a meeting of political stakeholders in Anambra North to intimate them of his desire to go for the governorship post is also banking on power-shift to win the race.
Victor Afam Ogene
Currently, the astute member of the House of Representatives on the banner of APGA is the only aspirant who has pasted his posters around the state. Ogbaru Local Government-born politician believes that the governorship of the state should be zoned to Anambra North, which has not produced the governor of the state before now and has declared his readiness to mobilize people of the state to ensure that justice was done in the matter. Ogene, an eloquent journalist made it to the House of Representatives in his first attempt and is banking on his popularity and acceptance to win the contest.
Ifeanyi Uba of Capital Oil and Gas (APGA) is one of those aspiring to succeed Obi. He hails from the Anambra South Senatorial district, which has produced governors in the past. Instead of banking on power-shift, the young and energetic oil mogul, who started showing interest in the governorship post in 2011 when his company, Capital Oil and Gas Limited began distributing kerosene and rice to people, said only the best should be good for Anambra. He believes he has all it takes to unleash development on AnambraState. Uba, who is not a relation of the Uba tripod is said to be gunning for the ticket of APGA with the support of Chief Victor Umeh, the embattled National Chairman of APGA, a development to stoke the fire disagreements between Umeh and Governor Obi to the detriment of concord and harmony in APGA.
The Obosi-born lawyer contested the 2010 elections on the banner of the National Democratic Party, NDP. He has declared his readiness to contest the 2014 polls on the plank of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP.
Although, he hails from Anambra North, Ndubuisi wants the best candidate to emerge as Obi’s successor. “My contention remains that the best candidate would emerge as governor irrespective of the zone he comes from. The important thing is whether or not the person chosen can deliver and meet the aspiration of the people of AnambraState. The people must not be deceived, cajoled and hood-winked by misguided cabals to throw up incompetent roadside mechanic leaders, who have no clues and vision as to how to move Anambra State forward,” he said.
If elected, Ndubuisi said he would prioritise education, ensure full industrialization of the state and build craft centres, agricultural infrastructure renewal and technological growth through manufacturing.
The Umunya, Oyi Local Government Area-born politician is one of the notable aspirants from Anambra North.
Reputed as one of the leading industrialists in Nigeria with a record of about 50 products, Obidigbo, who is considered to have deep pockets to fund his political goal is aspiring on the plank of the PDP. Although he has not contested any elective position, he has been engaged in fast-track grassroots mobilization. He hopes to tap from his experience in business and manufacturing and network of contacts to actualize his ambition
The indigene of Ogbaru, Anambra North Senatorial District, is one of technocrats Governor drafted in to rejuvenate governance in AnambraState. Currently, the Secretary to the State Government and a good confidant of the governor, pundits said he might get the governor’s endorsement if he decides to contest.
A relation of Oseloka Obaze, he was a former kitchen cabinet member of Obi’s administration as commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters. His strength also lies in the fact that he is among the aspirants who have the confidence and support of Governor Obi.
Alex Obiogbolu, a medical doctor from Onitsha in Anambra North Senatorial Zone has been eyeing the top seat in Awka for some time now. A member of the PDP, Obiogbolu enjoys the support of the youths. He is said to be mobilizing wealthy individuals in the state to support his candidature.