BY VINCENT UJUMADU
With the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, setting the date for the Anambra gubernatorial election, the political landscape is being reshaped for battle.
WITH the release of the guidelines for the governorship election in Anambra State by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, political parties and their flag bearers are, at long last, set to do battle for one of them to succeed Governor Peter Obi whose eight –year tenure will terminate on March 17, 2014.
What makes the governorship contest unique is that it will take place on November 16, 2013, which happens to be the birthday of Nigeria’s first president and the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who hailed from the state.
Though INEC may not have deliberately fixed the election to coincide with Zik’s birthday, the date has some significance to Anambra politicians as the man whose birthday will be marked on that date, was associated with peaceful conduct throughout his many years in politics, both during the colonial and post-colonial era.
So far, none of those eyeing the Government House in Awka could be said to be strikingly ahead of others in terms of possession of political structure, due significantly to the crises rocking most of the major political parties expected to present candidates for the election and the decision of others to merge into a mega political party.
This is unlike the situation in 2010 when, six months before the election, the front runners among the contestants were already known.
In the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, for instance, the performance of the outgoing governor, Mr. Peter Obi ought to have been enough boost for any candidate selected by the party to be its flag bearer, but the over one year leadership battle waged between the national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh and Governor Obi has left the over 20 governorship aspirants in the party more confused.
Though the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu has resolved the issue of the leadership of the party in favour of Chief Umeh by declaring that he remains the national chairman, his group and that of Chief Maxi Okwu, which is supported by Obi, are yet to harmonize issues concerning the party’s guidelines for the election.
While Umeh said shortly after the Court of Appeal judgment that party restructuring would begin in earnest to place APGA in a proper position for the November 16 governorship polls, the Okwu camp is said to be weighing the option of taking the matter to the Supreme Court, although many people in his camp acknowledge the fact that time is not on his side. Umeh has, however, promised a level –playing field for all aspirants at the primaries, insisting that he has no personal interest in any aspirant.
For now, notable aspirants in APGA, including the incumbent secretary to the state government, SSG, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, the former SSG, Chief Chidi Odenigbo, former president of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Prince Chinedu Idigo, Mr. Nnamdi Ekweozor, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife and others, are busy oiling their structures and waiting for events to unfold in the party.
For the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the big names expected to make the difference include Senator Andy Uba, who was governor for 17 days in 2007 before the Supreme Court stopped him, Prof. Charles Soludo who was the party’s candidate in 2010, Senator Emma Anosike who was running mate to Soludo in the 2010 contest, Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu, who had vied for the position in the last three exercises, special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on technical matters, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, Dr. Obinna Uzor who had also been in the race in the past, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke, Chief Tony Nwoye who was former state chairman of the party and Dr. Alex Obiogbolu.
As is typical with the PDP, most of the aspirants are still pressing their buttons in Abuja, apparently hoping that the national leadership of the party would push decisions that would personally favour them.
That is despite the insistence of the state chairman of the party, Prince Ken Emeakayi that any governorship aspirant who hopes to come through the back door is bound to fail as it is the people on ground that would cast the votes and not outsiders.
The emerging All Progressives Congress, APC, is not faring better. The fusing political parties namely, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and an APGA faction led by Senator Annie Okonkwo are yet to properly harmonize as a political party.
Most popular aspirant
Before now, it had been thought that APC would easily cede the governorship ticket of the party to Senator Chris Ngige, unarguably the most popular aspirant in the party, but developments in the fledgling party showed that some people in the party are bent on stopping him.
Senator Okonkwo for one is very much interested in participating in the primaries for the selection of the governorship candidate of APC, despite his present position as deputy national chairman. Also, Chief Godwin Ezemo believed to be financially loaded, is insisting that he would not step down for anybody.
Besides, officials of the political parties coming together to form APC appear not to be trusting each other as they are busy positioning their individual political parties for the juicy party positions, at a time the emphasis would have been on the November 16 governorship election.
For instance, one of the leaders of APC is believed to be favourably disposed to appointing the state chairman of the party from outside the fold of the merging political parties, an issue that is not going down well with other leaders from other legacy parties in the merger.
The situation in APC would have been clearer if Ngige had publicly declared his intention to return to the Government House where he held sway for three years before the court removed him, but he said at a recent event in the state that he is still consulting. The question some of his supporters are asking is, when will the consultation end?
Perhaps the only governorship aspirant whose campaign activity is being felt in all parts of the state is Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, the chairman of Capital Oil. Ubah had been hobnobbing with Umeh’s APGA but just last month, he moved over to the Labour Party, LP. Since his entry into the race, politicians of all shades have been inclining towards him and many of them are reaping the benefits of that association in the form of cash, cars and clothes.
But how far the cash would go a long way to making him realize his governorship ambition is something to be seen. Even in LP where he has pitched his tent, there are indications that the leadership of the party is like APGA’s, also becoming unsettled with the Ubah phenomenon.
But for now, Ubah’s Nnewi country home remains a Mecca of sorts for old and new politicians who understand that politics is business.
As was the case in the last governorship election, some political parties that could not boast of big names are waiting in the wings to benefit from the fallout of the primaries of the big parties as some of those likely to lose out may join such parties to contest the election on their platform.
In the past few months, political parties, such as Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, Citizens Popular Party, CPP, KOWA Party, African Democratic Congress, ADC, New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, among others which hitherto were not existing in the state, have suddenly rented offices and hoisted their flags waiting for governorship aspirants to come into their fold.