Politics

August 25, 2013

Anambra 2014: The candidates, the issues, the processes

Anambra 2014: The candidates, the issues, the processes

BY VINCENT UJUMADU
THE battle for Governor Peter Obi’s successor has begun in earnest and, as is customary with Anambra elections, intrigues and manipulations are already in the air.

Three political parties: the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, the All Progressive Congress, APC, and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, are clearly ahead of others in terms of followership in the state and, unless the unexpected happens, the next governor, after the November 16 election, will be from one of the three parties.

The fourth political party, Labour Party, LP, is also waxing strong because of the influence of Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, the oil magnate, who has pitched his tent with the party, though the party is seen currently as a one- man show in the state.

Anambra

All the cleared aspirants in the PDP and APGA have paid N1 million each for expression of interest in the tickets of the parties and the very serious ones are already paying the N10 million nomination fee. It is also obvious that some of the aspirants who paid the money in both parties may step down for their favoured colleagues before the primaries.

Likely candidates

There are about 32 aspirants, new and experienced, from all the political parties, jostling for their parties’ tickets. PDP has 12, the ruling APGA has 13, APC has three; while the KOWA Party, the Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, and LP have one each. Other parties which only show presence during elections in the state have also been renting small offices as their state secretariats and, like traders, are exhibiting their wares.

Expectedly, their businesses will boom after the primaries of the major political parties as some of those who will drop by the way side are likely to pick tickets from the small parties. Some of the small parties are already dropping names of notable aspirants in PDP and APGA, claiming that they are standing by to pick their tickets at the appropriate time.

For now, the small parties have not even begun the process for the selection of their candidates for the election, but they are monitoring the political situation.

  PDP

Aspirants in the PDP include Senator Andy Uba, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, Dr. Obinna Uzor, Mr. Ugochukwu Okeke, Mr. Walter Okeke and Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, who are all from Anambra South senatorial zone. From Anambra North are Senator Emma Anosike, Chief Tony Nwoye and Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, while from Anambra Central are Mrs. Josephine Anennih, Mr. Sylvester Okonkwo and Chief Charles Odunukwe.

The intrigues trailing the ward congress of the PDP in the state is seen as part of the strategy by some of the aspirants who want to put themselves in a vantage position before the governorship primary election.   PDP is also not bothered about the clamour by Anambra North that the area should be allowed to produce the next governor of the state and that is why a large number of the aspirants are from Anambra South and Central.

One of the governorship aspirants from the South, Ukachukwu, said, in Awka, that Anambra South is yet to complete two tenures since the creation of the state, unlike Anambra Central that would have been in office for 11 years at the end of Governor Obi’s tenure.   Ukachukwu said: “The people of Anambra North have the right to demand to be governor.

We in Anambra South senatorial zone also have the right to demand that we should be allowed to complete our two tenures of eight years as Anambra Central has done. Between Obi and Senator   Chris Ngige, Anambra Central has occupied the Government House for 11 years, while Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, both from Anambra South, have jointly occupied the Government House for only five years.

  Crisis

For the past 12 years, Anambra PDP has been experiencing crisis of leadership. It was PDP that introduced godfather into the politics of the state during the tenure of Mbadinuju when the billionaire business man, Sir Emeka Offor, held sway.

The godfather syndrome continued during the three –year reign of Ngige when Chief Chris Uba, who facilitated his emergence, tried to overawe the governor and Ngige’s refusal to submit led to a crisis. Since the PDP lost the Government House following the removal of Ngige in 2006, the party has been in disarray, with feuding members jumping in and out of court to perpetuate their hold on the party.

  As the governorship election draws near, the crisis remains unresolved.   And at a time members of the PDP expected those who want to take over form Obi in 2014 to come down and mobilize the electorate in readiness for the election, the aspirants preferred to stay in Abuja where they were said to be lobbying to arm twist the national leadership of the party to give them the governorship ticket without a primary election.

  Though all the aspirants later agreed   to a primary election after series of meetings with the national leadership of the party and capped it up with a peace rally in Awka, the group, led by Chief Ejike Oguebego, which has the sympathy of Senator Andy Uba, was absent at the rally, Uba, however, said later that his inability to attend the rally was due to flight disruption and insisted that he remains in the forefront of the efforts to ensure that a lasting peace returns to the PDP in the state.   But events that took place during the ward primaries showed that the crisis in the party is still far from being resolved.

  Currently, the party is sharply divided over its leadership in Anambra, with Prince Kenneth Emeakayi leading the executive approved by the national leadership, while Oguebego leads another faction approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Penultimate Monday, the PDP held its ward primaries for the election of three –member delegates from each of the 326 political wards in the state and, as was the case in the past, two parallel primaries were held.

  While the PDP leadership was conducting its primary without the presence of INEC officials, the electoral umpire was supervising another primary conducted by Oguebego. The surprising thing was that the supervision was done by INEC officials from its headquarters in Abuja and they were seen boarding a vehicle back to Abuja the following day. It was gathered that they left with the results they collated and, later in the day, Oguebego headed to Abuja.

The question being asked is whether the result collated by INEC would be forwarded to the PDP headquarters which did not recognize the Oguebego leadership. Again, what would happen to the result of the primary conducted by the Emeakayi faction of the party since INEC said it recognizes Oguebego as the chairman of the party in the state?

    One of the PDP governorship aspirants, Ukachukwu, is, however, optimistic that, ultimately, whatever result is sanctioned by the national leadership of the party would be the authentic one.

Many people in the PDP are blaming the renewed crisis in the party on the former secretary of INEC who, it was gathered, allegedly issued a statement recognizing Oguebego as the state chairman days to his retirement. According to a source in the Commission, the statement took the national leadership of the PDP unawares and it came at a time the party leaders thought they had almost resolved the crisis in the Anambra chapter. But Ukachukwu said the National Working Committee, NWC, of PDP was working hard to withdraw the recognition, arguing that it was improper for INEC to select leaders for the party.

  APGA

In APGA, the aspirants are Professor Charles Soludo and Mr. John Nwosu both from Anambra South; Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, Mr. Emma Nweke and Chief Chukwuemeka Nwogbo,   from Anambra Central; while from Anambra North are Mr. Oseloka Obaze, Prince Chinedu Idigo, Chief Willy Obiano, Chief Charles Nnacheta, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Chief Patrick Obianwu and Chief Paul Odenigbo.

Buoyed by the statement from Obi that he would support a candidate from Anambra North, some aspirants from the area are already claiming to be the governor’s anointed persons. For instance, spirited efforts are being made by stakeholders and aspirants in APGA to prevail on most aspirants from Anambra North to withdraw their ambition and support one person to be able to win the party’s ticket.

At least three meetings had been held in that regard and it was believed that by the time they go into the primary proper, only one aspirant from Anambra North would be presented. However, while some aspirants withdrew from the race in the spirit of a united Anambra North, another aspirant, Chief Willy Obiano, a former executive director of Fidelity Bank, who is considered a serious contender, joined the race. There are claims that three persons from Anambra North are being favoured by Obi, for one of them to take over from him.

The three are Mr. Oseloka Obaze, the SSG and former senior official of the United Nations, UN, Obiano and Prince Chinedu Idigo from the Aguleri royal family. Those from Anambra North, who cut short their governorship ambition, apparently to create chances for others, include Mr. Dubem Obaze, a former commissioner for local government and younger brother of Oseloka Obaze;   a member of House of Representatives, Mr. Afam Ogene; and the member representing Anambra State in the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Mr. Nnamdi Ekweogwu from Onitsha,

  It was gathered that the move by Anambra North to present one aspirant at the primary election heightened when, unexpectedly, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, who was aspiring to contest on the platform of the PDP, decamped to APGA and announced his intention to contest for governor in that party. He immediately registered as a member of APGA in his Isuofia Ward.

Political watchers insinuated that Soludo was drafted into the race from within and outside the party as part of the reconciliation process between Obi and the national chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, on the crisis that almost tore the party apart. When Umeh was asked his position about the zoning of the governorship after his reconciliation with Obi, he said that it did not form part of the reconciliation process.

Obi has since denied having interest in any aspirant, saying that whoever emerges from the primary would be supported by the party. Recall that shortly after winning the 2010 governorship election, Obi began the campaign for power to shift to Anambra North, an area that has not produced governor since the creation of Anambra State in 1991.

The stand of the governor, perhaps, encouraged many people from Anambra North to develop interest in the governorship race such that by May this year, about 15 persons from the zone had declared their interest in the race. As the controversy over the zoning of the governorship to Anambra North continues, one of the aspirants from the zone, Idigo, said there was indeed an agreement reached among Anambra politicians that the North should produce the next governor.

He said: “Governor Obi has promised to release the agreement at the appropriate time. During my consultations for this governorship race, I met a traditional ruler in this state who said there was such an agreement and that he is in possession of a copy of it. Since some respected stakeholders are saying that there was such an agreement, I expect our people to respect that agreement by giving Anambra North the chance to produce the next governor.

The SSG, Obaze, also spoke in the same light when he said that allowing Anambra North to produce the next governor is a moral issue. He said:  “There should be a moral question for aspirants from Anambra Central and South senatorial zones still angling to become the next governor of the state because their zones have been occupying the seat since the creation of the state.

“It should be known that the people from Anambra North senatorial zone are not groveling for sympathy and attention, but seeking what should come to them rightfully, if there is justice and a sense of equity. Thankfully, there are many well-meaning people from the south and central senatorial zones that support our cause, our dear Governor Peter Obi, being a leading example.

In the fullness of time, everyone will have to account for their political stand, since the issue at hand is both moral and constitutional. Such rotational issues are topical in Delta, Enugu, Abia, Akwa Ibom and Lagos states.   It remains a paradox; therefore, that those who say the governorship slot cannot be ceded to Anambra North in 2014 since there is no zoning, are the first to advocate that Presidency should be ceded to the Igbo nation in 2015. As I see it, the quest to bring the governorship to Anambra North is now a sacred mission for the people of the North.”

  APC

APC has three aspirants namely, Ngige and Senator Annie Okonkwo, both from Anambra Central, as well as Chief Godwin Ezemo, who is from Anambra South. Before now, many people believed Ngige would easily secure the APC ticket, but unfolding events in the new party suggest otherwise. Okonkwo, who left APGA for APC and was named the interim deputy national chairman for south, recently resigned to join the governorship race. He is a grassroots politician whose entry into the race is bound to make a lot of difference.

Same goes for Ezemo who, through a neophyte in politics, is believed to be in the good books of top officials of APC. It is also being speculated that Okonkwo and Ezemo may run a joint ticket in APC. Okonkwo and Ezemo also appear to be plotting against Ngige as they recently took the decision to make the state chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Chief Pat Orjiakor, the interim chairman of APC without consulting Ngige. Before settling for Orjiakor, it was a known secret that Ngige preferred an old ally in the PDP to become the state chairman of APC. How he would react to the appointment of Orjiako will be known in the coming weeks.

But Orjiako told Sunday Vanguard that he is very passionate about APC, adding that whatever the state leadership of the party will do will be very transparent. Again, Ngige’s position on the recent deportation of 72 Igbo from Lagos State in which he supported the action appears to have pitched him against many stakeholders who naturally would have assisted him in prosecuting his gubernatorial ambition. Besides, some of his ardent supporters are claiming that he has not done much as a senator and in empowering those who stood by him when the going was tough.

  However APC cannot be dismissed with the wave of the hand in Anambra because of the influence of the three parties that merged to form it and the personality of Ngige and Okonkwo in the party. Its only problem may be that none of its governorship aspirants is from Anambra North which is an area that usually presents bloc votes in every election.

Many people in Anambra North also say they are not happy with Anambra federal lawmakers over the issue of oil wells in the area which Kogi State people are laying claim to. Idigo, a lawyer, said it was unfortunate that the three senators from Anambra State could not defend the state, even when the facts are available that the oil deposits are in the state and wondered why they should come to Anambra North to ask the people to vote for them.

  LP

Ifeanyi Ubah from Anambra South is so far the only aspirant in LP. There are also professional aspirants who declare interest every four years mainly hoping that serious aspirants would negotiate with them for settlement. Since he left APGA for LP, Ubah has ensured that no other aspirant came into his new party. Among all the aspirants, he is the only one that has done controversial things. For instance, he started by dashing SUV cars to some politicians that abandoned their former paymasters to join him and sacking some of them later.

Some of them said they had to leave his campaign train because of his style of politics. Nevertheless, his Nnewi country home has continued to witness a beehive of activities and many people who visit there are getting instant cash.

  Issues that will dominate the campaigns

While some of the aspirants have clear –cut programmes which they intend to execute if they win, others are merely campaigning to be governors without programmes. But, essentially, the 2015 presidential election, the recent deportation of Igbo from Lagos State by the APC –controlled Lagos State government, the deplorable situation of federal roads in the state, the yet –to take off Second Niger Bridge and infrastructural development in the capital city of Awka are key issues some of the aspirants have been talking about in the course of their sensitization tours.

While PDP and APC aspirants are accusing the present administration of not doing much to improve the infrastructure in Awka, APGA aspirants have been reminding the people that it would amount to taking Anambra State back to the dark days if those who were the major actors in the destruction of government property in 2003 in the name of politics were allowed to come back.

Already, some of the aspirants in the state are believed to be preparing jingles that would refer to APC as a party that hates Igbo, with some saying that it was a good thing that the deportation of Igbo by Lagos State government came at the right time for them to use it against the party.

In fact, a top member of APC was recently subjected to questioning in Awka when he embarked on a tour of the area and some members of his party told Sunday Vanguard that they were not amused by their experience during that outing. Another issue being raised by the aspirants and their parties is the deplorable condition of the Onitsha –Enugu federal highway that passes through Awka, the state capital which some politicians accuse the PDP –controlled Federal Government of neglecting.

Perhaps the greatest campaign issue is the 2015 presidential election. To PDP members, there is no way the presidency would allow another party to win Anambra State if President Goodluck Jonathan hopes to win his second tenure. According to some politicians, Anambra will be a test case for the future election which is why the major political parties are being very careful in selecting who would fly their flags in the November 16 election.

Mrs. Chinwe Emenuo, a civil servant, said the concern and prayer of Anambra people is that the next governor should continue the good things Obi has done. She said that as a civil servant that would retire in the next two years, she hopes that the next governor will pay her entitlement as Obi has succeeded in doing since he came to power.

She also hopes that the peace that has taken root in the state will continue, adding that it would be unfortunate if the state returned to the era in which the people lived under tension and foreign investors had to abandon the state because politicians made the state unsafe for them.