By Chioma Gabriel
Today Saturday, the 16th day of November 2013, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, an illustrious son of AnambraState and a great man of Africa would have been 109 years old.
In other words, today is great Zik’s 109th birthday! Ironically, today, the great people of AnambraState; the Light of the Nation would also decide through the ballot box their Governor for the next four years.
March next year, Governor Peter Obi would bow out gracefully after serving two terms, a feat he alone has been able to achieve in the politics of the state.
As the clock ticks for the final exit of Governor Obi from office, the issues in the politics of AnambraState, South-East Nigeria are becoming more intriguing by the day. Since the dawn of democracy in 1999 , the case of AnambraState has remained confounding.
For one thing, it is the only state that has paraded five governors under controversial circumstances in the dispensation of 1999-2013. The chronicle of its governors range from Chinweoke Mbadinuju who became governor from 1999-2003 to the present day government. Mbadinuju was of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
But between Mbadinuju and Governor Obi, there have been others. Dr Chris Ngige became the governor of the state from 2003 to 2006 on the same platform of PDP but he was removed in March 2006 when the Court of Appeal in Enugu ruled that his election victory in 2003 was rigged.
He was succeeded by Peter Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance,APGA, who in turn was ousted by a faction of the Anambra State House of Assembly on November 2, 2006 and was replaced by Virginia Etiaba, his Deputy, at that time. However, the circumstances became more confounding and on February 9, 2007 Mrs. Etiaba handed power back to Obi after the Court of Appeal nullified Obi’s removal.
The governorship election of April 14, 2007 where Andy Uba, the candidate of the ruling PDP was announced the governor was declared illegal on June 14, 2007 by the Supreme Court which replaced him with his predecessor Peter Obi, citing illegality in Andy Uba’s election on April 14, 2007.
Indeed, the political history of the state has been checkered since 2003 when Dr Chris Ngige became governor. The issue he had with his political godfather, Chris Uba, held the state hostage for months and brought about a lot of carnage and destruction.
In the Ngige era, the destiny of the entire state was reduced to a personal quarrel between two individuals until the two men at the centre of the crisis were persuaded to sheathe their swords.
What made the Ngige and Uba problem more bizzare was that their struggle was over the actualisation of an agreement they both swore to before the Okija shrine. But as fate would have it, Ngige was removed from office on March 17, 2006, barely a year to the next election.
The situation was so bad that a presidential committee was set to resolve the issue after which Dr Chris Ngige and his estranged political sponsor, Mr. Chris Uba pledged to forget their differences in the interest of the state. Dr Ngige then pledged to make more sacrifices to engender peace while Uba said that Anambra would never be turned to a war theater again.
Peter Obi made a triumphant entry into the scheme of things after the court ruling on the issues surrounding the election that produced Ngige as governor. He held sway in the state as Governor from March 17, 2006 till November 3, 2006 but the bickering between him and the PDP- dominated House of Assembly eventually saw him removed from office.
A vacuum was created as to who would become the governor between Mike Balonwu of the House of Assembly and Dame Virgy Etiaba, the then Deputy Governor.
The line eventually fell for Dame Virgy Etiaba in pleasant places as the controversy was resolved following her official recognition by the Federal Government. Many thought Etiaba would reject the offer but she made a volte face and took an oath of office as the governor of the state on November 3, 2006. However, her tenure as governor was short lived. On February 9, 2007, she was ousted from that position after a court nullified Obi’s removal. But before then, her party APGA had fielded her as governorship candidate for 2007 guber elections because Obi’s case was still undecided.
But Obi got a Supreme Court ruling which extended his tenure till 2010.
He contested and won a second term in office which was again plagued by petitions and court actions. But like a cat with nine lives, he scaled through. Presently, it is only days for him to conclude his second term having made history as the only governor from the state to serve a second term in office.
Today is the D-Day for another guber election in Anambra after a litany of problems and political bickerings involving almost all the major political parties in the state especially APGA, APC and PDP.
So many of these issues are still unresolved even as the people go to the polls today.
But it is pertinent that the people of Anambra state do not go back to the days of mayhem and anomie.It is critically important not to lose momentum but ensure stability and consolidation in all sectors.
It is advisable for the people to go out en masse and thumb print for their right candidates on the ballot paper. Whatever domestic issues the state faces would be settled in due course. As the people go out to vote, let them bear in mind that the political founding -fathers of Nigeria would turn in their graves if things go amiss.
Zik in his heydays in politics preached politics without bitterness and it would be the greatest dis-service to this great son of Africa from Onitsha in AnambraState for the election to run foul on his posthumous birthday.
So, let the people vote and let the best candidate win!
Who is who in today’s election
The battle for AnambraState has been severally described as the battle of billionaires. In Anambra, money is presumed by many to be the only thing that matters. There is a large number of billionaire traders and businessmen but the poor still exist in large numbers because every billionaire is for himself!!
Anambra also parades intellectual giants like the great Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chinua Achebe, Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu, Philip Emeagwali, Emeka Anyaoku, Dr Alex Ekwueme, Rt. Hon. Chuba Okadigbo; and professionals in various fields of life .
Today, the people will decide between which of the leading candidates will step in when Peter Obi bows out. Will it be Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige of the APC, Ifeanyi Uba of the Labour Party, Willie Obiano of the APGA or Tony Nwoye of the PDP.?
Today, the four-way test will play out at the polls as the campaign of ‘everything you have at your disposal’ has come to an end.
The big question is, will the votes count? Will it be one man, one vote or are the people fixated on the adage that it is better to win an election than to go to the tribunal? Will free and fair election hold sway today? Will the people decide or have the elections results already been concluded at some quarters? Which of the candidates will smile home with victory at the end of the day?
Will it be Willie Obiano, the banker- businessman with his retinue of academic degrees ? He is one man I have never heard blackmailing anybody but some of his aides sure are good in the art of blackmail. Obiano, the APGA candidate comes from Anambra North senatorial district which has not produced a governor of the state . But both the great Zik and the loquacious former Senate President, Hon Chuba Okadigbo were from Anambra North! Obiano will be favoured as Gov Peter Obi’s candidate at the polls today but will that bring him victory?
Or will Chris Ngige, the APC candidate who has been there and left a good legacy make it again after his political opponents battered him using the the Lagos “deportation” saga and now the Uke “massacre” which they blamed on his supporters? Will the scandals cost him substantial votes?
Ifeanyi Ubah, the money-man of the Labour Party has a lot of people in the field trying to drum up support for his candidacy. At a stage, he seemed to be the only candidate campaigning both in the field, television and radio. But believe it or not,most of the people campaigning for him are strictly after his oil money. Today, cash for vote may likely play out in his favour and his Labour party.
For the PDP candidate, Tony Nwoye, the crises and the court cases threw him up and down and delayed his emergence as the candidate of the party in the state. He became sure of his candidacy only about 10 days ago leaving him little time to campaign. It will be a miracle for him to emerge as the next governor of Anambra State as it is not clear whether other PDP aspirants who lost out will support him at the polls. What was indeed spectacular about the campaigns was how the candidates did a good job of taking each other to the cleaners! False rumours were freely spread in every corner of the state about each candidate by opponents.
Just few days ago, some suspects were reportedly caught with ballot boxes containing thumb-printed ballot papers before the election!
Is this implying in any way that the winner of today’s election will be determined by vote thieves? Will the state of billionaires pay off INEC officials and security agents in Ghana-must-go bags containing huge sums of money?Are result sheets already filled out inside hotel rooms, bedrooms, shrines, forests and other unusual places as being alleged?
Is it impossible to have a peaceful, orderly and well- organised election today that will produce results reflective of the wishes of the people?
It is advisable for each candidate to monitor the election by ensuring his supporters are in every polling booth and ensuring electoral documents are examined and that results sheets are intact.
As many would agree, it is better for a candidates to win an election than to go to the tribunal!
A word is enough for the wise.