On October 2, 2017, Awka, the Anambra State capital stood still for the incumbent Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), when he officially flagged off his re-election campaign for the November 18 gubernatorial poll in grand style, at the Alex Ekwueme Square.
The event attracted a large turnout of Anambrarians from the over 177 communities in the state, appearing in flamboyant APGA colours to show their solidarity and unflinching support for the party’s candidate, a man they believe, has done excellently well to deserve a second term in office to enable him continue with his good work.
Addressing the mammoth crowd at the occasion attended by APGA chieftains, prominent citizens of Anambra, traditional/religious leaders and different groups/associations, Obiano pledged to continue to execute developmental projects to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the Anambra people for a better society, if re-elected.
According to him, “We gave each community N20 million for any project of their choice and any community that uses up the funds should come for another N20 million. Next year, we will begin to give N50 million to different communities.
“What we are going to do in the next four years in agriculture will be greater than what we have already done. Now, we are more than self-sufficient in rice production and we are progressing in the production of maize, cassava and yam. Next year, we are going to provide funds to farmers to start breeding our own cattle, goat, chicken and other livestock.
“The election is just 48 days from today (October 2, 2017) and we have only two choices; to consolidate on the rapid growth we have made so far, or take a step backwards into dark days of lawlessness and shame. All over the world, excellence does not happen by chance; it is usually a direct result of clear vision, smart decisions and bold resolve to rise above average. We plead that we be given another chance to turn excellence into a habit. I represent dignity in labour and reward for hard work.”
Thirty-seven political parties have been cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for participation in the Anambra guber election. Candidates of the 37 political parties given the go-ahead to take part in the contest are all eminently qualified to occupy the number-one seat of Anambra State. However, the three top candidates in the race are Obiano of APGA, Oseloka Henry Obaze of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Tony Nwoye of All Progressives Congress (APC). The three of them are from the northern axis of the state where the governorship position is expected to reside for another four years based on the zoning arrangement among the three senatorial districts in Anambra.
The candidate of United Progressive Party (UPP), Osita Chidoka, is equally a frontline contender among those that are eyeing Obiano’s seat. Even though he is from Anambra Central, he appears to be confident that he would win the election, regardless of the zoning agreement said to be in place. Nwoye, who has federal might to his advantage as the candidate of the ruling party at the centre, was quoted as saying: “We (APC) must win this election at all costs. We must not allow us to be defeated. After we have won let anybody who is aggrieved go to court.”
Former Governor Peter Obi is standing solidly behind Obaze, the PDP candidate, to unseat Obiano. Obi handed over power in the state to the incumbent governor in 2014, after joining forces with the likes of Chief Victor Umeh, then national chairman of APGA to ensure the victory of the banker turned politician in the 2013 Anambra guber poll. The same Obi who has since moved to PDP is now vehemently leading the campaign against the second term bid of Obiano. And many are asking the question, what may have gone wrong between Obi and Obiano?
Speaking on why he decided to lead the campaign against Obiano’s re-election bid, Obi said it was because of the governor’s “non-performance” and not for anything personal. In his words, “I governed this state for eight years, I can tell you that there is no candidate in this present election that can work better than our (PDP) candidate, Obaze. Some people wrote that Peter Obi and Obiano are quarrelling. I don’t have any issue with Mr. Willie Obiano, but I have issues with Governor Obiano. We are not quarrelling, Obiano is still my friend… We challenge Obiano to show us what he has done in his first term. Go to all parts of the state where all of you came from, can you mention the things he has done? He has done nothing. That is why I am here to lead the campaign that he will not return.”
Umeh, who is leading the campaign for the re-election of Obiano has invariably maintained that Obi is not a threat to the governor’s victory come November 18, even as he has decided to play the role of a godfather to Obaze. As the Chairman of Obiano’s re-election committee, he has said in different fora that no amount of lies and propaganda put up against Obiano can stop the people of Anambra State from voting massively for the APGA’s candidate with the numerous achievements he has so far recorded since he came into office. He strongly believes APGA remains the only party firmly rooted in Anambra State and totally accepted and embraced by the people for its entrenchment of good governance in the state. For him, those that are not seeing Obiano’s landmark feats and exploits in the state are people who are seeking to occupy his seat.
Noting that Obiano’s popularity can be seen from the massive support and number of endorsements he has received from various groups, the ex-APGA helmsman said: “With these endorsements coming from the right, left and centre, the re-election of Governor Obiano is assured. This has shown that people of the state from all walks of life are behind him and our party APGA. Other parties dreaming of snatching Anambra from APGA should better not waste their time because it is no go area. Anambra is for APGA and not for other parties. Already more than 145 market unions and 200 groups have so far endorsed Governor Obiano for a second term in office on account of his sterling performances in office. Among these groups are traders, artisans, the disabled, less privileged, Okada and Keke riders, professional bodies and youth groups among others.”
Umeh, one of the most consistent members of APGA and a strong pillar of the party had argued that “Obiano’s profile of service and career is far above all the other candidates seeking to contest with him in the November 18 Anambra election. He (Obiano) has proved his worth in the areas he has served. Governance is not about being a Diplomat or working in the United Nations. It is about the ability to deliver and have a comprehensive knowledge of governance that will enable you to effectively deploy state resources to the benefit of the people. You have to be an investment expert to be able to govern well. Obiano is a chartered accountant and a banker of high repute who knows how to attract investments. He is an investment expert. And he has proven it from the way he has been able to attract investments to the state.”
The Obiano’s re-election committee chairman had also emphasized that only the triumph of the APGA’s flag bearer at the poll will sustain the governorship zoning formular, which according to him, was made by the leadership of the State Ohaneze Ndigbo and sanctioned by the State Elders Advisory Council. He explained that the zoning agreement was reached to allow the Northern Senatorial District complete eight years on the guber seat and give way for the Southern Senatorial District. He added that it would be a breach of the said agreement if any other person from Anambra North is allowed to come in now to spend eight years before the people of Anambra South will take their turn.
Despite the choice of his daughter as the PDP’s deputy governorship candidate to Obaze, former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, seems to align with the position of Umeh. The elder statesman was reported to have reaffirmed his endorsement of Obiano’s re-election bid, when he said: “the people of Anambra South cannot afford to wait for eight years; Governor Obiano deserves to be returned for the second term because of his commendable performance in office.”
The National Coordinator, APGA media warriors Forum, Evang Chinedu Obigwe, sees Ekwueme’s reaffirmation of his support for Obiano’s second term ambition as “an upper cut blow” on PDP that may have chosen the ex-VP’s daughter as a way of securing his endorsement for Obaze. Obigwe described the erstwhile number-two citizen as a man of sound character that wanted the best for his State, wondering why anybody would be plotting to remove Obiano who has tremendously transformed Anambra to the admiration of the people of the state.
Michael Jegede, a media expert writes from Abuja