By Vincent Ujumadu
CHIEF Willie Obiano has become the second person to be reelected governor of Anambra State and he achieved this in a grand style. The first person to achieve it was his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi who governed the state from 2006 -2014. Incidentally, both were elected on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, a political party that had the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu as its leader.
Obiano’s reelection was unique because for the first time in the state, a candidate defeated all his opponents, including stakeholders of other political parties in their local government areas. Following this spectacular electoral feat in the 21 local government areas of the state, Obiano has been nicknamed 21/21. The number of votes he scored was also more than the combined votes of his two closest rivals.
Despite the domineering influence of Ojukwu in the politics of Anambra State since he became the national leader of APGA, the party always faced tough challenges during elections, but the last governorship election was different. Since the emergence of the present political dispensation in 1999, most of the influential people in the state belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which also produced the first governor of the state in the person of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju.
Like other South East states then, Anambra was totally a PDP state as it won every electoral contest from the House of Assembly to the President. It was perhaps Mbadinuju’s alleged non performance after four years, which led to his being denied second term ticket by the PDP in 2003 and the personality of Ojukwu that threw APGA up in the state.
Though PDP fielded Dr. Chris Ngige in place of Mbadinuju in 2003, voters in Anambra State shifted their allegiance from PDP to APGA and voted massively for its candidate, Mr. Peter Obi who, at that time, was not a known political figure in the state. Because election rigging was the other of the day then, Obi’s victory was upturned with the assistance of the then federal government and the national electoral body and Ngige was declared winner. It took Obi of APGA three years to regain his mandate and on March 14, 2006, he was inaugurated as the governor after the Supreme Court removed Ngige.
After Obi’s tenure that ended in March, 2014, another APGA candidate, Obiano, mounted the saddle. No sooner did he settle down in office than a quarrel erupted between him and his predecessor, Obi over issues that had continued to hang and the thinking in many circles was that he would not be reelected due to the influence of Obi in the state, especially as Obi himself left APGA and joined the PDP before the 2015 general elections. Not even the intervention of religious leaders could resolve the misunderstanding between Obi and Obiano and the feud dragged till the election.
Realizing that he had to perform to win the confidence of the people, Obiano engaged core professionals in specific areas of governance and within a short time, there were positive results in many sectors, especially in the areas of security, agriculture, upgrading of the state capital, Awka and regularly paying workers and pensioners at a time most states were unable to do so due to recession in the country.
Anambra people also easily point out the fact that unlike in the past, especially during the tenure of Mbadinuju when protests were the order of the day, the Obiano administration has neither witnessed any strike by the state workforce, nor protests by aggrieved groups over government policies, apart from few communities that complained about the manner their traditional rulers were selected.
What appeared to have endeared his administration to the people was the select –your-project initiative in which all the 181 communities were given N20 million to execcute any project of their choice. With this policy, all communities in the state have government presence to show in their areas and those who had completed their first projects had been given another N20 million. The governor also promised to continue with the policy if reelected and that excited many communities.
So, when workers are paid, people no longer fear about kidnapping, farmers, especially rice farmers, get government support and influential Anambra people coming home to invest due to the prevailing enabling environment created in the state, it became obvious that he would easily get the second mandate.
It was also not surprising when various organizations showered him with awards, including those given to him by Vanguard Newspapers, Sun Newspapers, Silverbird Television, etc, which ordinarily would not have come if he was not performing.
One other issue before the electorate last Saturday was the zoning arrangement, which was made famous by former Governor Obi. Obi ensured that power shifted to Anambra North senatorial zone after his zone, Anambra Central, had had unbroken two terms and to ensure equity among the three zones in the state, it was agreed that governorship seat should be rotating among the zones. Though it was an arrangement initiated by APGA, the fact that two other major political parties, the PDP and APC chose their candidates from the same area as Obiano, was an indication that they too had adopted it.
So, one of the main issues for consideration during the last governorship election was who among the candidates would fast track the power shift and in the understanding of the stakeholders in the state, it was Obiano who, constitutionally, has only four years to complete the turn of Anambra North.
Though the candidate of the PDP, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, also from Anambra North consistently told Anambra people that he would do only one term in line with the rotation arrangement, many stakeholders were of the view that his party and close allies might come up with arguments after four years that he would need another four years to complete his programmes, a situation that could lead to another political crisis in the state.
When it looked as if Obiano might lose the election based on the opposition that came from the man who handed over power to him, major stakeholders in the state had to openly declare their support for him. For instance, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Professor Charles Soludo was emphatic that Obiano had done Anambra people proud and therefore deserved a second tenure. His maxim, “ If it is not broken, why mend it”, indeed became a campaign slogan in the state.
Also, the first civilian governor of the state, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife at several fora argued that Obiano deserved second tenure because he performed. Ezeife also said one sure way to have peace and stability in any polity was power rotation among the component units and since the incumbent governor is from Anambra North and had served first term, he should be allowed to complete the turn of the zone for power to shift to Anambra South, as Anambra Central had done a total of 11 years. The Old Aguata Union, which is the zone of the late former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, said the surest way power can shift to the zone was Governor Willie Obiano’s re-election. Expectedly, the message stuck.
Apart from Ezeife and Soludo, several stakeholders from across the state, including Chief Ifeanyi Uba, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Dr. Ernest Obiejesi, Prince Kenneth Emeakayi, serving and former members of the national and state assemblies elected on the platform of other political parties, as well as many traditional rulers and Presidents General of the 181 communities, also supported Obiano’s reelection.
Obiano also embarked on a vigorous campaign in all parts of the state and was unarguably the most visible candidate during the campaign. With vehicles he gave to all the APGA chairmen in the 326 wards, the 21 local government chairmen of the party, state executive members of APGA and other stakeholders, with a promise that they stood the chance of retaining the cars if they delivered their wards, all of them worked hard to ensure his victory even in the strong holds of his opponents.
With such massive support, and with the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security operatives to be free and fair during the election, it was not surprising that Obiano won in all the 21 local government areas of the state. The next question is, will all those who supported the governor to emerge victorious constitute a problem by making demands to justify their support? Only time will tell.