By Clifford Ndujihe & Vincent Ujumadu
THE Anambra State 2021 governorship election is exactly 220 days away but it is as if the November 6 exercise is around the corner. A flurry of activities by stakeholders especially the horde of aspirants has kept the Anambra political firmament astir.
So far, there are no fewer than 30 aspirants angling to succeed Governor Willie Obiano in what is panning out as a battle of billionaires and philanthropists.
Anambra is one of the few states in Nigeria gifted with a large pool of wealthy individuals. One account said Anambra has the largest number of millionaires per square kilometre in the country.
Among the large chunk of the 30 sons and daughters of Anambra State, who had signified their intentions to battle for the top job are billionaires and multi-millionaires. A host of them has pedigree in philanthropic activities.
As things are, the next governor of Anambra may be a billionaire or someone backed by billionaires. Apart from a deep pocket and heavy war chest, the issues of zoning, party platform, popularity, exposure, and experience among others are factors that will shape the governorship election.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has the highest number of aspirants in the state has vowed to return to power after 15 years in political doldrums by snatching Anambra from the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. The party has thrown its doors open to aspirants from the three senatorial zones of the state. The move is against the raging clamour for zoning the position to Anambra South.
In the saddle for 16 years, the APGA is not ready to lose the only state it controls in Nigeria. The party has vowed to remain in power in the state and expand to other states.
APGA started the power rotation charter that led to Anambra North ascending to power for the first time in 2014 with a promise to zone the seat to Anambra South in 2022. APGA boasts that the opposition parties do not have what it takes to consolidate on the development strides of the party in the state christened Home for All.
For the APC, it is time to return Anambra to the mainstream of Nigeria politics and the ruling party at the centre. According to APC leaders, making Anambra an APC state would make the state reap more from the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration.
Zoning logjam, agreement
One factor expected to shape the election is zoning. Agreements on governorship shift in Anambra, popularized under the administration of Mr. Peter Obi, is gaining traction.
In 2017, before the last governorship election, the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, together with many influential leaders of thought in Anambra, advanced the zoning principle and declared that Anambra North be allowed to complete its second term through Willie Obiano.
Then, some non-partisan stakeholders and groups met at different fora and resolved that only political parties that picked their candidate from Anambra North should be considered by Anambra voters. Participants included the Anambra Union comprising politicians, academics, retired public officers, etc.
Also, the Anambra State chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, at a joint meeting with traditional rulers and Presidents general of all the autonomous communities of the state on May 16, 2017, at Awka, enjoined all political parties to pick their flag bearers from Anambra North for the then coming Anambra Governorship poll. Anambra State Association of Trade Unions, ASATU, said it believes in the sanctity of zoning as the basis of political power-sharing in the State. Anambra Traditional Rulers have also lent their support to zoning.
On March 4, 2020, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth scribe and Chairman of the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha, led the Elders Council in a meeting with Governor Obiano where agreement on zoning was firmed up
The Council reiterated its support for the rotation of the office of the Governor among the three senatorial zones in the state, and its expectation that the next governor of the state will come from Anambra South.
The group said: “In our analysis of how the Anambra governorship seat had rotated since 29th May 1999, it was discovered that the South has had only four years under Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, the center had 11 years, courtesy of Peter Obi and Chris Ngige and the North is having the last lap of its eight years of two tenures.
“It is therefore right to conclude that with a minimum of eight years taken by Peter Obi from Anambra Central and additional three years by Ngige, the eight years being taken by the Anambra North; Anambra South is being short-changed. In other words, while Anambra Central occupied the elective seat of the Governor of Anambra State for 11 years by 17th March 2022, the Anambra North would have stayed in the same office for eight years; all as against Anambra South which took only four years.”
However, some of the aspirants have opposed the zoning agreement, arguing that Anambra needs the best hand to turn her fortunes around.
Looking at the power-sharing issue, some observers said Anambra South has not been as short-changed as being bandied if the number of Anambra South people who had occupied the governorship seat is anything to go buy.
By commission, omission, hook, or crook, Anambra South has produced more occupants of Anambra State Government House (see table) and held power for six years. They include Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Mrs Virgy Etiaba, and Senator Andy Uba, which is four out of seven governors.
Anambra Central had two- Chris Ngige and Peter Obi while Anambra North had one- Obiano.
Mrs Etiaba was in the saddle for a couple of months before the Supreme Court nullified the House of Assembly’s impeachment of Peter Obi. Also, Andy Uba was in power for 17 days before the Supreme Court held that Peter Obi had not completed his tenure, adding that the election that brought Uba to power on May 29, 2007, should not have been held.
Charged political terrain
The Anambra political terrain came alive following the release of the timetable for the governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. The various aspirants are currently combing the 326 political wards for support. Their major concern currently is to woo would-be delegates for the primaries of the political parties already slated for June.
While the big three political parties namely, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressives Congress, APC, boast of a large number of governorship aspirants, 14 other political parties operating in the state, which are among those recognized by INEC, are still waiting for aspirants to show interest in their parties.
The only political party that could be said to have a candidate at the moment is the Young Progressives Party, YPP, which has a billionaire oil magnate, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, as its only aspirant. Ubah, who is representing Anambra South senatorial zone, cornered the ticket of YPP early enough such that no aspirant for the November 6 poll is looking in that direction. “I am the only governorship candidate in Anambra State,” Ubah boasted recently.
For the other people who are nursing the ambition to succeed Governor Obiano in 2022, uncertainty remains the word. This is why they and their supporters are having sleepless nights traversing all the nooks and crannies of the state shopping for delegates.
Of all the political parties, PDP has the highest number of aspirants (11), followed by APC (10) and APGA (8). Most of the aspirants are from Anambra South following what appears to be the popular opinion among politicians that the next governor of the state should come from Anambra South senatorial zone.
In line with the flowing zoning stream, most of the aspirants, so far, are from Anambra South.
Okonkwo, a Russian-trained Ph.D holder in Political Science and business tycoon is one of the billionaires eyeing the governorship seat. He is the owner of The Dome Event and Entertainment Centre in Abuja, and through his non-governmental organization; Pro-Value Humanity Foundation, he has touched lives across the state and beyond. He recently launched a new airline, United Nigeria Airline, which commenced operation few months ago. He has already picked the expression of interest form of the PDP.
Apart from the brouhaha of zoning, Okonkwo is one person favoured among the PDP delegates. He is from Ogidi in Anambra Central senatorial zone. His argument has always been that if PDP hopes to win the November election, it should go for the best candidate and not sacrifice the party’s chances on the altar of zoning.
The three-time member of the House of Representatives is sounding like the aspirant to beat at the PDP primaries. The Engineer–turned politician first won election on the platform of APGA, he later moved to PDP and won twice. Though he represents Nnewi North, Nnewi South, and Ekwusigo federal constituency in the green chamber of the National Assembly, he has attracted projects for communities outside his constituency, which had made the people of Anambra State to nickname him ‘Mr. Project.’
Though from Anambra South, Azubogu who said there is nothing wrong in zoning, explained that he is not campaigning to become the next governor of the state on the basis of zoning.
Ude is an American-trained lawyer and architect. He surprised most people in PDP when he donated N6 million for running the party during stakeholders’ meeting in Awka and followed it up with the donation of 21 sienna cars to the local government branches of PDP and pledged to also donate vehicles to the leadership of the party in the state. He hails from Ndiowu in Orumba North local government area of Anambra South senatorial zone.
The American-trained medical doctor and pharmacist is the proprietor of the famous Pains Institute in Las Vegas, USA where he is practising his profession. He has brought so much development to his community, Umuchukwu in Orumba South local government area of Anambra South senatorial zone. His 17–storey edifice which he said would soon house a pharmaceutical manufacturing outfit, is a testimony of his desire to attract investment to Anambra State.
Maduka single-handedly built a high court complex with judges’ quarters, a magistrate court with magistrates’ quarters, a police complex with befitting quarters and he is planning to build a Police Academy in the community. He also built churches and schools for the various denominations. He said recently that he would not rely on allocations to the state if he became governor, assuring that he would use his international connections to attract investments to the state.
This boardroom guru was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc. He hails from Umuomaku in Orumba South local government area of Anambra South senatorial zone. Since his entry into the governorship race, Ozigbo has become very visible in all communities in Anambra State and has in fact become a household name among the people. Many people in PDP see him as a politician without negative baggage who is capable of replicating what he did at Transcorp in Anambra State.
He is a businessman and hails from Umuchu in Aguata local government area, in Anambra South. In 2012, Ezeemo surprised the entire state when he transferred his entire lucrative business outfit from London to Anambra State. He has invested heavily in agriculture, hotels, and media, among others.
The successful businessman, hotel proprietor, publisher of Orient Daily Newspaper, owner of Orient FM, and a successful farmer is known to be stinking rich. He is gradually becoming a veteran governorship contender too as he has twice before now given the position a shot without success.
At a recent interview, Ezeemo said he decided to relocate to Nigeria to contribute his quota towards the development of the state. He was the first aspirant that donated a bus to the state branch of PDP and he is considered a grassroots person.
She is the only woman among the aspirants. She represents Anambra Central in the state and before going to the Senate, she also represented Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia federal constituency in the House of Representatives. Though all her political activities had been in Anambra Central, she has countered the argument by those campaigning for the governorship to go to Anambra South that she is also from Anambra South by birth. She hails from Igboukwu in Aguata local government area, but married at Nri, Anaocha local government in Anambra Central where she has been playing her politics.
Ifedi Okwenna has a huge knowledge of the political terrain in Anambra and Nigeria. He has held several political positions in the past including as Special Assistant (Political) in the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo and Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources; Commissioner Science and Technology, under the Peter Obi-led administration in Anambra State and Secretary, Honorary Advisory Committee, to President Jonathan. He said he has the experience and exposure to improve on the fortunes of the state, if given the mandate.
The medical doctor, policy expert and politician has played several roles in the politics of Anambra and Nigeria. He was the coordinator of the Atiku/Obi presidential election in Anambra in 2019.
Ugochukwu Okeke is a young politician and die-hard member of the PDP. This is his second attempt at governing the state and hopes to get it this time.
Obaze is a native of Ochuche Umuodu, Ogbaru LGA in Anambra North senatorial zone. The diplomat, politician, author, and a retired United Nations official served the organization as an international civil servant between 1991 and 2012.
He was secretary to the Anambra state government during the Governor Peter Obi administration and during the early days of the administration of Governor Willie Obiano.
Before the 2017 election, he dumped APGA and moved to PDP. He was the favourite aspirant of Peter Obi, and flew the PDP flag in the election in the move to stop Obiano’s re-election. He lost.
Hailing from Anambra North as Obiano, it is to be seen if Anmabra voters will allow power to remain in Anambra North.
The ruling party is parading a crowd of aspirants. They include Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Damian Okolo, Okwudili Ezenwankwo, Chukwuma Umeoji, Ben Nwankwo, Stanley Uzochukwu, and Nnamdi Okonkwo.
The former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is seen by some stakeholders as the governor –in waiting following the support he is receiving from Governor Willie Obiano.
Soludo hails from Isuofia in Aguata local government area in Anambra South. There are indications that the leadership of APGA might persuade other aspirants in the party to step down for for the former central banker and erudite economist to avoid the rancour associated with party primaries. Whether they will agree is another issue but no fewer than 24 groups are rooting for Soludo to become the next governor of Anambra State.
Soludo first gave the governorship seat a shot in 2010 when he sought to unseat Obi who was then running for a second term. In 2017, Soludo was being wooed by some people to contest against Obiano but in a move that surprised many, he turned them down and joined APGA after he delivered a lecture stating clearly that Anambra under Obiano was not broken and as such didn’t need fixing. Sources said he is a key player in the economic and development programmes of the Obiano Administration and is in good stead to sustain them after Obiano.
Okolo is a lawyer and estate surveyor and valuer, an alumnus of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru, Jos and a papal knight. The Nnewi-born politician hails from Anambra South, said that the governance of Anambra State requires someone who understands the problems of the state. He said having lived in the state all his life, he knows the people and what they want the government to do for them.
Before his election into the House of Representatives, Ezenwankwo was the leader of all traders in the South-East. He is from the same Old Aguata Union as Soludo. He is popular among traders and businessmen in Anambra.
Ukachukwu is a veteran governorship aspirant. He has contested many governorship and senatorial elections in the state. His billboards have surfaced in parts of Anambra. His supporters said he is an experienced and trusted hand, whose time has come. He is also from Anambra South.
Former Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Okonkwo is one of those linked with the governorship poll. His recent resignation from Fidelity Bank is said to be in pursuit of his quest to become the governor of Anambra. Fidelity Bank is a major financier of projects in Anambra State. From the Obi era, those who led Anambra had connections with the bank. Obi was chairman of the bank, and he handed over to Obiano who was executive director of same bank.
Currently, there are no fewer than 11 aspirants struggling for the ticket of the APC. They include Senator Andy Uba, Barr Ben Etiaba, Dr Amobi Nwokafor, Dr George Moghalu, Paul Orajiaka, Engr Johnbosco Onunkwo, Arc Geoff Onyejekwe and Hon Tony Nwoye.
The former aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo was governor for 17 days before he was removed by the Supreme Court following a suit by Governor Peter Obi that the election of 2007 ought not to have taken place in Anambra State. Since then, his efforts to return to the Government House had not been successful but he has been telling APC leaders that he will succeed in November this year if the party gives him the ticket. He is from Uga in Aguata local government area of Anambra South and represented the zone in the Senate on the platform of APC.
If he picks the APC ticket he would be the first person to contest the Anambra governorship election on the platform of three political parties. In 2007, he ran on PDP ticket and later on the plank of the Labour Party, LP.
He has been in politics since the return of the present democratic dispensation in 1999. He started from the All Peoples Party, APP, which morphed to All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP that joined with other legacy parties to form the APC in 2013. He was the national auditor of APC before he was appointed managing director of the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, by President Muhammadu Buhari. Moghalu had contested the governorship in the past this is the third time he is aspiring to govern the state. He is from Nnewi in Anambra South. He sees the November 6 election as his brightest chance to govern Anambra.
Wilson Chidozie Nwankwo
The chairman of Wichtech Group and hails from Oko in Orumba North local government area of Anambra South. Many people see him as a bridge between the old and new class of politicians. Nwankwo believes that he will deliver Anambra to APC if given the ticket because he has the resources to fund his campaign. He is also very popular among the business class in Onitsha, having been with them for a very long time.
Emeka, SAN, the son of Dame Virgy Etiaba, the first Nigeria female politician ever to become governor of a state is a top flight lawyer. In 2010, Etiaba gave then incumbent Governor Peter Obi a tough fight after receiving the blessings of the leader of the APGA, and late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu ahead of Obi.
He, however, lost the governorship ticket of the party when party leaders like Chief Victor Umeh intervened and got Odumegwu-Ojukwu to back Obi.
With the seat zoned to Anambra South, Etiaba is upbeat about his chances now.
Dr Amobi Nwokafor, a boardroom guru, chartered accountant, philanthropist, former president-general of Akwa Development Union, and Chairman Board of Trustees of the union, is one of those eyeing the Anambra State governorship seat in 2021 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Nwokafor, who is also a Certified Forensic Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, Chartered Arbitrator and Chartered Tax Practitioner, in this interview, said Anambra electorate must hand their best the mandate in 2021 to take the state to the next level. In terms of zoning, he said it is the turn of APC to govern Anambra.