Politicians and political parties in Anambra State are currently acting as if though the 2017 governorship election in the state is already conceded to the incumbent, Governor Willy Obiano, following the lull on the political space. Charles Onyekamuo writes
Since the return to civil rule, some three months to the election year in Anambra State are usually replete with activities. It is the time political parties open their doors to aspirants who want to fly the flag of their parties as candidates in the election proper. It is also a period meetings are held from one location to the other in politicians’ houses and hotel halls. In these meetings, aspirants moot their ambitions in a bid to consult with their constituents.
You needed not be told that something was about to happen as posters of aspirants from different political parties adorn the nooks and crannies of the state. But barely a year to the conduct of a governorship election in Anambra State, mum is the word.
The incumbent Governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano was sworn-in on March 17, 2014. By March 17, 2017, he would have spent three years in office, and given the constitutionally allowed 90 days to the termination of his first term in office, it is expected that elections into the office of the Governor of Anambra State would be conducted between the last quarter of November and second quarter of December 2017, either for a second term in office if he won re-election or hands over to a successor on March 17, 2018.
As it is now, Obiano who was elected on the Platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) appears to be the only aspirant of the 2017 governorship election in the state, who is sure of his candidature. This is because even as he has not officially kicked off campaigns for a second term in office, his body language and activities in government since he clocked two years in March suggest that he had already coveted the APGA ticket to run for a second term in office.
These days, his foot soldiers mobilise different group of people and associations including but not limited to the Transport Unions, Traditional Rulers and opinion and church leaders from different communities in the three senatorial zones of the state.
Just recently, the governor, in his response to the national economic recession abolished the payment of taxes and levies for certain categories of low income earners, who push barrows, vegetable sellers, Okada riders and the like who hitherto were weighed down by the burden of heavy and multiple taxation.
The state commissioner for Information and Communication strategy, Mr. Tony Nnaecheta, who gave a post analytical breakdown of the governor’s radio broadcast to the people of the state, said though the state government would be losing a whooping sum of N200m annually by taking this policy initiative aimed at cushioning the effects of recession, it was not bothered.
The state government was quick to point out that the measure was temporary and though didn’t say when the grace would lapse. Its implication a few months to the election year was not lost on analysts, who quickly said it was to woo the support of this social category prior to the governor’s re-election bid.
About a fortnight ago, traditional rulers from what is known as Old Aguata Union (OAU) comprising Aguata, Orumba North and South Local Government Areas gathered at the Ekwulobia Township Stadium in Aguata to bestow the Chieftaincy title of “Aqunechemba” Aguata on the governor, who couldn’t point at any project he had initiated and executed in the zone in the last 30 months.
All the same, the Traditional Rulers had during the ceremony allegedly packaged by an APGA Chieftain and Hotel proprietor in Ekwulobia, Aguata Council area of the state managed to tell him before an assemblage of opinion leaders from the area which included the Second Republic Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, a one-time Governor of the state, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, town union presidents and the youths that all the roads in the old Aguata Union were impassable. The governor, however, pledged to look into the matter after the rains. That, in itself, was not a promise.
Outside this, there are many politicians aspiring to occupy Obiano’s seat in 2018 from the different political parties. In the Labour Party, the name of Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, the publisher of Authority Newspaper and Businessman has been ringing a bell. Although Ubah himself has repeatedly said he was not interested in contesting against Obiano next year, however would like to be his campaign manager for his re-election, yet his political associates say he was only flying a kite and would most likely contest the governorship on the Labour platform.
As at now, no new name has come up as a likely contender for the party’s ticket except Ubah. The chairman of the party in the state, Mr. Luke Ezeanokwasa although evasive on the issue told THISDAY that his party does not believe in zoning its governorship ticket and would likely throw it open for contest by interested aspirants during the party’s primaries in line with the democratic process of selecting a popular candidate to fly its flag.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Anambra State appears to be the party with the highest number of aspirants jostling to fly the party’s ticket in the election.
In the fold of aspirants whose names re-occur like a decimal are the present Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, a National Officer of the Party, Chief George Moghalu, former candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2013 governorship election in the state, Comrade Tony Nwoye, the candidate of Chief Maxi Okwu faction of APGA in the same election, Dr. Chike Obidigbo and a stalwart of the party from Igboukwu in Aguata council area of the state, Chief Barth Nwibe, an Engineer.
Moghalu, it was learnt will most certainly contest the primaries of the APC whenever it is fixed. A close associate of his who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity said the APC strong man, who contested the 2007 governorship election in the state on the platform of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) has not made his ambition public yet because he is consulting and reaching out to many people within the party and outside, as well as critical stakeholders across the political divide.
He described Moghalu as one of the most experienced among the aspirants outside Ngige and had remained steadfast without having to move from one party to the other. “He has been very consistent from the All Peoples Party (APP) to ANPP and to APC today,” he said.
Similarly, Obidigbo, who joined the APC from APGA after his botched 2013 governorship ambition because it is the political mainstream of the moment and would better serve the interest of the Igbos within the context of Nigeria confirmed to THISDAY that he would again contest the 2017 governorship primaries on the APC Platform.
He, however, said the final decision to run does not rest with him, but with the party. At the moment, he said he was still consulting with critical stakeholders within and outside the party.
“This being the case, the decision to run for the governorship of Anambra State on the platform of APC does not rest with me. The decision is for the party to take and if I am found worthy, I will be very grateful to carry the flag.
“I know that with God on my side and the people of Anambra State giving me their support, I will win and I will deliver something very tangible and beneficial to the state,” he said.
For Ngige, although he has not officially said he would run for the 2017 governorship election in the state, his body language speaks volume of his intention. Even in his absence, his associates and APC women in the state have been meeting in his country home and elsewhere in the state on his behalf, strategising on how best to sell the man, whose first stint at governorship for 34 months brought a lot of glory to the state and opened the eyes of the state’s citizenry to good governance.
To many, Ngige is generally regarded as the harbinger and pathfinder to Anambra’s infrastructure development especially in the area of roads development. But there is a school of thought that though he is eminently qualified to lead the state once again, he should make a detour and stand behind upcoming, promising and experienced associates within the APC, who would tow his footsteps and recue the state from manifest mal-administration.
Comrade Tony Nwoye may be seen as a new entrant into APC to pick its ticket for the election, political analysts contend that he is one politician, who can reach out to northern power brokers in the party and pull the strings in the state chapter even from outside.
To this school of thought, it is argued that to the extent that the APC will conduct a free and fair primaries in the state, without giving any of the aspirants undue advantage, and considering that he has as it were a wealthy sponsor and financier in the Person of Arthur Eze, a business mogul from Ukpo in Dunukofia local government area of the state and given that about 4000 delegates would be attending the APC state primaries, then, he would be taken seriously.
The story of the PDP in Anambra is like one told on a perky weather. The party is stuck in leadership crisis – factionalised as it were. One part is led by Chief Ejike Oguebego, while the other is led by Ken Emeakayi. It is believed that with the ongoing reconciliation effort between the Ahmed Markrafi committee and the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction at the centre, the effect may trickle down the state to usher some sanity.
Although some analysts believed that ultimately the mantle of leadership of the chapter may fall on the former governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, who prior to the 2015 presidential election, defected to the party, the assumption may not be fully correct given the popularity standing of the incumbent, especially one anchored on performance, others reckoned.
Even at that, names like Senator Andy Uba, Senator Stella Oduah, Mr. Henry Obaze and Senator Uche Ekwunife keep popping up as notable contenders for the party’s ticket for the 2017 governorship election in the state. While Uba hails from the state’s southern zone, Oduah, Obaze from the Northern zone, Ekwunife hails from the central zone.
A source however told THISDAY that Obi though in a good political relationship with Uba, Oduah and Ekwunife, he may Prefer Obaze from the state’s North zone, an international diplomat, who served as secretary to his administration; and would want him to pair Ekwunife from the central zone as his deputy. But all these r will depend on which side the leadership pendulum of the party will swing in the long run.
The People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) has Chief Godwin Ezeemo, a publisher and international businessman as its sole contender. He contested the 2013 governorship election in the state on the same party platform.
Now, even with these people known to be brushing up to do battle with the incumbent, Obiano, next year consulting and strategizing, the political environment in the state appears dull with a lull in vibrant political activities quite unlike in the past when a year to the election witnessed some boisterous activities with the atmosphere charged and aspirants discussed publicly.
The lull has variously been attributed to uncertainty in the political space, and the economic recession leading to lack of direction. Again, it is reasoned in political circles in the state that a great many of the aspirants don’t want to get kicking and be praised by sycophants, who will come to tell you how good and suitable you are only to shift base to another aspirant the moment they discover that you had exhausted yourself financially, buying booze, cooking and providing transport money after meetings even before the primaries proper.
“Many of them have gone through the terrain before and are now experienced. I think with the recession in place and minimal cash to throw about, cooking and drinking and transporting people, no sane politician would like to embark on an uncertain journey without being circumspect”, a political analyst in Awka, who pleaded aninymity told THIS DAY last week.