In the next few months, voters in Anambra State, “Light of the Nation”, will file out in their numbers to elect the number one citizen to pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years. Already, politicians and political parties have been strategising on how best to outsmart each other. More parties may be on paper but the few with appreciable presence in the state are the ruling party in the state, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Peoples Democratic Party, All Progressives Congress, Labour Party, and Peoples Progressive Alliance.
In 2013, Chief Willie Obiano flew the APGA flag to clinch the plum post while the candidate of APC and a former governor of the state, Dr. Chris Ngige, came second in the contest. Other contestants at that poll were former students’ union leader, Tony Nwoye, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, and businessman, Chief Ifeanyi Uba, on the platforms of PDP, APC, and PPA, respectively. Uba was a late entrant into the race and flew the flag of the Labour Party.
The APGA forces, led by then incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi, and former national chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh, was apparently too formidable for other parties to contend with as the duo ensured victory for the party and the emergence Obianor. Not even the backing of billionaire businessman, Chief Arthur Eze, and the famed federal might could swing the pendulum of victory the way of Nwoye of the PDP. Observers believe nothing better signposts the popularity of APGA in the state than that election.
However, besides the power of incumbency and favourable performance rating of the incumbent governor, Obiano, APGA cannot be said to have as much political capital to fall back on compared to the last time.
As expected every four years, the old brigades are back in the trenches in preparation for yet another political tussle. It is also worthy of mention that Anambra State, unlike many other states in the country, is an unpredictable state when it comes to politics. Its politics is often between men of means and not for boys.
In the speculated line up for 2017 are Obiano, Chief Godwin Ezeemo, Senator Andy Uba, Chief Ifeanyi Uba, Oseloka Obazee, national auditor of APC, Chief George Muoghalu, former chairman, Local Government Service Commission, Dr Alex Obiogbolu, Nwoye, Dr Chike Obidigbo, Sir Obinna Uzor, and the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka.
While Obiano, Obidigbo, Obazee, Nwoye and Obiogbolu all hail from the Anambra North senatorial zone, Senator Andy Uba, Obinna Uzor, Godwin Ezeemo, George Muoghalu and Ifeanyi Uba are from Anambra South senatorial zone, leaving Chidoka as the sole contender from the Anambra Central senatorial zone. It would be recalled that in the 2013 political arrangement, all the major stakeholders agreed that the governorship position should be zoned to the North, hence the emergence of Obiano, who hails from Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area.
Political analysts, however, insist that the political calculations have changed since the last governorship election. One source claimed APGA was not as formidable as it used to be. The defection of Obi – who is still very revered in the state – to PDP, could prove a huge political drawback for the ruling party in the state and a plus to PDP in the next election.
This is besides that the political travails of Umeh, who was one of the forces that propelled Obiano into office, cannot be said to be a plus for the party.
But there are other groups that are of the view that politics is a game of number, even as they say that the crossover of Obi to PDP may not have much effect on the party.
Meanwhile, other intending aspirants from Anambra North have defected to APC in search of the party’s governorship ticket. Among them are Obidigbo of APGA, Nwoye and Senator Andy Uba, both formerly of PDP, and Chief Ifeanyi Uba.
Political watchers opined that if the zoning arrangement for the governorship election remains in Anambra North senatorial zone the tussle will be down to a two-horse race between the ruling APGA and PDP, or the race will become an all comers affair whereby the issues that will determine the eventual winner will narrow down to religion, party affiliation and possibly federal might.
If the zoning arrangement is jettisoned, one of the beneficiaries will be Muoghalu. Being from the southern senatorial zone and backed by federal might he could become a force to reckon with. Party sources said even with the avalanche of defectors to APC he stands a better chance of clinching the party’s ticket ahead of the latter day arrivals, being a founding member and a member of the party’s national executive.
Those versed with the intricacies of governorship elections in the state would attest to the significant role that religion plays in the political balance in the state. As a predominantly Christian state, electing the state’s governor has always been a pendulum and swings between the Anglican and Catholic faiths; thus, the seamless emergence of Obiano of the Anglican faith after Obi, who is a Catholic.
Party affiliation is another thing that will determine who rules the state for the next four years. Popularity of a party in any state often depends on the politicians driving the party in the absence of any clear cut political ideology driving the political parties.
Before now the APC in Anambra State was believed to be popular only in Anambra Central where Ngige hails from, while APGA and PDP are believed to have spread all over the state. That may no longer hold water going forward considering the influx of other heavy weights from outside of the central senatorial zone trooping into the party.
The popularity of APGA in the state cannot be over emphasised. Since the party retrieved its stolen mandate through Obi, during the inglorious days of the Uba brothers in the state, APGA has produced the state governors till date and controls the state House of Assembly.
The PDP may also have the advantage of re-engineering and re-organising its structures following the exit of some power brokers who some political analysts believe were a bad reputation for the party in the state and the entry of Obi, popularly called Okwute.
Closely coming after party affiliation is the famed federal might. Pundits point to governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, and the parliamentary re-run elections in Rivers State to explain what the federal might can achieve. But APGA is used to contending with federal forces, as shown in how the party took the PDP to the cleaners while the party controlled the federal government.
––Okechukwu, a public affairs analyst, writes from Awka.