Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the names of the incumbent Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, who is contesting on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Oselola Obaze, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and Tony Nwoye, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), along with 34 other candidates who will be contesting in the governorship election in the state on November 18.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the commission also said it has given the nod to 38 domestic and six international observer groups to monitor the election.
This, according to the commission, was in accordance with Section 31(3) of the Electoral Act.
A cursory look at the list revealed that other than the three leading candidates, five female candidates will also be contesting for the governorship poll, while eight other female candidates have been picked as running mates.
A breakdown of the list of the parties and candidates showed that Obiano and his deputy, Nkemakonam Okeke, will fly the flag of APGA, while Obaze was listed to run on the ticket of the PDP with his running mate, Chidi Alexandra Onyemelukwe.
Also on the list is Nwoye of the APC and his running mate, Dozie Arinze Ikedife. Other parties and their candidates include the United Peoples Congress (UPP) â€“ Osita Chidoka and running mate, Okeke Marcel Ogbonnaya; Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) â€“ Godwin Ezemmo and running mate, Leonard Uchendu; and the Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC) â€“ Chibuike Yul Edochie and running mate, Oluchukwu Okeke.
Some of the international observer groups accredited by INEC for the election include the British High Commission, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), American Embassy, European Union, High Commission of Canada, and African Union Economic Social and Cultural Council, while domestic groups include African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, and the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness.
The commission said it would start the issuance of Form EPMC 002 to the approved groups next week.
INEC also said it had approved the change of name and adjustment of logo of the All Democratic Peoples Movement (ADPM) to the All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP).
It said it had approved the issuance of a certificate of registration in the name of AGAP.
Although INEC has approved 37 candidates for the Anambra governorship poll, in reality, the contest is expected to be a three-horse race between Obiano, Obaze and Nwoye.
Obiano Aided by Incumbency Factor
Of the three major contestants, Obiano, a former banker and governor of the state for four years, will be aided by the power of incumbency and a deep war chest to contest the election.
He also has the advantage of controlling the state structures of APGA, which has ruled Anambra for 12 years.
This could enable him to deploy human and financial resources to coast home to victory with the minimum of fuss.
However, Obiano has been criticised by his opponents, especially his predecessor, former Governor Peter Obi, who remains popular in Anambra, of running the state aground in the last four years.
A major drawback is the allegation that he has frittered away the resources of the state in four years, despite inheriting assets and cash to the tune of N75 billion from Obi.
Several Anambra indigenes also complain that he has failed to deliver on his promises to improve on the projects and programmes left behind by his predecessor, such that several contractors remain unpaid and rising unemployment in the state remains a concern among the electorate.
He has also been accused of concentrating most the development in Anambra North, his senatorial zone.
Obaze Enters Race on Divided Platform
Obaze, a former Secretary to the State Government under Obi and Obiano, will be entering the race on the platform of a party whose members have already headed to court to challenge the primary that threw him up as the candidate of the PDP.
For instance, Ifeanyi Ubah, who tried to secure the ticket of the PDP, has filed a lawsuit challenging the outcome of the primary, despite attempts by the party to patch up any divisions.
Should Ubah decide to remain a spoiler, this could turn out to be a stumbling block to Obazeâ€™s ambition to emerge governor of the state.
It is also uncertain if Obazeâ€™s campaign organisation has the financial muscle to outspend Obiano and even Nwoye who will have the backing of the federal might and ruling party at the centre.
Anambra is a state where elections are fiercely contested and the amount of money deployed by a contestant is just as critical to his/her victory or loss.
However, Obaze, a former United Nations technocrat, gentleman and widely seen as a man of substance who can turn around the fortunes of the state, will be going into the contest with the backing of Obi who will move mountains to unseat Obiano.
Obi, who also has deep pockets, will mobilise the PDP state structures, which he controls to get Obaze into the Government House, Awka. As it stands, Obi has hardly slept a wink since his protÃ©gÃ©e secured the ticked of the party.
Obaze is also confident that despite Ubahâ€™s posturing he can win him to his side, arguing that the PDP primary held earlier this month was the first without a parallel primary in recent memory. He deems this as a positive development that could give him the momentum he needs.
Another factor in his favour is his choice of running mate in the person of Mrs. Chidi Alexandra Onyemelukwe, the daughter of former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme.
Although Ekwueme has evolved into a statesman in recent years and has slowed down due to age, the presence of his daughter on the PDP ticket who is from Anambra South Senatorial District, could galvanise the electorate into upstaging Ubahâ€™s antics and getting the votes for Obaze.
Nwoye: Backed by the Federal Might
Nwoye, a consummate politician and former PDP contestant for the governorship of Anambra State in 2013, has now docked his ship with the APC. He emerged the candidate of the APC from a line of strong contestants, including Senator Andy Uba.
Nwoyeâ€™s main advantage is his deep pockets and the backing of Chief Arthur Eze, a business mogul, who has handed Nwoye a blank cheque, so to speak, to make a run for the governorship post.
Nwoye will also be coming into the race with the backing of the APC at the centre and federal might, which could galvanise resources â€“ financial and human â€“ from other parts of the country.
As a former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), he remains popular among the youths who constitute a sizeable chunk of the electorate.
Despite his popularity, nonetheless, Nwoye is contesting on the platform of the APC, which has generally not fared well in past elections in the South-east, more so now that several Igbos are unhappy with the federal government and President Muhammadu Buhari over the perceived marginalisation of the South-east and proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which has a cult-like following in the region.