Executive Briefing

With the clearance of 37 candidates for the Anambra State gubernatorial election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the stage is set for the candidates to put their arsenal at work for the race, Davidson Iriekpen writes

All is set for the Anambra State governorship election with the final clearance of 37 candidates for the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last week. Among the frontline candidates are 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). There are 34 other candidates who will also be contesting in the governorship election in the state on November 18.

A statement by the commission also said it had 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) – Osita Chidoka and running mate, Okeke Marcel Ogbonnaya; Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) – Godwin Ezemmo and running mate, Leonard Uchendu; and the Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC) – 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. It 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.

Even though INEC approved 37 candidates for the Anambra governorship poll, many analysts are of the vviews that the contest is a three-horse race between Obiano of APGA, Obaze of PDP and Nwoye of the APC as many others are considered as just jesters.

With the first hurdle over, there is no doubt that the next stage which is campaign will be very hot and security agencies have to be alive to their responsibility to keep the peace. On the day of the election, INEC is expected to do better by making sure that likely logistic issues are proactively taken care of.
This was corroborated by the Chairman of the Obiano Re-election Campaign Organisation and former National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh. Umeh while briefing journalists last Friday,. Umeh said the two groups would make for the success of the election are INEC and security. He said the impartiality of INEC and the conduct of security operatives would go a long way in determining how the election would go. The former APGA boss said the security operatives should allow the election to be conducted under peaceful atmosphere and protect the integrity of the election.

“Allowing the votes of the people to count is the major ingredient for the success of the election. INEC will make or mar the election. If INEC wants to be impartial, this election will be successful. Don’t allow politicians to intimidate the electorate. Politicians should eschew desperation,” he said.

Already, political parties have commenced strategies to win the election. Last week, the APC inaugurated a 48-member campaign committee for the governorship election. The committee is headed by the Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar. Other members of the committee include big names such as Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo). Others are Ministers of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Ogbonnaya Onu of Science and Technology.

The National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, challenged the committee to work to bring the South-east into the main stream of Nigerian politics and into the progressive family by winning the Anambra State governorship. He also challenged the committee to mobilise the entire people of Anambra State for victory saying the state was very important to the APC, pointing out that a victory for the party in Anambra would help address the cries of marginalisation from the South-east ego political zone.
Oyegun said the party recognised the fact that the election would not be a bed of roses in view of the fact that there is an incumbent governor in the state, adding that “if the APC can defeat an incumbent president, we can also defeat an incumbent governor, we have done it before in Kogi and Ondo States.”

He said: “It is important that we do everything we can, fair and square, to bring Anambra State into the fold of the progressives for a lot of reasons. Until we manage to bring a few states into the mainstream of progressives’ politics, we may not see the end of this continued cry of marginalisation. It is important that we work and work very hard to win Anambra being a critical state in the South-east. It is not going to be a small political struggle. We must work hard with unity of purpose to break through to the South-east in a major way to win Anambra. It is very important, essential and vital that we manage to hammer together not just a patch work of peace or make-believe kind of camaraderie but a very serious unity of purpose between all those who aspired to that office to act as a serious guarantee that we are indeed also serious in winning the Anambra governorship seat.”

But Umeh described Oyegun’s statement as reckless, inflammatory, intimidating and undemocratic. He called for fairness on the part of INEC and security agencies to all parties in the contest, in accordance with standard best practices. The former APGA boss called on the people of the state to be vigilant and prepare against any evil plot to subvert their decision at the poll.

“We don’t want to go into this election with such inflammatory statement as that of Oyegun. That statement is an intimidation to the people of Anambra State. Buhari that ushered in hope to Nigerian democracy should not allow anybody to intimidate any person in Anambra election. Under his watch, we expect a perfect electoral system. The people’s votes should count. The umpire is responsible for the conduct of elections. So, it’s INEC that will make or mar Anambra poll. So, we ask INEC to be determined, impartial, and fair to everybody in the election.” he said.
Many analysts are wondering why Oyegun and his party are eager to win Anambra when they cannot manage the states they have under its control and when President Muhammadu Buhari has not justified the mandate given to him by Nigeria.

“APC is just embarking on territorial acquisition with the help of INEC and security. Tell me, what have they achieved in the some of the states under their control? In Ondo, Osun, Kogi to name a few, there is virtually nothing to show for it; they are owing backlog of salary arrears, yet they want to takeover Anambra that is not owing a single month salary.

“What has Buhari done with the mandate given to him by Nigerians? His administration is the worst in recent times. People have been killed more in his time. Life is harder under him. Roads are worst under him, yet people are clamouring for him to contest in 2019 because INEC and security are in their pockets?” asked Nnamdi Amadi, a social public affairs analyst in based in Lagos.

Meanwhile, why APC is busying strategizing, APGA, the party on ground in the state, is consolidating on its support base. In the last two months, over 100 groups including town unions, farmers associations, tricycle operators have all endorsed Obiano, concluding that another four years for him, would help place the state on the path of development.

The PDP candidate, Obaze is also not leaving any stone unturned. He had accused the incumbent governor of not following the developmental plans laid down by his predecessor, Peter Obi.
According to him, under Obiano, some of the successes recorded by Anambra State under Obi are not being sustained.

Obi, who had thrown his weight behind Obaze and who incidentally brought Obiano to office, had promised to ensure that he is removed from office. Obi has severally criticised Obiano for running the state aground in the last four years and frittering away the resources of the state in four years, despite inheriting assets and cash to the tune of N75 billion.

But Umeh has dismissed the allegations, saying the former governor could not have left N75billion when he left a total debt of N185 billion on road construction alone and employed 6,000 workers at the twilight of his administration.

“This is the time to tell the truth. I was there at the governor’s lodge where Obi gave Obiano hand-over note. There was no issue of N75 billion left for Obiano. Some of the money left included bonds, some of them cannot be accessed until 2030,″ he said.

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The PDP candidate, Obaze is also not leaving any stone unturned. He had accused the incumbent governor of not following the developmental plans laid down by his predecessor, Peter Obi.