In Anambra, the Candidates Rev Up Election Campaigns

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The leading candidates of the major political parties in the November 18 Anambra governorship election, have heightened their campaigns in their quest to win the peoples votes, reports David-Chyddy Eleke.

So far, four out of the five leading candidates of the major political parties in the November governorship election in Anambra State have commenced their campaigns and in full steam, except for Chief Godwin Ezeemo of PPA, who is yet kick into the arena. But with the current state of campaigns, there appears to be no let up by any of the candidates in the bid to outdo one another for the coveted seat. As the people get ready to make a choice from the lot, below are some of the developments that dotted their campaigns in the last few days…

Willie Obiano
Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano has moved into the hinterlands to lobby the people for votes since he kicked off his campaigns in Awka. As at the last count, Obiano has visited the 21 local government areas of the state to set up his campaign committees. The essence, THISDAY learnt, was for the committee to lead the campaigns in their local governments as his campaign train prepares to visit the 179 communities in the state.

In Onisha North Local Government Area, where he inaugurated his campaign committee at Ezechima Primary School on Wednesday, Obiano seized the opportunity to break his silence over a controversial allegation of a request of the sum of N7.5billion by his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi, from him for sponsoring his election in 2013. Obiano and his predecessor, Obi, began to have a frosty relationship shortly after his swearing-in. While most people said the reason for their feud was the refusal of the governor to pay back funds used by the former governor to finance his election, Obi has since denied that he demanded the sum of N7.5billion from Obiano, saying his problem with him was his (Obiano’s) underperformance. Obi said if he needed the said sum, he would have simply taken it from the N75billion he left for the Obiano administration at the end of his tenure.

But Obiano, while speaking at Ezechima Primary School, said alleged that his predecessor actually demanded the sum of N7.5billion from him as funds spent in prosecuting the election on his behalf. He however said he refused to pay the money because he strongly believed that public funds should be used for public good and not to settle godfathers. These he said was the reason they fell apart.

The governor said another reason he refused to pay the money was because he was aware that enough money was raised for his campaign by his friends and associates, all of which were never accounted for by Obi. On the actual sum Obi claimed to have left behind, Obiano said he inherited liability of about N127 billion from him in contracts awarded and other responsibilities, which he had been religiously undertaking in the spirit of continuity.
At Nnewi South while inaugurating the campaign committee of the local government, Obiano again flew the power rotation kite, assuring the people that his reelection is the only guarantee for power shift to Anambra South.
On both occasions, the Chairman of the Governor’s Re-election Campaign Committee, Chief Victor Umeh, and former Central Bank Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, canvassed for votes for Obiano.

Tony Nwoye
The APC candidate may have started his campaigns late as a result of political differences that bogged down his party, following his victory at the party primary election, but penultimate Friday at the All Saints Cathedral field, Nwoye finally kicked off his campaigns in what has been described as the mother of all rallies. The master of ceremony, Hon Tony Oneweek Muonagor, said statistics collated from the rally ground showed that over 46,000 people were at the rally.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo led the campaign kick-off with a huge number of top notch politicians from the party, including 12 governors, 10 senators, 17 ministers and five deputy governors. The national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Mrs Uche Ekwunife and 10 out of the 11 aspirants defeated by Nwoye at the primaries also attended the rally to drum support for him.

Osinbajo told the crowd that, “Buhari loves Anambra State. This is one state that is dear to him. When he ran for president the first time, he chose one of your sons, Chuba Okadigbo as his running mate; when he ran the second time, he chose your son too; Edwin Umezuoke as his running mate. It is because of this love that the president himself went to negotiate for the second Niger Bridge, and that is why that bridge is in the budget today. Anambra was among the first state to benefit from our home grown school feeding programme. We will not make any promise that we will not fulfill. If you make the right choice, you get the right result. That is why we are giving you Tony Nwoye.”

From Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State to Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, national chairman of APC, Oyegun, and several other personalities, who spoke, they all expressed the need for Anambra to be connected to the national political grid for leadership to come to the Igbos. Okorocha begged Anambra people to give him, Nwoye as an extra voice from Igboland to go to Abuja to speak for Ndigbo, while El-Rufai assured the people that all the governors of the APC would be back in Anambra with President Muhammadu Buhari on the 14th of November to campaign for Nwoye.
THISDAY gathered from sources that as its strategy for the election, APC plans to put one governor each in charge of the 21 local government areas to ensure delivery for the party.

A visibly elated Nwoye, in his speech, called on the people of the state to take him by his words as they remain his bond. He said he would work hard to return Anambra to the path of greatness again if elected next month. He said education and job creation would constitute the major trust of his government as he would work to boost the standard of education by slashing fees, payment of bursary and ending youth joblessness.

Godwin Ezeemo
Barely three weeks to the election, Chief Godwin Ezeemo, is the only major candidate that is yet to commence his campaigns officially. This however does not take away the fact that he has also been moving round the remote areas of the state to campaign for votes from people at the grassroots. Ezeemo cuts the shape of one candidate that may spring surprises in the election. This is because being one who has advocated against moneybag politics, he has however in a polity where every endorsement means money been amassing endorsement from traditional rulers, community leaders and various groups.

In Achalla, the local government headquarters of Awka North Local Government Area, where Ezeemo visited with his team on a familiarization tour, the people of the largely agrarian community trooped out to welcome him, while singing his praise and promising to vote for him as a result of his antecedents.

Ezeemo described the backwardness of the area as utter negligence by the government and lamented how his convoy struggled through the near impassable terrain in Awka North and had to pass through several other local governments to connect one community to another. Ezeemo said it was “an act of wickedness by the past and present governments to deny the people of the area good roads, the most basic infrastructure, even when the resources to provide them are available.” He therefore promised that the first six months of his government would be dedicated to ensuring that the link road that joins all the communities of Awka North were built to standard.

Addressing the youths, Achalla traditional ruler, Igwe Alex Nwokedi, and PPA faithful in the area, Ezeemo asked: “How can an ex-governor tell us that that he left 40 billion naira in cash while leaving office when we have such pressing needs like linking up sister communities in Awka North with good roads, which will facilitate socio-economic development in the area and ultimately in the state? How can the present government be proud to spend billions of naira on high quality billboards, endorsements and posters for a second term when the same money was enough to build the long neglected link roads in Awka North, a more effective way of winning the heart of the people to vote him in for a second term.”

Ezeemo has also been penetrating remote areas of the state, but his major concern lately is the dismantling of his billboards by people suspected to be agents of the state government. The Director-General of Ezeemo Campaign Organisation, Dr. Chira Obiora, in a recent chat with THISDAY lamented that the PPA candidate billboards were being destroyed by persons suspected to be supporters of Obiano.

Oseloka Obaze
Since the official take-off of the PDP candidate ‘s campaign penultimate week, he is not known to have engaged in any open campaigns, but that does not take away the fact that he has been moving round, seeking the support of notable Anambra people. Obaze’s presence in the race and the support of the former governor of the state, Obi in the election are two things other opposing politicians cannot wish away. If there is anything people fear about the candidature of Obaze mostly, it is the presence of Obi. He has stood himself out as one politician, who knows the state like the back of his hand and can never engage in a fight he would lose.

Though not much of activities have characterized the Obaze campaigns, his team including his running mate, Mrs. Chidi Onyemelukwe, the director general of his campaign, Joe-Martin Uzodike, Obi and even the leader of the party, Dr Alex Ekwueme, have been visiting radio and television stations to sensitize the people of the need to vote out the present government.

For Obaze and his team, the fight may have shifted to the social media, where his supporters exchange jabs with those of Obiano and Tony Nwoye on a daily basis. Obaze have also engaged Obiano over the pulling down of his billboards in different places in the state. Obaze, who uploaded receipts of payment he made for the billboards on the social media expressed surprise as to why his billboards were being pulled down.

Obaze’s wife, Ofunne, an American-trained Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, and wife of Obi, Margaret, joined the campaign train canvassing for women votes for the PDP candidate. In Omor in Anyamelum Local Government Area, and Umueri in Anambra East Local Government Area Obaze’s wife reiterated her husband’s promise to devote 26 percent of the budget to education with 10 percent going to mission and private schools, including free, compulsory and quality education from kindergarten to JS3. She also promised that her husband would reintroduce the N5,000 monthly welfare stipend for people above 75 years, which was stopped by the Obiano administration.

It was also an opportunity for Obi’s wife to explain why her husband was against the reelection of Obiano as she reminded the women that while she and her husband campaigned for the incumbent in 2013, they promised to lead the campaign to oust him from power if he failed to perform and that was exactly what they were doing now.

Osita Chidoka
Like Obaze, Chidoka too is not known to have engaged in much of activities since the campaign kick-off at Amorka, Uli. Perhaps, Chidoka’s highest selling point is his sympathy for the secessionist bid of the Igbos. During the celebration of the 50th remembrance of the horrific massacre of the innocent people in Asaba during the civil war, Chidoka through Viola Ifeyinwa Okolie, his media director, issued a release calling on the military high command to release the report of its investigation on alleged abuses and violation of the rights of citizens by security officials involved in the widely criticised Operation Python Dance in the South-east.

He recalled that the military had acknowledged that it was investigating reports of alleged rights violations including a video showing the dehumanisation of civilians by some soldiers along Port-Harcourt-Enugu Expressway. This had earned him support from the people and possible endorsement. Recently, at the Obiora (New Yam Festival) ceremony in his hometown, Obosi, an event graced by a large crowd of his kinsmen, supporters, volunteers and party members from other parts of the state, Chidoka was openly endorsed for his courage and what supporters called unequalled passion for the Igbo race.

Addressing the ceremony, the UPP candidate also unveiled his plans to bring governance nearer to the people and ease their cost of accessing government services, by creating Government Contact Centers in all the 171 communities across the state. He stated that the contact centers would guarantee an immediate 1,710 graduate jobs by engaging at least 10 graduates from each of the communities, Chidoka announced another immediate jobs opening through a special Simultaneous Rapid Development Scheme (SRDS) for accelerated development of all communities across the state. The scheme will ensure that no community is left behind, while providing employment opportunities across the state.