One of the major events that will shape 2021 in Nigeria is the governorship election in Anambra State, writes David-Chyddy Eleke, who looks at some of the efforts of major political parties in the state to wrest power from the ruling APGA
On January 20, 2021, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the date for the Anambra governorship election. It is holding November 6, 2021.
The announcement has since sent a wave of frenzy among people of the state especially, the political class, and most importantly, aspirants of various political parties to the position of the governor.
The early release of the date has also been commended by some of the aspirants, while most have gone into secret political meetings for alignment and realignment.
Though several political parties are expected to sponsor candidates to the governorship seat, what is most basic is that only four political parties have existence in the state, with two being the most dominant.
The four political parties that have strong reckoning in the state include the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the new kid on the block; Young Progressives Party (YPP), which is singlehandedly sustained in the state by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.
Of the four, however, the APGA and the PDP have proven to be the most dominant.
As Anambra makes to elect a new governor this November, the ruling party, APGA will be playing the role of a defending champion, leaving the other parties tackling her to take over the state.
Already, the PDP and the APC have begun plans to wrest power from APGA, but so far, APGA is sitting pretty, banking on its usual acceptability among the people of the state.
A little over two weeks ago, the PDP held a South-east stakeholders meeting to deliberate on how it could take back Anambra, which it believes is a predominantly PDP state, but mistakenly fell in the hands of APGA.
The meeting was presided over by the zonal chairman of the party, Chief Ali Odefa, who vowed that South-east zone remains the strong hold of the PDP, and that his headship of the zone would return it to the PDP, beginning from Anambra State.
As part of the plan to take back the state, Odefa stated that a lot of strategies had been mapped out by the PDP, including ensuring a free and fair primary election to elect the standard bearer of the party for the election.
He ordered all its members in the state, who still have matters pending in court against the party or its members to immediately withdraw them, so the party under him could start on a fresh slate. He said the aim was to ensure that the party went into the forthcoming 2021 governorship election as a united house, devoid of any division.
“We are calling on all of you here and the ones that are not here to go and withdraw all pending cases in court and let’s come home and resolve whatever difference we have. We may not all agree with ourselves, but because of the interest of the party, we must ensure that we work together.
“I am happy with the level of maturity among the contestants. We will bring people to learn from what you are doing here. Save for misunderstanding, no state is more PDP than Anambra. A pioneer founder is from here, and I know that PDP will get to the government house again.
“If we work hard, we will be in the government house next year. I am very confident about this. It is simple. We want to bring transparency in the primary election processes. The process must be free and fair. We know that if the process is transparent, contestants will not work against the party during the election. If you give money to anyone, in Abuja or Aso Rock to influence the primary election for yourself, it is dash.
“Everyone of you (aspirants) is fit and capable of governing Anambra. I know Anambra well; I have conducted elections here, and most of you are my friends, but for now, I renounce my friendship with you. I get a lot of messages from you (aspirants), but let me tell you that the delegates will help you more than I will.”
This seems to be a new start for the party, because before now, part of the problems that have dogged the party is that money bags usually dump the party leadership and members in the state to thoroughly grease the palms of the party leadership at the top, who also unilaterally issues them the party’s ticket, causing bad blood and disaffection among aspirants that are not favoured. Also speaking on their resolve to make amends for past mistakes, Mr. Peter Obi, a former governor of the state and Vice Presidential candidate of the party in the 2019 presidential election, who is also the leader of the party in the state, dished out fatherly advice that could help the party succeed in the forthcoming election.
He told aspirants, “You must do all to go out and canvass for votes. It is time for you people to quit using little boys to flood the internet with messages and also attending every burial ceremony in town. You are not undertakers. Election is also not won on the internet, but in the field. You all must move to the field and start canvassing support for the party.”
In response to request by the party at the state level for funding, Obi also made massive donation of food and cash to members of the party at the grassroots level as Christmas package, while pledging a monthly donation to the state leadership of the party for the running of the day to day affairs of the party until after the conduct of the election, saying such gesture would give the aspirants the opportunity to save up their own resources to move to the field to canvass for support.
Already, the party parades about 15 governorship aspirants, all of which are exuding confidence that they would clinch the ticket of the party and go ahead to do the party proud by winning the November 6, governorship election.
Some of the aspirants include Harry Oranezi, Ifedi Okwenna, Emeka Azubogu, Valentine Ozigbo and Godwin Maduka. Others are Uche Ekwunife, Obiora Okonkwo, Ike Oligbo, Emeka Etiaba, Godwin Ezeemo, Chuma Nzeribe and Ugochukwu Okeke.
On the other hand, the APC, which previously was not gaining any form of acceptance in the state has also re-strategised, and is already being reckoned with by people of the state. This can be seen in the growing number of membership of the party, and also the number and quality of people seeking to fly the ticket of the party for the next election.
During a special stakeholders meeting of the APC convened by the state leadership of the party, which held in Awka the Anambra State capital, leaders of the party in the state marshaled out various strategies that could help them win power in the state. They also called for the support of the party at the national level to win the 2021 governorship election.
Leaders of the party, who spoke at the meeting called for funding of the party.
Chairman of the party in the state, Hon Basil Ejidike, who delivered a welcome address, harped on the challenges of the party and called for the support of its stakeholders and national leaders.
“A high powered committee of committed elders has been set up to explore avenues of sustaining the party financially. There are no steady source of revenue for the daily activities and sustenance of the party,” he said.
Hon Tony Nwoye, a governorship aspirant of the party in his address called on the leader of the party in the state (Dr Chris Ngige) to reach out to the party at the national level for support if the election must be fully prosecuted.
“This is a special meeting, where we need to tell ourselves the truth. Our leader, Dr. Chris Ngige (Minister of Labour and Employment) must play the role of a leader. He has to reach out to the party at the national for us to get the resources to discharge the election creditably.
“Let us tell ourselves the truth, we had the least votes in Nigeria for the presidential election and we had no Senate, House of Representatives or House of Assembly candidate, who won in 2019 election. If we must grow, we must eschew all the past acrimonies and tell ourselves the truth and chart a course as to how we can win the forthcoming election.”
Paul Chukwuma, the immediate past national auditor of the party and Emma Anosike, a former senator representing Anambra North zone, reiterated calls on Ngige to speak to the national leadership of the party for them to “water the ground well for the party to be able to function in the forthcoming election”.
Anosike, on the other hand, said, “I have never seen a party that is in power at the national level, but when there is election here (Anambra), we are given money from back pocket to prosecute it, but when there is election in other states in other regions of the country, they give money from front pocket. If they do not want us to be a part of the election, they should tell us early enough so we go and rest.”
As a mark of its growing popularity in the state, APC already has some of the best aspirants to the governorship position if weighed from all fronts and every parameter of measurement.
Among them are young, rich, popular and brainy politicians whose ability to perform is not in doubt. They include Ben Etiaba, Dr. Amobi Nwokafor, Hon Azuka Okwuosa, Dr. George Moghalu, Paul Orajiaka, Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo, Johnbosco Onunkwo, Senator Andy Uba, Arc Geoff Onyejekwe and Hon Tony Nwoye.
One of the aspirants, Nwankwo, the Chief Executive Officer of Wichtech Limited, makers of Wichtech roof tiles, who spoke to THISDAY at his country home in Oko, Orumba North Local Government Area said APC would make the next government in the state, and that it was certain.
Though a fresh politician, Nwankwo said his decision to vie for the seat, and to actualize it on the platform of APC were divine. He stated that he was not among the aspirants, who were out of job and needed to get a job by contesting for the governorship of the state. Rather, that he was leaving a business empire he has grown to its peak in seven countries of the world to heed the divine call to grow Anambra State.
In all these, APGA, the defending champion, has remained quiet, both about its aspirants and also on the strategy it intends to deploy to retain the state. The party has just a few aspirants, with former Central Bank Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo leading the pack.
No known stakeholders meeting of the party is known to have held on its strategies, just as its leader, Governor Willie Obiano has remained at the receiving end of criticisms by all other political parties seeking to succeed him.
The least that has been heard of the governor is a recent press release on his behalf by the Anambra State commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba, where the governor cautioned governorship aspirants of other political parties to concentrate on selling their manifestoes to the people, instead of throwing darts at him.
Many believe that the November 2021 governorship election would be among the toughest the state has ever had, just as it would also define the credibility of the electoral umpire and again, that of the president.