The stakes are high in today’s governorship election, because it is a dress rehearsal for the 2019 general elections. Though incumbent Governor Willie Obiano stands a chance of winning the contest, it remains an open contest that can be won by both the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Tony Nwoye, and that of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Oseloka Obaze. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI, who has been following the campaigns, report. How the main
ANAMBRA State has been agog with political activities in the last couple of weeks. Governor Willie Obiano is believed to be facing a tough reelection battle. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) flag bearer is faced with a stiff competition from the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic (PDP), Dr. Tony Nwoye and Mr. Oseloka Obaze respectively. In this contest, Obiano is fighting not just for his second term mandate, but also for the survival of APGA as a viable political platform. He is the only governor on the platform of the party, following the exit of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. One interesting aspect of today’s governorship election is that it is a dress rehearsal for the 2019 general elections. As a result, the outcome of the contest may be an indicator of the standing of the parties ahead of the general election.
In all, 37 political parties are fielding candidates for the election. But, based on the way they campaigned, the election is likely to be a threehorse race. Only three parties are in serious contention for the plum job, namely the ruling APGA, the APC and the PDP. The two other parties that campaigned vigorously for the election are the United Progressive Party (UPP) and the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA), which are fielding former Minister of Aviation Chief Osita Chidoka and philanthropist Chief Godwin Ezeemo, respectively. Unlike the three major parties, Chidoka and Ezeemo’s aspirations will be hampered by the fact that they are contesting on platforms that do not have structures all over the state. Based on campaign, the other 32 parties are in the race just to make up the numbers; they were not able to organise rallies like the five frontrunners to interact with the electorate. As a result, the various bodies organising debates for contestants only invited those believed to be in serious contention for the seat. Who is likely to win today’s election from among the five foremost contenders? Obiano One of the factors in favour of Governor Obiano is the zoning arrangement. In the spirit of the zoning arrangement, the two other major parties – the APC and the PDP — picked their candidates from Anambra North, which is favoured to occupy the governorship seat in the next four years.
But the odds favour Obiano who is entitled to one more term of four years before vacating the seat for the next governor. Although both Nwoye and Obaze, who are from Anambra North like the incumbent, have signed an undertaking pledging to do only one term to complete the eight years allotted to the zone, indications are that, all things being equal, voters from Anambra South would be more favourably disposed to back Obiano as a matter of expediency. Observers say the political titans from the zone are more comfortable with Obiano, because his continuation would provide the shortest route for the zone to grab power. What this means is that votes from Anambra North are likely to be shared by the three candidates from the zone, while Anambra Central will be a major battleground. Another factor in Obiano’s favour is incumbency. Not surprisingly, he exploited it by trying to muzzle the opposition during the electioneering campaign period. For instance, his billboards and posters were the most visible on major roads in the state. One can hardly find billboards and posters of the other candidates on such roads. Opponents have accused the party of destroying their billboards and posters.
In terms of performance, Obiano may not have earned a distinction, but he exploited the fact that he is in power by embarking on last-minute developmental projects to garner votes in areas his opponents are expected to have block votes. In his campaign, Obiano tried to whip up the same sentiments that worked for the party in previous elections. One of such sentiments is to position APGA as an Igbo party. Owing to this sentiment, APGA has been winning elections since 2003. Though former Governor Peter Obi and the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s son, Emeka Jnr., have refuted the claims of APGA that the former warlord warned the Igbo not to abandon the party, many of the voters that will troop out to vote for the party may not listen to pleas that the party is not what it claims to be. Besides, the party is well rooted in every nook and cranny of the state. So, it has its own die-hard supporters, who believe he has done well under the circumstance he has found himself. However, Obiano has some hurdles to scale to win the election. His major challenge is the division within the party. Apart from members and former supporters who may back Obi and the PDP candidate, the Agbaso faction of the party may go to any length to thwart the governor’s effort to secure a second term mandate.
The party is basking on the premise that it won the 2003, the 2010 and the 2014 elections with ease and that the status quo has not changed, but that may not be a true reflection of the current state of affairs. For instance, in 2010 and 2014 governorship elections, APGA had a political understanding with the PDP-controlled Federal Government, where they did not field presidential candidate in exchange for the PDP switching off its interest in Anambra State governorship. But, today, that alliance has died a natural death with the fall of PDP at the centre.
Besides, given the recent defection of Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Jnr. to the APC, the Ojukwu factor may not work the way it did in the 2010 and 2014 elections. Nwoye For the APC, winning this governorship will be significant in the sense that the party wants to use it as a launching pad into the South east. With the party consolidating its presence in Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia states, a victory in this governorship election would tilt the balance in its favour in the 2019 general elections, as far as the region is concerned. From what was witnessed during the campaign, Nwoye has proved that he is a dogged fighter and a grassroots mobiliser. Given the mammoth crowd and the number of APC governors that graced the flag off of the Nwoye campaign, as well as the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari during the party’s final campaign on Wednesday, indications are that the APC flag bearer is getting the necessary backing to win the election. His opponents have expressed apprehension that the APC will use ‘federal might’ to enhance Nwoye’s chance of winning. Nwoye who represents Anambra East and West Constituency in the House of Representatives hails from Nsugbe, Anambra East Local Government Area. Interestingly, Governor Obiano is from Aguleri, which is in the same Anambra East Local Government. Nwoye has the backing of Prince Arthur Eze, an oil magnate and one of the strongest men in Anambra politics. The APC flag bearer contested the last governorship election on the platform of the PDP and he emerged the first runner up behind Obiano, in spite of attempts by the leaders of the party to frustrate his candidacy.
Observers believe that he may perform better at today’s election. Although, there had been a feeling of APC being anti-Igbo, but President Buhari’s visit to Ebonyi and Anambra states a few days ago may have altered that sentiment in favour of the party in the South East in general and Anambra in particular. The president’s visit was thus regarded as a masterstroke. From the reactions of the Igbo leaders, who even honoured the president with chieftaincy titles, the anti-Igbo tag with which he (president) had been labelled may have been consigned to the past. This may work for Nwoye as more of Igbo leaders are eager to embrace mainstream politics. Obaze One candidate who is leveraging on the governor’s flaws to enhance his own prominence is Obaze, who was a senior United Nations official before serving as Secretary to the Anambra State Government in both the Peter Obi and Willie Obiano administrations. Besides his philanthropic nature, which has endeared him to many voters, one of his strengths is the support he is receiving from former Governor Obi, who appears to be the arrowhead of his campaign. Obi has been rigorously campaigning for Obaze in some of the big markets in Anambra State. Obi’s influence is said to be a strong force the other parties have to contend with, because he remains one of the most respected former governors of the state.
Obi had said during one of such campaigns: “I am fully in the PDP, and I am determined to campaign vigorously to sell our candidate. This campaign will not be done anyhow; it will be aggressive but without mudslinging. We will all be in the campaign together and we will run it like the PDP has never done before. “We know where we left Anambra State and because Obaze was part of the success story and was instrumental to attracting most of the international donor agencies by using his contacts as a diplomat. He will be in a better place to continue from where we stopped. I am optimistic that if he becomes the next governor, Anambra will be better than it is today.” Obi said his reasons for fighting his successor were informed by the vow he made to the people in 2013. His words: “In 2013, I took Obiano around Anambra State, to the markets, to every part of the state and the people kept asking me if I was sure of him as they did not know him, but that they would vote him because of me. I told them I would be the one to lead a campaign against Obiano if he did not perform well in his first term. Today, can anyone show me what the governor has done within his first term? He has nothing to show for it.”
But Obaze is widely regarded as a political neophyte; he is said to be relying on Obi and his younger brother, Dubem, to clinch the governorship seat. Besides, the division within the PDP is a big drawback. Since the ouster of Ngige in 2006, the PDP has not been able to get its act together to become strong enough to win the governorship contest in Anambra State. Even now, party stalwarts like Ifeanyi Ubah, Senator Stella Oduah and John Emeka, all former governorship aspirants, have distanced themselves from Obaze’s campaign, and may inevitably work against him. Chidoka Chidoka, the flag bearer of the United Progressives Party (UPP) dumped the PDP after the Appeal Court had affirmed the leadership of former acting National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff. His aides say he had to make the move because he was not sure of what the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment would be. Chidoka’s strongest advantage lies on the fact that he is fresh and young.
Security vehicles at the road leading to INEC State Headquarters for today’s Anambra State Governorship election in Awka
His achievements and revolutionary ideas he brought to the FRSC and Federal Ministry of Aviation are his selling points. He had engaged in a media war with Governor Obiano’s government’s proposal to spend $2 billion to build an airport. Chidoka is in the good books of the elite and the moneybags in the state. But he may only have a slim chance of winning today’s election. He is from Anambra Central, which has just finished 10 years and nine months in power with Ngige and Obi in charge. Besides, he is running on a platform that does not have structures across the state. The other factor is that he appears to have a lean budget. Ezeemo Ezeemo left the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) because of the disagreement he had with Senator Ngige over the governorship ticket of the party prior to the 2013 governorship election. Subsequently, he joined the PPA to pursue his ambition. In the last governorship election, he came fourth. Ezeemo has strengthened the PPA since he joined the party. He is widely perceived as a gentleman with milk of kindness. Ezeemo has the wherewithal to prosecute his governorship ambition. Another factor in his favour is that people see him as a good material for the position. But he does not stand any chance of winning today’s election because of his weak platform. Besides, Ezeemo, who is from Anambra South, is not favoured by the zoning arrangement. He is from Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area.