How poll outcome will shape Southeast politics for 2019

David Umahi of Ebonyi State.

With the amount of preparations and energy that are going into next Saturday’s governorship poll in Anambra, it is obvious that the ultimate target of the major contenders is the larger picture of the 2019 general elections.

On Saturday, more than two million voters in Anambra will choose their next governor, but the question is ‘who will they choose?’ In this race for the coveted seat at Agu-Awka Government House are 37 candidates of different political parties and their running mates among who are a few contenders and many pretenders.

Barring any unforeseen circumstance, among the top contenders from Anambra North zone, namely the incumbent governor and candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Willie Obiano, Dr. Tony Nwoye of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Oseloka Obaze of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), one of them will be elected on Saturday.

Since last Sunday’s televised governorship debate where the five major contenders, Obiano, Nwoye, Obaze, Osita Chidoka of the United Progressives Party (UPP) and Godwin Ezemo of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) presented their visions and plans for the state, tongues have been wagging over their performances and brilliance in the encounter.

While some believe that the outcome of the debate may influence the election, many are of the opinion that it may have no effect, considering the fact that in the 2015 poll, President Muhammadu Buhari did not participate in the debate, but won the election.

Besides, it is believed that in a country where majority of the people cannot live by their words, what Nigerians, especially politicians do right is more important than what they say right. Nigerians have not questioned or held politicians responsible for their campaign promises. Thus, the outcome of debate may not influence the voters’ choice in the election.

However, one major thing that will influence the election is the APC campaign of reconnecting the Southeast zone to the centre or mainstream politics. Out of the five states in the zone, three namely- Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia are controlled by the PDP, while APC and APGA control Imo and Anambra respectively.

APGA survived in Anambra for eight years under the administration of former governor, Peter Obi mainly because of his sterling performance in office as well as Igbo and Emeka Ojukwu’s sentiments. Most importantly the party survived through a tactical alliance with the PDP-led Federal Government that saw PDP winning National Assembly seats leaving governorship and House of Assembly seats for APGA.

It was the alliance that made APGA not to field presidential candidate in 2011 and 2015 elections during which it declared total support for former President Goodluck Jonathan. Obiano’s victory in 2013 was allegedly made possible by the alliance, which made the PDP under Jonathan to abandon its candidate, Nwoye to support Obiano, hoping that the arrangement would help Jonathan win reelection in 2015. But the arrangement did not produce the expected win for Jonathan and his party, as was the case in 2011. Nwoye has since staged a comeback on the APC platform.

Since the loss of central power by the PDP in 2015, it has not been easy for the party’s governments in the Southeast to operate optimally as usual. Apart from those elected into the National Assembly, majority of party members are relying on their state governments’ patronage to survive.

But there were not enough resources to take care of them and meet up with the government’s obligations. This development, according to findings, has put some of the governors under undue financial pressure, making some of them to commence move to defect to the APC.

Again the protracted leadership crisis that rocked PDP after the 2015 poll and lack of consensus and coherence among the party faithful ahead of the December 9 National Convention is a pointer that all is not well in the party ahead of 2019, unless the party leaders do the needful.

From the body language of some PDP governors in the zone and beyond, who were all absent at the campaign flag-off of Obaze in Anambra, nothing will stop them from defecting to APC before 2019, whether the party wins or loses the Saturday election in Anambra. Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, who played host to Buhari yesterday has continued to openly express his support for the president’s reelection bid without minding whose ox is gored.

The Guardian investigation revealed that Umahi is not alone in this plan as other PDP governors are waiting for the outcome of Anambra election to take their decision openly. It was disclosed that the presidency is already reaching out to Southeast leaders, especially of the PDP stock, for possible alliance in 2019, a political move that a source who is in the know but pleaded anonymity, said is yielding a fruitful result.

According to the source, the recent meeting of the Southeast governors and Ohanaeze leadership coupled with Buhari’s gestures to the zone such as payment of pension to dismissed Biafran Nigerian policemen and order for the ailing former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme to be flown abroad, are parts of the new political rapprochement to the zone ahead of 2019.

It has however not been confirmed whether or not the APC-led government has entered into alliance with Obiano-led APGA government ahead of the poll, considering the fact that Obiano paid Buhari a private visit two months ago. This is because anything is possible in politics and for Nigerian politicians, especially when it has to do with getting political power. If Obiano succeeds in getting the support of the Federal Government, he may carry the day.

But if the APC-led Federal Government decides to throw its full weight behind its candidate, Nwoye, it means that he will have enough resources and other wherewithal to march Obiano in the battle. This will definitely make the race to be so tight and fierce.

Obaze on the other hand, has a strong godfather in the person of Obi, the incumbent’s estranged godfather who will leave no stone unturned to ensure that Obiano loses the election, even if Obaze does not win. Obi will want to prove to the governor and his loyalists that he has more political value than them in the state.

It means therefore that Obiano will be fighting on two major fronts on Saturday-one against his estranged godfather and another against Nwoye, the representative of his federal constituency at the lower chamber of the National Assembly.

Speaking to The Guardian on how the outcome of the election will shape politics of the zone in 2019, an APC chieftain in the state, Mr. Afachukwu Obi said that an APC victory will simply means that the Southeast has reconnected to the centre.

Obi said: “It will also help APC to lure the remaining PDP governors in the zone to APC. Southeast is not good at playing opposition. It is not in our political tradition. We have always been in the mainstream. That is where the politics is played.

“APGA-PDP alliance in the state under Peter Obi didn’t pay the state well. Remember that alliance has limitation, but when you are in the mainstream, you are a major stakeholder and power broker. That is why our party is working hard especially in the grassroots to win the Saturday election. We have good and bright chances of winning the election, if it is not rigged.”

A member of PDP in the state, who pleaded anonymity expressed disappointment over the poor handling of the crisis that trailed the party primaries that led to defection of aggrieved party members like Chief Ifeanyi Ubah and others to APGA.

“The absence of the party bigwigs including the governors, especially that of the southeast region at the campaign flag-off of Obazee was a political minus for our party. It was obvious that the party leadership poorly handled the situation and I am worried it may affect our chances in the election. Obi’s popularity and efforts alone cannot guarantee Obazee’s victory, stop Obiano’s reelection, Nwoye or Chidoka’s victory.”

On how the outcome will shape politics in the zone ahead of 2019, the PDP member said: “Whatever will be the outcome of the election will surely affect the political games in the zone in 2019. For example, if APC wins, it means that before 2019, majority of PDP members will defect to the party especially, if President Buhari seeks reelection. Don’t you see that our PDP governor, Dave Umahi of Ebonyi is already campaigning for Buhari when the latter has not openly declared his ambition?

“If APGA wins, there is a possibility that Obiano may defect to APC before 2019 especially if APC-led government helps him to win. This is politics and nothing is cast in stone.

“The same may happen if PDP wins. This is considering that Obaze did not enjoy the total support of PDP leadership and members. Obi is the pillar behind Obaze but a tree cannot make a forest. Our party members in the zone have not shown solidarity. That is the plain truth.”



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