Anambra 2017: Not a three-horse race
Going by what transpired in the state last week, nobody could adjudge the forthcoming Anambra State governorship poll as a three-horse race by any means or yardstick. Initially, the appearance of three candidates on the platforms of three major political parties from Anambra north senatorial district of the state gave the impression that only they could make it on November 18, 2017.
But, as the electioneering gets underway, it has become obvious that the last has not been heard about zoning as the ultimate basis of deciding the crucial election. With the incumbent, Willie Obiano, Hon. Tony Nwoye and Oseloka Obaze, standing on the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); general perception was that zoning has receive the blessing of all.
As usual, and in what appears to mirror a possible replay of 2003 scenario, which unwittingly threw up Peter Obi from Anambra Central senatorial district, the candidates from Anambra north seem to be working at cancelling themselves out.
Two formidable candidates from Anambra central that look good to harvest from such electoral damage are Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo of Action Democratic Party (ADP) and former Aviation minister, Osita Chidoka of United Progressive Party (UPP).
And to compound the woes of the candidates from the north, including the incumbent, Nze Valentine Ugo-Ape Onwuka secured the ticket of Democratic Alternative (DA) through the substitution window. Onwuka, who hails from Ogbunike, Oyi local government council of Anambra north senatorial district, had earlier lost out in Alliance of Democracy (AD), which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said failed to submit its candidate within the stipulated time.
Onwuka confessed that some interests from the state decided to work against his emergence. Governor Willie Obiano’s wife, Ebele, is from the same town as Onwuka. And the calculation of Obiano’s foot soldiers was that having such a young man from the zone on the ballot would help to split the votes of the incumbent further.
Onwuka, who inherited the traditional title of Oyi of Oyi11, as the late former President of Senate, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo; is said to be a visible face within the Biafra restoration circles. The DA governorship candidate has therefore swollen the number of contenders from Anambra north to four.
Stiff Challenge From Central, South
Having won the zoning war, prevailing circumstances on the electoral environment suggest that unless care is taken, Anambra north might lose the ultimate battle. In a governorship debate organised by the Inter-party Advisory Committee (IPAC), many in the audience were taken in by the brilliance and innovative ideas of the ADP candidate, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, who challenged voters to erase the status quo of political corruption in the state.
Okonkwo alleged that money-bags in the state have formed the habit of interfering with the electoral process by deploying illicit funds to impose governors only to turn round to feed on the common patrimony of the state.
While thumbing down the resort to zoning as a cover for enthroning mediocre leaders, Okonkwo declared that the final arbiter in democratic election is the people. Also in his maiden interaction with journalists in Awka, Okonkwo outlined impunity, lawlessness and inept governance as the greatest source of setback to Anambra State. He said the search for the next governor of the state should be on the basis of the wisdom, commonsense and practical ideas as opposed to zoning, gender or age.
Okonkwo said the ADP administration would erase the culture of failed promises by government through accountability as well as give justice to the oppressed by running a transparent government.
On his part, Chidoka, the UPP candidate insists that all the candidates from Anambra north are like left legs, lumping together as “ready-made disappointments like Obiano.” Chidoka tells voters in the state of his plans for “government contact centers,” which he said guarantees immediate 1,710 graduate jobs, in addition to “Simultaneous Rapid Development Scheme (SRDS) for continuous accelerated development of communities which also guarantees over 3,420 graduate and non-graduate jobs.”
The former Aviation minister explained that his Special Apprenticeship Support Scheme will ensure that all registered apprentices in various fields are supported during training and ultimately granted direct government funding to set up their businesses once they complete their apprenticeships, thereby directly empowering thousands of Anambra youths. “This is in addition to provision of strategic infrastructure and required security to stimulate a 24-hour economy, which will not only boost productivity but also double existing jobs and businesses around industries,” he declared.
Priding himself as the only candidate “running on the ticket of the pan-Igbo UPP,” Chidoka said UPP “is one political platform through which Igbo can achieve their aspirations as a people.”
But, seemingly worried by the resurgent acceptability of PDP and its candidate, Obaze, UPP ambushed the party after it flagged off its campaigns at the All Saints Cathedral, Onitsha; describing the event as tawdry.
In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Ogbuehi Dike, UPP descended on PDP and its flagbearer, Obaze, saying that “it is indeed a tragedy of epic proportions that a party like the PDP and its candidate, Chief Oseloka Obaze, at a major campaign for a governorship election in a state like Anambra could not articulate direct policy ideas, plans and programmes for the state.”
“The truth is that the PDP has a lot in common with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), whose outgoing Governor Willie Obiano, had also woefully failed in articulating and implementing basic ideas, plans and programmes to move the state forward,” UPP stated.
DESPITE the fact of unremitting bashing and challenges from candidates from other zones, the three main candidates from Anambra north, are not sparing attacks on themselves. However, while Obaze of PDP restrains himself and his campaign organisation from hauling insults on the person of the incumbent, the APC candidate, Hon. Tony Nwoye, does not choose clean words to deprecate Obiano.
Recently, the Nwoye campaign organisation itemized forty reasons why Obiano should not be re-elected, including, failed promises, notably abandoning inherited projects despite his assurances on Continue, Complete and Commence new projects; waste, squandermania, poor infrastructure development and lack of accountability.
Nwoye’s campaign accused the incumbent of being vindictive and pursuing politics of vendetta, stressing that while the governor allowed PDP dissidents to use government facilities to hold rallies same day that the PDP was flagging off its governorship campaign in the state, he locked up one Ikechukwu Onyia for refusing to join his campaign team.
But, within the fold of the ruling APGA and Obiano’s circles, Nwoye is seen as a spoiler whose pedigree and platform reeks of public abjuration among Anambra people. Although Governor Obiano has continued to work in cahoots with some elements within the APC to strike a bargain for electoral cooperation, the division between Nwoye’s Nsugbe community and Obiano’s neighbouring Aguleri is huge.
Then within the fold of the former United Nation’s staff and Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Obaze, political jobbers that had held PDP down over the years have continued to wage a battle of distraction. On the day that PDP was flagging of its governorship campaign, two estranged groups organised rallies in Awka, where Obiano was subtly endorsed for a second term.
While the supporters of self-acclaimed political godfather, Chris Uba, and the faction that sided with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, identified with Obiano, the faction led by suspended former state chairman of the party, Prince Ken Emeakayi, is dangling between. Less than 36 hours after he led the Grassroot Movement to organise a rally against electoral violence, Emeakayi was sighted in the Enugu residence of APC financier, Prince Arthur Eze, where sources said he was asked to name his price to switch support from Obiano.
But recalling what transpired between him and Nwoye in 2013 when Nwoye was PDP governorship flag bearer, Emeakayi was said to have told the oil magnate that he was not disposed to campaigning for Tony Nwoye. Associates of Emeakayi disclosed that his Grassroots Movement event at Ekwueme Square, Awka was targeted at Obaze and Nwoye.
He added that the government agreed to dole out funds for the rally to announce to Nigerians that the PDP candidate lacked popular support, while stressing the factions with the party.
PDP has however moved to contain the efforts of its disgruntled former faithful. One of the defeated governorship aspirants, Zeribe Ezeanuna, called on his former colleagues to close ranks with Obaze so as to assist PDP reclaim its pride of place in Anambra State, stressing that after all, only one person could have emerged from the primary election.
The defeated aspirant noted that PDP is the only party with capacity to build necessary structures to effectively upstage the incumbent governor, pointing out that “APC is a spoiler; as such a vote for APC is a vote for APGA.”
Also in a statement Secretary of PDP Caretaker Committee, Iyom Josephine Anenih, noted with dismay “the subterranean moves to balkanize Anambra PDP and scuttle the November 18 governorship.”
Anenih decried “efforts of some disgruntled elements within the ranks of the party in the state to cause a breach of the peace within the party,” pointing out that the nefarious moves were being championed by those bent on crating parallel bodies that will stand as a counter to the constituted Caretaker Committee and further “seek a partnership with opponents of PDP to scuttle our brightest chances ever.”
How The Race Stands
WHEN the votes in Anambra north get divided among the candidates, the proceeds from Anambra central, where former Governor Peter Obi, is still hailed as a champion would come handy as the kingmakers. Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, is also from there with his shrinking public appeal.
However, on personal capacity and as the October 24, 2017 date for the much expected governorship debate draws nearer, in terms of messaging and contest of ideas, PDP’s Obaze, and ADP’s Okonkwo are the two candidates to watch. Also, Chidoka has succeeded in gaining attention, but the perception among most voters is that he is not running to win. Whatever that means, it remains to be seen whether voters will base their choice on cash or content and character of candidates.
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