As the final count down to the November 18 Anambra state governorship poll is less than one month away OKECHUKWU OBETA in this report examines the strength of political parties which stand the chance of emerging the winner of the election.
Although there are a total of 37 political parties the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cleared to contest the forthcoming November 18 Anambra state governorship poll, close political watchers strongly believe that only three of the political parties have the chance of emerging the winner of the election.
The three parties and their candidates are: the ruling Alł Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in the state which has the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano as its candidate, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) whose flag-bearer is a former United Nations diplomat and Secretary to the state government (SSG), Mr. Oseloka Henry Obaze and the federal government-controlled All Progressives Congress (APC) which parades a former President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and current member of the Federal House of Representatives, Dr. Tony Nwoye as its standard- bearer.
Interestingly, there are still two other political parties that have the capacity to make remarkable impacts in the governorship poll, even though political analysts are strongly convinced that none of them possesses such strength that can place any of them the ultimate winner of the poll. The two political parties and their respective candidacies are : Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) which candidate is Mr. Godwin Ezeemo and the United Progressives Party (UPP) whose candidate is a former Aviation Minister and Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Chief Osita Chidioka.
Though these two parties, do not have the muscles that can sway the victory in their favour, their performances at the election will certainly impact either negatively or positively on the frontline three political parties.
Expectedly, the three political parties – APGA, PDP and APC – which are rated as having the chances of coming top in the governorship election have their respective strengths and weaknesses in each of the three senatorial zones based on various political considerations which will influence how the electorate in those areas will cast their vote.
Interestingly too, the candidates of the three frontline parties are chosen from the North senatorial zone in obedience to the zoning arrangement popularly adopted ahead of the party primaries which favoured the North senatorial zone to retain the governorship seat so as to enable the area enjoy the position for an uninterrupted two tenures of cumulative eight year period. The incumbent Governor Obiano hails from the North senatorial zone. While the Governor is a native of Aguleri community in Anambra-East local government area, the APC candidate, Dr. Nwoye hails from the neighboring Nsugbe town in the same local government area. In similar manner, the PDP flag-bearer, Mr. Obaze hails from Ochuche community in Ogbaru local government area in the same North senatorial zone.
Meanwhile, both the PPA and UPP chose their candidates, without regard to the zoning arrangement. While the candidate, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo hails from Umuchu in Aguata local government area, South senatorial zone, his UPP counterpart, Chief Osita Chidioka is a native of Obosi in Idemili-North local government area, Central senatorial zone. The immediate past Governor Peter Obi and his predecessor, incumbent Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Nwabueze Ngige are from the Central senatorial zone. While Obi served for two tenures of cumulative eight years period, Ngige occupied the Governorship seat for 33 months before Obi took over from him following the judgement of Court which declare him the rightful winner of the governorship election under which platform Ngige enjoyed the seat for 33 months.
Going by the zoning arrangement, the governorship slot is expected to move to the South senatorial zone after four-year tenure of whoever wins the coming governorship poll from the North senatorial zone because by then the area would have occupied the seat for an interrupted eight years.
Though Ezeemo and Chidioka are strongly opposed to the zoning arrangement, analysts strongly believe that it is one of the major factors that may impact negatively on their outing in the election, besides other major considerations, which include that they might not have as much political followership and financial war-chest as the other contestants.
The chances of any of the frontline political parties candidates emerging victorious largely depend of their comparative strength and weaknesses in the three senatorial districts. Political watchers strongly believe that the PDP stands as the party to beat in all the senatorial zones. However the split within its ranks remains a major concern going into the polls.
Each of the three senatorial zones have equal number of local government area – seven each. The state has a total of 21 local government areas.
The UPP candidate, Chief Osita Chidioka hails from this zone. He is a native of Obosi in Idemili-North local government area. His strongest strength in the election lies within the Idemili axis comprised of two local governments: Idemili-North and Idemili-South local governments. He will beat every other candidate in these two areas. Because of Ngige’s influence, who hails from Alor in neighboring Idemili- South, APC’s Tony Nwoye is likely to place second after Chidioka. The only area APC has chances of placing top in this senatorial zone is Dunukofia local government area because of the influence of the renowned philanthropist and oil guru, Prince Arthur Eze, who hail from the area, in Ukpo precisely. He is Nwoye’s financier. PDP’s Obaze is likely to place second in the area. Analysts however predict that the PDP is likely to finish tops in the remaining four local government areas : Anaocha, Awka- North, Awka-South and Njikoka. Former Governor Obi’s influence in Anaocha observers say will eclipse that of the former national chairman of APGA’ Chief Victor Umeh in the area. Obi hails from Agulu while Umeh is from neighboring Aguluzoigbo – both towns are in the same Anaocha local government. And Umeh heads Obiano’s re-election campaign committee. Njikoka local government will vote PDP because of the combined influence of Obi and Senator Uche Ekwunife. Awka-south will vote for PDP because of influence of the national secretary of the party, Chief Ben Obi and the combined influence of other political heavyweights in the area, including Chiefs Ndubuisi Nwobu, Emma Nweke, among others.
Incumbent Governor, Obiano has the chance of placing second in the zone largely because of his beautification of Awka. But the people of Awka-North local government according to sources will cast protest vote against him because they accuse him of abandoning critical projects in the area he inherited from former administration, under Peter Obi.
Both the incumbent Governor Obiano and APC’s Tony Nwoye hail from this area. While Obiano is from Aguleri, Nwoye is a native of the neighboring Nsugbe community; the two towns are in Anambra-East local government area. Political watcher are of the strong view that the only area the Governor is sure of strong support in his local government is his Aguleri. Other communities with the local government accuse him of favoring his Aguleri people. In fact, it was gathered that he was petted with pure water sachets recently at Nsugbe when he lead his campaign team to the area. The Igbariam community are angry with him that he denied them their turn to produce a member of the state House of Assembly by favouring the incumbent member from Nando community with a second term contrary to the existing rotational arrangement for the seat in among the five communities: Aguleri, Umueri, Nsugbe, Nando and Igbariam.
It is however believed that the Governor will sweep the poll in Ayamelum and Oyi local government area. But observers say that his PDP counterpart, Mr. Obaze will certainly eclipse the governor and the APC candidate, Nwoye in the other three local governments: Onitsha- North. Onitsha- South and Ogbaru during the election. It is however, not very clear who among the trio will command the highest votes in Anambra-west local government. Close watchers are of the strong view that nemesis in Onitsha-North, Onitsha-South and Ogbaru stems from the anger of the traders over heavyweight of taxation they are suffering under the administration. Traders constitute majority of the voting populace due to the large concentration of markets in the three local governments. Though it is believed that Governor Obiano enjoys the support of the incumbent senator representing Anambra North senatorial district in the National Assembly, Senator Stella Oduah who incidentally hails from the same Ogbaru local government area with Obaze, watchers however believe that the people of the area will not abandon their own because of Oduah. A source in the area told LEADERSHIP Sunday “We know that Oduah is only opposing Obaze because she is afraid that if Obaze because Governor she will not have the chance of returning to senate in the 2019. But we cannot leave Governor to pursue for senate, because to have a Governor is better having a senator”.
This zone is the beautiful bride for all the governorship contestants. The governorship slot is expected to move to this area in 2022 when the tenure of whoever emerges winner in the November 18 from the North senatorial zone would have served out his tenure.
Though Obaze and Nwoye would be entitled constitutionally to seek re-election in 2022 if any of them emerges victorious in the forthcoming November poll, each of them has however signed a covenant that they will respect the zoning arrangement. They have therefore vowed that they would serve only one tenure if elected.
In fact, Obaze insists that the only reason he joined the contest was to rescue the state from “bad governance” the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano who, incidentally hails from the same North senatorial zone with him had plunged the state into. Obaze promised that his administration would prove to the people of the state that people from the North can offer good governance. He stated that if Governor Obiano had done well, he would not have been contesting against him. The APC candidate, Tony Nwoye shares Obaze’s view. Nwoye accused
Obiano of running the state down, and said that he was only offering himself in order to wipe the people of their North Senatorial zone of the shame Obiano brought on the area.
He accused the Governor of not only running a nepotistic administration but also of squandering the state’s financial weałth. He promised that he would serve only one term if elected and thereafter support someone from the South senatorial zone to replace him.
On his own part, to prove to the people of the South Senatorial zone that he is committed to ensuring that his successor comes from the area, Obiano had already given the green light that his successor would be the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN), Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo. The latter is from Isuofia, Aguata local government area in the South senatorial zone. Governor Obiano retained his deputy, Dr. Niemeyer Okeke who hails from Enugwu-Ukwu in Njikoka local government area in the Central senatorial zone.
Though both Obaze and Nwoye chose their running-mates, from the South Senatorial zone, they have not expressly, however stated that their running-mates would be their successors. A source within Obaze camp said that if Obaze eventually wins he would allow the people of the South senatorial zone to determine who they would want to succeed him. While Obaze chose the first daughter of the second Republic Vice-president Alex Ekwueme, a former Presidential Aide, Barr. Mrs Chidi Alexandra Onyemelukwe as his running-mate, his APC counterpart, Nwoye selected son of a former President of the apex-Igbo sociology-cultural Organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, Mr. Dozie Ikedife Junior as his own running-mate.
Most political gladiators from the the zone do not appear to trust Obaze and Nwoye. They seem to be more comfortable having the incumbent finish his second term since constitutionally he is barred thereafter from re- contesting. Most political opponents of Obaze and Nwoye have been up in arms trying to convince the electorate and the powers-that-be in the South senatorial zone and supporters of the zoning arrangement that it would be a high political risk to allow either Obaze or Nwoye clinch the governorship seat. They insists that the duo might not honour the agreement; that they would insist on seeking re-election. This is perhaps why such power brokers like the duo of oil guru, Dr. A. B. C. Ojiako and multi-millionaire philanthropist, Chief Ernest Obiejesi, popular known as Obijackson, (both from Ihiala local government) are solidly behind Governor Obiano’s re-election. Analysts therefore strongly believe that Obiano will come top in Ihiala. He will also rake in substantial votes in Nnewi- North local government despite the fact that the running- mate of the APC’s candidate, Dozie Ikedife Junior is native of Nnewi and his PDP counterpart, daughters of former Vice- president Alex Ekwueme, Mrs Chidi Onyemelukwe is married to the area too. Governor Obiano’s chances of making great impact in the area is buoyed by the influence of the the proprietor of Capital oil and Gas, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah and former Deputy- Governor Virgy Etiaba and wife of late Igbo leader, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu who are supporting his re- election. Obiano is also said to be enjoying the support of Prince Nicolas Ukachukwu of Osumenyi in Nnewi- south local government. However, some of Ukachukwu’s loyalists like the former director-general of his (Ukachukwu’s) Governorship Campaign Organization, Chief Fab Ozigbo who is a key member of Obaze’s Governorship campaign committee.
Though it is not yet clear which of the contestants the erstwhile leader of PDP in the state, Chief Chris Uba and his elder brother Senator Andy Uba are rooting for, their loyalists are largely supporting the PDP candidate. These include the factional state chairman of the PDP loyal to Chris Uba, Chief Ejike Oguebego and Chief Tim Egboka. Analysts however predict that because Uba would certainly not be happy to lose the soul of the PDP to former Governor Obi as would be the case if the party eventually wins, he would prefer that Obiano retains power instead of PDP. It is however ruled out that either Chris or his elder brother, senator Uba will work for Nwoye’s victory. Close watchers, however say that Senator Uba is more likely to work for the PDP than support Nwoye who defeated him in the APC primary. Furthermore he is not a known admirer of the incumbent governor, Chief Obiano.
In fact, most analysts are of the view that the South senatorial zone promises to be a titanic political battle field for Obiano and Obaze. While it is strongly believed that Governor Obiano will outshine the PDP the South senatorial zone if the influence of political gladiators eventually determined the direction the electorate cast their, the it is however believed that the PDP will sweep the poll if the the people decide to vote based on the governors’ performance record in the zone. Most of the ordinary person in the area are unhappy over the poor performance record of the administration in the entire senatorial zone sources in the area say.
Interestingly, analysts predict that the outcome of governorship election in the state will largely be based on the votes cast and not a product of rigging because all the major political parties have equal capacity to checkmate each other’s ability to rig in the election.
While the incumbent governor’s greatest advantage working in his favour is the incumbency factor, the performance record of his administration is the major advantage the PDP candidate is cashing in on to wrestle the Governorship seat from him.
Also, playing in favour of the Governor against the PDP and her candidate is the ill-feeling by the older PDP members that former Governor Obi who joined the party from APGA has suddenly wrestled the soul of the PDP from them. They believe that Obaze who served as the SSG under Obi administration emerging as the party candidate through the instrumentality of former Governor Obi means that they would place them on the second fiddle position in the party if Obaze eventually become Governor. This is perhaps the reason why the likes of senator Stella Oduah, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, former factional state chairman of the party, Prince Ken Emeakayi, Senator Annie Okonkwo among other are up in arms against Obaze’s candidacy.
Also, though the APC candidate, Dr. Tony Nwoye is a strong grassroots mobilizer, the odds against his chances of victory in the election largely include, the fact that the people largely perceive his political party as not having the interest of the South East at heart will be a huge burden. The current face- off between the federal government and the Igbo self determination groups, especially the recent encounter between the military and the leader of the Indegenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and the strong feeling of marginalization among the Igbos under the incumbent APC federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari would certainly remain an issue for Nwoye ahead of the governorship contest.