By next year, eligible voters in Anambra State would go to the poll to elect Governor Willie Obiano’s successor.
Although the election is still many months away from now, some political parties especially the major ones among them have started making preparations; strategizing on how to emerge victorious.
In fact, activities at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state in the past one year were as if the election would be held any moment from now.
Prior to this period, the contending issues ahead the governorship were basically zoning and godfatherism. But events in recent times especially against the backdrop of the lockdown and containment measures for the COVID-19 pandemic have altered every consideration and permutation.
Although some aspirants have made distribution of palliatives as part of their engagement with the electorate; findings by Sunday Sun showed that above every other thing, Anambra electorate are now looking for competence, capacity and ability to offer leadership as the determinants of their next governor.
Recall that a professor of philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Rev. Fr. Josephat Obi Oguejiofor, in his recent treatise published in Daily Sun, had dissected why zoning was a huge burden for the state.
The first, according to Oguejiofor, is that zoning was the arrangement of APGA without contribution from other parties: “That is perhaps why, starting from 2013, if zoning was a rule, it was kept only in the breach. Even within APGA, those who sought the party’s gubernatorial ticket in 2013 included Senator Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central), and Prof. Charles Soludo (Anambra South). Contestants from other parties included Dr. Tony Nwoye (Anambra North), Dr. Andy Ubah (Anambra South), Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu (Anambra South), Dr. Obinna Uzor (Anambra South), and Dr. Chris Ngige (Anambra Central). It is, therefore, evident that some present-day proponents of zoning did not subscribe to the principle when it was propagated by APGA for the first time in the 2013 election. Also, most candidates did not think of zoning in the next governorship election in 2017, as leading contestants included Frederick Chidoka (Anambra Central) and Godwin Ezeemo (Anambra South).”
Similarly, an attempt to sell to the people the idea that Anambra Council of Elders has thrown its weight behind zoning the governorship to the Southern part of the state by the Obiano government was swiftly countered by some elders of the state.
Traditional rulers of Anambra North Senatorial zone came out and categorically rejected any contemplation of zoning in next year’s governorship election.
According to them, if zoning was allowed, it would create confusion with far-reaching implications that may negatively affect the growth and development of the state in the long run.
They made their position known, on March 22, after their meeting which held at the palace of the Okalakwu and traditional ruler of Igbariam ancient kingdom, Igwe (Dr) Nkeli Kelly.
Briefing the press, the Okalakwu who doubles as patron of the body, alongside his colleagues on the outcome of their meeting, was emphatic that zoning of the governorship seat was not workable and would be counter-productive to the state.
He described the aspirants/contestants as their subjects, explaining that their role as royal fathers would be advisory and “ours is to monitor and make sure they have a credible election and we will back it up by giving security as the chief security officers of our various communities. So, we are here to tell the world that we are not in support of zoning, period”.
At the moment, those still trading zoning, the Sunday Sun discovered, are a few politicians from Anambra South who believe that zoning would brighten their chances of becoming candidates.
Following the resetting of priorities in considerations for the governorship, a sociocultural group, Igboezue International Association (IIA), has argued that zoning would give room for mediocrity and incompetence in governance.
National Publicity Secretary of the group, Charles Amafo, recently gave insight into the kind of governor Anambra deserves.
“We want somebody who is credible; who has good credentials; who will see that the future of the state is not jeopardized; one who can bring home the dividends of democracy to the grassroots. That is where we stand”, he said.
Meanwhile, some of the names being bandied about as governorship hopefuls in the state are legion. In the PDP include: Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Dr. Oseloka Obaze, Osita Chidoka, Senator Uche Ekwunife, Dr. Godwin Maduka; Mr Valentine Ozigbo, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, and Chris Azubuogu. In the APC are Senator Andy Uba, Chief Tony Nwoye, Dr. George Moghalu, Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo and Chief John Bosco Onunkwo while Senator Ifeanyi Ubah is of the Young Progressive Party (YPP).
In the main, at party level, the leaderships of the major political parties in the state told Sunday Sun that they have already started mapping out strategies that would count for their successes in the election.
APGA insists on fielding candidate from South
The ruling party in the state has already set political machineries in place. APGA believes that the 2021 governorship election in the state would be a walkover for it. This belief is hinged on a number of factors which the state Chairman, Norbert Obi, outlined.
Obi, in a chat with our correspondent, declared that his party was getting ready for the poll and would be leveraging on the achievements of the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, to woo voters.
He said that his party, APGA, has made significant achievements in many sectors of the economy since it took over the machineries of government in the state years back.
Obi said: “We are getting ready for it not minding the Coronavirus. You know this election is going to take place at the ward levels. We are sensitizing our people at the ward level.”
He reiterated the position of the party in picking the governorship candidate from Anambra South Senatorial zone; insisting that the governorship position should be rotational among the three senatorial zones.
“We are picking our governorship candidate from Anambra South Senatorial zone. North will soon finish its own. After North finishes its own, it’s going to the South. After South; it will go to the Central. After Central, it will go to the North again”, Obi declared.
He enumerated the factors that would work in favour of APGA to include: regular payment of workers’ salaries, retirees’ pensions, and infrastructural developments of the state, among others.
“So, we have enough credentials to go and face the election. We have tangible achievements to present to our people.
“The new government which APGA will form will consolidate on the achievements of the present government. All ongoing projects must be completed and new ones commenced. Then, we will continue paying salaries”, he stated.
National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Oye was the first to announce that the party would be zoning its governorship ticket to Anambra South Senatorial zone.
However, the Uga, Nnewi and Ihiala tendencies in the zone are already affecting the efficacy of this arrangement, particularly, outside APGA. The party’s internal crisis caused by the circumstance of the emergence of its national leadership is another burden of the party and its aspirants.
With pending suits in various courts; going into the 2021 governorship, APGA must resolve the issues once and for all; else, the ghost would continue to lurk around.
Our ultimate goal is to reclaim Anambra –PDP
The leadership of the PDP has been very clear that its ultimate goal is to win the Anambra governorship, irrespective of where the party’s standard bearer hails from.
National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Chief Austin Umahi has for the umpteenth time said that the party would give equal playing ground to all aspirants.
Umahi said after the party’s recent zonal meeting in Enugu: “We are going for the best candidate, irrespective of where he comes from; if he likes, let him come from anywhere and let his brother act as the deputy, the most important thing is that PDP wants to reclaim Anambra State because the state is very cardinal to the Southeast. There’s no way South East Governors Forum would meet as PDP and Anambra State would be lacking. So, the onus lies on us that we get Anambra back on the stream for the PDP.”
For the state Chairman, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, APGA and its leadership in the state are living on false hope. With unwavering confidence, Nwobu made it clear that the days of APGA in the state are numbered.
He said that his party, the PDP, has laid out grand plans with which it would execute the next year’s poll and come out victorious. Although these strategies were still being perfected, adding that the party was still preparing, they would help it to win governorship poll.
Going forward, Nwobu said that the PDP has an edge over APGA because, according to him, Governor Obiano has failed the people of the state in many ways.
“We believe that we have an edge because the present governor has shown that they have nothing to offer. It has been a wasted time and Anambra people yearn for good governance. We believe that the PDP government will change the narrative and govern the state well.
“We will entrench transparency in governance, constant consultation with the citizenry. You don’t make policy for the people without allowing them to make input. The PDP government will allow the people to make input in the policy being prepared for them.
“We will create infrastructural development and then support our people to grow business-wise. We will create the enabling environment that supports business growth and developments”, Nwobu said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected a lot of things, he was hopeful that before the election period would approach, the global scourge would have been put under control.
Like Nwobu, Okwenna also said that the soul of APGA has since left the party. He said: “Forget the incumbency factor. APGA has no incumbency factor in Anambra State. That election for governorship is for the PDP to lose. If we do our primaries right in PDP and the best man for the job is allowed to take the job to contest that election, it is going to be a landslide victory; I assure you that. No matter who APGA brings, people have lost hope in APGA. People have lost hope in the government of the day and Anambra is not swayed by partisan interest. What Anambra needs is government that will take them to where they are supposed to be. And you know that when Anambra is right, Southeast is right. If we don’t get it right in Anambra, we would continue to play with Ndigbo.”
APC is party to beat-State Chairman, Ejidike
Despite that the APC has remained a hard sell in the Southeast; Chairman of the party in Anambra, Chief Basil Ejidike has said that the party has the materials; human resources and political will to win the 2021 governorship election in the state.
He said that the party leadership has learnt its lessons from the outcome of the previous elections and cannot leave any stone unturned in the forthcoming governorship election.
He added that the party would garner overwhelming votes to win the election due to its general acceptance in the state.
He said: “You will agree with me that even the last governorship election in the state that APC did not lose entirely. We constituted a fact finding /review committee immediately after the election to help us find out where we went wrong in that election and then report has been since submitted, we have gone through the report. We want to unite the party members and stakeholders because we have all it takes to win any election in the state.
“We have now known where we got the whole thing wrong. Primarily, the cause was disunity among the various stakeholders in APC and you are aware that a divided house cannot stand. So, disunity amongst the major stakeholders in APC in the state was the main reason APC lost the last governorship election. We are now taking our time to see how we bridge that gap, we have gone into many discussions and that was one of the reasons the Vice President visited the state last year and since after the visit, a lot of water has been passing under the bridge. The stakeholders are now coming together to chart a new course for the party.
“We are mobilizing seriously for the party. If I tell you the number of people that are itching to join APC in the state you will not believe it. You are aware that Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo has joined the party and he is contesting for governorship. We are also discussing with some members of APGA in Ihiala led by a former local government area caretaker committee and very soon they will join our party. Also, immediately after this pandemic, we are going to schedule a forum where all the members of UPP formerly led by Chief Chekwas Okorie who founded the party; will be welcomed into the APC in the state.
“We’re also expecting three members of APGA and two members of PDP in the National Assembly who will be defecting to APC between now and at the end of the year, there will be a lot of defections from other parties to APC. We are prepared for the election because we can no longer afford to continue to be in opposition in Anambra State.”
Ejidike stated that an APC governor in Anambra State would be a major boost to an Igbo securing the party’s presidential ticket for 2023, even as he boasted that APGA and PDP were no match for the party in the Anambra 2021.
“They need to put their houses in order. The PDP you know have court cases here and there on the issue of leadership. And the same thing applies to APGA, if not that the governor has been trying to do a lot of cover up, the entire thing will soon be blown out of proportion,” he said.
On zoning, Ejidike said that the party for now will leave the contest open for every interested aspirant.
“For now it’s an open contest, but by early next year, we are going to have meeting of major stakeholders where the leaders of the party will decide on the way forward in that direction.
“We are looking at somebody who understands the terrain, somebody who is man of the people, somebody the Anambraians can trust and also somebody Anambraians can access. You know that accessibility is very, very important not a situation where somebody becomes governor today and becomes inaccessible; somebody who is on ground who has done tangible things in the state.”