Anambra 2017 : Gladiators and issues that will shape polls

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In the next few months, the electorate in Anambra State, a state referred to as Light of the Nation, will file out in their numbers to elect the number one citizen of the state who will pilot its affairs for the next four calendar years. Already, political parties have been strategising on how best to outwit each other in order to carry the day.

Among the prominent political parties in the race are the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the ruling party in the state; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); the All Progressives Congress (APC); the Labour Party (LP) and the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA).

In the 2013 governorship election, Chief Willie Obiano, Governor of Anambra State, flew the APGA flag to clinch the plum position, beating Comrade Tony Nwoye, Senator Chris Ngige, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo and Chief Ifeanyi Ubah of the PDP, APC, PPA and LP respectively.

Then, the PDP candidate was sponsored by Anambra-born business magnate, Chief Arthur Eze, with the backing of the federal might, led by then President Goodluck Jonathan, while Senator Ngige rode on his popularity in the state to come second in the election.

The Umuchu-born billionaire and business tycoon, who flew the PPA flag, appeared to have, at the time, taken his first shot in the political contest. Iyom Uche Ekwunife, who contested the PDP primaries, was frustrated, held at the Women Development Centre Awka in what political observers termed computer age election maneuver.

Today, the old brigades are back in the trenches for yet another political power play. Anambra State, unlike any other states in the country, is an unpredictable state when it comes to politics and therefore its politics is for men and not boys. In the lineup for the 2017 race, Chief Willie Obiano’s interest in taking a second shot at the Government House, Awka is highly undisputable. Others are Dr Alex Obiogbolu, Chief Godwin Ezeemo and Senator Andy Uba, who had also sat on the seat for only three weeks before he was removed.

The Nnewi business magnate, Chief Chris Ubah, Iyom Ekwunife, Chief George Muoghalu, National Auditor of APC, Comrade Tony Nwoye, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Sir Obinna Uzor and the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka While Chief Obiano, Chief Obidigbo (APGA) Comrade Nwoye and Dr Alex Obiogbolu hail from the Anambra North Senatorial zone, Senator Andy Uba, Obinna Uzor, Godwin Ezeemo, Muoghalu and Ifeanyi Uba are from Anambra South zone.

Uche Ekwunife and Osita Chidoka are of the Anambra Central Senatorial zone. In the 2013 political arrangement, it was agreed to zone the governorship position to the north, hence the emergence of Chief Obiano, who hails from Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area of the state.

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Political watchers are of the view that with the takeover of the government at the national level by the APC and the crossover of Mr. Peter Obi to the PDP, it would be extremely difficult for APGA to maintain the lead in the state this time around.

They are of the opinion that the recent political event as it affected the former National Chairman of APGA; Chief Victor Umeh would yet be another setback to the ruling party in the state. But there is another group which is of the view that politics is a game of numbers, arguing that even the defection of Mr. Obi to PDP may not have a significant effect on the party. To then, there is an allusion to the maxim ‘soldier goes, soldier comes.’

Meanwhile, there are reports that the APC government is hell bent on taking over Anambra State and has been wooing the incumbent governor to join the party if he hopes to return to the Government House later this year.

The problem here is that if Obiano accepts the offer he will forever incur the wrath of Ndigbo who believe that President Muhammadu Buhari’s body language since assumption of office in 2015 and the killing of Ndigbo by the Fulani headsmen as well as Christians in Southern Kaduna are eloquent testimonies that the present administration is an enemy to Ndigbo and her survival.

Other issues are the economic situation in the country and the continuous marginalisations of Ndigbo, particularly those in the organized private sector where about 70 per cent of Ndigbo derive their livelihood.

Though Obiano had debunked insinuation that he would accept the offer, but as it is well known in politics there are neither permanent friends nor enemies, but permanent interests. However the big question is, if he says no, what magic would he perform to survive the federal might in the absence of the founding fathers of the party who have withdrawn their support from him?

On the other hand, stakeholders in Anambra politics from the northern part of the state have defected to the APC to jostle for its ticket.

Among them are Obidigbo and Chief Muoghalu as well as PDP’s Comrade Nwoye and Senator Uba. Political analysts believe also that if at the end of the tunnel Anambra resolves to zone the governorship to the North, then the battle would be for PDP and APGA, but if not politics to some extent is based on first come first served therefore the position of George Muoghalu would be incredibly relevant in the contest.

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Chief Chidoka, a new entrant to the game of politics in the state may find it extremely difficult with the Uba family, which undoubtedly is the symbol of PDP in Anambra.

The former Labour Party flag bearer may not make any serious impact in the race because he is a new comer in Anambra politics. Political watchers believe that the oil magnet that pulled an unprecedented crowd in Labour Party would have done better if he had remained consistent in the pursuit of his political ambition.

On his part, Dr Alex Obiogbolu has remained silent, a development people see as a divine initiative if accepted by all political parties. But for Ezeemo, a large percentage of the people are of the opinion that much as the young man is good instrument of democracy, his political affiliation is not popular in the state and also in the entire South-East, and the region cannot be in the opposition for the sake of being there.

But contrary to political opinion, there are major issues that would determine who will emerge winner this time around. First and foremost is that experience over the years has shown that for a political party to win election at all levels it must command great followership at the grassroots. This, political watchers say was responsible for APC’s victory over PDP in Edo State and PDP over APC in Rivers and Ekiti.

Therefore, if this is anything to go by the game may turn out to be a straight fight between PDP and APGA.

In the state, APC is only popular in Anambra Central, while APGA and PDP dominate in other council areas and even if it comes to rigging it is those who are on the ground that know the terrain and how to maneuver through. Secondly, if the zoning system holds, Anambra Central is completely out of the race since it had taken its shots in the past 11years, and for the Anambra South to take a shot in the next dispensation it has to give support to the zoning arrangement. In this case, the coming of the Obosi-born politician, George Muoghalu from Nnewi and Obinna Uzor from Ihiala, may be suicidal, as such attempt will be based on trial and error.

Hence, their participation may have sound a death knell on the zoning system. The PDP may also have the advantage of re-engineering and re-organising its structures following the exit of some power brokers who some political analysts believe are themselves the problem of the party in the state.

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Therefore, with Dr. Obiogbolu, Oselloka Obaze in the PDP from the north, whoever picks the ticket should have a straight sail to the Government House. But with the support of Obi who initiated the zoning system in PDP the battle will be that for the titans.

Another serious issue apart from political party formation and calculations is the bent of religious denominations. Any candidate who belong to or has the support of the popular religious denominations in the state would always have upper hand. If either Dr. Obiogbolu or Oseloka Obaze from the north emerges the candidate of the PDP and Obiano retains it for the APGA, to face whoever picks the ticket of the APC, it will now become the issue of general acceptability.

Obiogbolu’s over 20 solid years in the PDP and his consistency and popularity seem to put him ahead of all. Meanwhile, investigations by Sunday Telegraph have shown that virtually all the political parties in Anambra State are fractionalized, hence there are claims and counter claims by each faction.

For instance, APGA has since suspended its state chairman Sir Norbbert Obi and his executives, while the PDP-led by Ejike Oguebego is still insisting that they are the constitutionally recognized leaders of PDP in the state, even as the Supreme Court seems to have recognized the Chief Ken Emeakaiyi group in the recent judgment in Chris Uba vs Andy Uba’s list of candidate in 2015 general Elections. Because of this scenario, it has become practically impossible to evaluate the capacity of each claimant to the polls.

However both Emeakaiyi and Ogbuebego are hell bent on returning PDP to the seat of power at Government House, Awka in this governorship election. They also claim in their reactions that PDP is one family and there is nothing wrong in expression of interest in a political party.

The Chairman of APC in the state Mr. Emeka Ibe, is also optimistic that it is time for political change in Anambra, even as he boasted that the on-going registration exercise is witnessing tremendous turnout. He said “we will work on the battered image of rival political parties to overrun them in the next polls.

But a PDP stalwart who did not want his name in print allayed the fear that the crisis in PDP will make or mar its chances in the next poll, but observers believe that the governorship election in the state will witness massive ragging.

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