The tension is understandably heightening everyday as the clock ticks towards the November 6 date for the governorship election in Anambra State.
The candidates in the race for the state most coveted seat on the platforms of the various political parties are gradually bringing their campaign trains to berth and setting up their various situation rooms for the last minute strategies to outdo their opponents during the electoral contest next Saturday.
Early last month, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the final list of candidates for the Anambra guber election, setting the stage for what many pundits are describing as an epic political showdown. While many observers of the politics of the southeast state are of the opinion that until the election is held and a winner is declared, it is impossible to predict who will carries the day, some others have narrowed the contest down to a race among four candidates and political parties.
Valentine Ozigbo’s name was published as gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Also in the 18 candidates list published on Thursday were Prof. Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Sen. Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The list signed by Festus Okoye, National Commissioner in charge of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee also had Sen Ifeanyi Uba as the candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP).
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo would fly the flag of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). Others were Obiora Agbasimalo, Labour Party; Dr. Godwin Maduka, Accord Party’s; Bennet Etiaba, ( AA); Chidozie Nwankwo,( AAC); Akachukwu Nwankpo (ADC), Afam Ume-ezeoke (ADP); Geoffrey Onyejegbu (APM); Philip Echetebu (APP), Okeke Chika Jerry (BOOT Party). Leonard Ohajinkpo will contest on the platform of NNPP, Afam Ezenwafor for NRM, Nnamdi Nwawuo for PRP and Obinna Uzoh for SDP.
However, the contest seems to be narrowed down among Soludo of the ruling APGA, Uba of the APC, Ozigbo of the PDP and Ubah of the YPP, going by their current political reach across the state and the political structures they and their political parties can boast of to prosecute Saturday’s governorship election. In addition, analysts are convinced that the candidates of these leading parties possess the required deep pockets and human resources to pull the rug off the feet of their competitors on Saturday.
Other platforms such as the ZLP, LP and the Accord Party have shown some consistency in their campaigns and mass mobilisation ahead of the election, but analysts said the parties which are all relatively new to the people of Anambra state, lack the much the needed support base across the state to make any appreciable impact.
It is also widely believe that contrary to the posturing of some of the candidates of these parties, they lack the needed financial muscles to spring any surprise at the polls.
One of the leading candidates in the governorship race is Senator Andy Uba, the flag bearer of APC. He hails from Uga, Aguata local government area in the South senatorial zone. He was elected governor in 2007, on the platform of the PDP, but he only lasted for 17 days in office as a result of tenure interpretation case instituted by then governor, Peter Obi. He earlier served as personal aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo for about seven years.
In 2010, Uba was the governorship candidate of the LP losing to Peter Obi, the then incumbent governor but became the Senator for Anambra South later in 2011. He joined APC in 2017. Though his emergence as the APC candidate was controversial, it has been a harvest of political heavyweights from other political parties in the state, joining the APC to help his governorship cause. He enjoys the support of 13 APC governors. Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan are alleged to be supporting him as well.
All the foot-soldiers of the leader of the party in the State and Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, are working for Uba. Emeka Okafor, who is Uba’s deputy, and hails from Nnobi, in Idemili local government area is Ngige’s cousin. Currently, Uba has the support of Senator Stella Oduah, representing Anambra North senatorial zone, having joined APC recently, Senator Joy Emodi and the member representing Onitsha North and South Federal constituency, Linda Ikpeazu, all from PDP. He has also poached some APGA members in the House of Assembly among others. The recent defection of the incumbent deputy governor of the State, Dr. Nkem Okeke of APGAhas further brightened Uba’s chances.
His major weakness is the grassroots. Political observers say he plays Abuja politics more than the local politics of the state but APC is today rooted in every local government area in Anambra State because of the number of defections from APGA and PDP.
Another strong contender for Obiano’s seat and former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, the ticket bearer of the ruling APGA.
Importantly, he enjoys the backing of Governor Willie Obiano and the APGA government in Anambra which has been in power for almost 16 years making it a difficult task for any political party to dislodge it easily. Besides, they always use the image of late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, to promote APG as an Igbo party.
Soludo hails from Isuofia, also in Aguata local government area from the same South. He had tried to govern the state on two occasions but failed in 2010 as PDP candidate and in 2013, when he aspired on the platform of APGA, but was denied the ticket. He is a member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic team and heads Anambra State Vision 2050, launched by Obiano, among others. He is expected to reap from the achievements of APGA government in the state since 2006. The party’s campaigns have been anchored on these.
But the choice of his running mate, Dr. Onyeka Ibezim, is viewed as an imposition on him for selfish reasons. Already, the Anglican community in the state is said to be unhappy with the choice and has thrown its weight to Uba, candidate of the APC. APGA is rooted in all the 21 local government areas in the state. This is an added advantage to Soludo’ aspiration. Nevertheless, Anambra state residents seem to have become tired of APGA due to alleged abandoned projects and failed campaign promises by the incumbent administration.
Also, Soludo’s emergence as the candidate of APGA brought about a yet to be resolved crisis in the party leading to the emergence of three factions. The problems had led to the mass defection of their members to APC and PDP. He has promised the residents to continue the legacy of the Obiano administration and that of APGA, if he is elected on November 6 governorship poll.
Valentine Ozigbo, the candidate of the PDP, is the immediate past Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Transcorp Plc. Though he is new in the murky waters of politics of the State, he has played it like a veteran so far. His emergence as the candidate of PDP was controversial like those of Uba and Soludo, but he has soldiered on. The once solid PDP has been depleted with the top guns in the party decamping to APC, thereby whittling the chances of Ozigbo at the polls.
According to one of the chieftains who joined APC, Sir Chris Chikwelu, the PDP candidate is good and solid, but certain characters think they own the party. Though, he has repeatedly debunked having any godfather in the race, observers believe that it was former governor Peter Obi that made him the candidate of the party. Such insinuations are rife across the state, making it difficult for him to convince some opponents of the former governor to work for Ozigbo.
In less than two years since he joined politics, Ozigbo has built one of the most efficient and impactful political organisations in Nigeria, (Ka Anambra Chawapu (a better and brighter Anambra). His campaign mantra is popular at the grassroots. Analysts believe he made a fine choice in his deputy, Lady Azuka Enemo, an Anglican, a mobilizer from Onitsha, who served two terms as Commissioner for local government in Obi’s government.
His major strengths in the race are his articulation, speech delivery strength and popularity of PDP in Anambra State. But what has weakened him is the division in the party. This disunity has robbed the party of electoral victories on many occasions. He has promised to harness the opportunities that abound in Anambra if elected on November 6.
The candidate of the YPP, Ifeanyi Ubah, a seating Senator representing Anambra South, is one candidate many people believe can spring a surprise in spite of the relative unpopularity of his party in the state. Though he won his current senate seat on the platform of the party, until the build up to the current governorship race, the businessman turned politician had did very little to popularize the party beyond his senatorial district.
“He had his eyes on the APC governorship seat all the while. That is why he did not work hard on spreading the structures and popularity of YPP across the state. It was only when he realized he could not snatch the APC ticket that he reversed to the use of YPP. Now not many people in other parts of the state can relate with the party. What he has going for him is his on personal popularity. He is well known in Anambra as a businessman, sports promoter and politician,” a source explained.
Ubah says security will be a major focus if he is elected. “On the security situation in my state, I have a different method that I am going to apply. I am going to apply information technology and information gathering to solve many problems. My constituency asked me to go and see how I can proffer political solution to issues that surround Nnamdi Kanu. I will do that if elected,” he said.
Threats and pleas
Despite fresh threat by proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to disrupt the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it will go on with the poll as scheduled. IPOB had last weekend declared a one week sit-at-home protest across the South-East states starting from November 5, the eve of the governorship election in Anambra State.
IPOB’s Media and Public Secretary, Emma Powerful, in a statement in Awka, the Anambra State capital, said the protest was aimed at prevailing on the Federal Government to release its leader, Nnamdi Kanu. The group vowed that the protest would go on as planned if Kanu was not released before November 4. Kanu is facing trial on a seven-count amended charge bordering on treason and terrorism.
On Thursday, Simon Ekpa, one of Kanu’s supporters and a prominent leader in IPOB, via his social media handles, again warned INEC against conducting any election in the Southeast. He said “tell Egbunike and others to stay away from Anambra election as Biafrans already decided there will be no movement or election in Anambra State on the 6th of November, 2021.
“DIG Egbunike should be ready to go down in the history as the policeman used by the Fulanis to instigate crises should in case he tries to enforce election in Anambra State by killing any Biafran.” The IPOB leader who is supposedly based in Finland, said, reiterating the earlier directive for residents of Anambra to stay indoor on election day.
But the commission said it would move into the state this week for the final lap of preparations for the election. INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, stated the commission’s stand at a special meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). Yakubu said: “INEC is determined to proceed with the Anambra State governorship election, as scheduled.
“The safety and protection of voters, our personnel, accredited observers, the media and materials are cardinal considerations in any election. We have been assured by the security agencies of a secure environment for the election. Members of ICCES may recall that three weeks ago, we held an emergency meeting to review preparations for the Anambra State governorship election. Since then, so much has been achieved and our preparations for the election have been going on unhindered.
“The 2021 Anambra State governorship election is holding on November 6, 2021. Our deployment of non-sensitive materials and training of personnel for the election have virtually been concluded. The commission has successfully accomplished 12 out of the 14 activities listed in the timetable and schedule of activities for the election released in January this year.
“The two outstanding activities are the last day of campaign, at midnight on Thursday, November 4, 2021, and Election Day, which remains Saturday, November 6, 2021. The REC for Anambra State is here to fully provide an update on the implementation of other activities and INEC’s general state of readiness for the election.”
Meanwhile, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, has appealed to the IPOB to suspend its planned sit-at-home order. Commenting on the development, Chiedozie Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze spokesperson, said “the lockdown may disrupt the election and cause untold hardship for the people in the south-east. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide pleads with the IPOB to reconsider the 7 days’ sit-at-home order in the south-east of Nigeria from November 5 to November 11.
“This is to enable the governorship election for Anambra State scheduled for November 6 to hold. It is important to note that Anambra state is the economic live wire of the south-east with an impressive steady growth trajectory. For instance, Anambra state showcases the best rural road network and rural community development in the south-east if not in entire Nigeria.
“Anambra is home to the greatest number of small, medium and large scale industries in the south-east. Most recently, Anambra has added a cargo airport to its resource base. Above all, Onitsha is the largest market in West Africa. The implication of the above illustration is that Anambra state is the melting pot of Igbo traders and artisans. It stands to reason that Anambra is the big Iroko tree that provides a shade for most Igbos.
“Apart from the shade, it also hosts the numerous birds that perch on the branches. Therefore any harm to the Iroko tree will create untold disastrous chain reactions and catastrophe for the Igbo.
It was also gathered that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered service chiefs to ensure that nothing is allowed to stop the Anambra governorship election from holding. According to Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser, the president gave the order in response to the heightened security challenges in Anambra.
“The president has directed that under no circumstances will anything be allowed to stop the elections from taking place successfully. The people have a right to vote and select their leader. The president has made it very clear that the armed forces and all law enforcement agencies must make sure that the elections take place, even if it means overwhelming the entire environment with the presence of security agencies.
“There are so many implications for elections to be sabotaged by non-state actors. In the first place, we are in a democracy; secondly, it is important to note that if these non-state actors should succeed in destroying the potentials for orderly elections, then it is natural that other parts of the country would also want to copy this same situation,” he said.
Police authorities also assured that the election will hold amidst adequate security across the state. Maigari Dingyadi, Minister of Police Affairs, said the force is ready to ensure peace in Anambra and other parts of the country. “The election has to be free and fair. We are going to put every machinery in place to ensure that people are well secured. That is the only way to ensure that we promote democracy and good governance in this country,” he said.
Consequently, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba has ordered the deployment of adequate officers to the state. Force spokesperson, Frank Mba, said Deputy Inspector General of Police, Joseph Egbunike, has been deployed to Anambra State as the Coordinator of the security component for the elections.
“DIG Egbunike is saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of the Operation Order evolved from the Election Security Threat Assessment, to ensure a peaceful environment devoid of violence and conducive enough to guarantee that law-abiding citizens freely perform their civic responsibilities without molestation or intimidation.
“DIG Egbunike will be assisted by the DIG in-charge of Operations, Acting DIG Zaki Ahmed. Other strategic commanders deployed to Anambra State include five (5) Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs), fourteen (14) Commissioners of Police (CPs), thirty-one (31) Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs) and forty-eight (48) Assistant Commissioners of Police (ACPs).
“The Senior Officers are to coordinate human and other operational deployments in the three (3) Senatorial Districts, twenty-one (21) Local Government Areas and the 5720 polling units in Anambra State. The IGP reassures the nation that the Force is adequately prepared for the Gubernatorial Elections in Anambra State come November 6th, 2021,” he said.
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Source: The Nation Newspaper