• Monday, May 27, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Anambra 2017: A clash of money, manifestoes, personalities

inec-election

In a desperate effort to occupy the Agu Awka Government House from March 17, 2018, all the gubernatorial candidates and their parties are doing everything possible to win the November 18 election.

Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated that 37 political parties would be presenting candidates in the election, the battle is actually for seven of the parties.

Among the real contenders are Willie Obiano, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) who also is the incumbent governor; Tony Nwoye, All Progressives Congress (APC); Oseloka Obaze, People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Godwin Ezeemo, Progressives Peoples’ Alliance (PPA); Osita Chidoka, United People’s Party (UPP); Oby Okafor, Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), and Henry Ikechukwu Onuorah of the People’s Party of Nigeria (PPN).

Read Also: APC heading to implosion as Buni Committee’s show no plan for December convention

 

Candidates to watch

Osita Chidoka

Given his antecedents, at least in the last decade, Osita Chidoka is a lead contender. The former Corps Marshal, Nigerian Road Safety Corps (NRSC) and ex-minister of Aviation in the last lap of the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan administration, appears to have won the hearts of several Biafran agitators after he criticised the South-East governors and the Nigerian Army for the proscription and labelling of the group as a terrorist organisation.
The UPP candidate had slammed the governors for what he termed “failure of leadership in their handling of issues relating to the agitation by the IPOB in the region” and also rejected the military’s declaration of IPOB as a terrorist group, arguing that both the governors and the military were not in the position to do so without passing through proper legal and constitutional provisions. His victory at the primary was attributed in some quarters to this open and courageous stand with the IPOB.

During one of his campaign tours to communities, he was quoted as saying, “UPP is the only party that stands for the people. It is the only party that proclaims that Ndigbo have the right to self-determination; the only party that has declared that Ndigbo are not terrorists; the party that resisted the recent unconstitutional military invasion of the South-East and the general marginalisation of the region”.
But as he prepares for the fiercest political battle of his life, observers are keenly waiting to see if the IPOB factor will play out in his favour on November 18.
Chidoka has also been going around the state telling the electorates what he will do and not do as governor. His promises include: to create direct graduate jobs across the state the very moment he is sworn in as governor; bring governance nearer to the people; ease cost of accessing government services by creating Government Contact Centres in all the 171 communities across the state, which he says will guarantee an immediate 1,710 graduate jobs by engaging at least 10 graduates from each of the communities; another immediate jobs opening through a special Simultaneous Rapid Development Scheme (SRDS) for accelerated development of all communities. The scheme, he says, will ensure that no community is left behind in the provision of employment opportunities.

Oseloka Obaze

Oseloka Obaze, who has Chidi Ekwueme-Onyemelukwe, daughter of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme as his running mate, is enjoying support from the relevant quarters ahead of the poll.

Ekwueme himself seemed to have already given him an open blessing when he was quoted to have said, “Anambra State is a PDP state from inception. We shall now continue with PDP. Time has come for us to take away power from APGA.”

But his major boost is coming from no one else but Peter Obi, a former governor of the state who handed power to the incumbent in 2014. Obi in recent weeks has been going round the state describing his successor’s performance as “provocatively abysmal”. He has also been asking Obiano to explain how he spent the N75 billion he left in the state’s coffers, while insisting that it is the reason he is championing Obiano’s ouster.

Obi also promised that Obaze would only do one term to give way for Anambra South senatorial district to produce the next governor of the state in respect of the zoning arrangement enshrined in the state’s political system.

On his part, Obaze has promised that his priority would be on education and that 26 percent of the state budget would be dedicated to the sector, while promising scholarship from nursery to junior secondary school three (JSS 3) if voted into power. He also assured Anambra electorates of simultaneous development of the state.

Oby Okafor

The Nollywood-ac­tress-turned-politician, who has not hidden her displeasure and dissatisfaction with the number of women who are actively in politics, has been talking tough ahead of the November 18 showdown. She is particularly angry by the rationing of political positions to women, especially when viewed from the angle that it was actually women who normally troop out to vote on election days under extreme weather.

“The internation­ally acclaimed 35 percent affirmative action for women participation in governance, which was stipulated as a start­ing point for women, has not been complied with both at the councils, states or federal levels of governance in Nige­ria. We are still very far below that mark in virtually all states of the federation and in all tiers of governments,” Okafor said.

“In the 774 councils across the country, only about five have women as chairmen and a very few councillors. With the level of political activism of women in contempo­rary Nigeria, the figure is too poor and unacceptable. It must change. We brave the harsh weather, the rains, and the sun, the harmattan to attend campaign rallies and thereafter queue in the open to cast our ballots. This is contrary to most men, who stay away in hotels and beer parlours drinking and or watching foreign football matches,” she fumed in her recent speech.
A non-governmental organisation, Women in Action, through its sub-group, Idikacho Women in Governance (IWIG), has been sensitising voters in town-hall meetings where Okafor has been the only contender in attendance.

In one of such meetings, she again decried the aversion of most women for elective posts because they are waiting for big parties to give them the opportunity, and encouraged women to utilise other political platforms to achieve their dreams.

To undermine Oby Okafor in the battle for Amambra Government House will be to undermine the power of a determined woman. Driven by anger against gender inequity, she does not believe that a woman “belongs in the kitchen and in the other room”. She has been whipping up sentiments with her gender card. If she manages to get 80 percent of the women electorate to queue behind her at the poll with her aggressive gender campaign, and get 20 percent of men that love the women, she could pull a surprise never before witnessed in the history of Anambra politics.

Tony Nwoye

The greatest headache for Tony Nwoye, who is currently in the National Assembly representing Anambra East/West Constituency, is how he can market the APC as a party to Anambra voters, Mohammed Abubakar, Bauchi State governor, had disclosed after he and Nwoye met President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock where the president promised to be at the final campaign to drum support for the party’s flag bearer.

Although he defeated big names like Andy Uba to clinch the ticket in the primary, Nwoye will have to convince Anambra voters who still largely believe in the Biafra agenda why they should vote for a party headed not just by a Northerner but by President Buhari whom they accuse of marginalising the South-East. Indeed, there is a popular belief in Anambra that APC is a pariah, no matter how saintly its candidate may be.

Even the Chris Ngige factor may not come into play on November 18 for Nwoye because so much water has passed under the bridge of Amambra politics since Ngige was named minister by the government at the centre. Ngige himself was roundly trounced the last time he dared present himself for governorship election in the state.

Moreover, the allegation that Nwoye has entered into political agreement with Arthur Eze, an Anambra billionaire, on how they will share cabinet positions and the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR) if he wins the election may be a cog in Nwoye’s wheel to the Government House. Although Eze has disassociated himself from the said agreement, opponents will not hesitate to feast on it if it becomes necessary.

But Nwoye offers promises which include ensuring workers in the state get a living wage; to sustain the financial procedure first established by Chris Ngige when the latter was governor of the state and sustained by Peter Obi, among other mouth-watering offerings.

“We will also ensure that civil servants do not spend their retirement in penury. Our determination is to ensure that not only are salaries paid when due, but we will adjust our model from a minimum wage structure to a living wage structure where civil servants will not be financially disadvantaged,” he promised.

Willie Obiano

If Nigeria’s political culture is to be taken into consideration, Willie Obiano of the APGA is the candidate to beat in the election. Every other candidate and their parties are at his mercy since he is still at the steering wheel of the state’s ship. Political thugs, if they are still relevant, may pitch their tents with him since he has the yam and the knife.

Although his party is opposition to the ruling APC at the federal level, Governor Obiano in his wisdom and foresight has sought and received President Buhari’s blessings, and thus, though Federal Government’s agents may not treat him as a friend, they will surely not see him as a foe that must be dealt with ruthlessly with federal might.

But Obiano does have avowed political enemies to contend with and these internal oppositions have been able to box him into a defensive corner just few weeks before the election. The signs have always been there because his emergence as APGA candidate was not without the usual political intrigues in Anambra politics where all contestants lay claim to the ticket and wait for court judgment to decide who the authentic candidate is.

Martin Agbaso, a chieftain of the party, though not from Anambra State, bruised Obiano’s ego by creating a faction that almost tore APGA apart. As if to add insult to the governor’s political injury, on May 22 this year, an Enugu State High Court presided over by Justice Ozoemena gave an order of mandamus compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Police to recognize Agbaso as APGA national chairman. It took a verdict by an an Anambra High Court presided over by Justice Dennis Maduechesi to reinstate Victor Oye as the authentic chairman following a desperate response by the governor’s legal team.

To drag the matter further, Agbaso then filed an appeal before the Supreme Court on August 16, pleading, among other things, for stay of execution of the Appeal Court’s verdict sitting in Enugu on the matter pending the determination of the case by the apex court. Obiano had emerged as sole candidate in the primaries which held at Awka with over 99 percent of delegates voting ‘YES’ in his favour.Intriguingly, the fierce rod that is threatening Obiano’s ambition for a second term in office is in the hand of no other person than Peter Obi, the political brain behind the governor’s emergence in 2014. Obi, who was Obiano’s chief marketer as he took him by the hand from local government to local government as the man to take over from him, has vowed this time around to fight the re-election of Obiano with the last drop of his blood.
Obi has thrown his weight behind PDP’s Obaze, who was Secretary to the State Government during his tenure. Obi accuses his successor of non-performance and frittering N75 billion he left in the state’s coffers, while Obiano on his part alleges that Obi was working against him because he refused to give him N7 billion Obi claimed to have spent on Obiano’s election in 2014.
But Obi continues to insist that Obiano has nothing to show for the mandate he was given by the people of the state and therefore does not deserve re-election, while also asking Obiano to account for the money he inherited from the Obi administration.
“It is on record in this country and documented, I can prove it with every clear documented evidence that when I left office, I left over N25 billion in local investment for Anambra State. I left over N25 billion in cash in the bank. I also left $156 million in the bank in Nigeria. Do you think anyone can leave such money and go to beg the person he is handing over to give him N7 billion when I left over N75 billion?” Obi said.

“In 2013, I took Obiano around Anambra State, to the markets, to every part of the state and the people kept asking me if I was sure of him as they did not know him but would vote him because of me. I told them I would be the one to lead a campaign against Obiano if he does not perform well in his first term. Today, can anyone show me what the governor has done within his first term? He has nothing to show for it,” he said.
Sylvester Nwobu Alor, a chieftain of APGA, has also been campaigning against the governor for what he calls “woeful performance in office”. Alor said he was shocked at what he termed “the denial” by Governor Obiano “at the eleventh hour” that his predecessor, Peter Obi, passed over N75 billion in cash and near cash assets to him. He said crass partisanship remained the bane of Nigerian politics, where party members looked the other way even when atrocities were being committed in the party.
“Willie Obiano should not only account for the verifiable N75 billion bequeathed to his government by the former governor, Peter Obi, but should also account for the gargantuan allocations he has received from the Federation Account till date,” Alor said.

But despite all of the mounting oppositions, Obiano sure has some works he has done to reply his critics. Anambra State under the government is currently being rated as one of the states in Nigeria with the lowest crime rate compare to what was obtainable before he took over the mantle of leadership.

Obiano, who was Vanguard Newspaper 2016 Governor of the Year, created what he tagged the ‘Anambra Brand Collaterals’ comprising the state anthem, emblem, crest, flag and shared values. His four-point agenda of development –anchored on mechanised agriculture, oil and gas, trade and commerce, and industrialisation – has received varying degrees of attention. Anambra State now exports ugu (fluted pumpkin) and onugbu (bitter leaf) vegetables even as the state is set to join the league of Nigerian states that will start exportation of rice.
Accolades have also been pouring in for the governor in the areas of education, health, environment, transportation, youth entrepreneurship and sports development, women and children affairs, information and communication technology, development and promotion of tourism and roads infrastructure.

 

NATHANIEL AKHIGBE