ANAMBRA 2014: One office, multiple contenders
By CHINWEOKE AKOMA
In the run up to the November 16, 2013 governorship election in Anambra State, virtually all the political parties and aspirants seem yet to find their rhythm. The election holds barely 90 days away to elect Gov Peter Obi’s successor.
Analysts blame the scenario on the delay by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in releasing the guidelines and timetable for the election.
The aspirants had been cautions not to run foul of the laws, or be seen as jumping the gun when the Commission had not given the green light to start campaigns. The green light finally came some three weeks ago. The contest is characterised by intrigues and scheming by the various political blocs and camps.
The PDP is one of the most visible parties in the state, but grapples with efforts at self-rediscovery. The party is besetted with crisis over whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan will seek re-election in 2015. The North says he should not. Anambra must be high on the PDP agenda as it remains the arrowhead to determine where the South-east geo-political zone goes in the 2015 polls. So, with the state’s governorship election fast approaching, the party must stand firm, for obvious political reasons.
Now, those who have not been part of the politics in Anambra for many years are said to have stormed to the Wadata House headquarters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to pick the Expression of Interest(EOI) form. The fee went up from the N250,000 in 2009 to N1 million for the Anambra guber ticket.
But this has not dampened the spirit of the about 27 aspirants jostling for the PDP ticket, even as more than half are said to be women, one of them a hairdressing salon operator in Awka. At least two aspirants have been accused of massive purchase of the form for their respective camps.
Alleged abuse of the free access of the PDP female aspirants to the nomination form is also said to be generating ripples and may force the party to review the policy. Wadata Plaza sources said the fee for the nomination form could go up as high as between N10m and N20m for each aspirant. The hike, it is believed, would help keep unserious aspirants, proxies and stooges out of the race.
Primary election will obviously determine who picks the PDP ticket for the Anambra guber race. But the allegation that two aspirants have acquired the nomination form for about ten of their supporters is causing tension.
Analysts say the move may be a design to put a clog in the wheel of the primary election stated for August 24. The game plan was to put the PDP in a situation whereby there will be a repeat of the primary. “In the end, they would use their contacts at the Wadata Plaza to settle for a consensus candidate option, hoping that that would favour them more, having already watered the grounds well in that direction,”a source familiar with the race for the PDP ticket in the state said.
“Alternatively, they would bamboozle the party headquarters into inviting all the ‘aspirants’ to Abuja where the matter would be resolved through internal mechanism. This includes but not likely to be limited to asking the ‘aspirants’ to vote among themselves to choose who they want to fly the party’s flag at the Nov 16 governorship election in the state. Of course the outcome would be foreclosed as each ‘aspirant’ would simply vote for his/her sponsor.”
Some of the guber aspirants, especially in the PDP, are reportedly being sponsored by some northern elements with a view to using them to attempt to scuttle President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 agenda. Analysts say Aso Rock may consider backing the aspirant without political blemish or baggage.
TOP ON LIST
The analysts said of all those jostling for the PDP ticket, only Walter Ubaka Okeke and Alex Obiogbolu are exciting the party’s big wigs. But Okeke, according to them, remains top on the list as he fits perfectly into the battle to pick the PDP ticket because he is said to be well-heeled with a deep pocket, well-read, psychologically very stable, and a key player in the Nigeria’s big oil/gas services sector since 1995.
His businesses are domiciled in the Niger Delta. He was said to have been paying to the governments an annual tax in the region of millions of naira, as against other contestants who pay peanuts and only for the sake of the gubernatorial election process requirement. He is reportedly married from either Bayelsa or Rivers.
While Obiogbolu reportedly has what it takes to govern the state, the larger section of Anambra’s 177 communities is said not to be favourably disposed to someone from his area due to social reasons. But he is seen as capable and qualified with immense administrative experience in government business. Obiogbolu is a reputable medical officer and successful businessman who has a lot of enduring legacies to his credit in the state’s civil service.
Chief Sylvester Okonkwo, a close confidant of a South-south governor, is said to be among those who have not visited the state in the last 10years. It seems his only reason for picking the form is because one of the key players in the PDP politics urges him on. Unfortunately, the present political equation of the state does not favour his aspiration, as he comes from the Central zone like the outgoing Governor Obi and former Gov. Ngige.
For Senator Andy Uba, it was said that he has been working against the emergence of the PDP candidate based on primary election. Sources accused him of moving to upstage all other aspirants undemocratically. He was alleged to have held meetings with his ‘aspirants’ in Abuja. Some serving and former members of the House of Representatives including Ben Nwankwo, Fort Dike, Eucharia Azodo and Lynda Ikpeazu allegedly attended the meetings recently. These meetings were described as historical as it was the first to be held between the senator and Reps as a group since their inauguration in the National Assembly.
Chief Mike Okoye, a successful legal practitioner, was alleged to be relying on his friendship with the former Governor Diepreye Alameseigha to grab the PDP ticket. Unfortunately his political traducers are quick to point out that he once held sway in Hope Democratic Party but let go of it when it mattered most, hence political watchers wonder what he really wants this time around.
Dr Obinna Uzor remains a close friend of former President Gen Ibrahim Babangida, and also does not hide his penchant to cling to anything Catholic. That’s why he has been going round building parishes for his beloved faith. Analysts say he may at the end of the day realise why the holy book warns that in heaven, there is no Catholic, Anglican or Pagan.
Elders of the party in Anambra State are said to be rooting for a holistic review of the input each of the aspirants has made to the growth or otherwise of the party in the past ten years.
Some of the aspirants were alleged to have sowed confusion and crises in the PDP only to run into another party. It is feared that they are on the familiar move again, knowing fully well that the Bamanga Tukur-led PDP is not kidding on enthroning internal democracy and discipline.
Anambra is among the few states to have about four citizens in the party’s Board of Trustees(BOT)-Dr Alex Ekwueme, Senator Onyeabor Obi, Chief Maxwell Okudoh and Mrs Iyom Josephine Anenih. They cannot be indifferent about who runs their state as governor, hence must be interested in this contest.
Any serious contender for the Anambra governorship ought to go round the state to express his/her interest to run in the November 16 election. Investigations show that only Walter Okeke, Obiogbolu and Tony Nwoye have done so.
Analysts believe than when all the factors are considered, the PDP may end up with a dark horse like Walter Okeke, said to be surefooted and firmly etched in business and politics of the state. He is said to be miles ahead of the Ubas, the Ukachukwus and the Soludos as he has in the course of his 326 ward tours displayed an unusual mastery of the state geography and political idiosyncrasies of the various zones. And going by the pronouncements of the party’s national chairman during the inauguration of Gov Seriake Dickson-led PDP Reconciliation Committee, they are very prepared to reclaim Anambra among other states the party lost.
Gov Obi is believed to have President Jonathan’s ears. Yet he is said to be rooting for Prof Charles Soludo, a former CBN Governor, who apparently left the PDP because he failed to get the nod of Mr President, as the APGA candidate. This is clearly an ambush for whoever Mr President’s PDP nominates.
As he counts days to his departure and after working so hard to dismember his APGA, Obi is said to be playing church politics card. He wants his Catholic faith to dominate others with mind-boggling ratio in virtually everything in the state. To achieve his aim this time, he is said to be reconciling with his embattled national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, a fellow Catholic, using Soludo, also a Catholic, as the bargaining chip.
Soludo too is said to be ready to reconcile with his sister in-law, Prof Dora Akunyili, also a Catholic, to upstage the looming political volcano APGA being foisted by the elements in PDP. It was for this reason the former Central Bank chief recently dumped the PDP for APGA, just like Akunyili. They are Catholics, and are all very qualified, no doubt. They fit properly into the out-going governor’s ‘all-Catholic’ profile agenda.
Close watchers of events in Anambra contend that the lack of geo-balance and respect for the sensibilities of the electorate by the key players in the newly formed All Progressives Congress(APC) is the greatest headache its most visible aspirant, Dr Chris Ngige, would have. In addition, many of those who were close to him have vowed to oppose him,this time. Their reasons are similar and personal- they allege he underrates loyalty. His upcoming APC is equally accused of lacking sense of fair distribution of anything, not even the party positions.
Ifeanyi Ubah is an energetic young man with visible burning zeal to better the lot of the masses, but the Nigerian factor is alleged to have become his greatest undoing. He may have issues of security clearance ahead of the election. He has too many wars on his hands with federal agencies.