With the release of the final list of candidates for the November 6, 2021 gubernatorial contest in Anambra State, frontrunners have revved their electioneering on full throttle. From the list announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it is obvious that the state is not ready as yet for a female governor.
Dame Virgy Etiaba, whose first son, Bennet, is partaking in the ballot on the platform of Action Alliance (AA), remains the only woman that ever occupied the number one executive seat in the state. All the 18 political parties affirmed the common saying in Anambra that the state dika ife na ata-alu, nwanyi adighi ejide ife na ata-alu (Anambra is like a ferocious animal, you don’t send a woman to catch a ferocious animal).
However, among the 18 men granted access to the ballot by 18 political parties, the electorate have continued their search for aboriginal candidates (a true-Anambra in character and leaning). What this portends is that contrary to atmospherics; the election would be too close to call.
While the candidates of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Dr Obiora Okonkwo and his counterpart on the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, have been factoring the Anambra centric element into their campaigns, the embattled governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and his rival on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Andy Uba, continue to battle over the ascendancy of domestic and national power of incumbency.
Similarly, the lone star candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Senator Ifeanyi Ubah and his kinsman, Etiaba of AA have their paths charted along the youth and elites respectively, just as the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate, Val Ozigbo, banks on the party’s traditional old glory to foment surprise.
A former governor of the state and current Minister for Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige, noted that the next month’s governorship poll provides a historic opportunity for the Ndi Anambra to choose between “eternal slavery and perpetual freedom.”
Consequently, if the election holds, the next governor of the state would not come from outside the above loop. The following are some traces from the electoral combat statistics of the front row contenders:
ZLP Okonkwo/ADC Nwankpo: Traditional institution versus Umunna
FOUNDER of United Nigeria Airlines and candidate of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Dr. Okonkwo (Dikeora) used the opportunity of the celebration of the New Yam festival in his country home to deepen his conversation about Ilu olu Oma (doing communal good works).
Okonkwo maintains that there are intrinsic values and virtues that drives the average Igbo society, stressing that when elected as governor, his administration will bring back such values to inculcate hardwork, responsible citizenship and respect for the traditional governorship institutions.
He blamed the ungovernable attitude of some young people to the abandonment of the traditional respect reserved for traditional ruler, Ndichie (elders, titled men) Umuada (Women) and age grade associations.
He emphasised that the ideal Igbo society frowns at idleness, noting that loafers have long been recognised as blights to secure, peaceful and harmonious social coexistence.
Okonkwo promised to network the state economy with other global players, pointing out that the Nigeria/Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NRCCI), which he chairs would apart from forging closer relationship with Russia, attract not less than $10billion investment into Anambra State.
“Anambra has been the centre of activities of commerce, industrialisation and production. It has been catering not only for South-East in those good old days but also the whole of Africa. Today, those things are in the past.
“But with the Russians, they are going to help us with our industrialisation project, transfer of technology, human capital development, huge investments in provision of infrastructure, electricity and even surface rail tracks. And with all these things, we are going to have urban renewal, get new towns with huge infrastructural development,” he stated.
Boasting of his deep knowledge of Igbo political economy, Dikeora expressed the hope that “if eventually, I become governor and we have the right things in place to get the Russians on board and build our economy.”
“Our ultimate aim is to create a kind of economic union in the old Eastern Region, which is now nine states, and get back the territory of Dr. M.I. Okpara, which you could recall was the fastest growing economy in the world.”
It could be perhaps in acknowledgement of his blueprint that the ZLP candidate recently won a PDP online survey, conducted by the party’s leadership in the state.
Although Okonkwo left PDP after faulting the governorship primary, he polled 2218 votes to top the log in the seven-days long poll that ended on Friday. The poll asked voters to cast their votes on who they preferred to become governor of Anambra State.
A total of 3709 votes were cast in the poll. Okonkwo polled 2218 votes to beat the PDP candidate who come second with 716 votes and Prof, Charles Soludo of APGA, who was placed third with 357 votes, just as Senator Andy Ubah of APC garnered 295 votes to place fourth.
On his part, the ADC candidate, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, stole the show at the public debate organised by the Arise television for the governorship candidates at the Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre, Awka. Nwankpo, who was Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Technical Matters, dazzled the audience with his prescription for the inclusion of every Umunna in the governance organogram in the state.
The ADC candidate, who also promised to create the office of public defender in his administration, lamented that corruption and abandonment of contract would be a thing of the past if Umunna (kindred groups) are involved in governance.
He said a situation whereby security agents molest citizens would stop under his watch because the office of the public defender would be on hand to protect citizens of the state.
APGA Soludo, APC Uba: Contest Of Superpowers
FOR the candidate of APC, Senator Andy Uba, it is not the noisiest candidate that wins a boxing contest. Uba has so far deployed his experience in political pugilism through strategic attraction of political figures to his corner.
Supporters of the APC standard bearer like Ozocha Sam Oraegbunam, claim that as a veteran politician, Senator Uba has within a very short time defaced the wrong perception of APC as an unpopular party in Anambra State.
Andy Uba’s foot soldiers have been waving a new political calibration in the state to insist that he is on his way to returning to the Government House in March 17, 2022. The new standing of political parties in the state after Uba began winning souls into APC, as it concerns elected representatives show that while APC, PDP and YPP have one senator each to their credit, APGA has none.
Coming to the House of Representatives, APC moved from zero to five, leaving APGA and PDP with three federal lawmakers apiece. Then, in the state House of Assembly, where APGA maintains its commanding lead with 15 members, APC shows great presence with eight lawmakers to PDP’s four members.
The cold statistics frightened the incumbent APGA to accuse APC and Uba of trying to snatch the governorship seat through the ‘Ben Johnson’ way popularised by Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State.
That chicken fight came to fore recently when the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, disclosed that the APC Federal Government would not hesitate to declare a state of emergency to uphold the democratic order in the state.
Malami, who is not only a friend to the APC standard bearer, but also a member of the APC Governorship Campaign Council, made the remarks to State House reporters at the height of increasing insecurity and loss of life and property that threatens the governorship ballot.
Riled by that weighty threat, Governor Willie Obiano rushed to President Muhammadu Buhari, ostensibly to find out things by himself whether such a political ambush or civilian coup d’état was in the works.
However, before Obiano’s fight could take off for Abuja, his Commissioner for Information and Public Communication, Mr. Don. C. Adinuba, had fired verbal darts against Malami’s dangerous prescription.
In the statement Adinuba said: “No further evidence is required to demonstrate that certain ominous political developments in Anambra State were contrived by a coterie of elements to ruin the November 6 polls so that they could have an opportunity to impose their lapdog on the state as the governor.”
Speaking shortly after meeting with President Buhari, a thoroughly relieved Obiano told correspondents that the Federal Government was not in any way contemplating any political asphyxiation for Anambra State.
While describing the AGF’s comment as “very unfortunate,” Obiano disclosed that, “this is not in the books of the President, because he knows that Anambra has been the safest state in Nigeria for seven years plus.”
More reliefs came the way of APGA, when the INEC released its final list for the November 6 poll. APGA candidate, Soludo, whom bookmakers seed as a top contender have been troubled by the leadership crisis in his party, especially the existence of multiple claimants in the persons of Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji and Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu.
Also, the PDP standard bearer, Val Ozigbo, contended with the rival factional candidate, Senator Ugochukwu Uba, before the courts came to his rescue. For the APGA and PDP candidates, INEC final list signed by Festus Okoye, National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education Committee, came as much needed breather.
Other okayed candidates include, Obiora Agbasimelo, (Labour Party), Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, ((YPP); Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, (ZLP); Dr. Godwin Maduka, (Accord Party); Bennet Etiaba, (AA); Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo, (AAC) Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, (ADC); Afam Ume-ezeoke, (ADP); Col. Geoffrey Onyejegbu, (APM); Philip Echetebu, (APP); Okeke Chika Jerry, (BOOT Party); Ohajinkpo Leonard, (NNPP); Afam Ezenwafor, (NRM); Nnamdi Nwawuo, (PRP) and Obinna Uzoh of SDP.
Ozigbo, who tackled the ZLP over his claim that most effective groups in PDP are identifying with its candidate, alleged that “only non-existent groups that are declaring for your candidate.”
PDP’s state Publicity Secretary, who is also Director of Publicity Directorate of Valentine Ozigbo Campaign Organization (VCO), Mr Nnamdi Nwangwu stated that the youths advocate and other inexistent groups claimed to be declaring for Obiora Okonkwo are not known to the party’s leadership at both the national and state levels.
Reacting to the INEC list, Ozigbo declared: “Not only is this election winnable, PDP retains the brightest of chances and I say this from a place of well-informed analysis on the basis of our work on the field. Despite the handful of defections, we retain the comparative advantage of the grassroots.
“Our team is more resolute because we know the hope of ndị Anambra lies on us. We are going to spare nothing to ensure we get it right at the grassroots and win this election. There will be a better story to tell at the end,”
The big drum is now on the sun waiting for the great day for the dance of ijele, the great masquerade. In three weeks time, Anambra people will show whether they are still the sons and daughters of their fathers.