The Anambra State gubernatorial election is about five months away from now, but the build-up is already getting exciting. It is indeed one state where political analysts and social commentators enjoy beaming their searchlight on because of the politics, intrigues and antics associated with its electioneering.
Ahead of the November 6, 2021 election, all the major political parties participating in the gubernatorial election, 18 of them, have conducted their primaries and candidates emerged. Although there are hue and cry in some quarters that the process leading to the emergence of some candidates were flawed, the parties and flagbearers are not losing sight of the main election.
Already, the Young Progressives Party (YPP) has produced Ifeanyi Uba (Anambra South) as its candidate and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has Charles Soludo (Anambra South) as its candidate. The other two political parties –People Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) just held their congresses on Saturday, June 19, 2021 and no winner has emerged as at the time of filing this report.
But political analysts have argued that George Moghalu, currently the managing director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), is most likely to clinch the APC’s ticket, having the backing of Chris Ngige and other party bigwigs in the state. His experience in Anambra politics as well as his previous attempts to govern the state will stand him in a good stead. Being a foundation member of the APC and coming from Anambra South, many see him as the candidate of choice.
On the part of PDP, top to emerge as its flagbearer is Val Ozigbo. In fact, political analysts and public affairs commentators said his sound footing in business and management will definitely stand him out from other aspirants. The PDP has vowed to take over the state and one way they could achieve that is to ensure that a candidate that has an overwhelming appeal emerges from its primaries.
No doubt, the Anambra gubernatorial election will be the most keenly contested poll in the history of the state as the various political parties are leaving nothing to chance. For APGA, it would want to retain power. Governor Willie Obiano has been embarking on some grassroots projects since last year as a way to get voters’ sympathy to return the party back to power.
Desperate to win the state, APC is taking no chances this time around. As the leader of the party in the state, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige is said to be using federal might to return the state to mainstream politics.
Moreover, PDP is seeing the alleged failure of Obiano to transform the state as an opportunity to retake it back in full force. Since the advent of democracy in 1999, PDP has only governed the state for seven years under Chinwoke Mbadinuju (four years) and Chris Ngige (three years).
Admittedly, where the politics, intrigues and antics in the gubernatorial poll will largely play out is in the zoning. Keen political observers within and outside the state are of the view that Charles Soludo of APGA is shoulder high in terms of zoning, party platform, popularity, exposure and experience. He is from Anambra South, the zone which has only enjoined four years in the seat of power. Besides, he has the support of the governor and most political, religious and traditional actors in the state. But his greatest challenge is that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which has insisted that APGA has no candidate for the November 6 poll.
However, Victor Umeh, a senator and former chairman of APGA, and Festus Okoye, national commissioner/chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, were on the Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily Friday, June 25, 2021 on some issues bordering on selection of delegates, among others.
Andy Uba’s governorship ambition going into the primaries has already been dented over allegation of his inability to pay back loans he collected from Heritage Bank. Over 20 young bank workers- men and women, in branded T-shirts and Jean trousers are seen in a video gathered in front of what they described as Uba’s house in protest, with placards in hand. They said they felt compelled to take the action because their jobs were at stake, adding that they would likely lose their jobs if the loans were not repaid. The chances of him emerging as APC’s candidate in view of this recent development is in doubt.
In reality, Anambra South has tested the seat of power for four years; Anambra Central, eleven years and Anambra North is just completing eight years. So, all the aspirants from the South are hinging on this imbalance to say that it would only be fair to allow them in the spirit of fair play.
Of course, one interesting aspect of any gubernatorial election in the state is the huge amount of money used to canvass for votes by these moneybags and so-called philanthropists. In fact, it is a period when some politicians prefer to use their wealth, fame and connection to curry votes.
Interestingly, the November 6 poll has been termed “the battle of billionaires and philanthropists” because money is always a factor, particularly, in Anambra elections.
Currently, the political atmosphere in the state is charged with APC and PDP aspirantsmaking frantic efforts to reach the delegates as well as the 326 political wards in the state. They are eyeing to occupy the coveted seat in the state government house and are doing everything possible to be in the good books of the powers that be.
In order not to unnecessarily heat up the polity, civil society organisations, traditional institutions, Great Anambra Forum, eminent citizens and other stakeholders from the state have been calling for free and fair elections devoid of violence and rigging.
Already, the zoning principle by the APGA government seems to be dividing the call for a merit-based selection process by other political parties. Unfortunately, where the candidate comes from has been on the front burner rather than what the candidate can offer the people in terms of good governance.
While some analysts have canvassed for zoning the slot to Anambra South to give the people a sense of belonging, others insisted that it actually goes beyond zoning to party platform, popularity, exposure and experience, among others.
Therefore, it is more of what you can use your money to do in terms of buying the delegates before the primaries and visiting towns and local government areas with cash and food items. It is said that Anambra is one of the few states in Nigeria gifted with a large pool of wealthy individuals. One account said Anambra has the largest number of millionaires per square kilometre in the country.
Before now, Emeka Anyaoku, a former Commonwealth secretary-general and chairman of the Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha, led the Elders Council in a meeting with Governor Obiano where agreement on zoning was firmed up. The council reiterated its support for the rotation of the office of the governor among the three senatorial zones in the state, and its expectation that the next governor of the state will come from Anambra South.
While the people of Anambra State should be allowed to choose who govern them come November 6 in a free and fair atmosphere, the political parties should ensure they play according to the rules of the game. Inasmuch as it is fair enough to allow Anambra South to produce the next governor, the sole decision rests with the electorate.
Nevertheless, the electoral umpire should start putting its house in order knowing that nothing short of credible election will be acceptable.