By – Stan Okeke
As preparations for the 2017 gubernatorial election in Anambra State, Nigeria approaches, political parties in the state are gearing up for a very stiff challenge against the incumbent Governor, Dr. Willie Obiano.
Slated for November 18, 2017 and to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), various political parties are currently working on choosing their best candidate to battle Obiano in what promises to be one of the stiffest governorship contests ever in the state.
Judging by the political climate and huge successes recorded by the Obiano administration, many residents of Anambra foresee Obiano retaining power. However, looking at it from the recent political realignments in the state, the analysis is that it won’t be that easy.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, is a very serious contender. As the main opposition party in the state, being that the People’s Democratic Party is in disarray, the election is going to be a battle royale between the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA as the ruling party in the state, and the APC.
One challenge for Obiano is the Chris Ngige factor, former governor of the state currently a minister. Ngige might attempt to take advantage of the federal might to win the election for his party. Also, one cannot lose sight of the fact that as a former governor of the State he was said to have performed fairly well and for this, still has his pocket of followers around the state.
On Senator Andy Uba joining the APC, pundits believe that this was to afford him the opportunity to partake in the governorship race yet again.
The farthest he has gone in his bid to govern Anambra State was his 17-day reign as governor. Some political analysts see his exit from the PDP as a strategic move to avoid the unending feud with his brother, Chris.
Currently the Uba brothers are engaged in legal battle over who should be the Senator representing Anambra South at the National Assembly. Even though the PDP is in total disarray both at the national and state level, Chris Uba and his group remain in firm control of Anambra PDP.
Former governor Peter Obi cannot be ignored. As a very successful governor, he has his followers in and out of the state and has the capacity to pull devastating strings when the chips are down. Obi’s political capacity, even though he does not have firm grip of the PDP in the state, cannot be wished away.
In his determined effort to unseat Obiano as governor, Obi is likely to give subtle but effective support to the APC candidate for the election. This is even more so when one considers that his political associate, Iyom Uche Ekwunife is now in the APC. Her spoiler’s role in this election is not in doubt as her bitterness with the APGA leadership is expected to spillover in this election.
The other contenders to the governorship that will make the contest stiff for Obiano and perhaps, too close to call are the silent contenders in the Governor’s fold who sees his re-election bid as payback time.
And then for Uche Ekwunife who many seem not to know what her next political move will be, will she jump ship again so as to contest? Certainly she has been politically ruffled and her political future seems bleak but, this is one woman who never goes down without a good fight. Even as she seems politically disabled, her capacity to spring surprises is not in doubt.
Uba, the Labour Party candidate in the previous governorship election in the state appears to be another contender who has a vaulting ambition to upturn the apple cart. So far, there are no known candidates for all the political parties expected to do battle with Obiano in this make or mar election, but Uba’s ambition to be governor of Anambra state, has been a longstanding one. His attempt to join APGA with the intention of contesting the primaries against Obiano, was stopped. As controversial as he is, he too cannot be wished away.
Barth Nwibe of the APC, who has been very loquacious in his ambition to be governor, appears set for the contest on paper. Largely an unknown force in the political calculations in the state, Nwibe has continued to give the impression that he is the candidate to beat in the election.
There is Chief Ezeemo, the PPA candidate in the past election who is also said to be warming up for the election. The most embarrassing candidature for APGA is the sudden emergence of Dr. Elochukwu Afoka, the Special Assistant Political, to the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Nkem Okeke.
Afoka who appears aggrieved, has vowed to contest the party primaries with Obiano, boasting that he will win the primaries and go ahead to win the election. He continues to rebuff all entreaties for him to back down. The State Government has resorted to subtle threats to make him back down.
Afoka even rebuffed the intervention of his sole benefactor, Chief Victor Umeh. His action is widely seen as an embarrassment to Umeh who bankrolled his entire education to PhD level. Afoka is presently not in speaking terms with Umeh, an action the former national chairman of APGA considers an affront.
Going by available facts and records on ground, particularly the political history of Anambra state since the democratic dispensation in 1999, Obiano has an edge in the forthcoming election. The PDP that was the major opposition party in the state has fizzled out but it is expected that the major challenge for Obiano and APGA will come from the APC and the APGA family.
Other contestants are merely making up the numbers, seeking alliances to upset APGA’s political hold in Anambra. “APGA has come to stay in Anambra state and no amount of gang-ups or blackmail can change that or cause any upset in this election”, Chief Jude Emecheta, the national chairman of the Obiano Support Group, told Montage Africa magazine.
Aggrieved party members feel they worked and fought for the success of the governor at the polls but were later sidelined while associates of the governor were rewarded with appointments in their place.
“It is natural for any governor to come into office with his choice of appointees and also common that people will always protest when they are not given appointments. The truth is that everybody cannot be in government at the same time. The governor cannot please everybody,” argued Emecheta.
According to Emecheta, the governor cannot appoint people he’s not familiar with into sensitive positions. He stressed that the allegations were neither here nor there as it will be very insensitive of the governor to sideline those who genuinely worked for his success.
Obiano has very bright chances of returning to Government House, Awka, after the November 18 polls. One thing that will speak for him are his numerous achievements in office, particularly in the areas of security, agriculture, youth employment, trade and commerce as well as infrastructure development, education, healthcare, and workers welfare, among others.
On security, effective crime control has been a major highpoint in the Obiano administration, smashing of kidnappers den, armed robbers, drug dealers and child trafficking gangs among others. The government also operates periodic helicopter air surveillance and donated 25 smart cars fully equipped with security gadgets to the police as well as gun boats to the Navy. It was for these that Anambra emerged the safest state in Nigeria.
The agriculture sector is another area of immense success in the Obiano administration. In its inception, the state government got it right by strategically partnering with the private sector in this area. In the 2016 farming season, rice production in the State stood at 230,000 metric tones, while the state yield improved from 3.3 tones/hectare to 5.5 tones/hectare on the average.
Another area of achievement is in road construction where three flyover bridges and over 300km roads were completed in record time. Also, workers in the state are said to have not had it this good as their salaries are paid as at when due in spite of the biting recession and economic hardship in Nigeria, among other incentives that include a 15 per cent increase in salary.
Generally speaking, the Obiano administration has made giant strides in all sectors of the economy and has given education a pride of place in the country. These and many more will certainly play out as residents of Anambra file out on November 18 to elect their next governor. MA