As the people of Anambra state go to the polls today to vote for the person who will govern them in the next four years, 37 parties are vying for the coveted post. But as Blueprint Weekend’s investigations reveal, only the All Progressives Congress(APC), the ruling party at the centre, All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA), the party that is in power at the state and the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) are really on ground as ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU presents in this report.
Issues at stake
As the people of Anambra state, the ‘’Light of the Nation’’, go to the polls today, the issues at stake are more than winning and losing an election. For the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA), the election is not just about Governor Willie Obiano but about the fight for the soul of Igbo land. A party founded by Dim Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, APGA sees itself as an Igbo party and losing Anambra will be like an abomination is Nigeria’s largely ethno-religious driven politics.
Similarly, the election provides an opportunity for the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), after several years in the wilderness, to bounce back and reclaim its prize. In 1999, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinju was governor of the state and he served for only one term. Dr Chris Ngige, his successor and party man, completed the second term and since then, the party has slipped away to APGA.
In a way, today’s election will determine whether the All Progressives Congress(APC), will expand its frontiers in Igbo land. Right now, only Imo state is an APC state in the South east. In addition, the election will show if Igbo have heeded Dr Orji Uzor Kalu’s counsel and are willing to join the mainstream of the nation’s politics.
Above all, the election will show whether the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPoB) is a force to be reckoned with or a toothless bulldog. Before now, it has decreed that no election will hold in Igboland until Biafra Republic is actualized. Although the South east governors and Ohaneze have denounced the proclamation, outsiders are still watching events on the sidelines. Today, IPoB will know its strength.
The IPoB threat
In a press release signed by its publicity secretary, Mr. Emma Powerful, dated October 8, 2017, IPoB asked all its members and indeed the people of Anmabara state boycott today’s election, describing it as the day of destiny for all lovers of freedom.
According to IPoB, “every genuine Biafran desiring of freedom for Biafra from this Islamic bondage of Hausa Fulani caliphate called Nigeria, must not only stay at home on that day, but must also make sure those around them do not vote. November 18, 2017 is a date with history. If we Biafrans succeed in demonstrating before international observers that we are serious about our freedom by locking down Anambra State on that day, the world will be in no doubt that Biafra is unstoppable. Our destiny is firmly in our hands.’’ By locking down Anambra state, as the group put it, the boycott ‘’will pave the way for IPOB to announce a date for substantive referendum later next year with or without the approval of Nigeria.”
Although South east governors, Ohaneze and all the respected socio-political groups in Igboland have denounced IPoB’s boycott order , many Nigerians still believe that it will nonetheless affect the turn out of the election. While some electorate will come out and vote, others may follow IPoB’s directive as they did during the last ‘’sit at home’’ protest. For some, they will stay at home for the fear of the unknown .
In order to forestall any breakdown of law and order, the Nigeria Police force have deployed 21,084 policemen to Anambra for today’s governorship election.
Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris said that 17,320 cops would be deployed to the 4,330 polling units across the state while 280 of them would be deployed to the collation centers.
In addition, “2,484 of the security agents would be deployed to 414 major streets in the state throughout the election period. Additional 300 vehicles to the 80 operational vehicles in the Police Command in Anambra, would be provided,’’ he said. IGP Idris assured that all necessary manpower and logistics to secure the electorate, electoral officials, monitors, observers and materials have been provided for the Anambra Police command. Oberves query this militarisation of the election, arguing that it is akin to “going to war.”
… Withdraw Obiano’s security men
Paradoxically, in spite of this elaborate security outlay, the Force Headquarters withdrew Governor Obiano’s security aides. However, it took the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari to restore them.
Explaining the withdrawal, the IGP said the action was aimed at forestalling the misuse of security details as it was done in past elections. “We do not mean anything bad to Anambra governor on this action; his ADC will be returned to him early Sunday morning after the governorship election on Saturday November 18.We have equally withdrawn all the policemen attached to political appointees, local government chairmen and others in Anambra till after the election,” he argued.
However, the president and National Assembly saved the day as they ordered for reinstatement of all of Obiano’s security aides.
INEC: Beyond free, fair and credible election
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also put modalities in place to ensure a hitch free election. The Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, said “our commitment is to go beyond mere offering free, fair and credible election. That is guaranteed. What is now needed to be added is to make elections enjoyable.
People need to move around freely and comfortably and to cast their votes without any molestation or harassment, and that their votes must count”. He explained that about 23,000 ad hoc staff will be on ground for the election. Among them are members of the Nation Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and those redeployed from other states.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu warned his staff against involving in any election malpractice. According to him, “there are many people out there working seriously to see that the commission fails in its commitments to record free, fair and credible election and you must have this in mind. INEC will get rid of you if you do the wrong thing, and you are aware that those caught in the web of such negative act in the conduct of 2015 election are still facing the music”.
Indeed, today’s election is a litmus test for the INEC chairman, especially for what Nigerians will expect in 2019 general election.
…37 parties vie for one position
APGA: Will the winning streak continue?
The All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) has governed the state more than any other political party in Nigeria. The party became so popular and acceptable because of the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu factor. But today, what used to be the selling point of the party is longer sellable to the people of Anambra.
Many stalwarts of APGA like former Governor Peter Obi and others have decamped to other political parties. In fact, the recent defection of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Jnr, the son of the late Biafran leader, to APC has further depleted the ruling party.
On the contrary , the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Oye is optimistic of victory in today’s election. ‘’In all the places our campaign train has visited, you need to see the joy on the faces of the people. The APGA government in Anambra has delivered on its promises, and the message of hope is everywhere and the people are happy”.
In a recent debate, organized by Channels Television for the leading contestants, Governor Obiano said he is the most qualified among the entire contestant.
According to him, “what Anambra needs is someone that can drive the process. I’m the only guy here that can do that. Tony (the APC candidate ) doesn’t have the executive capacity; he hasn’t even worked in his entire life. Obaze (the PDP flagbearer) worked in the UN, but the best place for him to work right now is in Syria. He should be distributing relief materials. My other fellow with executive capacity is Chidoka (former FRSC Corps Marshall and UPP candidate), but the only experience he has is in checking number plates and controlling traffic”.
Obiano further boasted of his achievements that “under my watch, we are now self sufficient in trade and agriculture. We now export rice, vegetable and yam. Every community got 40 million naira already in my first tenure; each community in the state will get 200 million in my next four years in office”. In spite of his achievements, some analysts argued that by allowing Obiano to have a second term, the unwritten agreement of power rotation in the state can be achieved.
Ordinary, with the power of incumbency, Obiano would have been the candidate to beat in this election. But it takes more than that to win an election, as most analyst have argued that his foot soldiers are not on ground as they were during his first election in 2014.
APC: Dangling federal largesse
After what many have described as an acrimonious primary election, Mr Tony Nwoye was declared winner, having polled 2146 votes to beat his closest rival, Dr Andy Uba, who scored 931. The 42 year old medical doctor was a former President of National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS). He also decamped from PDP to join the APC sometime around 2016.
In a recent interview, he said “APGA is afraid of me, that is why they have been manufacturing propaganda. APGA is a strong party to beat but believe that when we get the support of my people we are going to beat them”. The defection of Ojukwu Jnr may also boost the party’s chances in today’s election.
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun siad the party wants to win Anambra state in order to end the cry for marginalization by the South-East. According to him, “we must change the narrative in the South East and we must start with Anambra because the APC represents the most viable route for the South East person to the presidency of this country. It is important that we do everything we can, fair and square, to bring Anambra state into the fold of the progressives for a lot of reasons”.
Earlier, one of the party’s stalwart, the former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, spoke in the same vein with Oyegun. Speaking to Nnewi businessmen who visited him in Abuja, Kalu said if the electorate of Anambra state vote for the APC in today’s governorship election, more federal projects will be attracted to the state.
According to him, ‘’the south east had been marginalized by previous governments and the time is now to support President Buhari’s determination to uplift Ndigbo. It is glaring from the 2018 budget presented by the president to National Assembly a few days ago that the 2nd Niger Bridge among other federal projects will be duly executed. The people of the South East have a lot to gain from joining the ruling party at the centre”. Whether or not the people of Anambra will heed this advice and vote for APC today, remains to be seen.
Will PDP reclaim its prize?
Since PDP lost the grip of power at the centre in the last 2015 general election, analysts have described this election as a test for the largest opposition party in the country.
The party was extremely careful in the primary election that produced Oseloka Obaze as flag bearer, jettisoning the impunity of the past. In the protested primaries, Oseloka Obaze defeated oil mogul Ifeanyi Ubah, Alex Obiogbulu and Senator, Stella Odua to clinch the party’s ticket. Obaze is a former Secretary to the State Government and a career diplomat who spent more than 20 years at the United Nations before joining politics.
Concerned about human development, Obaze also promised to “ revive the welfare scheme which makes monthly cash transfers to non pensionable persons aged 75 and above”.
During the gubernatorial debate, Obaze argued that “I hate to think that we came here to ridicule people, this is serious business. Under Obiano this state has been broken and we need to fix it. Let’s get serious, the challenge is that this incumbent governor has in the last four years spent almost 600 billion without any commensurate work on ground to show. I left APGA for PDP and also came out of retirement from partisan politics because I felt the state has been hijacked. I have to speak up, I have to come back to fix things”.
Similarly, former Governor of Anambra state, Mr Peter Obi who decamped from APGA to PDP, threw his support for Obaze. According to him, the PDP flag bearer would perform creditably, if elected as governor. Obi reminded the electorate of his earlier pledge in 2013, recalling that “if you followed my campaign for Governor Willie Obiano of APGA about four years ago, I promised to lead the campaign to vote him out, if he failed the people. That is what I am doing now”.
Obi and his political godson Obiano have since parted ways but whether the former governor’s support for Obaze will sway victory for the PDP candidate remains a matter of conjectures.
UPP: Credible candidate, weak platform
The United Progressive Party (UPP) had unanimously endorsed the lone contender, Chief Osita Chidoka as the party’s flag bearer with over a thousand votes. He is a former Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps, and an ex Minister of Aviation.
Since he emerged as the party’s candidate, Chidoka has been engaging the Anambra electorate. The National Chairman of the UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie has dismissed IPoB’s call for the boycott of today’s election. He argued that ‘’it is this election that will bring into office, if they cooperate with UPP as expected, a governor that will reflect their aspirations and protect them as chief security officer. UPP is here to tell the masses that we can still have a government and leaders that care about them and mainstream them into the management of their own affairs”.
Chidoka argued that the peoples’s quest for a government that best represents their voice and interest, and not what he described as the so called “incumbency factor” or federal might, will determine the outcome of the election. “This is a clear consensus among the people in Anambra that OsitaChidoka is the best candidate in this election. There is a consensus that OsitaChidoka will best represent the voice of ndiAnambra and the voice of ndi Igbo in Nigeria”.
Significantly, the UPP candidate has the appeal, articulation and clear roadmap of how to govern Anambra state. However, his party is considered very weak as it does not have the resources and reach to mobilize support for Chidoka.
In all, there are over 37 parties and candidates that would vie for the governorship position in this Anambra election today. Out of the lot, there are the serious candidates, those who will use the contest for negotiations and others who are in the race for the sake of it.
However, the electorate and their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), all things being equal, will decide who will govern Anambra state in the next four years.