WHEN the people of Anambra State go to the polls to elect a new governor on November 6, they will make a choice out of 18 candidates from 18 political parties.
It is poised to be a highly intriguing event that is slated to hold amidst uncertainty arising from the effects of the pro-Biafra agitation in Anambra and other parts of the South-East where secessionists, who insist on a breakaway Biafra nation, have declared an intention to stop the Nigerian government from conducting elections in territories of the defunct Republic of Biafra.
The ICIR’s analysis suggests that the outcome of the election would be influenced by a number of factors including incumbency, religion, federal might, voter turnout and zoning, among others.
The ICIR projects the election to be a four-horse-race.
The four leading candidates are a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), a captain of industry Val Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a one-time governor of Anambra State Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial Zone, businessman Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressives Party (YPP).
There are two other candidates with an outside chance – the Chief Executive Officer of United Airlines Obiora Okonkwo of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and medical doctor and businessman Godwin Maduka of Accord Party.
The issues at play make the election highly unpredictable.
Be that as it may, The ICIR in this analysis assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the leading candidates.
The former CBN governor is favoured by the power of incumbency – his party APGA has been the party in power in Anambra for the past 16 years and he is the personal choice of the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano.
He also boasts of a formidable track record in academics and public service. His supporters point to his achievements as CBN governor – when he championed the recapitalization of the banking sector – to advance the argument that Soludo is a top notch technocrat that would take the Anambra economy to greater heights.
But Soludo’s greatest advantage is the incumbency factor, according to a political analyst, chairman of Anambra Civil Society Network (ASCONET) Chris Azor.
Azor told The ICIR that the power of incumbency was a huge advantage for Soludo in the election.
“The power of incumbency is a major factor and as a result Soludo is the leading candidate.”
APGA was founded by the leader of the defunct Republic of Biafra, late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. It was conceptualized as an ‘Igbo party’ and Franklin Ebukah, who hosts a political affairs program on an Anambra-based radio station, told The ICIR that the sentiment that is associated with Ojukwu could work to Soludo’s advantage.
“One thing that is working for APGA is the belief that it is an Igbo party. That sentiment is a key factor in Soludo’s favour. APGA has been in power in Anambra for 16 years now so it is said that the APGA spirit is already in the state,” he said in an interview with The ICIR.
Ebuka added that since Obiano personally chose Soludo as his successor, it is expected that the state government would deploy all its resources to ensure that he wins the election.
Another Anambra-based political analyst, Chuka Obiano, told The ICIR that beyond the power of incumbency and other factors in his favour, Soludo was the leading candidate on issues outlined in the election manifesto.
Obiano added that the former CBN governor had already displayed the strength of character needed to govern Anambra State.
“Soludo has displayed calmness and stability of mind especially after some of his aides were killed during an attack launched on him in March this year,” he said.
Soludo also appears to have struck the right balance on the issue of religion – a major factor in Anambra politics where the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion are major power blocs that wield heavy influence in elections. Soludo is a Catholic and his running mate, Onyeka Ibezim, is a younger brother of the Anglican Bishop of Awka Diocese Alexander Ibezim.
But Soludo is not without weak points which may discourage voters from electing him as governor of Anambra State.
His emergence as APGA candidate followed a contentious process that threw up multiple court cases and led to subsequent defections from the party.
Added to the party crisis, Soludo is not widely accepted even among the sections that should be his natural base. He is not trusted by many who see him as ‘too elitist’.
Ebuka observed that Soludo would have to overcome the question of acceptability among the people of Anambra if he must become governor.
“There is a sense that he was not a consensus candidate and that he was imposed on the party. There is division in APGA after the governorship election primaries,” Ebuka said.
According to him, Soludo would have to deal with issues of acceptability even in his own community.
“There is also a belief that Soludo is too elitist. He has not had much connection to the ordinary man on the streets. Added to that there are no clear benefits that accrued to the state from his position as CBN governor. You cannot point to any project (in Anambra) and say this was from his time as CBN governor,” Ebuka added.
While Obiano is bent on ensuring that Soludo succeeds him as governor, there are indications that the incumbent’s public image is a major challenge the candidate has to overcome in order to win the election.
Obiano concentrated efforts on delivering three projects – the Anambra airport (slated to start operations on October 30), the Awka township stadium and an international conference centre, which are regarded as his administration’s ‘signature projects’.
But there is a feeling among many residents of Anambra that the governor neglected other sectors.
Ebuka said, “There are people who feel that the governor has not performed well and this might affect Soludo. The roads are dilapidated, the administration’s tax drive is unfavorable and added to these there is insecurity and lawlessness.”
The PDP candidate is regarded as an accomplished captain of industry – he served as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Transcorp Plc from 2011 to 2018.
Ozigbo’s manifesto is centred on the promise to refine Anambra, to make the state shine brighter.
In addition, he is widely regarded as disciplined, humble and amiable.
Ebuka observed that Ozigbo is also seen as a politician who has a clean record.
A former governor of Anambra State Peter Obi is Ozigbo’s major backer. In fact Obi is regarded as the PDP candidate’s ‘godfather’.
“The Peter Obi factor can work for Ozigbo because there are many people who adore Peter Obi who will go for him,” Ebuka said, adding, “Ozigbo’s antecedents in the private sector is also a strength as there is a feeling that Anambra has not been progressing as expected and therefore needs a breath of fresh air.”
A political analyst, Obiano, suggests that “Ozigbo is the second leading horse in the race.”
According to him, Ozigbo is also well positioned by the fact that the PDP has a very large following in Anambra.
“Recent elections in Anambra have been more of a contest between APGA and PDP and although APGA has been having the edge PDP is still a formidable party,” he said.
The PDP candidate’s major weakness is that he is regarded as a political neophyte. He lacks experience.
Also, he is coming from the private sector, just like incumbent governor Obiano who many believe has not done as well as expected going by his records in the private sector.
The political godfathers in Anambra don’t trust Ozigbo, according to analysts.
“There is also the Peter Obi factor. There are people who feel that Peter Obi is trying to be a godfather in Anambra politics and they will want to stop Peter Obi by stopping Ozigbo from winning,” Ebuka observed.
The APC candidate has been governor before – but very briefly. For 17 days in 2007 Uba served as governor of Anambra State after winning the governorship poll on the platform of the PDP but had to leave the office after the Supreme Court returned Peter Obi to office. Obi had been impeached earlier.
Uba, who served as the senator representing Anambra South for two terms, is now backed by the might of the APC-led Federal Government, a factor which many believe makes him the man to beat in the election.
The composition of the APC Campaign Council – which includes state governors – for the Anambra governorship poll indicates that the ruling party is determined to go all out to win the state.
Anambra-based political analyst, Ebuka, observed that in the build up to the governorship poll, Uba has been taking advantage of cracks in other political parties by poaching prominent politicians. A major example is Anambra Deputy Governor Nkem Okeke who recently defected to the APC from APGA.
“Andy Uba is tapping aggrieved politicians from other political parties who are defecting to APC and joining his campaign team. He has been going to these aggrieved politicians making one promise or the other. He has been able to get men to his side but the issue now is if these men would translate to actual votes on the election day,” Ebuka said.
Another analyst, Obiano, noted that Uba has the added advantage of “grassroots roughness and underground appeal”.
Then there is the added advantage of deep pockets.
“Andy Uba has the intimidating factor with a very large pocket but he does not have the message. He has not made his manifesto very public but you can’t waive away somebody of his kind of pedigree,” Obiano observed.
There is a feeling among the people of Anambra that Uba’s many years in government has not benefited the state. Besides his brief stint as governor and two terms in the Senate, he was an influential aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Uba is also seen as media-shy as he does not do enough to sell himself to the voters.
Then, and most significantly, there are reservations over the infamous role the Uba family had played in Anambra politics.
“The Uba family was fingered in the kidnapping of a sitting governor, Chris Ngige and that is a huge dent on Andy Uba,” Ebuka said, adding, “Another problem is differences he (Uba) has with kingmakers in Anambra South. He boasted that he can win without them during the last senatorial election and they ganged up against him and gave their support to Ifeanyi Ubah who eventually won.”
It is not known if Uba has reconciled with the Anambra South kingmakers but he is not on good terms with a leading APC chieftain in Anambra – minister of labour and productivity Ngige.
Going by an informal zoning arrangement in force in Anambra since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, the governorship position is currently zoned to Anambra South Senatorial Zone.
Uba is the senator representing the zone. He took over from a fellow governorship candidate Andy Ubah, whom he defeated in the last senatorial election.
It is believed that should the election be restricted to just Anambra South Ubah would win. Such is his popularity in the area.
“Ifeanyi Ubah is a man of the people in the sense that he has been able to touch the lives of some indigent persons and youths of Anambra South. He is very popular in Anambra South but he is not so popular across the state.
“The feeling is that he will win in Anambra South but will not be able to win the state,” Ebuka told The ICIR while assessing the senator’s chances.
Ubah is also believed to have a grassroots appeal. He is equally seen as a ‘street smart’ politician.
“Going nasty is part of how they (street smart politicians) play the game and they use the streets to galvanize their acceptance,” an analyst, Obiano, noted.
Besides the perception that he is not as popular outside his Anambra South base, Ubah is believed to be a not so efficient manager of men and resources.
Ebuka added, “His biggest undoing is people are now looking at the way he manages his businesses. It is believed that he is erratic – most times he starts a business and leave it half way to start a new one even as workers are being owed”.
Obiora Okonkwo of the Zenith Labour Party and Godwin Maduka of the Accord Party are seen as the outsiders in the race.
Okonkwo left the PDP for ZLP after failing to clinch the governorship ticket. He is a successful businessman and is regarded as charismatic and highly intelligent.
But he is not from Anambra South – the zone that is to produce the next governor, going by the zoning arrangement.
“He has a lot of money and bright ideas, charm and charisma but he is not from Anambra South,” Obiano told The ICIR.
Maduka, the Accord Party candidate, is another to watch out for, although just like his party, he is not so popular in Anambra State.
But he was recently endorsed as the best choice among the candidates by controversial cleric, Founder and Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry Emene, Enugu, Ejike Mbaka.
Mbaka, a Catholic priest, commands a huge following in the South-East and has been known to make crucial interventions that influence the outcome of elections.
It is time to go South
The unofficial jingle of the Anambra 2021 governorship election is ‘It is time to go South’.
This is informed by the belief that it is the turn of Anambra South to produce the governor.
Peter Obi, from Anambra Central, had eight years in office before he was succeeded by Willie Obiano from Anambra North. Obiano is about completing eight years as governor.
Apart from Obiora Okonkwo of ZLP, all the leading candidates are from Anambra South.
“The governorship position in this election was not actually zoned to a particular senatorial zone but we are looking at fairness and the principle of power sharing. With Anambra Central and Anambra North having had eight years each there is this natural and moral appeal that it should go to Anambra South this time,” Azor, Chairman of Anambra Civil Society Network told The ICIR.
Uncertainty surrounds poll
A university don, Odum Mbanefo, observed that uncertainty surrounds the election.
According to him, the uncertainty stems from the sit-at-home order threatened by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and also unresolved intra-party disputes which may undermine the outcome of the voting.
Mbanefo said, “Many people are worried about a situation where at the end of the day it will be the supreme court that would determine the winner.
“Then there is the issue of the sit-at-home order threat. No matter what you say many people are already on the edge and inasmuch as assurances of safety are being given by the authorities there are those who would decide to stay away.”
* Parties failed to provide political education
Mbanefo further observed that the political parties failed to provide what he described as ‘political education’ in the build up to the poll.
Explaining further, he said, “The people who are issuing threats have not been made to fully understand the implication of a situation where there is no election.
“It could be counter productive because it could lead to the President Buhari declaring a state of emergency and the person appointed as the administrator might not even be from the state.”