By Vincent Ujumadu
AFTER months of rigorous and vigorous campaigns that took the candidates to all nooks and crannies of the state, the Anambra State governorship election is just few days away.
After the nomination of flag bearers by the various political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, announced that candidates of 37 political parties met the requirements to contest the election, but it is obvious that most of those parading themselves as candidates are mere pretenders.
Most of them have not even been able to organize a single rally since they emerged the candidates of their parties. In fact, some of the candidates were the chairmen of their parties and they only transformed to candidates after inviting INEC officials to their one or two room offices as the case may be.
It was therefore not surprising that the various bodies organizing political debates for the Anambra election have consistently been inviting only the candidates considered to be serious to contest the election. The serious candidates, in the estimation of most people in Anambra State electorate are the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the All Progressives Congress, APC, which controls the central government, the United Peoples Party, UPP, and the Progressives Peoples’ Alliance, PPA.
Vanguard has been following the campaigns and the findings show that though it might look like a battle for just three candidates of APGA, PDP and APC, surprises could also come from UPP and PPA candidates.
Willie Obiano (APGA)
As the incumbent governor, the campaign appears to be going smoothly for him. Apart from availability of funds to prosecute the election, Obiano has the backing of various segments of the state who argue that it would only be proper to allow him complete his second tenure in line with unwritten agreement for power rotation among the three geo-political zones of the state. Besides, he is seen as the shortest bridge for power to move to Anambra South after the North senatorial zone, which he represents, might have completed eight years like his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi from Anambra Central.
Since the campaigns began, Obiano had received endorsements from virtually all relevant bodies, including religious groups, which felt that having put the state on the path of progress, especially with the water tight security his administration has provided in the state, there would be no justification to deny him second tenure. According to some leaders of the various groups, those wanting to stop Obiaano’s second tenure were only doing so for reasons other than non performance in the last three years and eight months.
In fact, Vanguard had noticed that even some people who initially opposed Obiano’s second term bid, started working for him later out of sympathy as they felt that he was being vilified unduly by some of his opponents, despite the fact that he possesses one of the best credentials among the candidates for the election.
Again, though his opponents see the N20 million select and execute your project initiative he initiated for all the 181 communities in the state as a non issue, the benefiting communities are excited as some of their projects abandoned over the years had been completed through the new policy. The policy was also extended to the various markets in the state which were given N10 million to execute projects in the various markets that dot the entire state. Similarly, the fact that he has consistently been paying workers and pensioners had endeared him to retired and serving civil servants. Considering these factors, Obiano remains the candidate to beat in next Saturday’s election.
Oseloka Obaze (PDP)
The former senior official of the United Nations, who also worked with some Nigerian heads of state, was invited home by former Governor Peter Obi to become the Secretary to the State Government, SSG. He also served briefly for the incumbent Governor Obiano before he resigned to face his Management Consultancy business and preparing for the governorship race. Obaze was one of the brains behind the blueprint prepared by the former administration for the new administration, but he has consistently expressed disappointment that the administration of Obiano which Obi handed over to, derailed the continuity policy, such that most of the projects left by the Obi administration have been abandoned.
In fact, this issue has remained the plank of his campaign which appears to be permeating the entire communities in the state. But the greatest asset to his campaign is the former governor who is loved in the state in view of his performance when he was in office. Obi’s presence at campaign grounds always excites the audience as the belief is that anybody he recommends is likely to perform as he did. However, some notable members of PDP say they left the party because Obi has high jacked it and is dictating the pace and the direction of things. If Obaze wins the election, he will be the first person from Ogbaru area of the state to hold the office of governor of the state.
Tony Nwoye (APC)
The former national president of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and former state chairman of the PDP will be one of the youngest governors in the country if he wins the election. His two campaign locations at Udoka Housing estate and the Best Western Hotel in Awka have become beehive of activities with many youths volunteering to join the campaign train on daily basis.
Nwoye is backed by one of the richest Igbo men, Prince Arthur Eze and the fact that his party controls the federal government gives his supporters the feeling that the federal government might use the federal might to ensure that he is elected the next governor of the state. His message that Anambra State can no longer afford to remain in opposition is getting the required attention in most parts of the state.
One thing that has missed in Nwoye’s campaign is the presence of politicians in the mould of Peter Obi for the PDP and Victor Umeh for APGA. Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who was expected to give the campaign the spark it desires, has not been following the campaign train. However, the scheduled visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state to round off the governorship campaign for the party, will likely give Nwoye the boost he requires for the race.
One major factor that influences the politics of Anambra State is the church. While many might see the three candidates of APGA, PDP and APC as the front runners, the fact that they all belong to the Catholic Church, might give the other two candidates of UPP and PPA, who are of the Anglican denomination and advantage during the election.
Also, the fact that the three front runners are all from Anambra North senatorial zone might also lead to the splitting of their votes, thereby giving Chief Osita Chidoka of UPP and Mr. Godwin Ezeemo of PPA, who are both Anglicans the advantage they need to win the election.
Osita Chidoka (UPP)
Chidoka, the former Minister of Aviation and Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, as well as a high chief of Obosi Kingdom, is seen by many as a very good candidate, but the fact that he is from Anambra Central, which has governed the state for unbroken 11 years, is putting a wedge on his aspiration. To many, Chidoka is a future governor as age is on his side.
The UPP candidate has, however, introduced one innovation in the ongoing campaign, which is making direct contact with voters. Many of those who had been spoken to by the Chidoka campaign directorate in recent time say they had never had such experience during previous campaigns. Whether this will help sway voters to his side on November 18 will be seen after the election.
Godwin Ezeemo (PPA)
The businessman –turned politician is from Anambra South, which is hoping to take over from Obiano if he is elected to complete the eight years for Anambra North. However, if Ezeemo wins the election, it would be the quickest way for Anambra South to grab the governorship, rather than wait for the next four years. He has used the PPA platform to make himself very visible in Anambra politics and if he fails to win the November election, he might be the candidate to beat in 2022, when the governorship position would have been naturally zoned to Anambra South.
As the candidates embark on their last minute campaigns, one thing is clear and that is that last minute realignment might change the voting pattern. The political debate organized by Channels Television in which the five candidates participated in, appears to be generating some kind of effect that could spring a surprise on Saturday. But everything will depend on how INEC and security operatives decide to handle the exercise.