Anambra 2017: Silent schemes of godfathers
Going by the timeline spelt out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), commencement of campaigns by political parties would begin on August 18, 2017. That is, one clear month after publishing notice of election; which according to Section 10(1) of Electoral Act 2010 stipulates 90-day gap.
But despite the fact that there are four months before the collection of forms by political parties from INEC for issuance to their candidates, political godfathers or stakeholders that decide how candidates would emerge, are engaged in frantic and frenetic schemes to ensure that the ultimate outcome of the governorship poll rebounds in their favour.
The heightened schemes by various interest groups, including political parties and godfathers, are giving the impression that the election is a matter of days. And there are indications that such calculations would continue leading to September 18, 2017, which is the final day for the submission of forms CF001 and CF002, for governors and deputy governorship candidates.
Historically, governorship elections and decisions as to who becomes the governor of Anambra State are usually taken outside of the state, namely Abuja. That is why at the approach of elections gladiators virtually relocate to the federal capital to monitor the machinations and calculations of the decision makers and political godfathers.
Parties In Panic Mode
With the new political wind blowing in the country, especially the continuing improvement in the electoral system, some political parties have begun to readjust to the present realities in a bid to make their platform competitive and compete favourably in the election.
For instance, the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) would be hosting a delegation from its national headquarters, led by the National Chairman, High Chief Ambrose Owuru, in Awka from May 11 through 13, to harmonise positions on issues relating to the election.
The Guardian gathered from reliable sources that the visit of the national chairman is aimed at feeling the pulse of members so as to factor their inputs on the parameters to be used in determining how the candidate should emerge.
It should be noted that HDP bounced into serious reckoning in the state shortly after the Court of Appeal ruling on the protracted leadership crisis in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which favoured the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction. Some notable PDP chieftains who had defected from the party were said to have initiated moves for HDP to be adopted for the purposes of vitiating the disappointing outcome of the Appeal Court and beat the factor of time for the November 18 poll.
On its part, All Progressives Congress (APC), held what it called a strategic zonal meeting at the country home of the party leader in the state, Senator Chris Ngige, at Alor, Idemmili South local council. Apart from being the Minister of Employment, Ngige is seen as APC leader in the state.
During the Alor meeting presided over by the Deputy National Chairman, Southeast zone, Emmanuel Eneukwu, an eight man committee headed by a former Governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo, was empanelled to oversee the election environment and seek strategies of sourcing and funneling funds into ensuring the party’s victory at the poll.
There were strong reservations about the caliber of persons, in the committee, with many speculating that the committee may recommend a candidate on the basis of higher bidder. And with the rivalry between North and South for the ticket, it was said that such a criterion would only favour any of the aspirants from Anambra South, including Chief Barth Nwibe, Senator Andy Uba and George Muoghalu.
It was perhaps in reaction to that speculation that some notable APC chieftain from Anambra Central and South Senatorial districts raised a position paper to the leadership of the party, itemizing some crucial issues to put into consideration in the selection of candidate for the party.
Led by Elder (Dr.) Nnanna Egwu, the Concerned APC Elders from Central and South warned the party against jettisoning zoning, allowing undue influence of money and federal might.
The Elders stated: “Anambra, like other Southeast states of Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi, Anambra State came to the conclusion that political power rotation through a zoning arrangement is the best way to arrest the violence and confusion that usually follow governorship elections.
“Through this zoning plan, incumbent Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, was elected in 2013. (And) virtually all Anambra people insist that the zoning format should be maintained, such that after the next four years, the governorship will shift to Anambra South zone. The peaceful atmosphere and absence of state wide rancour it guarantees, has made zoning topical in Anambra State. Only a few selfish and headstrong politicians want to alter the pattern.”
Dismissing the factor of membership, which was used to deny Senator Uche Ekwunife candidacy for a senatorial contest, the elder statesmen said the party should not make the mistake of relying on the period of membership to consider the governorship candidate.
They added: “Data from recently concluded APC registration/revalidation exercise in Anambra show that with good strategic planning and single-minded implementation, APC would win Anambra State governorship election fair and square, come November 18, 2017.
But with opinions divided within APC about the committee, United Progressive Party (UPP) denigrated the committee and its membership, describing it as “an assembly of riggers and political refugees.”
In a statement signed by the Publicity Secretary, Uche Amazu, Anambra UPP disclosed that setting up of the committee is part of a plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC), to rig the election, stressing that the party was desperate to capture Anambra State as a sign that Nd’Igbo has accepted APC.” UPP added that by comprising only of defectors from PDP, the APC election was a specialist rigging committee that wants to justify their membership of APC with Anambra governorship poll.
However, state chairman of APC, Emeka Ibe, dismissed UPP’s apprehension, saying that the committee’s work ends with the nomination of a flag bearer.
While APC and UPP crossed words, the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was also said to have constituted a five-man team to seek rapprochement with former governor Peter Obi. With former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Igwe Anukwu of Mbaukwu, former governor Dame Virgy Etiaba, Anglican Archbishop Efobi and Auxillary Boshop of Onitsha, Dennis Isiuzo as members, the team was said to be mandated to seek ways of reconciling Obi and the incumbent, as well as, ensuring that the former governor does not wreck the zoning arrangement he engineered in the state.
Shadows Of Godfathers
As the poll draws nearer, shadows of the following godfathers are being tracked in Anambra:
Prince Arthur Eze: He is the Chairman of Oranto Petroleum, who though not a politician, does not spare cost to ensure that things go his way in the governorship. Arthur Eze has made himself into an institution in the state such that it is not possible for any indigene to aspire for governorship without visiting the multibillionaire oil magnate in Abuja, Enugu or his country home in Ukpo.
Presently, Ozoigbondu, as he is fondly called is giving moral support to two aspirants, Dr. Tony Nwoye of APC and Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo of UPP. Other godfathers come to consult him to ensure that he does not play a spoiler. More often than not, only the Presidency can sway him away from a particular course.
Mr. Peter Obi: He is about the only person that served Anambra State as governor for two terms. His shadow looms large in the forthcoming election, due mainly to the perceived betrayal of his political godson, Obiano. Obi prosecuted his succession plan with a single-minded determination to institute zoning and curb the profligacy, waste and chaos that trail governorship election in the state.
He is associated with the newly registered Alternative Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), which is said to be a fallback platform to vitiate the unfavourable Appeal Court ruling on the lingering PDP leadership crisis.
Mr. Obi is said to be dividing his support across party platforms to ensure that his estranged godson does not enjoy a second term berth. Those believed to retain his blessing include, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, Oseloka Obaze, Chinedu Idigo (all of PDP) and Dr. Obinna Uzor of APC.
Senator Chris Ngige: Ngige parades as a possible coach cum player, because going by his utterances in a local radio programme that he has not foreclosed participation in the governorship race, he is susceptible to jumping into the fray.
But for now, he carries on mainly as a leader and godfather in APC, owing to the fact that the foundational structure for opposition in the state was erected by him. The recent meeting of the zonal leaders of the party where election committee was set up was held in his country home. He is believed to be considering Chief Barth Nwibe and Dr. Obinna Uzor.
Dr. Chekwas Okorie: As founder of APGA and UPP, the shadow of Okorie is visible in the build up to Anambra poll. Based on a combination of factors, including the infighting in APGA and youth agitation for Biafra, UPP became a party to watch. In London, Abuja and Enugu, Chekwas Okorie’s abodes have turned like a haven for political pilgrimages by aspirants.
Aspirants that are said to be lining up to fly the UPP flag include, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, Dr. Paul Obianoso, Hon. Chudi Ofordile, Mazi Osita Chidoka, Prince Ifeanyi Ezechukwu and Obumneke Ejimnkeonye.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo: Former President Obasanjo is said to be interested in how the Anambra governorship pans out. He is said to be putting words across for his aide on Domestic Matters, Senator Andy Uba.