Barring any last minute change, 13 days from today precisely November 6, the people of Anambra State will elect a new governor, who will take over from the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano. Obiano, who is in his second term, would have spent eight years as governor by March, 17, 2022 on the ticket of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
Eligible and registered voters in the state are expected to gather at different polling units already created by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) across the states to determine who will govern them for another four years.
The two options before the people are either to endorse through the ballot the continuation of the APG government which will be fielding former Central bank governor, Professor Charles ChukwumaSoludo, or choose from the array of other political parties participating in the election. Sunday Tribune investigation revealed that voters across the state are ready for the poll, if the deteriorating security situation in the South-East, particularly Anambra, permits.
Following the trend of politicking going on, it has been observed that only three political parties: the APGA, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have demonstrated seriousness and readiness for the contest. The remaining 15 political parties cleared for the elections by INEC appear to be mere tag-ons.
For instance, in major cities in the state, such as Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi, the residents are upbeat about the election. Some of them told Sunday Tribune that they were already preparing for the election by stocking up food and other materials. Indeed, despite the high prices of commodities, the three commercial hubs of the South-East region were recording huge patronage as residents braced up for the election and its attendant restriction of movements and clampdown on commercial activities.
An Onitsha based businessman, OnyiaIgbokwe, shared his apprehension about the election with Sunday Tribune. According to him, the security crisis in the South-East would play a critical role in what becomes of the governorship election and its outcome. The election, he declared, will hold, but with low turnout due to the security challenges gripping the state.
He said that while he believed that the current spate of insecurity plaguing the state has a political undertone as it is being sponsored by politicians who want to govern the state at all cost, members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have no hand in the security crisis contrary to claims by the Federal Government.
“I am from Abia State, but I have lived and done business here in Anambra State for decades now. I have witnessed Anambra elections since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic dispensation. Anambra is a peaceful state. The ongoing security threat in the state has a political undertone. It is being sponsored by politicians, who want to govern the state by all means.
“Some people are saying it is IPOB members hiding under the garb of gunmen that are perpetrating all the crimes but it is not true. I can tell you, it is a political war among political actors in the state,” Igbokwe stated.
An Awka based hotelier, who did not want to be mentioned in print, also told our correspondent that despite the security challenges, the big markets in the state are witnessing large turnouts of buyers, while many indigenes of the state are also trooping in ahead of the upcoming election.
“People are trooping into the state to observe the all-important election. For two weeks now, the patronage is awesome. So I believe and hope that the election will be held in a peaceful atmosphere even without heavy security presence”, he hoped.
The campaign Director-General of the candidate of the PDP, Valentine Ozigbo, Dr Alex Obiogbolu, during a meeting with party supporters in Awka, said his party would win the election, if the Federal Government and INEC provided a level playing field for all the political parties and ensure a free and fair process.
According to him, the PDP, “being a party that had good plans for Ndi-Anambra is fully prepared for the election. We are ready for the election”.
On the security situation in the state, Obiogbolu, decried the activities of some political players in the build-up to the November 6 election and warned “those who have no development plan for the state to steer clear from the exercise”.
Also, Professor Solo Chukwubelu, Director-General of Professor Soludo campaign council of APGA, condemned the gunmen attacks recorded weeks ago in some parts of the state that resulted in the gruesome murder of Dr Chike Akunyili, the husband of former NAFDAC boss, Professor Dora Akunyili, along his security aide and driver on his way back from a public function.
Chukwubelu, who noted that since the creation of the state in 1991, it had never witnessed such intimidation, said: “The attacks are from the opposition parties to truncate the chances of the ruling party, APGA, which is not possible”.
He stressed APGA has a good chance of winning the election, due to the numerous achievements of the incumbent Governor Obiano, adding that: “APGA, as a grassroots political party, formed in 2002 and strengthened by the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Mr Peter Obi, Senator Victor Umeh and the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, will win the election, especially with the popularity of its candidate, Soludo, former CBN governor”.
Chukwubelu, who is the current Secretary to the State Government (SSG), noted that the defection of the state deputy governor, Dr Nkem Okeke, would not in any way affect the APGA winning space, stressing that the deputy governor defected to APC at the time when APGA had concluded its winning arrangements. «So we wish him best of luck in his political journey as we are better prepared for the election without him», he said.
Gale of defections
It will be recalled that just like the state deputy governor, lawmakers within the state House of Assembly and the National Assembly along with about 7,000 members of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Action Democratic Party (ADP) and Allied Peoples Movement (APM) defected from their respective political parties to other parties in the state. Among the defectors were Senator Stella Oduah, Senator Joy Emodi and Honourable Chris Azobugo, whose driver was shot dead at Nnewi, a day after his defection to the APC from the PDP.
Chairman of APC, Chief Basil Ejidike, claimed the massive defections of political actors in the state was an indication of its party›s victory.
With the poor administration of the PDP and APGA that have ruled the state for 21 years without any meaningful achievement, the APC is bound to win as our party has come to connect the state to the national grid (the government at the centre). We will win the election in a transparent manner if APGA or PDP did not rig the process,” he said.
Offering his viewpoint on politicking in the state ahead of the election, a political analyst, Mr Ignatus Oke, said the political gladiators in the state must caution their supporters, especially with the combustive nature of the security challenges in the state. He also urged the INEC and the security agencies to ensure a transparent process devoid of manipulation, just as he called on various political parties to preach against all forms of electoral malpractices and call their supporters to order.
Ready for the task…
The state police command has also expressed its readiness to ensure a hitch-free election on November 6 in with its deployment of no fewer than 34, 587 policemen and three helicopters in the state. The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. EchengOworoEcheng, assured that there would be adequate security for residents and electoral officers and election materials.
This is just as INEC resident electoral commissioner, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, on his part, said with the final publication of 18 political parties’ candidates list, announcement of the 2,525,471 million people eligible voters, engagement of 26,000 ad hoc staff and other electoral preparedness, «the commission is ready to conduct the election in a free, fair and transparent manner without fear or favour».
Sunday Tribune also gathered that out of the 18 political parties contesting the election, the ruling APGA, PDP and APC are the ones campaigning for votes across the 21 local government areas of the state as many residents of the state believed that the other political parties might have been discouraged by the insecurity in the state and recurring attacks by gunmen.
In spite of the statewide campaigning embarked upon by the big three political parties, only time will tell which of them the residents will entrust with their mandate on November 6, 2021.