Anambra Guber: Who takes over from Willie Obiano?

In Anambra State today, the only talking point is the November 6 governorship election. As the contest hots-up, 17 political parties are warming up to unseat the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) which has governed the state since 2003. MICHAEL OVAT examines the intrigues within the political parties, their candidates and the factors that may make or mar their chances.

As residents of Anambra State prepare to elect a successor to Governor Willie Obiano of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), whose tenure ends on March 17, 2022, supporters from the opposition parties are mobilising desperately to take over the state Agu-Akwa Government House.

While the incumbent governor is working tirelessly to ensure his party retains the seat, the opposition parties in his state are exploring all democratic means to grab the seat from him.

Sunday Tribune gathered that 17 out of the 18 registered political parties in the country will participate in the November poll, having concluded their gubernatorial primaries, which were reportedly dogged with controversies leading to litigation, claims and counter claims among different political camps within the parties.

Despite several internal crises, the parties still met the July 1, 2021 deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the primaries in which the ruling APGA, specifically, produced three governorship candidates from its three factional national and states Executive Councils.

Aside the ruling parties, other political parties that held their primaries before the deadline include the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), Action Alliance (AA), Young Progressive Party (YPP), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Accord (A) and Action People’s Party (APP).

Others are the Nation Rescue Movement (NRM), Action Democratic Party (ADP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Labour Party (LP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and the African Action Congress (AAC).

As its standard-bearer in the poll, Chief Victor Oye-led APGA, where governor Obiano pitched interest, elected the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo. Chief Edozie Njoku emerged the gubernatorial candidate of his own faction, while Chief Jude Okeke’s APGA produced the member representing Aguata Federal Constituency at the National Assembly, Honourable Chukwuma Umeoji, as its governorship candidate.

Interestingly, Umeoji and Soludo are from the same Aguata Local Government Area of the state, while Njoku hails from Imo State, but was born in Onitsha and has been playing active politics in Onitsha North and South Local Government Areas of the state. In view of APGA’s tripartite nature in the state, observers believe that the fate of the three factions of the ruling party lies in the hands of the court of law, where their battles have been shifted as INEC plans to publish names of candidates for the poll.

There are also two other political parties in the same fold; although with two factions each. They are the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Action Alliance (AA). PDP in a parallel gubernatorial primary produced Mr Valentine Ozigbo and Senator UgochukwuUba as candidates. Ozigbo emerged in a primary conducted by the national officers of the party led by Prince Uche Secondus, while Uba is the brainchild of Chukwudi Umeaba faction of the PDP in the state, which is loyal to Chief Chris Uba, the acclaimed political godfather in Anambra State.

Similarly, AA produced Mrs Doreen Ifeoma Maduka-Arisa and Mr John Ikeotuonye as parallel candidates. Maduka-Arisa is the sister of Dr Godwin Maduka, a guber aspirant of the PDP, who scored five votes in the election conducted by the Secondus faction. The National Chairman of AA, Honourable Adekunle Rufai Omoaje conducted the election where she was pronounced a sole candidate, just as Mr James Vernimbe, who introduced himself as the National Secretary of AA officiated the election of Ikeotuonye.

Other political parties participating in the forthcoming election with one candidate each include the All Progressive Congress (APC), Senator Andy Uba; Young Progressive Party (YPP), Senator Ifeanyi Ubah; African Democratic Congress (ADC), Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo; Action People’s Party (APP), Mr Azubuike Echetebu; and the National Rescue Movement (NRM), Mrs Uchenna Adaobi Okpeke.

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There are also Action Democratic Party (ADP), Chief Afam Ume-Ezeoke; the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Arinze Ekelem; the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Chief Nnamdi Nwanwuo; Labour Party (LP), Chief Obiora Agbasimelo; Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Chief Uche Ugwuoji; the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Sir Emeka Ohajimkpo; Accord Party (A), Mr Alex Nwankwo; and African Action Congress (AAC), Mr Obi Sylvester Chukwudozie.

It’s observed that majority of these candidates are from Anambra South, the Senatorial Zone agitating that it is its turn to govern Anambra. The zone comprises seven Local Government Areas namely: Aguata, Ekwusigo, Orumba North, Orumba South, Nnewi North, Nnewi South, and Ihiala. Five of the LGAs: Aguata, Orumba South, Nnewi North, Nnewi South, and Ihiala LGAs have strong candidates in the gubernatorial poll.

The two factional candidates of APGA, for instance, are from Aguata Local Government Area, just as the two factional candidates of PDP and that of APC. In fact, Senator Andy Uba of APC, Senator Ugochukwu Uba of PDP, and leader of the faction that produced him, Chief Chris Uba are siblings (brothers from the same mother and father) from Uga, which is close to Amesi town where Valentine Ozigbo hails from. Soludo is son of Isuofia town while Umeoji hails from Ezinifite (Ezinifite-Aguata). This same Aguata Local Government Area produced the first civilian governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife (January 1992 to November 1993), an indigene of Igbo-Ukwu town.

Similarly, Nnewi North has Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of YPP, while the candidate of Labour Party, Obiora Agbasimelo is from Ezinifite (Ezinifite-Nnewi) in Nnewi South Local Government Area. The former acting governor of Anambra State, Dame Virgy Etiaba, who held sway between November 2006 and February 2007, is from Nnewi Town, Nnewi North Local Government Area like Ubah. Ihiala Local Government Area, Okija town, is the home-town of Akachukwu Nwankpo, the ADC standard flag bearer. This council area is also home to the former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chinweoke Mbadinuju (1999 to 2003).

Relatively, Orumba South Local Government Area is most likely to have Dr Godwin Maduka, an America-based medical doctor in the ballot. Maduka is from Umuchukwu. Even though he didn’t make it in the PDP primary, penultimate week Saturday, he told his teeming supporters in Awka that he would still participate in the election and ‘win’ whether PDP gives him ticket or not. Sunday Tribune gathered that his younger sister, Doreen Ifeoma Maduka-Arisa, is the factional candidate of AA, while his media aide, Mr Alex Nwankwo, is the candidate of Accord party. Political analysts believed that one of these two candidates would have their names replaced with Dr Maduka’s before the election, while the other would collapse structure in his support.

However, despite the agitations by stakeholders from the Anambra South that all political parties should throw in candidates from the zone, some of the governorship candidates are from Anambra Central and Anambra North Senatorial zones respectively. Among them are Mr Obi Chukwudozie of AAC, Azubuike Echetebu of APP and Chief Uche Ugwuoji of ZLP (Anambra Central), and Chief Nnamdi Nwawuo of PRP (Anambra North). The candidates would be affected by the clamour for zoning in the main election.

Anambra Central comprising seven councils such as Anaocha, Awka North, Awka South, Dunukofia, Idemili North, Idemili South, and Njikoka, had former governors Chris Ngige (2003 to 2006) and Peter Obi (2006 to 2014). Also, Anambra North is where the incumbent governor Willie Obiano hails from. The zone includes Anambra East, Anambra West, Ayamelum, Ogbaru, Onitsha North, Onitsha South, and Oyi Local government areas.

Sunday Tribune further observed that the four major contenders, according to key political watchers in Anambra state are; Professor Soludo of the APGA, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo of the PDP, Senator Andy Uba APC and Senator Ubah, the candidates of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), a party whose political critics described as the “third force” in the keen contest.

Certainly, one of the aforementioned candidates will emerge the governor of the state after the slated November 6 governorship election.

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How the contenders stand:

Prof. Soludo

He hails from Isuofia in Aguata Local Government Area in the Anambra South senatorial district. If he wins, he is going to be the second man in the zone after Mr Chimwoke Mbaninuju (1999-2003) since the returned of democracy, to be elected governor of the state and he can achieve that through the backing of Governor Obiano. Soludo is currently a member of President Muhammadu Buhari economic team.

But his dream will come to reality if the party could resolve the factional tussle between him and Honourable Chukwuma Micheal Umeorji. Soludo contested the number one seat in 2013 under PDP against the incumbent governor, under the godfatherism of Peter Obi.The November election will make it the second time Soludo will be seeking election for the governorship position.

His strength and Obiano factor

As rumoured by many political pundits, Soludo stands a big chance in the election because of Obiano’s strong backing. Another major factor that may count for him is that his party, APGA, appears to be more grassroots oriented. Another factor is that about 24 political support groups that have declared support for him, drumming and canvassing support for his election across the length and breadth of the state.

His weaknesses

Political critics are of the view that the ex-CBN boss is miserly and his failure to employ Anambra indigenes when he was the CBN boss. The allegation of imposing Soludo on the party by Governor Obiano, which did not go down well with majority of APGA members may also count against his and the party.

Andy Uba and the burden of aggrieved aspirants

As for theAPC, following the primaries that saw the emergence of Senator Ubaas the candidate, some had predicted that other eleven aggrieved aspirants would work against him and the party in protest against their alleged exclusion from the primaries conducted by the Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun on June 26th, 2021.

It was gathered that the National Working Committee of the party had appointed the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as the a reconciliatory committee chairman to address the aggrieved aspirants for the party victory in November 6 election.

Uba represented the people of Anambra South at the Senate between 2011 and 2019. He hails from Uga, in Aguata Local Government Area of the state. Uba contested the 2017 guber primary of the party and lost to Dr Tony Nwoye, who is now in PDP.

Senator Andy Uba’s strong points:

Uba’s only major strength for the election, according information, is his popularity as a governor, who ruled the state for just 17 days in 2007 and the party’s NWC.

Also, some supporters including the State Working Committee of the party, led by Chief Basil Ejidike, believed that Uba would enjoy the support of the presidency and the APC governors, especially, those of the South-East states.

His weakness:

Critics believe that his major albatross would be his antecedent of negative godfatherism as recorded in the forceful “removal” of the current Minister for Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, when he was a governor of the state in 2006.

Valentine Ozigbo and PDP

Valentine Ozigbo has been confirmed the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by a High Court sitting in Awka, after a long battle with Chris Uba-led faction of the party where Chris Uba announced his younger brother, Senator Ugochukwu Uba, as the candidate of the party.

But following the counter-reactions from PDP chieftains, in the likes of the national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, Senator Ben Obi, Mrs Joesphine Anenih and other concerned party supporters against Chief Chris Uba, the court has confirmed that Valentine Ozigbo remains the authentic candidate for PDP.

Ozigbo won the party ticket with 64 votes in a keenly contested primary, supervised by the Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Phillip Shaibu, on June 26, 2021. He is the immediate past Transcorp President. Ozigbo hails from Amesi, also in Aguata Local Government Area of the state.

His strengths and weakness

Regardless of whatever misgivings anyone may have, Ozigbo is believed to have recorded some modest performance since his journey to govern Anambra State began early in 2020, in terms of rehabilitation of schools in some less privileged communities across the three senatorial districts of the state, building of houses for poor widows, among others in the state.

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He will post a strong showing, if the factional party supporters agree to work with him. In one of his media chats with members of the Anambra State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ozigbo said he had already signed a couple of memoranda of understanding (MoUs) meant to attract more investments to the state, if elected as governor.

The factor of first timer in Anambra politics may pose some drawback for him. But should Chris Uba decide to play the spoiler’s game, Ozigbo’s ambition may suffer for it.

Senator Patrick IfeanyiUbah (YPP)

Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, according to political analysts, may profit hugely in the billionaires’ contest, if the three major parties, APGA, APC and PDP, fail to resolve their differences before the election.

Sunday Tribune gathered that the senator, who is currently representing Anambra South at the National Assembly, contested the number one seat in 2013 under the Labour Party and lost.

He contested the PDP primary in 2017 governorship election and lost, then collapsed his political structure with APGA that returned Governor Willie Obiano for his second term.

The Nnewi factor can also be of help to him. According to some sources in the area, the zone has promised to support who ever emerged candidate in respective of any political party with billions of naira for the candidate’s campaign.

He contested the Senatorial election under the YPP in 2019 general election and defeated Senator Andy Uba, who contested under APC, his brother of the PDP, Chief Chris Uba and Honourable Nicholas Akachukwu of the APGA.

His strength and weakness

Ifeanyi Ubah has his acts of benefaction to the people of the state, irrespective of party of ethnic affiliation, as one of his strongest points. He is hoping to capitalize on the crises befalling APGA, APC and PDP. According to politicians, one of the pieces of moral baggage around Senator Ifeanyi Ubah is that he is seen as arrogant and someone who talks down on people.

Godwin Maduka

Dr Godwin Maduka, who is up to this moment, still touring around communities to canvass for votes with the belief that he will take of power from Governor Willie Obiano, through another political party.

Dr. Maduka, contested the just concluded primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and lost. The 62-year-old Medical Doctor-cum-politician, who spoke to the press shortly after a meeting with thousands of his supporters, who are calling on him to go ahead with the election under any available political party, said he is ready to answer to call of his people.

The national leader of Ndigbo United People’s Assembly (NUPA), Prince Batho Igwedibia, told Sunday Tribune that Maduka, “is a likeable personality, quiet, decent and generally warm.”

He described him as “a well-mannered and mentally sound in all aspects of human existence. He is somebody I have a lot of respect for. He is eminently qualified to be a governor of Anambra State. I want the electorate to vote for him irrespective of any political party he finds himself.”

INEC and preparation

The INEC Resident Commissioner in the State, Dr Ukwachukwu Orji, told Sunday Tribune that the commission was fully prepared for the election.

“We are full prepared for the process that is what I can say for now. I will keep you posted on any new development,” he added, refusing to volunteer any further information.

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