With the successful outing by candidates of five leading political parties in Anambra last Sunday, the battle line for the November 18 governorship election in the state, has been finally drawn.
37 political parties are participating in the election. But five have shown visible presence in the build-up to the exercise. These were, incidentally, those that their candidates featured in the debate.
The candidates are Tony Nwoye (All Progressives Congress) APC, Governor Willie Obiano (All Progressives Grand Alliance) APGA, Oseloka Obaze (Peoples Democratic Party) PDP, Godwin Ezeemo (Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and Osita Chidoka, United Progressive Party (UPP).
Earlier in the year when aspirants surged out from different political parties for the election, many raised concern on the sheer number of those that had declared interest.
But even as the figure increased almost on daily basis, informed analysts had maintained that it was merely a matter of time to separate the real contenders from pretenders.
The picture started becoming clearer when the leading political parties started conducting their primaries that produced candidates for the poll. While the flag bearers emerged, there were pockets of protests in some parties, on account of alleged irregularities over the processes that threw them up.
Aside the PPA which returned Ezeemo as its candidate for the second time, other parties battled it out to produce their flag bearers
Anambra North and zoning formula
A major issue which even preceded the election was that of zoning the governorship to either the North or South Senatorial District. Until the conclusion of the primaries, there was strong contention between politicians from Anambra North and their counterparts from Anambra South on the matter.
While the North had insisted that it should complete its tenure of eight years, which had commenced with the Governor Willie Obiano administration, their Southern counterparts had contended that the eight-year tenure of former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju was cut short following the emergence of Chris Ngige from Anambra Central Senatorial District, in 2003 and subsequently, Peter Obi on account of the nullification of Ngige administration by the courts.
The South, thus, contended that the North cannot lay claim to another four years in office, insisting that it should complete its truncated tenure of eight years before the North.
But in what appeared pandering to the prevailing public opinion, three major political parties in the state produced their candidates from the North senatorial district.
APGA, the ruling party, returned Obiano, from Anambra East Local Government Area, as its candidate. APC in one of the most dramatic turn of events in its primary election, settled for Nwoye, also from Anambra East Local Government Area. PDP elected, former Secretary to the State Government, Obaze, from Ogbaru Local Government Area, as its flag bearer, while UPP, settled for Chidoka, former Aviation Minister, from Obosi, Anambra Central Senatorial as its candidate.
The parties, the candidates
With the election now at hand, the challenge before the five known gubernatorial candidates of UPP, PPA, APGA, PDP, and APC, seems enormous. Each also has pronounced areas of strength and relative advantage.
Governor Willie Obiano (APGA)
With the face-off between Victor Oye and Martin Agbaso over the leadership of APGA which had been a huge drawback to Obiano’s preparation for his reelection, a little bit off his shoulder following the adjournment of the case till after the election, the governor seems set for the exercise.
Even with the reality of his sharing votes from his zone with Nwoye and Obaze, there is this feeling that the governor may not really have much to bother about.
Analysis of his performance profile, suggests that Obiano, in his three and half years in the saddle, has not failed the people. TheNiche, in fact, gathered that even when his opponents talk about his stewardship, they do not criticise him for not working but essentially kick against his strategy in governance, which they say is very flamboyant.
There is also the likelihood that Anambra North electorate may prefer supporting Obiano who is already in the saddle to finish a two-term tenure than gambling with Obaze or Nwoye.
Similarly, Anambra South and Central Senatorial Zones may be comfortable voting for Obiano hence ensuring that the North serves out its two tenures of eight years, thereby, creating room for the South to have its turn after the governor.
His feat in regular payment of salaries to workers in the state’s civil service and meeting with pension obligations to retirees, is another consideration that may work for the governor.
The administration is also credited with attaining giant strides in security of lives and property and creating the enabling environment for trade and industry in the state.
However, the last minute campaign of the governor pandering more to the social side of life in the midst of grave challenges facing the state, may make things tough for him. In the last couple of weeks, opponents have injected into circulation, picture of a governor that is more disposed to life of luxury and merriment than facing the challenges of governance. There is even the insinuation of Obiano frittering the huge savings left for him by the Obi administration.
Curiously, in the Sunday televised debate, the governor fell short of the articulation and delivery needed to counter some of the allegations against him.
“In a society that is conscious of public image and delivery, the gaffe by the governor during the debate, should have been enough to deny him a second time.
“In politics, perception matters a lot. Since he did not use the debate to clear some of the allegations, the impression would be that he actually did not manage the resources left for him well. But this is Nigeria”, a senior lecturer in history Department, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said, in his assessment of the governor.
Tony Nwoye (APC)
The 42-year old member of the Federal House of Representatives and former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, has experience and grassroots contact, going for him.
He represents Obiano’s constituency at the National Assembly. Both are from the same Anambra East Local Government Area. His supporters say that he is more popular than the governor himself in their locality – a claim that Obiano’s admirers dismiss as mere hogwash.
Nwoye’s critics however describe him as a face of the old and discredited system of Anambra politics that allegedly held the state down for years.
Seen in some quarters as being breezy, Nwoye is simply seen as a resurgence of the loathed godfather politics that Chris Ngige had banished from the state.
For instance, days before the primary, a certain controversial document had flown about, alleging that he had gone into a pact with a particular godfather to help him win the election with some terms that would harm transparent governance if he eventually becomes governor. Though his camp stoutly put a lie to the document, the insinuation stuck, considerably.
In the Sunday debate, viewers scored him below average, or at best, marginal.
Oseloka Obaze (PDP)
He was the Secretary to the State Government during the administration of former Governor Peter Obi and was inherited by Obiano in the early days of his administration.
He was initially seen as a likely successor to Obi, before Obiano came into the picture.
Obaze, also, from Anambra North Senatorial zone, made a successful career in Foreign Service as a diplomat.
Many see him as a level-headed bureaucrat, who has remained without blemish – a particular attribute that most of his opponents do not possess.
What could have counted against him by way of disconnection from the grassroots in the past, had been remedied by his stellar performance as Secretary to the State Government for six years, the experience of which has boosted his acceptability among the electorate.
He is equally expected to reap from the goodwill of his younger brother, Dubem Obaze, who, as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, also in the Obi era, enjoyed the fraternity of the electorate who he lifted by impacting on the communities in the state.
But then, he is seen in some quarters, as a product of godfather politics by Obi, despite his emergence from the party’s primary.
In addition, the disquiet in his PDP is also not completely over. Even after his emergence as the candidate, there were insinuations that the likes of Senator Stella Oduah and Alex Obiogbolu, who abandoned the contest midway, were literally forced out by the high level of intrigues that characterised the exercise.
Business tycoon, Ifeanyi Uba, who also contested the primary, had reportedly cried foul over the process leading to the primary and eventual outcome. He has left the fold and joined camps with Obiano.
There are fears of more embittered members leaving the party or sabotaging it within, a situation that will grossly work against Obaze.
But the PDP candidate put an exciting performance at the Sunday debate that endeared him to many that had previously seen him as mere Peter Obi crony. Ever since, his profile has shored up greatly, making many see him as a possible winner of the poll.
Godwin Ezeemo (PPA)
The renowned industrialist is making his second attempt at becoming the next governor of Anambra State.
The attributes that easily work for him, include being a philanthropist and heavy employer of labour in Nigeria at large.
Besides, his party, the PPA, which he has in the last five years nurtured and financed, is reputed to be without crisis.
Two significant factors however count against Ezeemo. One is the size of his party which does not command much followership in the state. As a matter of fact, former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who founded the PPA, has left it ever since and is currently in APC.
Another drawback to Ezeemo is his hailing from Anambra South senatorial district. But his supporters insist that reducing the governance of the state to a mere representative position, is not what is required to take the state to the next. At the Sunday televised debate, he gave a fair account of himself and his agenda if elected governor.
Osita Chidoka (UPP)
The conclusion by analysts in public discourse and social media since the Sunday televised debate among the candidates, is that if oratory and public speaking are the only criteria for winning elections, the former Aviation would have had it straight away. His robust response to most of the topics at the encounter, portrayed him as one firmly prepared for governance.
A senior journalist and obvious supporter of the former minister, Sunny Igboanugo, wrote on his facebook social media page; “I’ll be heading for Anambra this weekend armed with my voter’s card. It will be used to cast my vote in favour of Chief Osita Chidoka.
“Why? Apart from the fact that the youth are taking over leadership all over the world and Nigeria should not be an exception, his vibrancy, power of oratory, intellectual depth, physical fitness and natural appearance (handsome), he’s the one with the most workable plan to lift Anambra State and project it to the socio-political and economic sphere of the next generation and more.
“He’s the one that has talked about the most workable solution for Ndigbo, far more important than building roads and exporting yams and vegetables.
“He has sworn to interpret Ndigbo to Nigeria and Nigeria to Ndigbo, to enable a symbiotic, seamless and natural relationship for the benefit of all. He has not only said so, but demonstrated how to do it, by doing what others lack(ed) the balls to do or failed to do for reason(s) of political correctness”.
Other admirers of the erstwhile Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps, have spoken in similar tone.
But like PPA, his party, UPP has the challenge of limited followership to contend with. Most of those who spoke about Chidoka, are in agreement that he is a good candidate in a “small party”.
Whether the gubernatorial debate will eventually turn the tide in his favour, is another thing.