By Richard Elesho
It is not for nothing that Anambra State prides itself as “light of the nation,” The State and its citizens have made their marks in commerce and industry. It is blessed with a large supply of men of affluence and influence.
A few months ago, Anamnra was the cynosure of all eyes for the obscene display of wealth and vanity, when one of her illustrious sons, with the almost tingling name, Obi Cubana, buried his mother in Iba, their village.
The State is in the news again, as it warms up for the election of a successor to Dr. Willie Obiano, its Governor, after eight years of service. The election has been fixed for Saturday, 6th November, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Governorship election in the state became off cycle following about a three- year legal rigmarole that had former Governor Peter Obi, as principal character between 2004-07. In a rare demonstration of tenacity, Obi reclaimed a stolen mandate, reversed an ill informed impeachment and guided against an abridged tenure.
As politicians and their respective parties maneuver and seek to outwit one another in scavenging for votes, an entirely outlawed group makes the task more daunting. Unknown gunmen, as they are called, dispense overdoses of fear and death into the political environment, thereby heightening uncertainties about the election.
Last week about seven persons were killed at different locations in the State, including Dr. Chike Akunyili, widower of Dora, former Minister and boss of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC. The Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, a separatist group are sometimes fingered in the attacks.
Not a few campaign rallies and meetings have been summarily dismissed or postponed in differment to the rampaging gunmen. Worse still, the whereabouts of candidate of the Labour Party, Obiora Agbasimelo was unknown at the time of filing this report. He had reportedly been missing for two days.
There are other levels of apprehension about the poll, though. Since its countdown started, the number of participating parties and their candidates have been matters of conjectures, oscillating between 12 and 18. The electoral umpire is statutorily mandated to publish the final list of participants later this week.
A look at some of the aspirants or their sponsors shows a heavy influence of family lines or what observers have tagged as dynasty politics. For instance, former Governor Virginia Etiaba has two sons, Enema and Ben, aspiring for tickets in different parties.
As it stands, three major political parties appear sturdy in their contention for the office. They are the incumbent All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, All Progressives Congress, APC, and People’s Democratic Party, PDP. Incidentally, each of the three has a legal drawback to the tickets. Let us take a look at the parties and their candidates as they stand.
APGA, Chukwuma Solido:
Going by the strength of the party in previous elections in the State and the popularity of it’s candidate, book makers look up to APGA to retain its hold on power in the State. Soludo, a Professor and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, enjoys the support of Obianor, the incumbent Governor.
He defeated eight other aspirants in a controversial 23rd June primary, held at Dora Akunyili Women Centre, Awka. The existing power rotation arrangement in his party also favours the south, where he hails from.
The acrimonies which characterised the primary selection process and dovetailed into spiral court cases, however constitute a landmine on the candidate’s match to victory in the general election. Part of the squabbles has to do with who is the authentic National Chairman of the party?
In addition, Mrs Bianca Ojukwu, widow of revered Biafra warlord, Dim Odimegwu Ojukwu who was a strong pillar of the party, has been staying away from the party’s rallies citing disrespect to her late husband by Obianor. It is left to be seen how the leadership will handle the complaints.
Gunmen have also been threatening Soludo and his political aspirations.
Charles Chukwuma Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria remains APGA candidate, while his running mate is Onyekachukwu Ibezim, doctor, Special Adviser to Governor Obiano on Indigenous Medicine and Herbal Practice, and the Executive Director of ANSACA
APC Sen. Andy Ubah:
The party also zoned the ticket to the South, but it did not bar people from other zones from the ring. Sen. Ubah defeated 13 other aspirants in a Primary election conducted by Gov. Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State on June 27th.
The other aspirants and critical stakeholders cried blue murder. Chief George Moghalu went to court to challenge the outcome of the process. At a stage, it looked like the party would not have a candidate.
However an appeal committee led by Governor Mohammed Inuwa of Gombe State, was set up by the national leadership of the party to look into complaints arising from the primary. The committee returned Uba as candidate.
Andy Uba, is former Senator for Anambra South and brother of PDP aspirant Ugochukwu Uba. His running mate is Emeka Okafor, barrister and cousin of former Governor and Labour Minister Chris Ngige. Federal forces might work in favour of the party.
PDP, Valentine Ozigbo:
Members of the PDP held two parallel primaries on 26th June. The one approved by the National Working Committee took place at Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre Awka and produced Ozigbo, former Chief Executive of Transcorp.
However a parallel exercise by Chukwudi Umeaba-led faction of the Anambra PDP held at the Paul University Complex and produced Ugochukwu Uba, sibling of Andy, standard bearer of the APC.
At a time, conflicting court orders disallowed INEC from publishing any name as PDP candidate. The matter was later resolved in favour of Ozigbo. His running mate is Lilian Enemo.
How the party handles the fallout from its primary election may affect it’s chances in the general election.
There are other candidates who are not on the frontline of contenders, but in politics they say anything is possible. The other parties include:
YPP, Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah
The Senator for Anambra South was nominated by acclamation in an uncontested primary before being cleared to run by the national YPP leadershiip. His running mate is Okechukwu Eze.
Accord has Godwin Maduka and Obi Kenneth Ifeatu as candidate and running mate. Action Alliance will be represented by Ben Etiaba and Regina Uchebo.
African Action Congress, AAC, has Chidozie Nwankwo and Chinwe Nwaebili while Akachukwu Sullivan Nwankpo and Emeka Chukwujama Maxwell will represent African Democratic Congress, ADC.
Who will clinch the trophy in the killing fields?