With the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, setting the date for the Anambra gubernatorial election, the political landscape is being reshaped for battle.
By Vincent Ujumadu
With the release of the guidelines for the governorship election in Anambra State by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, political parties and their flag bearers are, at long last, set to do battle for one of them to succeed Governor Peter Obi whose eight-year tenure will terminate on March 17, 2014.
What makes the governorship contest unique is that it will take place on November 16, 2013, which happens to be the birthday of Nigeria’s first president and the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who hailed from the state.
Though INEC may not have deliberately fixed the election to coincide with Zik’s birthday, the date has some significance to Anambra politicians as the man whose birthday will be marked on that date, was associated with peaceful conduct throughout his many years in politics, both during the colonial and post-colonial era.
So far, none of those daring the Government House in Awka could be said to be strikingly ahead of others in terms of possession of political structure, due significantly to the crises rocking most of the major political parties expected to present candidates for the election and the decision of others to merge into a mega political party.
This is unlike the situation in 2010 when, six months before the election, the front runners among the contestants were already known.
In the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, for instance, the performance of the outgoing governor, Mr. Peter Obi ought to have been enough boost for any candidate selected by the party to be its flag bearer, but the over one year leadership battle waged between the national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh and Governor Obi has left the over 20 governorship aspirants in the party more confused.
Though the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu has resolved the issue of the leadership of the party in favour of Chief Umeh by declaring that he remains the national chairman, his group and that of Chief Maxi Okwu, which is supported by Obi, are yet to harmonize issues concerning the party’s guidelines for the election.
While Umeh said shortly after the Court of Appeal judgment that party restructuring would begin in earnest to place APGA in a proper position for the November 16 governorship polls, the Okwu camp is said to be weighing the option of taking the matter to the Supreme Court, although many people in his camp acknowledge the fact that time is not on his side. Umeh has, however, promised a level –playing field for all aspirants at the primaries, insisting that he has no personal interest in any aspirant.
For now, notable aspirants in APGA, including the incumbent secretary to the state government, SSG, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, the former SSG, Chief Chidi Odenigbo, former president of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Prince Chinedu Idigo, Mr. Nnamdi Ekweozor, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife and others, are busy oiling their structures and waiting for events to unfold in the party.
For the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the big names expected to make the difference include Senator Andy Uba, who was governor for 17 days in 2007 before the Supreme Court stopped him, Prof. Charles Soludo who was the party’s candidate in 2010, Senator Emma Anosike who was running mate to Soludo in the 2010 contest, Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu, who had vied for the position in the last three exercises, special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on technical matters, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, Dr. Obinna Uzor who had also been in the race in the past, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke, Chief Tony Nwoye who was former state chairman of the party and Dr. Alex Obiogbolu.
As is typical with the PDP, most of the aspirants are still pressing their buttons in Abuja, apparently hoping that the national leadership of the party would push decisions that would personally favour them.