Periscoping the Obiano victory
By Anthony Opara
A lot has been said about the recent gubernatorial tussle in Anambra State in South eastern Nigeria, in which 38 political parties battled the incumbent for the Government House in Awka but at the end of the day the incumbent Willie Obiano took the diadem once again, beating his opponents in all the twenty one lolcal government areas of the state. This piece examines some of the factors that played out in the election and made the difference in what was very easily a battle of giants.
The former Governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi by all means understands what it takes as he had performed quite well as Governor for the eight years he was in power except for the short interregnum when he had to fight for his mandate in court and was therefore forced to cede power temporarily to his then Deputy, Madame Virginia Etiaba. Indeed, Peter Obi performed so well that he soon rose to be the yardstick to judge performance in governance at the state level. Before his exit, he brought a Management Executive from Fidelity Bank to take over from him. Peter was, until his venture into politics, the Chairman of Fidelity Bank as well as other companies. He was a very quiet man but very sound and well educated as well as wealthy and to cap it all he was a Catholic which is the religion of most of Anambra people.
He fought a bitter legal battle to reclaim his mandate which was nearly stolen by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator Andy Uba now known as the man who served the shortest period in Nigeria’s political history.
Peter Obi ran on the platform of the All Pprogressive Grand Alliance (APGA) formed by Chekwas Okorie but led by the Igbo Icon Dim Chukwuemeka Odimwgwu Ojukwu, the Eze Igbo Gburugburu who became the spiritual father of the party. With the name of Ojukwu APGA became a party to reckon with and even produced another Governor in the person of Ohakim of Imo State although he later defected to the PDP.
It was suprising therefore when Peter Obi who inherited the good will of the APGA and superintended the burial of the party’s spiritual father after his death in a London hospital later jettisoned the party over some leadership squabble and defected to the then ruling PDP and infact was said to be the Coordinator of the former President Goodluck Jonathan in the SouthEast. Cracks emerged between him and his protégé Obiano soon after the emergence as the Governor of Anambra state. It appeared that Obiano supported the faction that was struggling for the leadership of APGA which Obi considered a political betrayal he could not stomach but even then Obiano was fighting to hold the party together and his government as well. APGA became too hot for Obi nicknamed ‘Okwute’ the Rock by Anambra people.
Obi settled in PDP with an eye on the Anambra Central Senatorial contest. His ambition threw the party into factions as many accused him of reaping where he did not sow. They accused him of not realizing the hard work that had been done to hold the party together after the fall of the party at the center only for him to attempt to take over the structure. The struggle for the Senatorial ticket led to the exit of some of the giants in the party like Uche Ekwunife who represented the Senatorial zone at the Senate but lost out in the courts. She felt cheated and decamped from the party. It was in this fractious space that Obi once again imposed as it were a candidate for the Governorship Contest bringing Obazee Oseloka, urbane, quiet and well educated son of the state to take over from Obiano. A lot of the PDP faithful defected to APGA in a bid to stop Obi and his cohorts from taking over the Government House at Awka. One of the big guns that left the party was Chieft Ifeanyi Uba of Capital Oil who had his eyes set on the Government House but who realized it would be an uphill task. He decided to throw his hat in with Obiano under the notion that ‘nkaa bun ka anyi’ this is our own. Uba and some other prominent sons of the soil like Mrs Bianca Onoh, wife of the late Ikemba Nnewi stood firmly with Obiano vowing that the memory of Ikemba would not be allowed to perish by other parties other than the one he led. Now the Court of Appeal has given INEC 90 days to organize election into the Senate seat but that Peter Obi should not be one of the contestants. As would be expected this ruling has been challenged at the Supreme Court and only time will tell what the final decision will be.
The All Progressive Grand Alliance had its crisis as the attempt by Senator Andy Uba to contest for the Governorship position was frustrated by the DR Tony Nwoye group who took the ticket with the help of business mogul Chief Arthur Eze, easily the most prolific philanthropist in the state.
Former Aviation Minister and former Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps Chidoka jumped ship from the PDP and joined the newly formed United Peoples Party (UPP) formed by Chief Chekwas Okorie after he was driven from APGA by Chief Victor Umeh and his group. There were 33 other parties that fielded candidates for the election including Hollywood’s Yul Edochie who also ran.
No doubt Peter made great impact into the economy of Anambra state and handed over lots of money in both foreign and local currencies to Wilie Obiano who also continued in the giant strides of his former master not minding their political fall out. Obiano realized on time that only the people of Anambra will save him when puch comes to shove so he made sure that he carried civil servants along and made sure that they were not owed salaries and allowances, even pensioners got their pay on time even as he continued on other developments of the state. Anambra is perhaps the best governed state in the South East.
When President Buhari came to Anambra to campaign for the APC Candidate Dr Tony Nwoye who in 2003 was the Candidate of the PDP, the President promised to ensure that Anambra gained more from the federal government if they voted for APC. The party received decampees into their midst including Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, son of the Ikemba who told the crowd that the APGA was no longer the party his father supported but that his fathers image has been desecrated. Many saw his action as taking the fight with his father’s widow another notch with political watchers describing him as irrelevant in the scheme of things being of no electoral value. This was proven when Obiano beat all of the top politicians in other parties in their local governments with some of them losing their wards. Former Vice President Dr Alex Ekwueme of blessed memory had supported the incumbent but when his daughter was picked as Deputy Governor to Obazee Oseloka, he withdrew his support for Obiano and thew his weight behind the PDP
The incumbent whose security details were withdrawn by the Police few days to the election but returned on the orders of the President took 55% of the votes cast in the election that was said to be the most bought election in Nigeria’s history. Dr Tony Nwoye, a former President of Nataional Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) said people took his money but did not vote for him. Attempts to buy votes was widely spread and open that the security forces could do nothing but assist in some instances in making sure that the sharing of the loot rolled by the parties did not cause trouble. It was not a case of parties buying voters, it was a case of which party paid more including the APGA. Chidoka and Obazee distanced themselves from the vote buying spree and they both flagged the issue even as they congratulated Obiano for his victory and also said they would nto be challenging him in the courts but instead advised him to do more for the people of Anambra state.
Those who watched the Pre election debates by the Major contenders gave it to Obazee for having the best of plans and the erudition to verbalize it. They also gave points to Chidoka for his eloquence but a very huge disappointment was the incumbent Governor who was lack luster in his presentation and resorted to name calling rather than reel out achievements in office as a Peter would easily do. Apparently majority of Anambra people do not watch televisions and if they do do not put premium on what they watch. It appeared that the state in spite of having the largest market in West Africa is also a civil servants town and at the end of the day civil servants determined the election and gave Willie Obiano another four years in office. It also appears that Peter Obi’s influence has waned and he has been retired from politics by the results of the election. His party the PDP didn’t even win his local Givernment. It was really a contest between a godson and his godfather and in this case the godson won and this may very well become the way it will go in other states. Next stop is Ekiti where the Governor and his godson will square it out with others.
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State