The Peter Obi political era is gradually drawing to an end in Anambra bringing attention to the battle for political succession. The contenders are now emerging
We are set for Anambra State and anybody who is more qualified than I am should come out and let’s see him,” billionaire businessman Ifeanyi Ubah said penultimate Sunday while throwing down the gauntlet ahead of what promises to be an interesting gubernatorial election in Anambra State this November.
It was remarkable that Mr. Ubah did not set the basis of qualifications for the governorship of Anambra State , a state where intrigues, high drama have almost consistently mixed with good and bad money in setting the political direction of the state.
Anambra State is the first state where an incumbent governor was barred from seeking re-election, it is the state where a governor was locked up allegedly in a toilet and humiliated by a godfather, it also has the shortest reigning governor in the person of Senator Andy Uba, a former super aide of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Anambra State was also the state where two brothers opposed one another in a governorship contest forcing one to get the better over his sibling by causing his incarceration in the Force Headquarters in Abuja .
Anambra is also the only state in the country not to have held a local government election since the advent of democratic rule in 1999 and also, the only state where the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP with all its captivating political plots, has not been able to hold a successful congress for more than ten years. Indeed, there are as many PDP factions in the state as there are political godfathers with each godfather parading a faction of the party for his purposes.
Past efforts in harmonising the factions by the national secretariat of the PDP according to one Anambra political stakeholder were always opportunities for money making by the national officers of the party. Despite its famed proclivity for the politically odious, Anambra is also replete with some of the brainiest persons in the country who have won global recognition in the sciences, arts and business. So it is not surprising that the state has the moniker “Home for All”, the good, the bad and the ugly.
But money making is apparently where the men and women of Anambra have excelled themselves. So it is not surprising that for many of the moneyed men of the state that political power becomes a target pursuant to the actualization of wealth. While some have directed their gazes at the seat of power for themselves, others have sought to play the role of godfathers, who influence the man on the throne.
Chief Chris Uba, reportedly a one time aide to Chief Arthur Eze, himself another godfather, was perhaps the most conspicuous and controversial godfather of the major godfathers who have squabbled over the state since the advent of the fourth republic.
At his zenith after the 2003 general elections, he was hailed as the ultimate godfather upon his alleged sponsorship of all but one of the elected political office holders in the state – governor, senators, House of Representatives and House of Assembly. After the face off with his brother just before the 2007 election, Chris Uba is now reported to have considerably reduced his political engagements and few have seen him in political circles in Anambra since 2011 as he has almost left the field for his elder brother, Senator Andy Uba.
Chief Emeka Offor, a one time godfather has also almost abandoned the political arena channelling his energies on money making and philanthropy. Chief Arthur Eze like the other two godfathers is reported to have also removed himself from the political arena, though some factional groups within the PDP now and again drop his name as a patron.
The lethargy among the godfathers would also have been compounded by their diminished political prowess following the enthronement of Mr. Peter Obi as governor who as it is generally known, has not been good business for them.
The eight years of Governor Obi has hurt political and other businesses of the godfathers and it is not surprising that many of them have resorted to their legitimate businesses rather than sowing in the uncharted wind of politics. That is not to say that godfathers have by any indication been completely removed from Anambra, as now and again, names of some outstandingly rich businessmen are mentioned as political patrons. In the absence of the former dominant godfathers, many political partisans are now said to be gravitating towards Ernest Obiejesi, owner of Nestoil, though his political intentions remain unclear for now.
Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, no relation to the Uba brothers – Senators Ugochukwu, Andy and Chief Chris Uba – who by the financial parameters of assessment of godfathers, should be one, is however, not restricting himself to such a role, preferring now to dabble into the gubernatorial race himself. His entry is generally believed to be the root of the crisis in the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA that is ruling the state. Mr. Obi is said not to be disposed to him as a successor against the inclination of the party’s embattled national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh.
The division between Umeh and Obi also boils down to the matter of zoning. The governor in the heat of his 2010 re-election campaign had inclined himself towards producing a successor from Anambra North senatorial district, the only part of the state that is yet to produce a governor.
The governor’s promise nonetheless, the Anambra South and Central senatorial districts are awash with gubernatorial hopefuls desiring to put Mr. Obi’s promise at bay.
Besides Ifeanyi Uba who is from Anambra South, other top aspirants from the south also desirous of getting the governorship include Senator Andy Uba who is the incumbent senator for the zone, Chief Akachukwu Nwanpko, arguably, Andy Uba’s replacement at the presidential villa who goes by the designation as Special Adviser to the President on Technical Matters, but has his hands in many areas of governance.
Akachukwu, allegedly a classmate of President Goodluck Jonathan, according to political tales in Anambra, is being packaged by the villa for the governorship in the same way Obasanjo reportedly made way for Andy Uba to govern the state, albeit for 17 days.
Dr. Obinna Uzor, a lawyer and PhD holder in is one of the more refined ones also aiming for the governorship. Cut in the image of the outgoing governor, Uzor is better known for his philanthropic gestures and has used his 25 year old Obinna Uzor Foundation for charitable causes including the building of church buildings, hostels in some universities in the
state, provision of water and electricity among others.
Also believed to be contending from the south is Nicholas Ukachukwu, another moneyed man whose aspirations to political fulfilment have time and again been checked by the Uba brothers from Uga. While his aspiration for the senate in 2003 was foiled by Senator Ugochukwu Uba, Andy Uba stopped him in his bid for the governorship in 2007 and again whittled away his support in the 2010 election.
All four possible contenders from Anambra South are presently members of the PDP but as the election approaches, it is not impossible that Uba and Ukachukwu who have sought the office on different parties could again seek alternative platforms to achieve their aims. The three prominent gubernatorial hopefuls from Anambra Central and also veterans of the 2010 contest with Obi, are Senators Chris Ngige, Annie Okonkwo and Rep. Uche Ekwunife.
Though the outgoing governor is from Central, it has not in any way dampened the enthusiasm by the three veterans. Ngige and Okonkwo, remarkably, are major pillars in the crystallising All Progressive Congress, APC. The gist is that the national leaders of the APC are desirous of using Anambra as an entry point into the Southeast and are as such determined to put forward the most viable candidate in order to win the election ahead of the coming battle for the presidency in 2015.
Anambra North senatorial zone not surprisingly, presents the highest number of governorship aspirants given the agitation from the zone over zoning.
Among them are the incumbent Secretary to the Anambra State Government, SSG, Mr. Oseloka Obaze from Ogbaru, Senator Emma Anosike from Anambra East, Chief Paul Odenigbo from Ayamelum, who was the immediate past SSG, the member representing Anambra State at the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Ezennia Nnamdi Ekweogwu from Onitsha, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu also from Onitsha, former chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Godwin Ibekwe, an industrialist, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Mr. Patrick Obianwu from Onitsha, Dr. Emmanuel Okafor, Mr. Chima Anene, former banker Chief Dennis Odife, Prince Chinedu Idigo and former commissioner for local government and chieftaincy matters, Mr. Dubem Obaze.
The last time that somebody from the area made an impact in a governorship campaign was in 1998 when Mrs. Joy Emodi led a bubbly campaign that captivated the imagination of the nation’s political class. Since then the other zones have monopolised the governorship between them. Governorship contenders and political stakeholders from the zone have lately increased the contention on zoning with the argument that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
It is an argument that ordinarily should not have been, given the zone’s population superiority over the other zones. But not in Anambra where the norm turns into oddities!