2017: Factors That’ll Determine Anambra’s Next Governor
Certain crucial factors will determine who the next governor of Anambra State will be. Elekenews in this report analyses the factors and how they may favour individual contestants in the race.
Zoning Arrangement – Anambra State has an unwritten pact that has since the berthing of the democratic dispensation worked for her. Though many will contend that the arrangement has no document to back it up, and that no one is obligated to abide by it, or that the same formula has before now been violated, but no one can truly wish away the fact that a zoning formula exists in Anambra. The first governor of the state under the current democratic arrangement was Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, who hails from the Southern Senatorial zone of the state. His second term bid that would have completed the reign of the people of that zone was truncated by the foisting of Dr Chris Ngige on Anambra people by his godfathers. Peter Obi from Central zone toppled Ngige through a pronouncement of the court, and went ahead to finish two terms.
Obi while shopping for a replacement for himself on completion of his tenure insisted that someone from the Northern senatorial zone must succeed him. This he said will give the people of the area a sense of belonging, since they were the only zone that were yet to test power. Dame Virgy Etiaba who administered the state for three months when Obi was impeached by the house of assembly and Senator Andy Uba who ruled the state for 17 days in 2007 before he was removed by the court were both from Anambra South zone. This gives credence to the argument that the next governor then, as canvassed by Obi should come from the Northern zone. The zone later produced Chief Willie Obiano, to assuage the cry of the people of the area. With election in the air again, the same zone has canvassed that they have the right to finish their two terms before another zone can move in. While some people are rooting for Obiano to finish the remaining one term, some other politicians who have interest in the position are saying that Obiano has let the zone down with his abysmal performance, and as such should give way for another son of the north to do the area proud by being the governor. Some of those who hold this view include Chike Obidigbo, Oseloka Obaze, Chinedu Idigo and others who all hail from the zone.
That notwithstanding, the people of the southern zone feel that the zone has not adequately tasted power. From Chukwuemeka Ezeife whose tenure was cut short by military intervention to Mbadinuju who was denied a second term, Etiaba who reign for only three months before Obi returned from impeachment to Uba who was also ousted. The zone believes that they and the people from the north are the only legitimate zones fit for the contest. So, what zone the governor comes from will play a role in who becomes the next governor.
Power of Incumbency – In 2010 when Mr Peter Obi trounced his opponents to win a second term for himself, candidates who lost out in the election blamed the Prof Maurice Iwu led INEC of compromise. But to this, Iwu replied that politicians do not know the strength of the power of incumbency. He contended that an incumbent governor would hardly loss election as he has enormous powers which he could deploy to sway the people’s support. True to this, there are cases where incumbent governors had threatened to ‘deal’ with any community that failed to vote for his party.
With this, it would be wise to accept that the power of incumbency, which is today held by Governor Willie Obiano, who will also be a candidate in the election would play a great role. Though there have been cases where incumbents were rooted out of offices, but that could be said to be isolated cases, bearing in mind that an incumbent still controls the state’s structure and machinery, just as its funds could also be deployed to fight for victory. For example, Obiano has been accused of drawing a monthly N1.4billion as security vote from the state by his opponents, to which he never denied. With such funds rolling in steadily, one would wonder which private individual would be able to dole out such fund to compete with him. Political analysts already contend that Obiano being aware of the odds against him may decide to buy the entire state, if that is all that would be required for him to gain victory. Under this arrangement, Obiano holds the ace.
Peter Obi/PDP Factor – Mr Peter Obi may be out of power, but his influence is still everywhere in Anambra State. On the other hand, the PDP is a party that is very rooted in Anambra State and has dominated its political space for several years, despite the incursion of the APGA into the state through the influence of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Igbo leader. With Obi, who is considered as the oracle of APGA now in PDP, it is expected that he will bring his weight to bear for the PDP.
Considering the frosty relationship that exists between Obi and his successor, Obiano, it is expected that he will work hard to ensure that Obiano does not return to the seat of power, but the problem is that in the event that PDP fields a candidate that does not have the capacity to displace Obiano, Obi may work for any other candidate, to ensure that anyone else but Obiano governs the state. In a recent interview with THISDAY, an aspirant of the PDP, Chief Osita Chidoka said that Anambra remains a PDP state, and that the only reason the party lost the state to APGA in the first instance was because of Peter Obi, who was very much loved by the state. He added that now that Obi is in PDP, and considering his size and continued popularity, the PDP was bound to take the state again. Obi still has the capacity to influence voting in the state, no wonder the state governor has made concerted efforts to pin him down for reconciliation without luck.
Godfatherism – Except for a few aspirants, who are known to be financially buoyant, and can sponsor themselves to the position, the remaining bunch is hoping that a benevolent man of wealth will come to their aid, by way of funds. This is where godfatherism comes in. Already, most of the aspirants are being backed by their political godfathers who are already working to secure the ticket of various parties for their godsons. In APC, the likes of Ngige, who is the leader of the party, and Prince Arthur Eze who is a financial weight puller would work to hand the ticket to their favoured candidates, while Peter Obi will in PDP work to favour anyone he chooses with the party’s ticket.
Also, a lot of wealthy men who are not known to be members of any political parties may have also been approached for sponsorship by the aspirants, thus, it would not only be a fight among the aspirants, but various interests in the state, who would work to favour their preferred aspirants with the tickets of various political parties, with the hope of slugging it out at the main election. Who becomes the governor of the state in 2018 may also depend on who is favoured by who.
Political parties – When candidates begin to announce the parties on whose ticket they are vying for the election, it becomes obvious which of them can be taken seriously. This is the same all round the country, but they all vary, depending on the strength of the parties in a particular state. In Anambra State, the popular parties include; PDP, APC and APGA. While APGA already has a candidate in the incumbent governor, aspirants who are serious about their aspiration would either vie on PDP or APC. Anything short of the three will rather come to Anambra people as a surprise, better still as a miracle if one likes.
A typical example of how seriously an aspirant is taken is a recent conversation where during conversation between two men, one of them said that the best governor Anambra can have is Mr Godwin Ezeemo, but said that his only impediment has always been his insistence on contesting on PPA platform, which the man noted is a party that cannot fly in Anambra State. True to the man’s word, Anambra has a special preference for big parties, but beyond this, Chief Ezeemo has been working to reshape the psyche of the people away from money politics and support for ‘big’ parties. He has also held a 5-day workshop in collaboration with NUJ in the past, with the hope of reshaping the people’s mind. But one thing remains, which is that party boosts the chance of candidates that will win the governorship in the state.
Money bag politics – If an angel in human form contests the Anambra governorship election without financial back up, and even excess of it to throw around, the tendency is that such person will not win election in Anambra. As the elections draws near, various political parties which were hitherto very invisible or better still inexistent have come to town, renting every available apartment to hoist their flags. The ploy is that aspirants of political parties that are considered the big ones will reach out to them for their tickets when they fail to secure tickets from their preferred political parties, and the aim is to tap into their wealth too. Labour party became a big party in 2013 when it netted Ifeanyi Ubah, who used his wealth to boost the party’s acceptance after he lost the ticket of APGA.
The money bag politics is usually the reason contestants have to go hunting for godfathers to bankroll their election as it is sure that one must be able to have ‘good money’ to be able to successfully prosecute an election. In Anambra State, there have been cases of godfathers holding governors at the jugulars for their refusal to meet agreements made before they were made governors. This also include the case of the present governor of the state who has been accused of reneging on paying the cost incurred by his predecessor in ensuring that he won the governorship election of the state. One political analyst in Anambra state had once said that the money spent by a governorship hopeful from the primary election to the main election, including all the rallies and empowerment that will help clear the way for a candidate may sum up to over N10billion, a sum he had said could be used by more than two candidates in any northern state.
The Church – In Anambra, the church you attend determines your rise in politics, that is how much the state plays religious politics. From the inception of the country’s nascent democracy, the church has played a great role in who becomes the governor of the state and beyond. Catholic and Anglican churches are the two dominant Christian denominations in the state, and save for Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, who was of the Pentecostal stock, the governors of the state have always been either Catholic or Anglican. Many still contend to date that the treatment Mbadinuju got, which stopped his chances of taking a second term was largely because he was neither a Catholic nor an Anglican. In the state, Dr Chris Ngige, Mr Peter Obi and Chief Willie Obiano are some of the governors of the Catholic stock who have governed. For each of them, the Anglicans always ensured that one of their own was chosen as a running mate to the governor, just as Anglican governors were mandated to take Catholic running mates to ensure a balance, and to ensure that they them to sway enough votes to their side.
To date, it is said that all the Bishops of both the Catholic and Anglican Churches have nominees who are commissioners, Special Advisers and Assistants, and who the governor must not touch for any reason, for the simple reason that they represent powerful personalities. The governor can only be said to be allowed to relieve them of their job if their offences are grave, and the clergies must always pick a replacement for the sacked ones, THISDAY gathered. Such is the height of religious politics played in the state.
While the Catholics have been lucky to produce three governors, Ngige, Obi and Obiano, their Anglican brothers have not been. The two governors they have produced have had their stay cut shot by court pronouncements. Dame Virgy Etiaba stayed for three months after Obi was impeached, but the latter’s reinstatement relieved him of his seat, while Andy Ubah managed to stay for 17 days before a court pronouncement also sacked him for Obi to return again.
Recently, rumours went round town that one of the top contenders for the governorship position on the platform of the APC, Dr George Muoghalu was not a catholic, and as such may not be supported, but because of the importance of religion in Anambra politics, Muoghalu spoke to journalists and confirmed that he was a Catholic, but stated that if he became the governor of the state, he would be governor for everyone and not just for Catholics. He also urged all to eschew religious politics. The importance of religious denomination in Anambra politics cannot be over emphasized, thus in 2010 when Obi, Ngige and Soludo were top contenders for the plum job, the Catholic Church was accused of favouring Obi, with priests visibly threatening their members with refusal to administer them holy communion if they failed to vote Obi, despite that the trio were Catholics. This prompted Soludo to threaten to petition the Pope, questioning if his own Catholicism was different from that of Obi, to warrant his(Obi) being supported by the church against him. In All, whoever will be the governor must have the strong backing of the church.