• Monarchs Insist On Zoning
As political parties gear up for governorship primaries in preparation for the November 18 poll in Anambra State, candidates may have to contend with the factor of incumbency and zoning.
This is because traditional rulers in the state under the aegis of Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council (ASTRC) have thrown their weight behind zoning, insisting that zoning remains the only way to stem the bitter acrimony, stiff competition, violent confusion and waste of funds that trail governorship polls in the state.
Prior to the renewed emphasis on zoning, some political heavyweights in the state had deployed clever electoral maneouvres and strategic plots to defray the power of incumbency, which Governor Willie Obiano enjoys. The single item plot revolves around the machinations within the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which include dislodging the governor from the party and creating internal fissures to whittle down the cohesion in the party and therefore make it so feeble that it cannot withstand electoral competition from other big contenders, notably All Progressives Congress (APC).
The suspension of Victor Oye as national chairman of APGA during a national executive committee meeting he convened on October 5, 2016, was the first sign of trouble for the incumbent governor. Although Ozo Nwabueze Okafor, who was elected to act in Oye’s absence muted the idea that a second term in office for Governor Obiano was not cast in stone, subsequent developments seem to be proving that assertion right.
When Okafor died, there was sigh of relief in government circles as the governor’s handlers believed that the chief obstacle to Obiano’s second term has been eliminated. But while they were exulting in that fortuitous accident, same members of the APGA NEC that saw to Oye’s suspension went and propped up the deputy national chairman (south), Chief Martin Agbaso, as the new acting national chairman of APGA.
To make matters more complicated, APGA leaders loyal to Agbaso went to Enugu High Court and obtained a mandamus on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Police to recognise and deal with Agbaso as the authentic national chairman of the party. As this was happening, the Court of Appeal in Abuja adjourned hearing on the suit filed by Oye challenging his suspension.
Ambush Against Obiano
HAVING noticed the gang up against his second term ambition, Governor Obiano expressed dissatisfaction with the leadership of APGA and fearing that a scheme aimed at extorting large sums of money from him was afoot, the governor proceeded to make alternative arrangements.
Sources within Government House said the governor has sworn not to work with political jobbers that set up the division within APGA, stressing that contingency plans were being made to ensure that the governor contests in an election he believes he is the candidate to beat.
Seemingly stranded, the governor is reaching out to alternative platforms. Some of the governor’s supporters blame the decision to expel leaders of the party loyal to the former national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, as cause of the quandary. For inexplicable reasons, two Judges at the Enugu High Court declined to hear the suit filed by the governor’s faction to vacate the order of mandamus.
With a high wall raised against him in APC, which has more than 12 governorship aspirants, Governor Obiano has turned to United Progressive Party (UPP), believing that with the shared philosophies as APGA it would be easy to contest and win the governorship.
But there seems to be fresh ambush against the governor, given the nature of aspirants in the party. For instance, National Chairman of UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, told The Guardian that Obiano’s desire to join the party is a temptation for which he needs the Wisdom of Solomon to face.
Okorie said the baggage which the governor is carrying is that he allowed Umeh to saddle him with the offices of Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman and that of leader of APGA, contending that the governor wants to enjoy the same privileged status in any other platform he joins.
“It is a privilege that is not easy to come by; but one other critical issue is that the governor should not expect to enjoy automatic ticket of the party. There are many aspirants that have been working hard for the UPP ticket, so the party cannot tell them to stop or step down. We won’t say no to him, but he should be prepared to take part in a free and fair primary,” Okorie explained.
The UPP national chairman dismissed insinuations in some quarters that UPP has already offered Governor Obiano a breather, saying that it was a sheer coincidence that UPP buses that left Enugu for Awka were seen leading the governor’s convoy.
Despite Okorie’s clarifications, aspirants on UPP platform have been identifying themselves with the agitation for Biafra, with one of the aspirants, Hon. Chudi Offodile declaring his intention to execute Biafra ideology if elected.
Penultimate week, young Igbo professionals, including apologists of Biafra agitation from about 68 countries announced endorsement of Offodile for the November governorship poll. In a letter to UPP National Chairman, the group under the aegis of Anambra2017 Group, said they found Offodile, a former two-term member of House of Representatives as fitting candidate that meets the criteria of youthfulness, identification with Biafran cause and political exposure.
Similarly a rights activist and stakeholder of UPP, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo said UPP is a durable political platform to lead Nd’Igbo to renegotiate Nigeria, pointing out that the quit notice handed out to Igbo by some youth groups from the North was a golden opportunity that should not be missed as previous ones.
APC And Monarch’s Order
MEANWHILE, the charge by ASTRC on political parties to field only candidates from Anambra North has put fresh pressures on the Jim Nwobodo Governorship Committee. In a communiqué after the Sixth Anambra State Traditional Rulers seminar, the 47 traditional rulers in attendance decried the “bitter politics and animosity among political elites”, stressing that vicious power tussle was one of the challenges facing citizens of the state.
The monarchs therefore declared that for the sake of the 2017 governorship election, Anambra north should be allowed the next four years before it rotates to the South. “A culture of political power zoning should be evolved in the state, to reduce all these unwarranted developments,” the traditional rulers declared.
Perhaps, in response to the position of the traditional rulers, the Nwobodo committee started singing new tunes. Former Abia State governor and member of the committee, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, challenged the governorship aspirants to select who among them they feel is better equipped to fly the party’s flag.
Kalu said the aspirants would be doing the committee and APC a favour if they could deliberate among themselves and present one person flag bearer. Senator Nwobodo, however, noted that the consultative meetings would continue, even as he reminded the aspirants that only one candidate would emerge from among them.
Unlike previous meetings, only few of the more than 12 aspirants attended. If APC bows to the dictates of the traditional rulers, it means Governor Obiano would have to contend with either Dr. Chike Obidigbo or Hon Tony Nwoye.
And should Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) field Dr. Alex Obiogbolu or Oseloka Obaze, the north would have a full field, even as sources say Dubem Obaze is being considered by the Agbaso leadership of APGA. In the coming days the real setting for Anambra governorship poll would begin to unfold.