By Ebo Sorates
The political chase game has started once more in Anambra State. The battle of wits and resources has taken off once more. The gladiators are striving, scheming and strategizing. The stakes are high; so high and so fiercely contested. The takes are good, though not oft talked about. The hall is crowded, so crowded and so full of characters – great men and distinguished women; men of character and men of questionable means; charlatans and all manner of pretenders. The chessboard is no less rowdy, capricious and tempestuous. The game played more by unseen hands than seen hands. It is the battle of the spirits and the willing.
Welcome to Anambra State 2014 gubernatorial intrigues. Although 2014 if still clean two years ahead the intrigues for the occupation of the Government House have started in earnest. While some have been covert in their maneuvers, not a few have been loud and so unreasonably bold that there maneuvers border on the comical. Perhaps they wanted to be heard. That they have comprehensively achieved, albeit with some elements of comedy.
Among the gladiators and speculated gladiators for the Anambra 2014 gubernatorial contest are Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige, Prof Dora Akunyili, Andy Uba, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Mr Nicholas Ukachukwu, Ifeanyi Uba, Engr Annie Okonkwo, Mr Olisa Agbakoba,SAN, Chief Victor Umeh, Dr Okey Umeano, Comrade Godwin Ezemo, etc. For sure, the list is not exhaustive. Certainly, as the date draws nearer, more players and not a few entertainers will emerge. The grounds for that are made more fertile by the simple but very important fact that Mr Peter Obi, the incumbent governor will be completing the statutory two terms of total of eight years in January 2014. The much feared incumbency factor shall not inveigh much in the contest. Besides, the efficacy of the governor’s eight year ANIDS rule is hotly debated. Whether he shall be able to anoint and install a successor is yet to be seen, though not un-debatable. What chances have the gladiators?
Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige
He has going for him, a sterling performance in his 34 months stint at the helm of the affairs of Anambra State from 2003 to 2006. Ngige is famous for bringing hope to Anambra State after the famished tenure of Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju. He took infrastructural development to a level hitherto unimagined. Ngige declared to all and sundry that there is money in Anambra State. Of folkloric note is his titanic battle with the political god fathers of Anambra State for the salvation of the state’s treasury. In the course, of the struggle, a civilian coup d’etat was committed under thehappily unseeing eyes of the then president as a detachment of policemen led by the late AIG Ige, sacked him from power and kidnapped him in a manner that mirrored every element of a military coup. That Ngige survived this proves that he is a cat with nine lives. The greatest achievement of the Ngige era was setting a standard in governance and infrastructural development against which every future government in Anambra State shall be measured. That people are still yearning of the Ngige era is an enigma that tells the story of that very era. It is an indication that that record has not been beaten. Ngige is the face of the ACN in Anambra State. While critics accuse him of belonging to Yoruba party and fear the Asiwaju influence, pundits wonder why the ACN did not make him the minority leader in the party despite being a foundation member. This is exacerbated by the queer fact that both the Minority Leader and Senate President had to come from the same state. How Ngige would negotiate these concerns in 2014 is actively studied, though his near worship popularity is not contested.
Prof Dora Akunyili
She has going for her, a sterling performance as the director-general of NAFDAC and as the minister of information. There is no gainsaying that many a Nigerian never knew about the existence of NAFDAC until her ascension to its leadership. It is debatable if the organization still has the same clout it had under her. She staked her life in the fight against fake drugs. But for a miracle, she would have been long dead from an assassin’s bullet. She introduced the controversial but interesting project of rebranding Nigeria which was aimed at salvaging Nigeria’s battered image abroad. She was famous for her heroic role in blowing the whistle on the ‘cabals’ of the late Yar’adua’s government. Indeed, Prof Dora Akunyili has all the elements of an amazon. But her undoing is coming from Anambra State, a sate so full of stars, and coming from the same senatorial district as Dr Ngige, another powerful contender for 2014. Her private battle with Ngige started when she resigned her ministerial job to contest the 2011 senatorial election for Anambra Central district, a move widely seen as a preparatory strategy for 2014. Dr Ngige, probably read the handwriting on the wall and joined the senatorial fray. The rest is bitter history. Prof, Akunyili could have done better if she had accepted her loss in good fate. The crisscross of accusations between the electoral officers at the election as well as her double loss both at the polls and the courts did no mean damage to her image. However, going for her is the rumoured blessings of the incumbent governor. The challenges are: shall she still have the governor’s blessings at the party primary in the light of her previous losses? Shall the incumbency factor constitute for her, an asset, a liability or a mixture of both? These are left for pundits to ponder. For sure, Prof Dora Akunyili is a woman to watch.
He has going for him, his recent victory at the polls (Anambra South Senatorial District) against the candidate of the ruling party in the state, his rumoured sea deep pocket, his connections at the corridors of power and the political prowess of his younger brother, the Eselu of Uga. Working against him is a perceived frosty relationship with the media, his academic controversies and his connections with an erstwhile president that is perceived as an enemy of the state in many quarters. Besides these, clinching the PDP gubernatorial ticket is a pyrrhic task. Despite winning the senatorial election twice, his ticket as the PDP candidate is still hotly contested at the courts. Will he be able to clinch the much coveted PDP ticket? Shall he run under the banner of Labour Party as he did in 2010? Will he be able to overcome the anticipated media onslaught? Andy Uba is a politician to watch. Suave, quiet, gentle looking but dogged. Pampered in 2007, brutally thrashed in seventeen days – a governor of only 17 days. Still, he rose from the ashes of defeat to challenge his loss to extra logical conclusion, the taunts notwithstanding. Undaunted, he joined the jostle for PDP gubernatorial ticket in 2007. Schemed out of the contest, he diverted to Labour Party only to become a PDP senator a year after. How far can his tenacity take him?
Prof Chukwuma Soludo
He is arguably the most learned and the most brilliant of the contenders. Going for him is a sterling performance as the governor of central bank. Despite efforts to rubbish his legacy, events have shown that he was at least more consistent, thorough and clear headed than his successor. He is young and vibrant. He is unarguably, a genius. But part of his problem like that of Prof Dora Akunyili’s is coming from Anambra State, a star studded state. He fought an epic battle for the PDP ticket in 2010 and won a pyrrhic victory. Like a proper pyrrhic victory, he was so debilitated by the cost of the victory that he could not prosecute the war with other party candidates properly. At the end, he had PDP ticket but not much PDP support. He lost money. He lost power. Being a brilliant man, he must have meditated on the remote and immediate causes of his loss and planned his next move accordingly. Working against him is his inability to blow the whistle on thieving bank CEOs during his tenure at the Central Bank.
Has a deep pocket and is of the Pentecostal stock. In the religious politics that has bedeviled Anambra, that’s a plus. He has been consistent in his gubernatorial quest. Party politics has always been his undoing. Will he be able to clinch the PDP ticket this time around? Mr Ukachukwu has the misfortune of belonging to the same party as well as the same senatorial district as the Ubas and Soudo. He is still in court contesting the PDP Anambra South Senatorial ticket with Andy Uba. Which surprises can he pull come 2014?
He is said to be interested in the Anambra 2014 gubernatorial election. He is said to be in the good books of the incumbent governor. Going for him is an oil thick pocket. He is the CEO of one of the major oil marketing companies. He is young and fabulously generous. He is said to be of the PDP stock. A major challenge before him is clinching the PDP gubernatorial ticket. Will the Anambra elite endorse him? How is he going to displace the Ubas in the PDP? Is he going to join APGA? He will still have to confront the immense popularity of Ngige, the intellectual prowess of Soludo and the well rounded exposure of Dora Akunyili. However, he is of the Nnewi stock, the headquarters of money in Anambra State. Pundits keep their fingers crossed as Ifeanyi makes his political debut.
Engr Annie Okonkwo has been a veteran aspirant. Will he still have the steam come 2014? During the 2011 Anambra Cenral senatorial battle, he lost in PDP and later lost the election despite defecting to Accord Party. Has the senator any more surprises?
Olisa Agboka SAN, is wooed by a power bloc to join the gubernatorial fray. Agbakoba has a solid background. Going for him is a sterling performance at the helm of Nigeria Bar Association, immense pro-democracy and corruption free record. For sure, he has the zoning argument in his favour coming from the north of the state. Shall Olisa succumb to pressures to join the fray?
Chief Victor Umeh, the national chairman of APGA is said to be favoured by some party faithfuls for the gubernatorial job. But will he secure the support of the incumbent governor who is of the same party and sister village with him?
Dr Okey Umeano, is a young effable Third Republic Rep who is versed in grassroots politicking. The medical doctor cum politician was a foundation member of APGA as well as the raves making UPGA. And now that UPGA has come onboard, shall he prosecute a gubernatorial ambition under the nascent but sensational political party or shall he settle with party office? The doctor politician is a personality to watch.
Comrade Godwin Ezemo, a businessman from Aguata axis is said to have recently joined the gubernatorial fray. He is said to be eyeing the hot seat under the banner of ACN. That is bold and daring. However, it seems almost an impossible task considering that in Anambra State, Ngige is ACN and ACN is Ngige. Unless he knows something Ngige does not know. Going for him is a candidacy from Aguata axis and a fresh political foray. But Anambra politics being what it is, shall he stand the heat, beam and focus? In the same axis, he will have to confront the Ubas and Soludo. He is likely to have a serious problem of platform, except perhaps, he is just making a political statement. Events will tell.
The etc candidates, will surely come, all manner of pretenders and noise makers, under all manner of parties and banners, known and nameless. Welcome to Anambra State.
We keep our fingers crossed and watch events as they unfold.
Ebo Socrates, a political analyst, wrote in from Lagos