Who leads Anambra in the next four years? This will be decided on November 18 when the next Chief Executive Officer or governor of one of Nigeria’s best run states is decided by the people of Anambra, which is one of the most commercial states in the country. Under the shadow of a threat by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) asking people of the state to boycott the election, there would be a test of might between the security agencies and IPOB and the desire to have a new person lead the state.
Willie Obiano is the incumbent, he is no longer the frontrunner. He is actually on the defensive in this race which is going to be really tight. Earlier songs of victory by Obiano have been mellowed down by the tightness of the race that he now faces after intense campaigns and debates with fierce rivals.
The major candidates have fully realised that their dream of occupying Agu Government House is now solely in the hands of the electorate, as Anambra decides the next governor of the state tomorrow.
The incumbent, who is seeking reelection with his first mandate winding down, had repeatedly boasted that his accomplishments were the compelling reason that the people would line up behind him; but the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the southeast governors, of which he was a part, the campaign against him of woeful performance and embezzlement of funds by Peter Obi, the man who four years ago campaigned actively for him, and verbal arrows from heavyweight opponents, have mellowed his confidence and he has now resorted to an emotional appeal, followed by requests of forgiveness of sins from ‘gods’ of Anambra politics who have vowed not to accept any sacrifice until he surrenders power.
But like the embattle governor, the other major contenders are also not sure if they will be the choice of the Anambra electorate who are definitely spoilt for choice of strong candidates.
Even though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has 37 political parties running for the election, the front-liners are: Willie Obiano, the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Tony Nwoye, All Progressives Congress (APC); Oseloka Obaze, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Osita Chidoka, United Peoples Party (UPP) and Oby Okafor, Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) who is the main female challenger.
The five horses
Despite fierce opposition against his candidacy, Obiano, who was Vanguard newspaper 2016 Governor of the Year, has made some political consolidations. During his campaign, he reminded his critics of his achievements which include the creation of Anambra Brand Collaterals, comprising the state anthem, emblem, crest, flag; the success of his four point agenda (mechanised agriculture, oil and gas, trade and commerce and industrialisation). Anambra, under his watch is rated at the moment as one of the most secure state in Nigeria.
How federal might with President Muhammadu Buhari in charge will work for Tony Nwoye is still a puzzle to pundits, considering that the APC brand is damaged in the South East. But his offerings include ensuring workers in the state get a ‘living wage’; sustaining the financial prudence first established by Chris Ngige, when the latter was governor of the state and sustained by Peter Obi.
The Ex-Nollywood actress has not hidden her dissatisfaction with the number of women who are active in politics and has been sensitising voters in town-hall meetings where she has been the only woman among all other contenders in attendance. By Sunday morning Nigerians would have known if her gender card was sufficient for her to upset her male counterparts.
Obaze’s major backing is coming from Peter Obi, as well as his excellent performance in the governorship debate organised by Channels Television. Obi had in recent weeks been verbally attacking the incumbent, describing the governor’s performance as “provocatively abysmal”. On his part, Obaze has promised that 26 percent of the state budget would be dedicated to education and another promise of scholarship from nursery to junior secondary school 3.
A major campaign magic, which has seen Osita Chidoka taking a leading role in the race for Agu House, is his identification with the Biafra struggle and his strong presence on social media and well-articulated manifesto. He has repeatedly criticised the southeast governors and the Nigerian Army for the proscription and labeling of the IPOB as a terrorist organisation. He also promises to create direct graduate jobs across the state, the very moment he is sworn in as governor; and to bring governance nearer to the people.
INEC ready for the ‘most expensive election’?
Nwachukwu Orji, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Anambra State, had stated in Abuja at a dialogue with the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room that the electoral umpire has recruited over 23,000 electoral officials for the Anambra election.
Most Nigerians had expressed outrage when Rotimi Oyekanmi, chief press secretary to Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, stated that the commission earmarked a whopping N19.1 billion for the Anambra governorship poll.
But INEC has so far not commented on the spending spree by all the candidates in the Anambra election, contrary to provision of the law, which places a compelling burden on the election body to provide such information to Nigerians.
While the Electoral Act places a ceiling on the amount that could be spent by those seeking election into the various political offices, the presidency up to N1 billion; governor N200 million; N40 million for the Senate; N20 million for House of Representatives; N10 million for State House of Assembly and local government chairman, and N1 million for ward councillorship, section 153 of the 1999 Constitution mandates INEC to monitor campaign finance, audit the accounts of political parties, and make that information available to the public.
Joe Nwokedi, president, Anambra State Indigenous Lawyers Forum (ASILF) and assistant secretary, League of Anambra Professionals (LAP), counsels that despite the current money bag politics, the Anambra electorate should resist temptations to sell their votes to the highest bidders, saying that such practice is responsible for Nigeria’s underdevelopment.
“They should study the candidates very well, so that they can know how they made their money before coming into politics. They should guard against god fatherism by voting for the person they believe has the capacity to deliver on electoral promises. The future of their children depends on what they do tomorrow with their votes”, he tells BusinessDay.