Anambra 2021: Money bags in epic battle

As political parties and various interest groups prepare for the June and July primaries ahead of the November 6, 2021 Governorship Election in Anambra State, top aspirants and the major issues that would shape the polls have set a stage for an epic battle of money bags, reports Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu 

Although the June 10 – July 1, 2021 schedule for the conduct of party primaries in this year’s governorship election in Anambra State is still three months away, keen observers can clearly identify the top aspirants for the governorship seat and the major issues that will shape the outcome of the November 6, 2021 polls.

Also, it has today become clear that party rivalries and unending disagreement over an alleged zoning agreement are poised to heat up the system even as observers express fear of possible violence during the primaries and the elections.

It has been observed that most of the top aspirants in the previous elections in the state are still in the race even as some new aspirants with deep pockets have declared interest. Also, most of the topmost political godfathers in the state, including some of them alleged to have sworn to settle old political scores, are active in a bid to either retain or take back power by ensuring the emergence of their preferred aspirants as the next governor of Anambra State. As a result, it seems this year’s contest will likely be one of the most intriguing in the history of Anambra State’s governorship elections.

While the primary election of the ruling party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), has been described in some quarters as ‘tricky,’ perhaps because of an alleged interest of Governor Willie Obiano on who would succeed him, it seems the primary elections in the other leading political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), would be best described as the clash of the Titans as the list of influential aspirants on these platforms continue to grow.

The ever growing list notwithstanding, the major governorship aspirants that will likely dominate the political scene in the forthcoming primaries have been identified to include:

Chukwuma Soludo

Professor Chukwuma Soludo, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is one of the old horses still in the ring. Even before his interest to contest in this year’s governorship election in Anambra State on the platform of the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) became public knowledge, his name has been mentioned by many as Governor Willie Obiano’s favourite to succeed him.

Analysts say if this allegation is true, the former CBN governor will be one of the leading aspirants to beat in the forthcoming race.

Soludo is not entirely new in the politics of Anambra State. In 2009, when he contested to govern the Southeast state, his campaign, especially his pledge to make Anambra State the Dubai and Taiwan of Africa, made him very popular. His well- oiled campaign then also suggests that he has built a strong grassroots political structure.

Given his stature as an economist and banker of national and international repute, and the alleged support of the incumbent governor, it is certain that Soludo will likely be one of the politicians that will dominate the politics of Anambra State in this election year.

One of the things that may help his ambition is the bold banking reforms he carried out when he served as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). It would be recalled that under his watch, the CBN guided about 97 banks run by family Czars to consolidate into 24 stronger and more efficiently run banks; an effort many still believe brought greater financial stability in Nigeria.

So, as the various aspirants prepare to face the electorates, even Soludo’s political rivals agree that his intimidating experience in finance and economy and the alleged support of the current incumbent will stand him out if he finally gets the ticket of his party, APGA.

Obiora Okonkwo

Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, a political scientist and top business tycoon, is a strong stakeholder in Anambra State’s politics. A top PDP leader, the owner of The Dome Event and Entertainment Centre in Abuja and United Nigeria Airline, is certainly not a new name in the politics of Anambra State and in the governorship contest in the state.

Considered as one of the most influential party leaders, Okonkwo is highly favoured in PDP both at the national level and in Anambra State.

Although he hails from Ogidi in Anambra Central Senatorial Zone, insiders said his candidacy is favoured by the opinion within the party leadership that if PDP hopes to win the November election in Anambra State, “it should opt for the best candidate instead of the call to respect zoning.”

Many of his followers believe Okonkwo is one of the best.

Valentine Ozigbo

Another top aspirant in this year’s election is Valentine Ozigbo, the immediate past President and Group Chief Executive Officer of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp).

Some pre-election surveys and informed observers of Anambra State politics say Ozigbo has emerged as one of the most visible governorship aspirants on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2021 race.

As we reported earlier, his use of modern communication platforms and other innovations to market his ambition may have enduring impact on the electorate, especially the youths. His strategies that is said to be drawing youths to him include his novel Walk4Health and Walk4Peace programmes. Some youths in Awka, who commented on the possible impact of these programmes, said they may “help to shape the campaign styles of Anambra 2021 governorship election.”

Though many observers said Ozigbo has fared well so far, it remains to be seen how he will relate with the established political lords in his party and the state to win the PDP ticket. According to a youth activist, Uchenna Udochukwu, “considering his innovative campaign strategies, his corporate experience and his raw drive at the grassroots, if Ozigbo wins his party’s ticket, he will be a strong candidate during the governorship election.

Uche Ekwunife

Senator Uche Ekwunife, fondly called Adadioramma, is another frontline governorship aspirant in this year’s election. She is contesting under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

She is not a new face in the politics of Anambra State. Before now, she contested for the governorship seat twice. She also represented Anaocha/Njikoka/ Dunukofia Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives for two terms before moving up to the Red Chamber.

Given her experience and the followership she reportedly enjoys at the grassroots over the years, observers said she is indeed a frontline aspirant. A source in Awka said the politics of the PDP in Anambra State is very complex, adding that “Ekwunife’s major challenge would be to get the party’s ticket. Once she gets that ticket, she is so strong, politically, that she would certainly be the candidate to beat at the elections.”

Tony Nwoye

Another top aspirant in this year’s political contest in Anambra State is Hon. Tony Nwoye, the former governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.

During the 2017 governorship election in the state, when Nwoye flew All Progressives Congress’ flag, his efforts set him aside as one of the leading grassroots politicians in the state.

Highly experienced in the politics of Anambra State, Tony was a former National President of the National Association of Nigeria Students. He was also a PDP leader in the state before he defected to APC.

Passionately determined to govern Anambra State, Nwoye lost out twice in his bids, both in PDP and in APC, to emerge as the state governor. However, these had not deterred him from being active in Anambra State’s political theatre and from seeking to be elected as the state governor.

So, most observers expect Nwoye to be at the centre as the contests for party primaries and the state governorship election kick off.

Godwin Ezeemo

Long before any other aspirant publicly declared interest for Anambra State’s 2021 governorship election, Chief Godwin Ezeemo did. So, as the first politician to make public his intention to contest the elections this year, it is believed he must have put so much in place to contest effectively.

Besides early preparations, Ezeemo, the founder and CEO of Orient Media group of companies, is not new in the politics of Anambra State. The former chieftain of the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) and now in the Peoples Democratic Party is a two time aspirant of the governorship seat in the state.

He has also traversed the political parties in the state, including All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), PPA and PDP.

Given his experience in the politics of Anambra State, observers say Ezeemo is perhaps one of the well prepared aspirants in the contest. How this will help him to win his party’s ticket and later emerge the state governor still remains to be seen.

Ifeanyi Ubah

The hitherto little known Young Progressives Party (YPP) became an important force in Anambra State’s politics when Senator Ifeanyi Ubah left his erstwhile political party and used YPP’s platform to win the hotly contested Anambra South Senatorial District election. At that time, some analysts said the development confirmed Ubah’s personal political strength.

So, when he dumped YPP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) shortly after taking his seat at the senate, it was described as a major boost for APC in Anambra State.

Since he joined partisan politics, the interest of the founder and CEO of Capital Oil to emerge as the governor of Anambra State has not been hidden to anybody. Even the challenges that have trailed his sojourn in the politics of the state had not dissuaded him. In 2014, he lost at the 2014 Anambra gubernatorial election under the platform of the Labour Party. Five years after, on 24 February 2019, Ifeanyi Ubah was declared winner of the Anambra South Senatorial elections under the platform of the Young Progressive Party (YPP)

Today, his interest in the governorship race is believed to be one of the things that will dominate the politics of Anambra State.

George Moghalu

George Moghalu, a top chieftain of All Progressives Congress, is not new in both national politics and Anambra State politics.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) served as a party secretary, a national auditor and is therefore rooted both in the politics of the ruling APC at the centre and in Anambra State.

Earlier, he contested for the governorship of Anambra State on the platform of All Peoples Party (APP).

So, many believe Moghalu is one of the well prepared aspirants for the election. It would be recalled that in the 2017 governorship election in Anambra, his name featured prominently, but he suddenly withdrew from the contest at the last minutes. Some had claimed his withdrawal then was in obedience to the zoning policy, so they contend that he is one of the well qualified aspirants who are also favoured by the zoning arrangement.

Contending issues

Besides the avalanche of top political figures and billionaires to succeed Governor Willie Obiano after November’s governorship election, a development that has set a stage for an epic battle of money men and women, other issues that will likely heat up the elections include the determination of the two leading opposition parties, the PDP and APC, to displace APGA even as the ruling party have sworn to retain the seat.

According to Nze Uba Okwudili, who described himself as a concerned stakeholder, “Pride has become a central issue in the 2021 governorship election here in Anambra. There is fear that this may degenerate and elicit unnecessary violence during the campaigns and the election. PDP, which lost power here about 15 years ago, is desperate to regain power. APC, the ruling party at the centre, which has very powerful members in the state, is embarrassed that it has not won the governorship seat in Anambra and is therefore as desperate as PDP to take power from APGA. But we all know that Governor Willie Obiano and his party, APGA, will consider it insulting if they lose this election to any of the two parties. So, for them, it is necessary to employ incumbency advantage in order to retain power. Where all these will leave us remain to be seen,” he said.

Another factor that is poised to heat up the election is zoning debate, which, according to its advocates draws from certain agreements on governorship shift in Anambra State, formalized during the tenure of Governor Peter Obi. More than any other issue, it is possible that zoning consideration will not only play a major role in the determination of the aspirant to fly the parties’ flags but will also shape voting patterns during the election. More importantly, it is being feared that it may also constitute the major source of disagreements and friction.

As Okwudili explains, “It is mainly because of the zoning issue that many of us fear possible frictions during the primaries and in fact during the elections proper.”

With the recent tragic attack on one of the leading governorship aspirants, Professor Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) at the Civic Centre in his Isuofia country home while addressing youths, it seems fear of possible violence during the primaries and the elections may not be farfetched after all. It would be recalled that during the attack, three security personnel of the former CBN governor were killed while others were injured but Soludo was taken out of the venue unhurt.

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