Leadership (Abuja)

30 January 2010

Nigeria: Anambra Decides - the Contestants, Their Chances

Six days from today, February 6, 2010 to be precise, the electoral curtains in Anambra State would be widely drawn. And for the electorate in the state, it would be an opportunity to yet again, attempt to enthrone another governor in the state.

Since I999 when Nigeria returned to a democratic rule, Anambra it must be said, has been a controversial state. From the then governor Chinwoke Mbadinauju's era till date, politically turbulent perhaps captures the description that suits it. No thanks to the gladiators in the state's politics - individuals who have continued to run the shine out of incumbent governors.

Anambra State will be the first to usher in a new governor just before the 2011 general elections when most states are expected to head to the poll for change of batons.

The political time table in Anambra and by extension, the nation's was distorted following the Supreme Court ruling on June 14,2007 which upheld incumbent Governor Peter Obi's contention that his tenure in office was yet to expire. Obi had on March 17, 2009 assumed the mantle of leadership in the state after a hectic two and a half year battle to reclinch his stolen mandate having been rigged out by Chris Ngige of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

And so with the tenure of Peter Obi on its dying days, the election is set to hold amidst intrigues, scheming and manipulations that have characterized the polity in that state. Again the old horses are back to the ring, ready to slug it out with each other. Except for Prof Charles Soludo and Hon Uche Ekwunife, who could be perfectly described as greenhorns in the politics of the state as far as the governorship is concerned. Others like Peter Obi, Andy Uba, Chris Ngige, Nicholas Ukachukwu are household names in the state and needless to say, have been at the center of the power play that has characterized the state.

Indeed, these power blocs in the state have had themselves entangled in a power web- knowing the antics of each other and of course have their loyalists and structures spread across the state and country.

Who Wins?

Intrigues, politicking, betrayals, crudeness, overzealousness, determination and cross carpeting may just be words, but for all that Anambra 2010 represents, these words capture all that has transpired in the lead to the politically, tharged election.

Beyond the pomp and pageantry that has characterized their respective campaigns, salient issues rather than the fun of the campaign that unexpectedly have been peaceful will determine who wins the election. While it may be safe to say that the campaigns have been peaceful, it still remains to be seen whether the elections proper shall in turn be free and fair. The major contestants and their chances are herein x- rayed:

Peter Obi

The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, gubernatorial candidate in the election can perfectly be described as a cat with nine lives. He is a tale of an obscure politician, only known as a reputable entrepreneur, who arrived and distorted the political equation of the state.

Born on July 19, 1961, Obi attended Christ the King College, Onitsha where he completed his secondary school education. The incumbent had been governor from 17 March 2006 to 2 November 2006 and then resumed his tenure on 9 February 2007.His rival, Ngige, was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in the 2003 election.

After nearly three years of litigation, Ngige's victory was overturned by the Court of Appeal on 15 March 2006. Obi then took office on 17 March 2006. On 2 November 2006, he was impeached by the state house of assembly after seven months in office and replaced the next day by Virginia Etiaba, his deputy, making her the first ever female Governor in Nigeria's history.

Obi successfully challenged his impeachment and was re-instated as the governor on 9 February 2007 by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu; Etiaba handed power back to him after the court ruling. He once again left office on 29 May 2007 following general elections.

Obi returned to the courts once more, this time contending that the four-year tenure he had won in the 2003 elections only started to run when he took office in March 2006. On 14 June, 2007 the Supreme Court upheld Obi's application and returned him to office. This brought to an abrupt end the tenure of Obi's successor, Andy Uba whose April 14, 2007 election the Supreme Court nullified on the grounds that Obi's four-year tenure should have remained undisturbed till March 2010.

Unlike other governors in some parts of the country who have long taken charge of their domain, Peter Obi's quest for this has remained elusive as he has found it difficult to conduct elections in the LGs for the four years he has been in office. Hence, the near absence of a lack of structure in the state for him.

APGA his platform has been embroiled in factional crisis that has indeed affected its fortunes , largely made so by the insistence of the Chekwas Okorie faction to continue to lay claim to its leadership.

Why consolidation of power continues to be a problem for Obi, the Agulu born business guru, is being accused of running his campaign under ex war veteran, Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu.The support APGA had in the past has been seriously depleted. This is just as the allegation of placing embargo on employment in the state continues to trail him.

In terms of his contribution to the State, Obi has indeed contributed his best towards uplifting the state. Whether he rides on this to relaunch a come back is what continues to be the guess of many.

Chris Ngige

Born August 8,1952, Ngige was governor of Anambra State in Nigeria from 29 May 2003 to 17 March 2006. He is the candidate of the Action Congress (AC).

Ngige, a medical doctor by profession graduated from the University of Nigeria-Nsukka in 1979. He immediately went into the civil service, serving at the National Assembly and State House clinics at different times. He retired in 1998 as a deputy director in the Federal Ministry of Health.

Ngige turned to politics, becoming a founding member of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). By 1999, he was assistant national secretary and zonal secretary of PDP in the South East region of the country.

Under controversial circumstances was he elected in 2003 before he quickly broke ranks with his self-styled 'political godfather' after an unsuccessful attempt on 10 July 2003 to illegally remove him from office through a fabricated letter of resignation which the state assembly accepted.

All that is bygone now as again, the Action Congress has nominated him as its standard flag bearer for the poll. Breaking away from the PDP, he managed to move some structures of the PDP with him.Though highly appreciated by the Anambra electorate and called ONWA, how he will battle the Uba brothers and some heavy weights in the State remain a big challenge as it is said that all may become governor , except an Ngige as he is largely feared.But he may sway the magic wand to his favour.

Prof Charles Soludo

Charles Chukwuma Soludo, born on 28 July, 1960 is an economics professor and the immediate past Governor and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank Of Nigeria on 29 May 2004.

In September 2009, Soludo announced his aspiration for the seat of the Governor of Anambra State, for the February 6,2010, election. On 9 October, 2009, the PDP chose Soludo as their consensus candidate for the Anambra State Governorship election of 2010, out of 47 candidates, after repeated attempts to hold elective primaries were stalled by court injunctions. However, his nomination was contested by 23 of the 47 aspirants, citing lack of transparency in the process. After this initial set back, the Supreme Court ruled that he remained the candidate.

It is the opinion of many that the battle is strictly between him and Andy Uba of the Labour Party. However, while he may have the backing of the ruling PDP in the state, analysts in the state suggest that he may just be floating, as even the machinery of the PDP, is not in his hands but in Chief Chris Uba's- Andy Uba's younger brother.

Again, there is no gain saying the fact that his emergence as the PDP candidate, as per the process, tore the party in the state apart. All others have all 'cut their chunks of party and gone with it leaving Soludo and the National body of the PDP to have the remaining'.

Added to this is the fact that both he and Andy Uba hail from the same local government - Aguata. With Andy Uba having a greater share of the support base, it may really be difficult to see how Soludo could challenge the Ubas', a task made difficult by the reported reconciliation between Andy and Chris Uba. That Uba has what is alleged by Anambra people to be the 'rigging machinery' may not be news, but if the fact that the PDP chieftain has not shown his face at any of Soludo's campaign is considered, then the import of the game playing out may be understood.

For Soludo, however, a largely successful technocrat, the chickens will come home to roost next Saturday. What direction they will lay,remains the biggest poser.

Andy Uba

Born December 14, 1958 Andy Uba was illegally sworn in on 29 May 2007 and was told to vacate the office on the 14th of June 2007. The Nigerian Supreme Court ruled that the election that brought him into power was illegal and should never have held.

Andy Uba was a special assistant on domestic matters to the former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2006. He is the elder brother to one of the PDP chieftains and moneybag, Chris Uba and also of Ugochukwu Uba. Dr Andy Uba won the April 14 gubernatorial elections in Anambra State with over 70% of total votes cast despite having entered the gubernatorial race just 6 months earlier. The elections were described as a charade by international observers.

He claims to hold a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) from Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, an M.Sc. from California State University and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biological Sciences from the unaccredited Buxton University, UK. However, his academic qualifications are in dispute; there is evidence that he was enrolled at Concordia University, and California State U., but no evidence that he graduated from any of the schools. In addition, the degree from Buxton University was one based on Correspondence. He recently went to the Supreme court to ask them to over-rule the earlier verdict, but had it withdrawn on 8th of May, 2009.

However, if permutations coming from Anambra is right,perhaps the candidate to beat has become the former PDP chieftain turned Labour Party candidate.

While decamping to the ruling PDP, Uba is known to have pocketed the PDP machinery while allowing Soludo to play aloof.

Added to his advantage is the said collapse of Chris Uba's structure into his - one structure that to many say has become the fear of the unknown.

For the Uba campaign organization, theirs they say, is a victory in waiting. On the light side is his closeness to INEC chairman Maurice Iwu, who it is said, being his benefactor may actually damn the odds and 'give him' the governorship.

All these remain speculations as he, Soludo and Ngige are said to have run effective campaigns.

Others

Other contestants that can be termed serious include Hon, Uche Ekwunife, a member of the House of Representatives, running under the platform of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, and also Senator Nicholas Ukachukwu of the Hope Democratic Party, HDP.

While both may have been impressive in their decisions to break away from the PDP and contest under different platforms, absence of original structures they could call their own has continued to be their headache.

For instance, while Ekwunife is said to be riding on Senator Annie Okonkwo's structures in the state, Ukachukwu's frequent boat jumping seems clearly to have put him at a disadvantage as again majority of his supporters have been displaced.

The permutations may continue, but definitely by the break of dawn on Sunday, a new governor may emerge for this troublesome state, barring cancellations of the results which INEC says is a possibility in the event of wanton irregularities or violence.

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