analysisBy Charles Onyekamuo
Later this year, the Anambra State governorship election will hold. Ahead of the election, the political environment in the state appears dull with almost all the known parties and supposed aspirants playing the waiting game. Charles Onyekamuo writes.
A report on the website of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed the date for the conduct of the governorship election in Anambra State for November 13, this year. Section (8) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended says: "An election to the Office of Governor of a state shall be held on a date not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of the last holder of that office."
Following this, the Anambra people had expected that political activities would have gathered momentum by now with INEC releasing the timetable for the election and processes of sourcing for aspirants by the political parties, nomination of candidates, campaigns and so on.
But what is prevalent now is a dull unexciting political environment bereft of political activities. This is, however, a clear departure from what held in the run-up to the February 10, 2010 governorship election in the state when the incumbent, Mr. Peter Obi, sought re-election.
Obi and his party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) had waged a long-drawn legal battle against Dr. Chris Ngige following the INEC declaration of the latter as winner of the 2003 governorship election in the state. Ngige had contested the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and had spent 34 months in office before the Court of Appeal ousted him and returned Obi as the duly elected governor of Anambra State.
However, Obi did not enjoy a peaceful tenure. Barely nine months into his tenure, the PDP-dominated House of Assembly impeached him. While he was battling to upturn the impeachment, the INEC declared that his seat would be vacant by slating election for the state along with others in the 2007 general election. It was only after the Supreme Court judgement that interpreted section 180(2) of the 1999 Constitution on tenure of elected governors, did he regain his seat. The judgment peremptorily ousted Dr. Andy Uba of the PDP who was declared winner of the 2007 governorship election in the state. Uba spent 17 days as governor of the state before he was booted out.
It came naturally that the Supreme Court verdict altered the date for governorship election in the state and by extension, marked the beginning of staggered election in the country.
However, in the run-up to the February election, the hype had started some 10 months before with the then leading parties of PDP, APGA, Labour Party (LP) Hope Democratic Party (HDP), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) making waves. Parties were thoroughly engaged in such activities like selling of nomination forms to sourcing aspirants, nomination of candidates through primaries and then, the campaigns.
Aspirants pasted their posters bearing logos of parties of their choice in every nook and cranny of the state. There was intense politicking with citizens discussing the election that was about 10 months away in restaurants, drinking bars and public forums. The interest exhibited by the indigenes was in fact a reflection of their political awareness and desire to participate in the process leading to who governs them. Obi of APGA eventually retained his seat as sworn in on March 17, 2010.
But the build-up to this year's election appears a departure from the last one. Many party offices are yet to witness the beehive of activities expected in an election year and there is also this noticeable indifference shown by the people, thus prompting the question: what is going on?
THISDAY, however, gathered that as many as over 15 names are already flying around as intending aspirants for the governorship post across the three senatorial districts of the state. Apart from Uba who might give the seat yet another shot, there are Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Dr. Obinna Uzo, Godwin Ezeemo (South zone), Senator Annie Okonkwo, Hon Uche Ekwunife, Boniface Kodilichukwu Okelekwe, Chief Emma Nweke, Senator Chris Ngige (Central zone) Chief Paul Odenigbo, Chief Dubem Obaze, Patrick Nwachi Obianwu, Dr. Ifeanyi Igwebuike Hygers, Senator Emma Anosike, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, and Hon. Afam Ogene (North zone). They have all declared interest in succeeding Obi at one time or the other, using proxies to coordinate their political interests and for mobilisation, even though almost all of them live outside the state. But the impact has not been felt in the face of the obvious lull.
But analysts have contended that the obvious lull may not be unconnected to the fact that aspirants are avoiding early financial commitments that may likely eat deep into their purses. As such, they would rather maintain skeletal political activities like convening nocturnal meetings and strategising through proxies.
This aside, lingering crises in the major political parties such as PDP, APGA and LP have created a sense of political insecurity in many of the aspirants who are confused as to who to commit their allegiance to. Almost all the parties are facing one crisis or the other at either the national or state level.
Whereas the APGA crisis is national in outlook ruffling the feathers of its national leadership, which has been in court since the burial of its presidential candidate in 2007, Dim Chukwuemka Odumegwu Ojukwu in March last year, the PDP also suffers a similar fate as the Anambra State chapter of the party has an avalanche of court cases to battle with. The state LP is currently in the Federal High Court in Awka, trying to sort out its leadership succession crisis.
The scenario is such that many aspirants are worried that with the pending court cases and factions, allegiance to any of the factions in the parties may sing the person's political nunc dimitis hence the waiting game to hear the final say from the courts.
Although, it is argued that the incumbent governor's purported support for a candidate from the North zone presumably from his party since he had no power over other parties may also be rubbing off on the politicians' enthusiasm, it is also found that the inability of successive governments to conduct council polls in the state has taken the shine off its grassroots politics given that political leaders at the third tier are not constitutionally elected and lacked the political will to mobilise the people at that level and electrify the dull political environment.
Yet, there is the belief that the inability of INEC to release the timetable and processes leading to the nomination of candidates by the parties, and or make a definite statement on the election has also contributed to the lull.
However, the PDP Chairman in Anambra State, Prince Ken Emeakayi told THISDAY that his party was not making noise yet because it was strategising. "We are putting everything together to ensure that we come out better," he said.
His LP counterpart, Sam Oraegbunam, said his party was ready for the election any day INEC brings out the timetable. Now, the state chapter of LP, he said, had embarked on membership drive and setting up of structures in all the 326 wards and 21 council areas of the state in readiness for the electoral battle which he envisaged would be titanic.
He said the acceptance of the party in the areas they visited is already overwhelming with many indicating interest to vie on the party's platform.