Awka — Political parties have intensified campaigns ahead of November 16, 2013 gubernatorial election in Anambra State. Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has published names of candidates of 23 political parties expected to present candidates for the election.
The names were published after the expiration of the September 17, 2013 deadline given by the electoral body to all political parties to submit the names of their governorship candidates. The names of the 23 candidates expected to slug it out against one another in the November poll are: Dr. Ifeatu Ekelem - Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Engr. Anthony Anene - Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Comrade Aaron Igweze-Alliance for Democracy (AD),Chief Anayo Arinze -African Democratic Congress (ADC), Patrick Chukwuka Ibeziako- African Peoples Alliance (APA), Senator Chris Ngige-All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano -All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Austin Nwangwu -Citizens Popular Party (CPP), and Chijioke Geoffrey Ndubuisi of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
Others are Chief Dennis Nwaforka Oguge -Kowa Party (KP), Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah - Labour Party (LP), Pastor Simon Chinweuba Okafor -Mega Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP), Okonkwo Emeka Webster -National Conscience Party (NCP), Prince Leonard Uchendu- New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu -Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) via a court order, Chief Godwin Chukwunenye Ezeemo-Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Basil Ijedimma Iwuoba - Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), Onuorah Basil Onyeachonam - Social Democratic Party (SDP), Barrister Godson Mgbodile Ohaenyem Okoye - United Democratic Party (UDP), Prince Ogochukwu Akanegbu of United Progressive Party (UPP), Christian Ikechukwu Otti- Independent Democrats (ID), Okeke Chika Jerry -Action Alliance (AA) and Chukwuemeka Nwankwo -Accord (A).
All the candidates have commenced intensive campaigns. Ifeanyi Ubah, who had no challenger at the primary election of Labour Party, was the first candidate to flag off his campaign at the Holy Trinity field Onitsha.
The campaign was attended by State and National Executives of the party, including the Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko.
LP National Chairman Chief Dan Iwuanyanwu, in his speech, hoped that the party's candidate would be sworn in on March 17, 2014 as Governor of Anambra State. Chief Iwuanyanwu later handed over the party's flag to Ubah.
Governor Mimiko, in his address, urged people of Anambra to support the Labour Party in order to enjoy its transformation agenda.
LP's campaign was followed by that of APGA candidate, Willie Obiano, who also flagged off his campaign at Ekwueme Square in Awka.
A former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in the State, Barrister Ivy Obi-Okoye, who left Labour Party, led Booth-to-Booth Campaign Organization to the rally to work for the victory of APGA governorship candidate.
At the ceremony, Governor Peter Obi and APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, expressed optimism that the party would win and occupy Government House in 2014 in the spirit of continuity.
Presenting the governorship candidate and his running mate, Umeh praised Obi on his achievements as governor, urging the people to support APGA which he said is an Igbo party.
He said APGA would fulfil its promises, adding that Anambra State now needs somebody who, is not only task-oriented, but is also ready to continue from where Obi stopped.
Umeh described Obiano as a person who could perform and exceed Obi's performance.
In his speech, Governor Obi urged the people to brace up for the challenges ahead which he described as surmountable.
In his acceptance speech, Obiano expressed readiness to face the challenge and called for unity, saying the time to cast aside the differences and come together on the altar of brotherhood and love had come.
He also said the time had come to reclaim all States from the South-East "from the crushing grip of other parties whose ideologies stand in the way of the collective progress of Ndigbo and Nigeria as a whole".
"Today, APGA stands on the crossroads of history as the only political platform that represents the aspirations of Ndigbo at home and in the Diaspora. Today also, Anambra State is the only State out of the 5 States in the South East where APGA is in power.
"This glaring imbalance reflects our people's inability to grasp the political realities of our time. The South Eastern Nigeria is the only region which does not have a dominant regional party. Before our very eyes, we have watched the only political heritage of our great ancestors shrink to only one state of the federation," he said.
The campaign came few days after Ngige stole the show at the expense of the incumbent Governor Obi and APGA candidate, Obiano. At the burial ceremony of the mother of the Anglican Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Alexander Chibuzo Ibezim, Madam Christy Ibezim, which took place at Mbaukwu, Awka South local government area of Anambra State, Ngige was nearly mobbed by enthusiastic members of the public.
Governor Obi, who attended the funeral along with Willie Obiano,was already seated before Ngige arrived.
The arrival of Ngige electrified the arena as parishioners and sympathizers who were also seated inside the church stood to catch a glimpse of Ngige.
After both Obi and Obiano had spoken to an uninterested crowd, people listened to Ngige with rapt attention and discussed excitedly the entry of Ngige into the November 16, 2013 governorship race, whispering aloud that Senator Ngige is the most experienced candidate.
Efforts made by the church elders to bring the sympathizers and members of the public to order proved abortive they cheered Ngige unceasingly by chorusing Onwa!.
The Bishop was unable to save the situation. He had to apologize to the visitors over the untoward attitude of the members of the public.
After the church service, Governor Obi excused himself and quickly left the scene with Obiano, while Ngige remained there for hours.
The official flag-off of Ngige's campaign was shifted on one or two occasions as APGA was accused of fixing its programme for the same venue. Sunday Trust gathered that after APC had paid for the Holy Trinity field, the APGA team went there to claim that it also booked the same venue on the 3rd October of 2013.
APGA, however, held its own rally a day before APC had its campaign at Holy Trinity field, Onitsha. For APC, it was a great show despite the alleged APGA text messages that the event had been shifted for clashing with the Ofala festival of Obi of Onitsha.
In attendance at the APC rally included serving governors - Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. The other serving governors of the party could not attend because they had gone for pilgrimage.
The grand occasion was equally graced by the National Chairman of APC, Bisi Akande, the former governor of Ebonyi State and APC leader, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, and the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu among others.
The Leader of Chris Ngige National Campaign Committee, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who spoke at the occasion, urged the people to reject the imposition of governor by a godfather in Abuja, noting that he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
In his remarks, Ngige reminded the people of the need to vote for a known, tried, tested and trusted gubernatorial candidate.
He said free education is a must in Anambra State, pointing out that qualitative education should be made available to children of the rich and the poor.
The highlight of the occasion was the donation of money by women, widows, artisans, okada operators, non-indigenes, traders, supporters and party members to the Ngige campaign fund.
While LP, APGA and APC have flagged off their campaigns, the PDP, which is another major political party, is still battling to replace Nicholas Ukachukwu whose name was submitted to INEC to replace Tony Nwoye, the candidate earlier chosen by PDP before a court reversed the decision in favour of Ukachukwu.