In November this year Anambra State will be electing the next governor when Governor Willie Obiano’s two-term tenure would have elapsed. OKEY MADUFORO in this analysis looks at the motley of aspirants across the major political parties and the religious and zonal colorations in the contest as well as their chances
By the last count, a total of 22 persons have indicated their interest in contesting for the gubernatorial election of Anambra State across the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Young Democratic Party (YPP).
Ahead of the respective primaries in these parties, several permutations and conjectures which include the religious denominations, zoning and political party horse trading have been playing out.
Since the year 1999, the number one seat in the state has continued to rotate between Anambra Central and Anambra South senatorial districts while the Anambra North senatorial district has been agitating for its turn. With the emergence of Governor Willie Obiano from Anambra North Senatorial district, the rotation arrangements have gone full circle.
Though the mantra of “Let’s go Anambra South” is seen by other political parties as an APGA arrangement, the pressure is indeed on the APC and PDP to tow this line and the South is pulling all the stops to ensure that the parties nominate candidates from the zone.
Similarly another issue that has remained a recurring decimal in the politics of the state is religion which has always been brought to the fore after the administration of former governor Chinweoke Mbadinuju and it has become the bane of politics and governance in the area.
Aside from Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife who belongs to the Salvation Army Church and Mbadinuju who bestrides Anglican Church and Pentecostal, the rest of the successive governors of the state including the incumbent have been Roman Catholics.
Against this backdrop, most of the political parties are mindful of this development and so are the aspirants in those parties. However, the aspirants appear to be optimistic about winning their party primaries and also winning the number one seat irrespective of their challenges and weakness.
The list is so long, but while some are mere pretenders who are just in race to increase the number of aspirants, others are contenders who have the capability to win.
Prof Soludo (APGA)
The former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, cuts the picture of the chosen one in APGA though he has his traducers to contend with. Since the party has zoned its ticket to the South Senatorial District he has the capacity to emerge as the candidate.
But some observers are of the view that he ought not to go for the governorship seat but the presidency come 2023, while others insist that he is not a party man.
However, he reportedly commands over 70 per cent of the party structure, having supported and campaigned for the second term of Governor Obiano some years ago, but he has to contend with the likes of Chief Akachukwu Nwamkpo, former boss of SURE-P under former President Goodluck Jonathan as well as Barrister Emeka Etiaba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. .
Comparatively, Soludo appears to be the only aspirant that can return APGA to the Government House, Awka after Obiano, if he puts his war chest in order. His denomination is also an advantage being a Roman Catholic and this is an aspect that also determines the fate of every aspirant.
Sen Ekwunife (PDP)
It is not in doubt that the senator representing Anambra Central is one of the first five aspirants in the party and since her advent in the Federal House of Representatives where she served for eight years before going to the Senate, she has maintained a vibrant and homogenous party structure which is a great plus to her.
Her opponents are, however, kicking that since she represents Anambra Central, she has no moral justification to contest the election. But her supporters insist that she is free to contest since she is from Igbo- Ukwu town in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra South and married to Agu Ukwu Nri in Anambra Central zone and that Nigerian Constitution is silent on that.
Ekwunife also bestrides the religious divide as she is an Anglican married to a Roman Catholic Church member. Also going for Ekwunife is the countless number of federal projects she has attracted to the state and her youth and educational foundation that has benefited by a great number of people. The argument that a woman cannot govern Anambra State is seen as an affront to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it, recalling that Same Virgy Etiaba
was governor in the state after the impeachment of Mr. Peter Obi her former boss.
Sen Ubah (YPP)
The last National Assembly election showed that the issue of party does not always determine the fate of a candidate but the candidate himself. Ifeayi Ubah’s party, the Young Democratic Party (YPP) is not as popular as the APGA, APC and PDP but the senator appears to have the seven local government areas of the South intact and only needs at least nine local government areas from the Central and North to become governor.
Ubah has a very formidable socioeconomic and political structure as his support base known as Anambra Progressives Development Union made up of captains of industries, political standard bearers who decide the fate of candidates in every election.
This body can comfortably challenge any political structure and force at every election with capacity to turn the table in favor of who they prefer. Ubah’s advantage also is his membership of the Roman Catholic Church and more strategic is the fact that he is building a cathedral for the Nnewi Diocese.
Though the senator must not lose sight of the fact that he has to contend with his brothers from Anambra South Senatorial District and even in Nnewi North Local Government Area where two -term
House of Representatives member, Mr. Chris Azubogu is also a top contender in the PDP.
Chris Azubogu (PDP)
They address him as Mr. Project going by federal projects he has attracted to his constituency and even beyond. He is a two-term member of the Green Chambers and has the structure to win the ticket of the party.
Though he is not the flamboyant type, his seemingly low profile status is an advantage since he is not given to controversies in the politics of Anambra State.
Azubogu has been able to interface with both the Anambra electorate and the political class only that his opponents see him as one that may not dance to the dictates of the perceived godfathers of Anambra State. Azubogu has to work on the religious politics in the state which appears to be dominated by the Roman Catholics since he is an Anglican.
Azuka Okwuosa (APC)
Although, from his fact finding committee he has what led to the failure of his party in the last governorship election presented him as a lamb without blemish and also a unifying factor. Okwuosa is as old as the APC from the then ACN and he is currently the toast of most factions in the party which he was able to reconcile back to the party.
Coming from Anambra South Senatorial District with a strong support base both in the state and Abuja, Okwuosa has to work further on the religious politics in the state being an Anglican.
George Mughalu (APC)
The member APC Board of Trustee (BOT) and Managing Director/CEO National Inland Water Ways (NIWA), George Mughalu is the party personified.
Mughalu understands the politics of his party and the workings of the party structure. His consistency in politics has been an advantage though he has to stamp his feet on the ground to reassure his supporters that he is contesting to win. His religious background is one that hinges on his Roman Catholic and Pentecostal beliefs which may be a 50- 50 chances of his winning.
Mughalu had contested under the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2003 and later contested in the last APC primaries where Dr. Tony Nwoye emerged as the party’s candidate.
Johnbosco Onunkwo (APC)
He has age on his side and commands the followership of the youths in the party and to a large extent Anambra State.
He has been able to use his foundation to sway support of most youths to the party which is to his advantage. Onunkwo is of the view that it is time to elect a young person as governor of Anambra State and he has not only used his party as a platform, his Ifediche Movement and his foundation has reached out to other political parties which is causing ripples in both the ruling APGA and the PDP.
He is from Anambra South Senatorial District and a Roman Catholic with two top members of his campaign structure as Anglicans.
He has to battle Engr. Godwin Ezeemo of the PDP who is from his community Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area. Onunkwo has also to battle against the conspiracy of the elite class who may not want him as governor.
They feel that should the likes of Onunkwo becomes governor, they will all be retired from politics and this is one of the reasons why the APC candidate Dr. Tony Nwoye lost in the last election.
Dr. Chidozie Nwankwo (APC)
A section of Anambra people see him as a new kid on the block because he has not been around party politics for long. But his supporters insist that there should be a paradigm shift in the governance of the state to those in the private sector who would inject new blood into the polity.
Nwankwo has no boundaries in terms of religious beliefs and practices and being a member of the Pentecostal Church, he is a proponent of ecumenism which means a union of all religions and denominations in Christianity.
He is of the view that religious beliefs and inclinations should not be a template to determine who becomes the governor of Anambra but ones capacity to deliver as expected. All he needs is to break the jinx of the conspiracy of the elite class in both the party and in the state at large. With the assistance of some top notch APC stakeholders he can pull through.
Dr. Godwin Maduka (PDP)
This doctor of pains and a pharmacist based in the United States of America is no stranger to anyone in Anambra State. He once had a brief stint in APGA before joining the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and since then the party has its hands full to contain his sagacity in politics.
Currently he has been moving to upstage the traditional party aspirants who are indeed losing sleep over his movement. Maduka is from Umuchukwu community in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State and a Roman Catholic and has built several Catholic institutions for the church and has empowered over 27,000 Anambra people in various capacities.
Maduka has to go extra mile to upstage the tin gods in his party and capture the structure to emerge as candidate and if the PDP can checkmate the litigations that have always trailed the primary elections he would be good to go.
Dr. Ifedi Okwenna (PDP)
Former Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna is from Anambra South and Nnewi South Local Government Area.
His track records as a commissioner under Mr. Peter Obi, the former governor, speaks for him and he has been able to collapse his former APGA structure into the PDP which he is using as his joker. It is rumoured that he is one of the few aspirants in the party that has the sympathy of Mr. Peter Obi and may have his backing.
Okwenna is a Roman Catholic and has been exploiting this advantage to his own credit though his opponents claim that he does not have the kind of logistics to run for the election. But it is being canvassed that logistics should not be the yardstick for the governance of the state. Okwenna has so far shown capacity in party politics and has built structures across the state.
Valentine Ozigbo (PDP)
The former Trascop boss is one of the new impetuses in the politics of Anambra State and he is always on the move. He is not a new member of the PDP having worked under several regimes of PDP extraction.
Many posit that with Valentine Ozigbo as governor the old order would certainly change for the better and apparently he is one of the men to watch in the party’s primary election. Ozigbo is a Roman Catholic from Aguata Local Government area of Anambra South Senatorial District hence he is a strong contender.
Yet the battle is still between him and those who claim to own the party in Anambra unless his connection at the national level would come into play to assist his ambition. If he attempts to break through the number of the statuary delegates of the party he may emerge as the candidate.
Barr Emeka Etiaba (SAN)
It is not clear on which party platform Etiaba would contest the election but wherever he chooses to be, he possesses the structure to execute his ambition.
The success story of his mother as deputy governor and governor respectively has it going for him and with his contacts across the three major political parties he stands a chance.
Should he play deep into the Anglican Church where he belongs, he would surely emerge as the candidate of the Anglican Church. Already meetings and alliances have commenced in that regard with the Bishops and Parochial Church Committee members rooting for him.
Even in the Catholic Church he enjoys substantial measure of sympathy and his foot soldiers in the church are very much on ground to give him a soft landing.
Godwin Ezeemo (PDP)
This is his third attempt at the post having contested under the banner of PPA, APC and now the PDP. Ezeemo has stamped his name in Anambra politics and he knows the terrain like the back of his hands.
But Godwin Ezeemo appears not to have learn from his experience. He starts with a bang and end up an anti-climax which most of his supporters do not like and he is yet to exploit his Anglican Church background in the coming election.
He has to also work on the PDP structure, create a strong divide to his own advantage. He is from Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra South which is, however, an advantage. He is also one of the consistent contenders to this position and should put those experiences to bare.
Akachukwu Nwamkpo (APGA)
The former boss of SURE-P under President Goodluck Jonathan has introduced a new chapter in 2021 zoning arrangements in Anambra State which is contending that the Ihiala political block has not completed its eight years under former governor Chinweoke Mbadinuju.
Against this backdrop the Ihiala political block is presenting Akachukwu Nwamkpo as its candidate for the next election with the stakeholders of the area pulling all stops to install him in APGA.
Also there is the argument that it is no longer from Christ the King CKC old boy of Peter Obi to Willie Obiano and yet to another CKC who is also of the same Fidelity Bank.
Akachukwu being an ex-Catholic seminarian has been working on his school mates who are now priests and Bishops to secure the ticket of the party and APGA being dominated by Catholics may consider his ambition if Soludo backs out which is a near impossibility.
Tony Nwoye (APC)
He had won the ticket of the party under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when he defeated Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu in the primaries. He later won the APC primaries to contest in the last governorship election. Nwoye is from Anambra North which is on the saddle today and it is being challenged that he is not respecting the zoning agreement.
But another school of thought is that since the zoning has gone full circle the Anambra North should begin the new zoning arrangements hence the declaration of Tony Nwoye.
Nwoye is known to have the magic wand of winning party primaries and sending top contenders of the party to the cleaners and this is the apprehension of most aspirants in the party. Being a youth and a grassroots politician, he appreciates the politics of not only APC and PDP but even APGA, a quality that he has going for him.
Ugochukwu Okeke (PDP)
He presents the true picture of a true progressive of the PDP who is desirous of taking the party back to the Government House, Awka. Okeke has contested for the ticket of the party twice and has remained in the party against all odds.
He is from Ihiala Local Government Area and among the possible candidates for the Ihala political block and has been on race long before now.
It is not only Akachukwu that is being considered but Ugochukwu Okeke who many in the party and Anambra South believe is a better option to heal the wounds of the party.
According to the state chairman of the PDP, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, Okeke needs no explanation to the party “because he has been with us even when all hopes appeared to have been lost.”
Okeke enjoys the patronage of party members and stakeholders who finds him as one that would play the medium course at the end of the litigations of the so called major gladiators.
The list may be limitless even as the traditional uncertainty of Anambra politics would come to play in the next few months