OKEY MADUFORO reports on the bid by a former student union leader and ex-lawmaker, Hon. Tony Nwoye, to take another shot at the governorship position of Anambra State in the 2021 gubernatorial poll after two previous attempts
A former member of the House of Representatives, who represented Anambra East/West Federal Constituency of Anambra State, Hon. Tony Nwoye, launched himself into Anambra State political space as a student unionist before rising to the position of National President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) between 2003 and 2004. He later emerged as the youth leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, a position he held until 2006, when a palace coup that ousted the then executive of the party led by the selfstyled godfather of Anambra politics, Chief Chris Uba. After the shake-up, Nwoye became the state chairman of Anambra PDP ahead of the 2007 general election.
It was under his watch that the party conducted primary elections that produced Dr. Andy Ubah as its gubernatorial candidate; Annie Okonkwo, Ikechukwu Obiora and Joy Emordi as candidates for the three senatorial districts of the state. But in a twist of fate, the gladiators started beating the drums of war before the general election, insisting that Nwoye should be sacked. He was accused of high handedness in the discharge of his duties as state chairman.
However, Nwoye’s traducers kissed the canvass, when major stakeholders of the party and its national leadership reaffirmed their vote of confidence on him. This did not only see him leading PDP to victory in the governorship and National Assembly elections in the state emerging, but secured his chairmanship position. But, shortly after, the Supreme Court, in a judgement ruled that the tenure of Mr. Peter Obi as governor of Anambra State has not elapsed hence ousting Andy Uba, who was declared winner of the 2007 governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The loss of the governorship seat to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was compounded by the trouble that started again for the PDP over the conduct of the party’s state congresses.
At this point, Nwoye’s traducers, not only came calling, but were battle ready to highjack the party’s structure from the ward to the state executives. While the outcome of that leadership crisis could be described as ill wind that blew no one any good, Nwoye returned to the drawing board preparatory for yet another political onslaught.
Ahead of the 2011 general election, he threw his hat to the ring for the Anambra East and West Federal Constituency seat under the platform of the PDP. Nwoye’s victory in the said election against all odds re-launched him into relevance in Anambra State politics.
But earlier before then, the 2010 gubernatorial election has come into focus and Nwoye had to contend with the state’s elite or supper gladiators in the PDP when he contested for the gubernatorial ticket of the party. Young Nwoye had to face several battles to survive plots by the so called owners of the party to frustrate his ambition.
At the Dr. Alex Ekwueme Square venue of PDP’s governorship primary election for Anambra State, Nwoye defeated one of top PDP leaders in the state and supper aspirant, Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu, to emerge the party’s gubernatorial candidate. Before the counting of votes could be concluded, Ukachukwu left the venue for the election as at it was obvious that Nwoye has won the ticket of the party. The battle was however far from over as Ukachukwu did not accept defeat.
He approached the court to challenge Nwoye’s victory in the primary election. Nwoye had to spend most of his campaign period at the court, battling to secure and safeguard his ticket.
This affected his fortunes in the said election even as most gladiators in the PDP, who were apprehensive of Nwoye’s rising profile, allegedly worked against him by backing the then incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi of APGA, who ultimately won the said election to secure a second term in office. As a member of the National Assembly Nwoye choose to embrace his constituency and it is on record that his empowerment programmes touched most homes in the two local government areas of Anambra East and Anambra West.
On the National Assembly score sheet, Nwoye was ranked among the first 29 most successful House of Representatives members in terms of bills and motions sponsored as well as federal projects attracted to the South- East geopolitical zone during his stint in the National Assembly.
When Nwoye joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), his move jolted most foundation members of the party in Anambra State became apprehensive of his presence. Reasons for the apprehension could be adduced from the experience of their counterparts in the PDP, who were rattled by Nwoye in the party’s gubernatorial primary. Several meetings were held in a bid to ensure that Nwoye did not emerge as the gubernatorial candidate of APC in the last election in Anambra State.
With a total of eight gubernatorial aspirants led by then Senator Andy Uba, Chief George Muoghalu and Engr Bath Nwibe, among others, who were foundation members of APC, Nwoye, who maintained a low profile and focused on the statutory and elected delegates for the party’s primary election pulled a surprised at the primary election. He dusted all the aspirants and clinched the APC gubernatorial ticket for the election in Anambra State hence sending the elites to the cleaners.
But, unlike in the 2010 election, there was another gang-up against Nwoye as the so called elites became apprehensive that with Nwoye as governor of Anambra State, they would be automatically retired from active politics.
They allegedly made sure that President Muhammadu Bubari did not officially present Nwoye as the candidate of the APC in Anambra State, while closing ranks with the APGA to return Governor Willie Obiano back to office.
Allegations were that Nwoye led the mob that unleashed mayhem on Anambra State in 2004, but the justice Keazor (rtd)-led Commission of Inquiry report never indicted him. Similarly, he was accused of holding meetings and receiving sponsorship from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, but no party member presented any evidence or petition to that effect.
To most analysts and political observers in the state, Nwoye’s sin is basically his age, having been born in September 1974 and has risen to such a high status. His traducers, who have been in politics since 1999, when Nwoye was still in school, feel that the young man is moving at top speed and should be slowed down.
But as the clock ticks towards the 2021 governorship election in Anambra State, Nwoye has commenced consultations to contest the gubernatorial position. But while his traducers are waiting in the wings again, the former student union leader said nobody will stop him from contesting the poll. Speaking at the inauguration of a youth foundation in his Nsugbe, Anambra East country home recently, he said: “Let me make it clear to all that I am an unrepentant politician and nobody can stop me from vying for elective positions.
The 2021 governorship election is still far. Although the foundation is mainly to assist the youth, it also has political undertones. “I decided to set up this foundation because the youths assisted me so much in my political career.
I’m now 45 years old and no longer a youth, but it is the youth that made me what I am today and that is why I decided to start with them in organising this foundation. “Many people would be wondering if I will still contest election and my answer is yes. After the youth, I will invite the women and men. I will contest election after weighing the options.
The Anambra election is still far, but we hope that God will identify who will put smiles on the faces of Anambra people.” Nwoye’s optimism is shared by some political watchers in the state, who expressed the belief that his third attempt may pay off from the stand point of sympathy voting and support of Anambra youths.
However, the issue of zoning may be his greatest challenge since the APGAled government has started the campaign for Anambra South Senatorial District to produce the next governor.
Governor Obiano, who is about completing his second term and Nwoye are from Anambra North Senatorial District. But both the PDP and APC are of the view that the zoning arrangement is that of APGA hence most of their aspirants are from both the South, North and Central senatorial zones. The permutations and calculations, notwithstanding, Nwoye says he predicates his ambition on determination and consistency and the belief among most indigenes of the state is that should he sustain the tempo, the outcome of 2021 gubernatorial election in Anambra State might prove bookmakers wrong.