Ahead of the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, OKEY MADUFORO writes that the All Progressives Congress (APC) needs to work on its image to gain the electorate’s support
Minister for Labour and Employment and one time Governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige, can tell the story better about the travails of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
From the days of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), when the party was formed to its merger with the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the party has suffered a litany of woes orchestrated by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
As it were, Ngige, like the lone voice in the wilderness, battled against all odds to position the party in Anambra State, and managed to secure a seat in the Senate and four members in the Anambra State House of Assembly.
The party has made five attempts to get into the Government House, Awka but ended up becoming the runner up and a distant one at that; no thanks to the machinations of the other two political parties.
The main burden is that the APC has a stigma of being anti-Igbo, pro- Yoruba and Hausa Fulani. Also, the deadly activities of the Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen did not help matters. Even with the control of the party at the national level and several Federal Government capital projects in Anambra State, the party is still grappling with the burden of poor image.
Deepening the party’s woes was the conspiracy of the elite in the party against its last governorship candidate, Comrade Tony Nwoye, who lost the election not because Anambra electorate did not like him but simply because some tin gods in the party felt that with Nwoye as governor, they would be retired from active politics. Even President Muhammadu Buhari at the APC rally in Awka could not raise the hands of Nwoye or speak in his favour as he simply tapped him on the back and said: “Young man, I wish you luck.”
Against this backdrop, it seemed clear that the APC is even an enemy to itself, hence its worsening predicament in Anambra State. Today, the party has once again stepped into the ‘tartan track’, to try its luck in the forthcoming November governorship election with a renewed vigour in order to take the reins of power in the state.
Already, 10 persons have indicated interest to contest in the primaries and with the calibre of aspirants in the party, it is clear that the party has never had it so good. However, it is not all about winning the party ticket but the brand of candidate that would be acceptable to Anambra electorate and overcome the stigma and its burden of image.
The 10 aspirants that are looking forward to flying the flag of the party are from Anambra South Senatorial District and that is a good joker for the party in the coming election.
However, most party members are looking forward to having one of their own in Government House, Awka, in order to end those years of redundancy and to prove to their traducers that the party is not as bad as it seems.
The battle, no doubt, is between the green horns and the foundation members of the party, as well as some aspirants, who have become serial contenders for the number one seat in the state. It is being canvassed that should the party adopt direct primaries, the green horns may well forget the dream of becoming candidate as the old war horses have the mastery of beating them to it.
They have the structure and un- derstand the terrain and dynamics of APC party primaries and they are insisting that there should not be a repeat of what they called the deserter that played out when Comrade Tony Nwoye dusted and beat strong contenders to their own game.
To most members of the party, the aspirants that may emerge as candidate and battle the image burden of the APC, are foundation members of the party and perhaps, some strong contenders who are, however, new to the contest.
Sen Andy Uba
This is his third attempt at the gubernatorial seat of Anambra State. His first contest was nullified by the Supreme Court Judgement, which ruled that there ought not to have been an election in Anambra State in 2007.
Uba only spent 17 days as governor and later contested on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) in 2010 and lost to Mr. Peter Obi, who was gunning for his second term in office. Uba also contested in the last primary election of the APC and lost to Tony Nwoye, who later emerged as the party’s candidate.
However, Uba is a two-term senator, who represented Anambra South Senatorial District and has the capacity to emerge as candidate of the APC in the forthcoming party primary election and his structure has remained firm and formidable. Also, he is seen as a party man, having made meaningful contributions to the party both at the National and state levels. Furthermore, Uba enjoys the respect and patronage of the party leaders across board and similarly his projects across the Senatorial District is yet another plus for him. However, there have been allegations about his alleged role in the political crisis in Anambra, which his opponents are using against him without any evidence to prove his traducers right.
The Justice Keazu Committee Report on Anambra Mayhem, never indicted him and till date, he was never invited by law enforcement agencies to explain his role in the dastardly act, which makes him innocent of those allegations.
Ubah’s empowerment scheme has also impacted positively on Anambra youths beyond his senatorial district and it is clear that he has the magic wand to lift the APC in the election.
Conversely, Sen. Uba has to interface with the party delegates in good time and hold their support firmly before and during the primary election, if he must secure the ticket of the party by every means possible.
Chief George Moghalu
He is as old as the APC, even a very experienced member in the current democratic dispensation which began in 1999. The former and longest serving National Secretary of the defunct ANPP is a grassroots politician that commands a lot of followership in Anambra State. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the party and a former National Auditor of the party before assuming office as the Director-General and CEO of National Inland WaterWays (NIWA). Moghalu had contested the gubernatorial position of Anambra State in 2003 on the platform of the ANPP and has remained in the party before the merger of his former party and CAN, which became the APC. The success story at NIWA is indeed a marvel and it is on record that NIWA has never had it so good until his appointment as the boss. This is made manifest in the revival of moribund ports in the country, the decongestion of the major sea ports in the country and the blocking of wasted revenue accruing from the country’s waterways. Moghalu is known as a practical person and has provided employment opportunities to many Anambra people in various capacities and beyond. Politically, Moghalu has been at the vanguard of sending the message of good governance being provided by the Buhari-led administration in the country and he has used his current position to achieve this. He has been able to galvanise Anambra people’s sentiments towards supporting the party and at the moment, over 6,000 persons have joined the party from other political parties due to their belief in the massage of Moghalu. But he has to sustain this feat and ensure that his co-contenders in the party do not pull the carpet off his feet and work against his ambition. Azuka Okwuosa Party members in the state describe him as a bridge builder, having seen the role he played as the head of the fact-finding team in the failure of the party in the last governorship election. Okwuosa has been able to restore the confidence of party faithful and cement agelong, dying relationships among members of the party. He is also seen as a lamb without blemish as he has no issues with any of the party members and has been able to reach out to all and sundry in the party on the need to rebuild the party. Okwuosa was the Commissioner for Works and also former Chairman, Old Nnewi Local Government Area, which today is known as Ekwusigo, Nnewi North and South Local Government areas. Okwuosa was a member of the committee which designed the developmental blueprint for Anambra State, which the then Governor, Chris Ngige, executed to the admiration of the masses and he has vowed to continue with that plan. Similarly, Okwuosa enjoys the patronage of the leadership of the party at the national level and has headed several committees in the rebuilding of the party before the last general election and after. He has the reach to carry most politicians across party lines, having contested for Anambra South Senatorial District election on the platform of APGA, a political party that he contributed to its formation and was one of the founding members of the PDP in 1999. With such accolades at his disposal, Okwuosa can easily reach out to the voters irrespective of their loyalty to whichever political party they belong.
He made his debut in Anambra politics when he joined the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and made the party popular in the state. Onunkwo is a party man and has been using his foundation to win membership for the party since inception.
He contested for the ticket of the party in the last primary election and after the election, he collapsed his structure and campaign organisation into that of Tony Nwoye, who was the eventual candidate for the party. Onunkwo, no doubt, is a young man that is desirous for the APC to take over the Government House, Awka, in the forthcoming election and he is contesting. He believes that even if not him, the party should endeavour to nominate a candidate that is acceptable to Anambra people and one that can win election for the party.
He has been sponsoring both state and National Assembly candidates of the party as well as gubernatorial candidates both in Anambra and other states in the country. To the youths in APC, he is the aspirant to beat and the younger members of the party are behind him even though the older ones have their reservations about his ambition.
But Onunkwo has continued to shoulder the fortunes of the party at all times and he has unsettled the ranks of other political parties in the state, who see him as a big threat to them. But his opponents see him as one that is in a hurry to retire the older generation and make them redundant, a suspicion his supporters described as untrue and blackmail.
He is new to the party but not new to Anambra politics, having sponsored so many politicians in and outside his senatorial district.
Nwankwo is an employer of labour and has conservatively 5,000 people in his employment till date.
He believes in a state economy that is private sector driven, insisting that all that the government needs to do is to create the necessary environment and climate to succeed. Since he joined the race, the dynamics of Anambra APC politics have changed even in the state in general and he is contesting to win.
He, indeed, has no issues with any party member and party leadership which according to members is a good chemistry for him as an aspirant. But the perceived owners of the party are not comfortable with him because he is independent minded and is not given to the antics of cabals in party politics.
The younger and progressive minded members of the party prefer him to the foundation members of the party, who they see as those not allowing growth in the party.
Nwankwo has to battle the old war horses if he can make it at the end but his acceptability beyond the party is ranked up to 70 per cent.
Observers believe that all is set for the APC to stem the avalanche of hate and reservations by some Anambra people about it as a political party, though the state Chairman of the party, Chief Basil Ejidike, contends that there is nothing like stigma or image factor affecting the party.
According to him, these are the machinations of fifth columnists, who, he said, are apprehensive about the quantum of developmental projects the party has so far executed in Anambra State.