For politicians in Anambra State, including the incumbent, Chief Willie Obiano, it is almost as if the governorship election slated for November 2021 would hold tomorrow.
Across the major political parties, stakeholders are busy working round the clock regarding who to support as well as mobilizing their associates and foot soldiers.
Already two major issues, namely zoning and godfathering, are gaining prominence in the various conversations about the essential qualities of Governor Obiano’s prospective successor in two years’ time.
In November 21, 2017, against all odds, the incumbent governor was re-elected for a second term. But the irony of what is currently playing out in the state is that most of those who contested against Obiano even in 2003 are still in the field searching for the people’s mandate to be his successor in 2021.
Most of the political stakeholders believe that apart from riding on the coat tails of former Governor Peter Obi to become governor, Obiano has not displayed the political sagacity or performance that could qualify him to implant a successor or become a godfather.
Sources in Government House, Awka, explained that it was on account of the general belief that the governor’s power of incumbency was not potent enough to impose a successor that not less than ten billionaires have indicated their interest to contest the 2021 governorship election.
Prominent among the billionaires are those that contested the governorship in 2013, including Dr. Andy Uba, Ifeanyi Ubah, and Godwin Ezeemo.
Others that have so far signaled their intention to participate in the 2021 gubernatorial poll include Dr. Obiora Okonkwo (PDP), Dr. Godwin Maduka (PDP), Dr. Chido Nwankwo, Dr. Chinue Ozigbo (Chairman of Transcorp), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo (APGA), Senator (Iyom) Uche Ekwunife (PDP), Dr. George Moghalu (APC), Hon Chris Azubogu (PDP), Johnbosco Onunkwo (APC), Stanley Uzochukwu (APGA), Nicholas Ukachukwu (APGA), Tony Nwoye (APC).
But perhaps learning some lessons from Governor Henry Seriake Dickson’s experience in the recent Bayelsa State governorship poll, where the governor failed to produce his preferred candidate as successor, Obiano is said to be widening his circle of political contacts to ensure that his succession adorns the badge of inclusion.
One of the strategies, according to sources, was the recent setting up of Anambra State Development Plan Committee, led by Prof. Charles Soludo. Speaking when he inaugurated the committee, tagged Anambra Vision 2070 Committee, Governor Obiano said the team was put together to design a 50-year development template for the state.
While charging the members to do a thorough job, the governor reminded them that “the task of the committee includes crafting the Anambra Vision 2070 Development Plan that would also touch on security of the state, determine critical milestones and success factors in the plans.”
The areas of reference, according to Obiano, include defining the mission and vision statements, identifying specific sectors of focus, creation of broad objectives for the sectors, development of programmes and strategies, and categorising them into short, medium and long-term frameworks.
The governor disclosed that the committee’s report “would assist subsequent administrations in the state in its development drive.”
But no sooner had the governor finished inaugurating the committee than the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dismissed the contraption as an enlarged campaign committee to canvass support for the committee’s chairman, Prof. Soludo.
One of the men on the 46-man committee regretted that it was becoming obvious that the governor wants to impose a successor, wondering why he should set up a development agenda midway into his second term.
He said: “It does not make sense that such a bloated committee should be set up two years to the end of the governor’s second term. If indeed the governor wants to raise a developmental agenda, he should first tell Ndi Anambra how far he has implemented the Anambra Integrated Development Strategies (ANIDS), including all the laudable economic development plans he enunciated in his first year that have all been abandoned.
“Why should Soludo be made to chair the committee when he is saddled with similar assignments by the Southeast governors and the recent appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari as member of the Economic Advisory Committee? No matter how he tries to hide it, the fact remains that Obiano wants to be political godfather.”
Other members of the committee are as follows: Primus Odili (Executive), Prof Kate Omenugha (Executive), Mr. Ifeatu Onejeme, (Executive), Mr. Mark Okoye (Executive), Patrick Okigbo III (Technocrat), Chris Okoye, (Technocrat), Captain Iheanacho Ebubeogu (Technocrat); Capt. John T. Okakpu, (Technocrat), DIG Val Ntomchukwu (Security Expert), AIG Okey Ezike (Security Expert), Mr. Valentine Ozigbo (Transcorp, Hospitality Expert), Mr. Maduka Emelife, (External Ndi Anambra), Henry Manafa, (External Ndi Anambra), Hon. Chudi Offodile, (Political Class), Dr. Ikem Odumodu (Technocrat).
Others are Joe Anatune (Technocrat), Dr Ndi Onuekwusi (Rep of Anambra – Professionals), Prof. Idemobi, Nneka Ekwuozor, Professor Uche Amazigo, Bryan Mezue, Dr. Uzochukwu Amakom, Engineer Emeka Ezeh (former DG, BPP), David Onyinyechi Agu, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, (Technocrat), Mr. Mac Atasie, (Secretary), Amb. Emma Obi Okafor (fmr Deputy DG, NIA), Dr. Emma Onyilofor, Amb Chudi Okafor, Dr. Oscar Onwudiwe, (President of Aka Ikenga), and C-Don Adinuba (Executive).
However, checks by The Guardian showed that while Governor Obiano seems to be sticking to his verbal promise to support Soludo to take over from him in 2021, his wife, Mrs. Ebele Obiano, has indicated open preference for Chief Stanley Uzochukwu to pick APGA’s ticket.
Despite the perceived divisions within the governing All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), PDP has insisted that Obiano’s 50-year Development Plan Committee is meant to usher in the governor’s preferred aspirant, Soludo.
In a statement by its state Public Relations Secretary, Nnamdi Nwangwu, PDP noted that although it sees nothing wrong in planning for both short and long terms, “what the party finds worrisome is the intention of the planner and, in this case, the antecedents of the planner.
“The fact that the very bogus committee of 51 persons is headed by Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who is widely believed to be Obiano’s preferred aspirant to emerge as the candidate of APGA in coming 2021 gubernatorial race in the state, completely gave the intention away.
Also a deeper look at the antecedents of Obiano gives the whole plot away as another form of jamboree and showmanship aimed at hoodwinking the people further.” Picking holes on the committee, PDP further lamented that if the same APGA administration valued planning, “how come they dismantled all the plans inherited from preceding APGA governments for eight years? “What happened to the UN Habitat plans for Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi painstakingly procured by Mr. Peter Obi from the UN Africa headquarters in Kenya, and already being implemented, handed over to Obiano to follow as part of continuing the same APGA government?
“What of Anambra State Industrialisation handbook, painstakingly prepared by the preceding APGA government of which, very articulately, mapped out steps to industrialise the six industrial estates in the state?”
PDP concluded that APGA and the incumbent governor “know that they have destroyed all the goodwill they built in the first eight years that guaranteed the second eight years,” stressing that that goodwill has been destroyed in the second eight years.
Although APGA secured just one House of Representatives seat, it boasts of retaining formidable grassroots presence in the 177 towns and 21 local government councils of the state, which it said would guarantee the party electoral triumph in the governorship.
WHILE Governor Obiano enjoyed the goodwill of his predecessor and benefactor, Mr. Obi, to win the 2013 governorship election, which was predicated on the introduction of zoning, he fell apart with Obi and other crucial stakeholders, including leaders of Omambala Union.
Despite the fact that the battle for zoning was stoutly fought in 2013, Obiano mounted the saddle and sidelined Anambra North Stakeholders, including Dr. Chike Obidigbo, who was the zone’s consensus choice for the governorship ticket.
In his acceptance speech after his election in November 30, 2013, tagged ‘Sustaining our Steady March to Progress,’Obiano said: “I stand here tonight in the shadow of history. You made history when on November 16 and today you cast your votes in favour of APGA. In doing so you have affirmed the life-long struggle of our great father, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. You also upheld his view that our people should preserve our heritage through one united political roof. Ndi-Anambra I want to thank you for honouring the memory of late Ikemba.
“In voting Dr. Nkem Okeke and I as Deputy Governor and Governor-elect, you have also expressed your wish that the tradition of excellence, which my brother, His Excellency Governor Peter Obi, has entrenched in Anambra State these past eight years should be sustained. I wish to assure you that Nkem and I are ready and adequately prepared to expand the boundaries of our development and place Anambra State on the map of rapidly advancing states on all parameters of development.
“Nkem and I are fully aware that after Governor Obi’s glorious reign, Anambra can only advance to higher glory. As inheritors of this tradition of purposeful leadership, we shall dedicate ourselves to a life of service. Our administration shall be responsible and responsive to your needs.
”But despite those lofty sentiments, Governor Obiano took his political battle against Obi to another level during the 2019 presidential poll, when he mobilized moral and fiscal support for APC and President Muhammadu Buhari to spite Obi who was PDP’s vice presidential candidate.
The endorsement of APC by APGA in the last general election led to further division within the party, which ended in a series of litigations that hindered the party’s national convention.
Although attempts are being made to resolve the various leadership crises in the party to ensure that APGA does not repeat Zamfara State’s mistake of APC, stakeholders in the state have continued to agitate against zoning and godfathering.
Some of the opponents of zoning, including Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, maintain that aspirants should show interest based on their pedigree and vision for governance, stressing that merit, capacity and competence should guide the election of Obiano’s successor.
But on APGA platform there are those insist on the sustenance of zoning, particularly Prof. Soludo, who declared in 2017 that Anambra is not broken and needs no mending. As preparations for Anambra 2021 guber poll gain momentum, some aspirants in APGA say Soludo is banking on zoning due to a pact with the governor.
Sources disclosed that it was in response to reservations expressed about Soludo that the governor’s wife decided to throw up a rival from Anambra South in the person of Chief Uzochukwu.