From IHEANACHO NWOSU, Abuja
Concerns are mounting over the Anambra governorship election slated for later this year. The poll ought to hold on or before November. Though there are no placards on the streets, many are no longer hiding their worries and fears over the planned poll.
The concerns have nothing to do with the posters being posted in any available space by contestants. It is also not about the war of words among leaders of the ruling party in the state, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). It has more to do with the silence from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the election. The election is just a few months away but the commission is yet to roll out time table for the exercise.
The most interesting and somewhat curious aspect of the whole thing is that the electoral body seems not to be thinking about it right now. For instance, Mr. Emmanuel Umenger, INEC’s immediate past director of information, was caught napping when Saturday Sun sought his comment on why the commission was yet to announce the time table for the gubernatorial election.
He said: “Please, give me time, let me find out from Operations.”
Those who are perturbed about the delay in kick-starting the process have good reason for that. They are reliving their repugnant experience in 2010 when the last election took place. Many eligible voters were denied the opportunity of voting on the day of the election because of the controversy that shrouded the voters’ register.
Senator Chris Ngige recalled: “It was a bad experience. INEC deliberately made it so. In areas that they knew were my stronghold, people could not find their names in the register. It was so bad that even among my family members only a few voted.”
According to the senator, who was an Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate, INEC did not provide enough time for people to check the voters’ register and correct the omission of their names, adding: “As I said, it was one of the ways INEC rigged the election.”
Incidentally, despite this misgiving over the last elections in the state, Ngige is not complaining loudly over the cloud covering the next election. “We are watching INEC. We know the right time to talk, “ Ngige said.
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there is no basis picking quarrel with INEC now over Anambra election. National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metu, said the party is not thinking about INEC and Anambra poll.
He said: “I can’t speak for Anambra PDP because I’m at the national secretariat. However, I think there is nothing to talk about the Anambra election and INEC now.”
Many politicians and political parties in the state prefer to take similar stand. However, while they are keeping mum on the time table, the political turf in the state is recording more buzz. The stakes are getting higher. At the last count, about 27 aspirants have emerged from the three senatorial districts of the state. They include Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Andy Uba, Barr Dr. Obinna Uzoh, Mr. Ifeanyi Uba, Chief Akachukwu Nwamkpo, Chief Paul Odenigbo, Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Senator Emma Anosike and Senator Annie Okonkwo.
There are also Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Pat Nwachi Obianwu, Dubem Obaze, Oseloka Obaze, Dr. Godwin Ezeemo, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, Mr. Paul Odenigbo, Barr Chijioke Ndubuisi, Chief Mike Udah, Hon Victor Afam Ogene, Dr. Emmanuel Okafor, Mr. Chima Anene, Prince Chinedu Idigo, Chief Udoka Charles Udoagalanya, former chairman Lagos League of Political Parties (LLPP) and Comrade Godwin Ibekwe, a former chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Other notable personalities alleged to have serious interest in the race include former Minister of Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili and a member of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife.
Akunyili, who lost the Anambra Central Senatorial seat to Ngige in 2011 general elections, is not giving up on her political career, according to a source close to her. It is gathered she now spends more time at her hometown, Agulu, in an attempt to consolidate grassroots support.
Another candidate, whose name is being mentioned in whispers within the Anambra political circles, is Chief Chuma Nzeribe, who lost the Anambra South Senatorial election to Andy Uba last year.
Although the incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi, is constitutionally barred from running again, he is not taking anything for granted. Even in his party, APGA, he is not leaving anything to chance. It is against that backdrop that he has been working day and night to have the soul of the party in his palm. The move to restructure APGA has placed him at cross purposes with Chief Victor Umeh.
The situation is fueling fears that the party may face the next governorship election as a divided house.
Chief Ifeanyi Uba, chairman of Capital Oil and Gas, who has his eyes fixed on the governorship, is aligning with Umeh to stop Obi from tinkering with the structure of APGA. So far, neither of the parties has succeeded. The recent National Convention engineered by Governor Obi, which produced Maxi Okwu as National Champion has been punctuated by a judgment by the Court of Appeal, Enugu division, which ordered a stay of execution of a ruling, last February, by Enugu High Court voiding the 2011 national convention that brought Umeh to power in the party.
Right now, who wins the party’s governorship ticket for the governorship election appears to be the major concern to APGA chieftains than any perceived shortcoming of INEC. In fact, the party’s bigwigs are praying for more time to enable them put APGA’s house in order.
The story is not significantly different from ACN. Although the party is not enmeshed in internal crisis, the ongoing merger arrangement with other parties means that the party’s house is also not in order.
Ngige personifies ACN in Anambra State. His image looms large in the state. His entry into ACN from the PDP has made the party a force to be reckoned with in Anambra State politics.
In a recent interview, the first-term senator pooh-poohed the agitation of some stakeholders on the need for a power shift to Anambra North senatorial zone, signifying that he is interested in contesting again.
Ngige had stated that since indigenes of the zone had contested for the governorship seat with people from other zones in previous occasions, it is only through a democratic process that the next governor of the state will emerge and not through a zoning formula.
This statement, some analysts contend, is an indication that Ngige may contest the governorship race for the third time.
Checks, however, showed that Ngige and other members of the party are spending more time monitoring the direction of their new party, All Progressive Congress (APC), that they have little time monitoring what INEC is doing regarding the gubernatorial election. He said: “Progressives are coming together to take this country away from vampires who are sucking us dry. I know that Anambra and other states will go the direction other Nigerians are going. When the time comes, we will insist that INEC does the right thing.”
Although other stakeholders may not have spoke out their opinions about the urgent political situation on ground in the state, it does appear that many are latently subscribing to this stand by Ngige. The implication of such lukewarm position is that it may encourage the electoral body to continue to look the other way.