By CHIDI ELESIOKWU
In 2014, Anambrians of voting age will go to the polls to choose Governor Peter Obi’s successor. Though the guber contest is two years away, Anambra politicians interested in the state number one seat are already behaving as if the exercise is in two months time. The state’s political atmosphere is steadily becoming charged.
Political gladiators girding their loins for the battle for the state’s topmost position are employing all manner of missiles in the fight. For now, the situation appears fluid as there is no indication any of the combatants are having an upper hand. There are three major political parties in the state: Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). APGA, the ruling party in the state however appears to be where a plethora of the gladiators angling to take over Obi’s job are gravitating towards. Keen observers of Anambra politics are emphatic that the crisis in APGA is as a result of in-fighting in the party over who flies its flag in 2014.
For example, the travails of oil magnate and owner of Capital Oil and Gas, Ifeanyi Ubah has its locale in his interest in taking over from Obi. Last month, Ubah spent days in police custody over issues bordering on oil subsidy fraud. It is believed in some quarters that Governor Obi’s feud with the National Chairman of APGA, Victor Umeh as regards future of the party and who becomes its governorship candidate in 2014 revolves round Umeh’s preference for a particular candidate as against Obi’s own choice. Many political stakeholders in the state, especially within APGA swear the candidate Umeh is rooting for is Ubah.
The anti-Ubah elements in APGA are working on the theory that while the Nnewi-born multi-billionaire businessman is funding Umeh’s war with Obi, Umeh on his part is projecting him as the next governor of the state. Umeh’s recent confirmation that Ubah is now a card carrying member of APGA and that the party would line up behind him anytime he declares his intention to fly APGA’s flag for the state’s 2014 governorship contest tends to give fillip to the above theory. But there is also the argument that the notion that one single individual would literarily hand Anambra’s governorship to his preferred candidate is too simplistic.
For one, Ubah is not the only Anambra politician nursing governorship ambition. Veterans of past governorship battles in the state such as former governor (and now serving Senator) Chris Ngige of the ACN, Senator Andy Ubah (not related to Ifeanyi Ubah) of the PDP who served briefly as governor in 2007 before the Supreme Court booted him out and billionaire businessman, Nicolas Ukachukwu also of the PDP. Former Central Bank Governor Chukwuma Soludo who contested against Peter Obi in 2010 on the platform of the PDP is also rumoured to be gearing up to test his popularity once more, this time around, on the platform of ACN or Labour Party.
Even in APGA, Chuma Nzeribe who flew the party’s Senatorial flag for Anambra South against Andy Ubah is equally interested. So also is Dubem Obaze from the Ogbaru axis whose Senatorial Zone, Anambra North is favoured by Governor Obi to produce his successor. Obaze is the immediate past Anambra State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. His Zone, Anambra North has not produced governor of the state since its creation.
Senator Annie Okonkwo who contested against Obi in 2010 on another party’s platform is now in APGA and also reportedly eyeing the state’s Government House, Awka as the next governor. Considering the volatile nature of Anambra politics, observers are worried that unless the current brick bat between prominent political and business elites from the state is checked prior to the election, Anambra will once again plunge into blood-chilling mayhem, the type witnessed during the Chris Ubah – Ngige supremacy tiff. A pressure group, Anambra Generation Next (AGN), a group of young professionals of Anambra State origin shares this sentiment.
AGN in a statement called on politicians in the state to eschew politics of bitterness acrimony and vendetta but rather pursue noble causes that will engender peace unity and the needed development in the state. AGN’s statement which was signed by its Secretary-General, Obiajulu Nwosu said the group was appalled by the on-going war of words between two sons of the state, Ifeanyi Ubah and Chairman of Coscharis group, Cosmas Maduka who are incidentally from the same town, Nnewi over an alleged business partnership gone awry.
According to AGN, “while we believe and also advocate that every business deal and agreements must be transparent and fair, we also know that disagreement do exist in some business transactions, in such cases the judiciary comes to play as an arbiter …. this is the civil thing to do rather than resort to convicting a business partner in the media.” AGN also buys the argument that Capital Oil boss’ travails is rooted in his alliance with the APGA National Chairman, Umeh.
“Followers of Anambra politics believe that the current challenges against Chief Ubah is not unconnected with his touted political ambition in the state… in the main the obvious close relationship between Chief Umeh and Ubah is the root of the current onslaught against him (Ubah) because of the erroneous belief in some quarters that he is the one funding Umeh in the battle of supremacy with the other faction of the party.”
Meanwhile, apparently eager to endear themselves to Anambra electorates, some of the gubernatorial hopefuls in the state, including Ifeanyi Ubah have been embarking on philanthropic gestures. Ubah for example has taken his “Kero-Direct” initiative to major towns in the state where residents were availed the opportunity of purchasing kerosene at N50 per litre. Besides that, through his Ifeanyi Ubah Foundation (IUF), he has distributed various items and food stuffs to the less privileged in the state, including orphanage homes. This is in addition to his educational scholarship scheme.
While Ubah and other politicians in the state may not be totally blameless, a broad spectrum of indigenes of Anambra are of the opinion that each of them should be allowed to test his popularity so that the people will decide. “The fact that the police detained Ubah does not mean he is already guilty of the allegations against him. Let him test his popularity at the poll and if Ndi Anambra eventually prefer a criminal or 419 as their governor, it is up to them”, Amaechi Eloka, a businessman and Awka indigene said.