From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

Barely one year to the 2025 off-cycle governorship election in Anambra State, political parties, particularly the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), are already heightening the political tension in the state over who will outsmart each other to occupy the state’s seat of power, the Agu Awka Government House, after next year’s poll.

Tension started building up, in the hitherto politically calm state, last year when the Senator representing Anambra South senatorial district, Ifeanyi Ubah, glamorously joined the APC from his former party, the Young Progressives Party (YPP).

Ever since then, his triumphal entry into the party seems to have changed the political dynamics in the state and breathed fresh air into the life of the APC, previously dormant and engulfed in one form of acrimonious crisis or another.

If the national leadership of the party, the National Working Committee (NWC), was not reposing immeasurable confidence on Ifeanyi Ubah’s capacity and capability to win Anambra State for the APC, it would be Ubah hyping the party through organising one political event or the other, perhaps, to make a bold statement that he is the right man to drive the APC’s political speed train and crush any party on its way to the Government House.

And even if the oil magnate was gambling with his decision to join the APC, the overwhelming confidence from the chieftains and leaders of the APC, comprising Senate President Godswill Akpabio, APC’s National Chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and the chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF), Hope Uzodinma, among many others, were enough to motivate Ubah to feel at home.

Specifically, for Ganduje, the then new entrant and his political structure possess the magic wand not only to win the 2025 Anambra governorship election, but also to bring the state, the political heartbeat of the South East geopolitical zone, to the centre.

First, it was town hall meetings that had in attendance almost all the political heavyweights in Anambra, where far-reaching decisions were taken and agreements signed and sealed, on how to wrest power from the APGA, the ruling party in the state. Other activities and programmes he previously organised climaxed into the recent event in Awka, the state capital, consciously tagged the maiden edition of South East Colloquium.

Disguised as a colloquium, with the theme, ‘De-marginalisation of South-East zone and integration into national politics,’ analysts believe that the real intention of the conveners was, apparently, to see how the APC can strategise and scale up the next year’s governorship election.

Understandably, it was a gathering of political timber and calibre from near and wide, ranging from the APC’s National Chairman, Ganduje; Governor of Imo State and chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, Hope Uzodinma; and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Patricia Obila, who represented his principal, Governor Francis Nwifuru, to the leader of Kano Elders’ Council, and other national and regional leaders in Nigeria.

Others were several NWC members; Anambra’s former Deputy Governor, Nkem Okeke; Director-General of the South East Governors’ Forum, Uche Ekwunife; members of the academia, Prof. Jerry Ugokwe; Prof. Nick Ezeh, as well as Prof. Victor Ukaogo, who moderated, and the host, Senator Ubah.

The mission of the conveners, from all indications, was to correct the widely-held misinterpretations that that APC is not accepted in the South East, even when the party is obviously in the majority in the geopolitical zone, as the only party with two state governors.

Again, Ubah ostensibly raised the bar with the well-attended colloquium, which signposted a watershed to a new kind of conversation on the subject matter of Igbo marginalisation.

However, going beneath the surface to prove the real intent of the event, speaker after speaker painted a vivid narrative that the APC was on a clear mission to take over the state in the next year’s governorship election.

The party’s national chairman was the first to steer the hornet’s nest with his merciless tantrums that the state’s traditional party, APGA, has politically dislocated the state for 18 years, insisting that the 2025 governorship election would be an opportunity for the state to redeem itself.

Presenting his address as the keynote speaker, the former Kano State Governor argued that the marginalisation claim in the South East was as a result of political miscalculations by the people.

Ganduje warned that the much-touted marginalisation would continue until the state dumps APGA, as the people of the South West did after realising that Alliance for Democracy (AD), would not lead them to the centre.

He said: “We are here for the South East colloquium, but I prefer to speak about Anambra where we are. The Igbo are part of the ingredients of national integration as they are the most travelled and most enterprising people in Nigeria. They are creative, innovative, and competitive, and the basis for the Nigerian economy today.

“Anambra is not making the progress needed because it has remained in APGA, which is the only state it controls. Anambra has had Peter Obi, Willie Obiano and now Soludo, all from the APGA as its governors, and that is 18 years of political dislocation for this state.

“Anambra needs to join the ruling political party and the people will be happier and better for it. Why should Anambra continue to live in isolation? If there had been superlative performances on that isolated platform, it would have been a different thing. This is a vivid case of selfish politics.

“Other states have joined the APC, but Anambra’s refusal to connect to the centre has denied her people the infrastructure and other benefits. You have to be at the table to negotiate what comes to you and if you are not on the table, no one will speak for you. Anambra is the only place where APGA is in government and the party has refused to grow,” he chided.

However, in what looked like dousing the tension and dust Ganduje raised with his ferocious diatribe, Imo State Governor, Uzodinma, shocked his party when he threw a jab that the biggest takeaway about the colloquium was the admittance by his party that the South East is marginalised.

Hear him; “The good thing is that the National Chairman of our party is part of the team of doctors that diagnosed this. There is a need for national integration, cohesion, and unity, so that we can have a pan-Nigerian project.

“If we are craving for a Nigeria, where equity and fair play will prevail, then we must be in the room where the affairs of the country will be discussed. We must rise from this room and resolve to be a part of the ruling party. We must go with capable men and women who will enjoy acceptance. We only need to understand the Nigerian political demography and create a corridor where we can use it to exit from this political isolation.

“I am here to welcome Senator Ifeanyi Ubah into our party. He has proven to understand the dynamism required to navigate the political sphere. He came to the Senate through an unknown political party and if he could achieve that through an unknown party, he would achieve much more if he belonged to a known political party; he would do more.

“A time will come when those who helped Igbo to escape political marginalisation will be counted. I want to be counted as one who participated in creating an escape corridor for Ndigbo to escape marginalisation,” he quipped.

But, while the organisers and the APC were celebrating and boasting that the colloquium, and by extension, the event has provided them with bragging rights and placed them at a vantage position to seize power in the state, they have unfortunately come under heavy bombardment from both the ruling party, APGA, and the opposition party, PDP, in the state.

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Lampooning the APC’s National Chairman for taking the joke too far and bluntly reminding him that his pipe dream and gimmick to connect the state to the centre will not fly, APGA lambasted and described him as a man living in a fool’s paradise.

Furiously replying to the APC, National Coordinator, APGA Media Warriors Forum, Chinedu Obigwe, noted: “The most annoying part of Ganduje’s rant was his claim that Anambra under APGA is not making expected progress. Ganduje who was talking about Anambra, governed Kano State on the platform of APC for eight years, but the people of Kano rejected his plan to foist a successor on them and voted for the NNPP.

“So, what he was unable to do in Kano is what he is giving Ifeanyi Ubah false hope that they can do for him in Anambra. Wonders shall never end. The Kano electorate rejected Ganduje’s gospel of connecting to the centre and voted for the NNPP in the last 2023 election. That singular action of the Kano electorate stripped Ganduje of the moral justification to preach the useless gospel of connecting to the centre anywhere in Nigeria.

“He should ask Mai Mala-Buni, who was the APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, about what he saw in the hands of the Anambra electorate in 2021. He should also ask Hope Uzodinma, who led Andy Uba’s campaign in that election. Anambra is not a state-imported politician that Ganduje can dictate for their electorate.”

Attacking Ganduje further, the Forum, however, tutored him that; “Anambra recorded tremendous progress under the watch of APGA governors. An adage says that when a road is good, you pass it the second time. This is exactly what the Anambra electorates are doing with APGA because the party is living up to their expectations.”

Again, in what many considered as a mild response to the toxic message Ganduje delivered in Anambra during the colloquium, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) warned him to stop deluding himself and others by claiming that APC winning Anambra would stop the marginalisation of the South East.

PDP’s Vice Chairman, Aguata Local Government, Ikechukwu Emenike, argued that a party like the APC which displayed animosity against the South East in the presidential elections that produced Bola Tinubu as president, cannot end marginalisation of the geopolitical zone.

“The APC was playing politics. It cannot stop marginalisation because it has no power to do that. Marginalisation of the South East was allegedly a political arrangement between the North and the West. The Anambra 2025 election will tell who the people would not vote for,” Emenike said.

But, beyond the tantrums and toxic comments that trailed the event, the unanswered questions, however, are the chances of the APC snatching power from the ruling traditional party in the state in the next year’s governorship poll.

Judging by the implicit confidence the national leadership of the APC reposed in Ubah, it looks obvious that he has not only gotten the automatic ticket, but has also been crowned the man with the magic wand to redirect the rigid political trajectory of the South Easterners.

Confirming the trust and resolve by the APC leaders to anoint Ubah as the man for the job, Ganduje, on the very day the oil magnate joined the ruling party, said: “This is the biggest fish I have gotten. Marginalisation of the South East is controversial.

“Now, we have started seeing the answer. We will start a revolution. Already, we have two states in the South East, and with this calibre of person, we have found the answer to liberate the South East geopolitical zone. We thank you for coming.

“I describe him as a swing politician because wherever he is, that party wins. And we are expecting that this swing will swing throughout the South East, especially to the other three states that don’t belong to the APC. You are welcome,” he said glowingly of Ubah.

Considering Ubah’s political relevance in the state, which has relegated the likes of Andy Uba to an almost inconsequential level, there is no doubt that he is a force to reckon with in Anambra politics, but losing out in his two previous expeditions may have cast a big doubt on his competent to actualise his next year’s journey.

Speaking to Daily Sun recently, Senator Ubah not only confirmed his ambition, but also his readiness to crush both the power of incumbency in the state and the Peter Obi factor.

Asked about his fears should the party anoint him as the aspirant and candidate, Ubah said: “In politics, you can never say it is over until it is completely over! In Nigeria, every politician wants to vie for elections.

“I know that the primary election is going to be a very tough one. I honestly pray and hope for a rancour-free primary. And once we have a rancour-free primary where nobody is short-changed, be sure that we are going to win because we will team up to deliver the party,” he noted.

But, what about the power of incumbency, Ubah bragged: “On February 3 this year, we had two rerun elections in Anambra State. One was the House of Representatives in the governor’s constituency with an APGA candidate and the other elsewhere with a PDP candidate, both contested against the candidates of my former party, the YPP. APGA and PDP lost to my former party.

“If I can give my support and deliver YPP in the sitting governor’s constituency, you can answer the question of whether the power of incumbency will be a threat to me in next year’s governorship election,” he responded.

On Peter Obi factor counting against him in the governorship election, Ubah replied: “I will admit that Obi is a big factor, but when his tsunami came, it did not take me. So, it means that I am still relevant and God is saying something about me.”

But, regardless of how iron-cladded his confidence and support base could be, what is incontestable is that Ifeanyi Ubah will certainly encounter both intra and inter-party landmine obstacles before emerging victorious in the poll.

For example, some of the teething factors that will count against him include the unending rancour within the state chapter of the party. Already, the crack is widening with many aggrieved founding members of the party, like the former Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, and George Moghalu, among others, conspicuously absent at the colloquium event.

Their absence and anger were understandable, and certainly, not unconnected with what is already in the public domain. First was the conferment of an automatic leader of the party in the state by party’s national leadership right from the day he joined, and second was the manner he seemed to be arrogantly going about actualising his ambition of picking the party’s ticket.

Again, for a state where a large war chest is the biggest instrument of securing the ticket as the party’s flag bearer, and considering the brutal attacks on his empire of petroleum companies and other business interests, will he conveniently match other contestants strength for strength financially?

And if he surmounts the intra-party hurdles, what about the rigidity and regimented nature of voters in the state? For two successive governorship elections in the state, the APC managed to finish a distant first and a second runner-up.

Sincerely speaking, for an average Anambra electorate, it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than to vote other parties against their traditional party, APGA, especially in a governorship election.

The die is cast with all eyes focused on, first, how the APC leadership will peacefully and diplomatically manipulate the forces that will certainly clash during the party primary, and manage the contending aggrieved aspirants, and secondly how it intends to surmount the endemic bitterness against the APC by an average Anambra electorate, particularly, and the Igbo, in general.