For Anambra State and its people, the die is cast. Tomorrow, the much-talked-about governorship election in the state will hold, as the electorate go to the poll to cast their votes and, hopefully, decide who will be at the head of government. The election is coming at a trying time for the state, in particular and the South East in general. With insecurity and sit-at-home pervading the state and South East, amid fears by residents, the hope is that common sense will prevail, the election would hold and voters would exercise their franchise freely. It is hoped that voters and interest groups would look beyond primordial sentiment and make the right choice. Also, it is hoped that the wishes of the people would come to pass.
This governorship election is not, therefore, a mere exercise of casting votes and counting them for a winner to emerge. It is about the future of a state, a region and a people in need of purposeful leadership, progress and peace. At a time when vision, integrity, ability to galvanise people and the courage to dare are needed in government, the outcome of Anambra election is important for the stakeholders and the country at large. Anambra voters as well as the forces of light and darkness cannot afford to make a mistake in the choice of governor. A wrong choice or wilful imposition by extraneous forces will certainly be a tragedy for Anambra and the South East region.
As the Anambra election drew near, there has been an attempt to present it as a battle among three contenders. What is on ground, however, shows that the election is not about three candidates and three political parties. The election is certainly not just about Prof Chukwuma Soludo and his All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). It is not only about Senator Andy Ubah and the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is not simply about Chief Valentine Ozigbo and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is far beyond these three candidates and their political parties. In the election, about 18 candidates are staking their names and testing their popularity. These contestants are qualified in their own rights. They have the constitutional right to so contest for the office of governor, even though we know that occupation of an office is not just about qualification and constitutional right. Running for an office is majorly about the ability to perform, if elected and the justification of the confidence repose in the office holder by those who make the choice.
I have followed the run-up to Anambra State governorship election for more than one year now. I have looked at the candidates. I have examined the antecedents of the candidates. I have studied the plans the candidates have for the people, if they are voted into office. I have looked at the personality of the candidates. I have studied the mood of the people. I have examined the expectations of the people. And I have come to the conclusion that all things considered, Anambra voters should look beyond political parties. The election should not be about APGA, APC, PDP or whatever political party. What should be paramount in the minds of the voters and those who may want to play God must be ability to perform in office. As they say, the hood does not make the monk. Political party is not a determinant of performance in office. What counts are the vision and the ability to translate vision into reality, the drive to deliver, the sincerity of purpose, the ability to assembly a good team and use their contributions and inputs well, the connection with the people, a good heart and the grace of God.
Those rating Soludo, Andy Ubah and Ozigbo higher in the Anambra governorship race are only looking at political parties. Being the candidate of APGA, the ruling political party in Anambra, the name of Soludo always resonates. As candidate of APC, the governing political party at the federal government, Andy Ubah is always talked about in the election. Being the candidate of the only strong opposition political party in the country, Ozigbo is always seen as one of the top contenders to the governorship seat. However, for Soludo, one is persuaded that he is in strong contention only on the strength of APGA sentiment. APGA, being the incumbent and ruling political party in Anambra, confers on Soludo some advantage, despite the fact that there is a disconnect between this candidate and the people. One does not see voters ignoring the fact that Soludo once played politics of expediency to their detriment.
Yes, in 2017, Soludo played the ostrich and told the world that there was no need challenging Governor Willie Obiano in the governorship election because everything was figuratively okay in the state. He had declared proudly: “So, why mend it if it is not broken? This is a time of crisis and you don’t change the General in the middle of a war, especially the General that has led you through successes in battles. We have learnt useful lessons from the past and must now forge new elite cohesion and consensus.” It was mere rhetoric. Soludo was only looking at the governorship ticket of 2021 and decided to play dumb. He knew that it was not well with Anambra at that time, but he chose to speak tongue-in-cheek.
Andy Ubah is riding on the crest of being a candidate with federal might behind him, being the standard bearer of APC, a political party looking for relevance and foothold in South East. It is not about his political savvy or grassroots appeal. Many believe, including office holders in the state, that a federal support for Ubah will give him the day. This is why there have been an avalanche of defections by some politicians from various political parties to the APC. Basing victory at election on federal might is a clear vote of no confidence in one’s ability. The question is: If APC wins the electoral battle in Anambra State with a candidate the people are not at home with, will the political party also win the peace?
Okonkwo appears as a dark horse and an underdog in the Anambra governorship election. This is why the spin doctors of APGA, APC and PDP and bookmakers do not mention him in their rating and calculations. However, he is certainly a candidate to watch. He is primed to cause an upset, running on his name and antecedent. He is the only candidate from Anambra Central, coming from Idemili, which has two local government areas with large voters strength, and a deputy governorship candidate from the North Senatorial District. The South Senatorial District, which clamoured that the next power rotation should start with it, has 17 candidates from various political parties, including Soludo, Andy Ubah, Ozigbo, Ifeanyi Ubah, Dr. Obinna Uzoh, Dr. Godwin Maduka, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) and others. These candidates would split the votes in the South among themselves. As it stands, the talk about zoning has ended with the emergence of the candidates. While the elite and political parties bothered about zoning during the primary elections, voters would not, most likely, do same at the poll. It will not therefore be surprising that senatorial zones, knowing that politics is local, will stand by candidates from their zones, first before considering outsiders. A Central senatorial district block votes, with a split South senatorial district votes, gives Okonkwo an edge.
It is not just place of origin or geographical location that favour Okonkwo in the Anambra governorship race. He is best man for the job. This is a businessman, who has made a success of his endeavours. He is an employer of labour, who has the intellectual capacity and connection to make the difference. Recently, he engineered the launch of Nigeria-Russia Chambers of Commerce and Industries, with Russian authorities and business community pledging to bring in more than $10 billion investment into the country. He is at home with religious organisations in Anambra, with churches directly and indirectly taking greater interest in the election of a governor in the state. And his philanthropic gestures put him in the hearts of the voters.
The other three candidates who cannot be ignored in the race are not strongly positioned owing to some factors beyond their control. Uzoh is a good candidate, but his impediment is that he entered the race late. Coming into the race as a substitute candidate sure has its minuses. Ozigbo is running for governor on the strength of his backers. A candidate should have his own force before relying on others’. For Ifeanyi Ubah, his candidacy is anchored on false premise of acceptability, having won a senatorial seat two and half years ago. Since he could not answer a simply question, on a television political programme, on what he would do with Nnewi, the industrial hub of Anambra, one has given up on him.
Tomorrow, the hope is that registered voters would have the confidence to come out and perform their civic duty, especially with the provision of adequate security in the state and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) saying it did not call for boycott of the election. The hope is that there will be free and fair election. The hope is that the will of the people, as expressed at the poll, would be allowed to be done. The hope is that Anambra people would freely decide who will be their next governor.
The outcome of the Anambra State governorship election is crucial. Peace and progress of the state depend on it. Therefore, it will pay Anambra to elect a governor who will ensure stability and engender confidence in the people, including agitators, for peace to reign and progress to endure, going forward. Suffice it to say that there are some people whose victory at the election would aggravate the already bad situation in Anambra.