The battleground for the contest of the gubernatorial seat in Agu Awka is becoming clearer. According to the timetable that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently unveiled, Anambra citizens will, in less than 10 months, go to the poll.
Expectedly, there has been a lot of horse-trading ahead of party primaries which, according to the released timetable, is scheduled to hold between June 10 and July 1. 2021.
However, party tickets usually go to the highest bidder albeit with the exception of party in power where the outgoing governor usually foists his candidate on the party.
That said, some known factors will be key in deciding the outcome of the race.
First among the factors are the political parties which remain important vehicles through which political power is sought and achieved. How far one can go in Nigerian politics depends mainly on the political party to which he/she belongs. While the last deregistration of political parties by INEC left the country with 18 political parties, only four political parties can adequately, in the real sense of the word, compete for political power in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Anambra state. Any candidate that is not in APGA, PDP, APC or YPP, is completely out of the game.
Among the aforementioned, only APGA and PDP can boast of structures within the 21 local government areas of the state. While YPP is yet to have a foothold in the state, there exists wide electorate resentment of APC. Therefore, the recent rectification of PDP leadership qualms in the state will definitely make the election a two-horse race.
The concept of zoning or the zone of candidate vying for elective position is increasingly becoming an important electoral issue in Nigeria and Anambra is not left out. Recall that, in 2013, then Governor Peter Obi introduced zoning in Anambra politics when he insisted that his successor should come from Anambra North. Although some political parties contested that position, it prevailed at the end of the day.
The very fact that the ruling APGA government zoned the speakership slot to the Anambra North, in the knowledge that Obiano would be leaving on March 17, 2022, and zoned the deputy governorship to Anambra Central shows that Anambra South sends a clear message that Anambra South will produce the next governor.
Most parties, like the PDP, have described zoning as unconstitutional and have maintained that the contest for its ticket is open for all members, irrespective of zones.
However, shifting to the South has become conventional wisdom in the state. The mathematics is simple: Since the inception of the new Anambra state, Central has ruled for 10 years and 7 months with Chris Ngige and Peter Obi in charge, Anambra North is out with Obiano’s eight years tenancy of Agu Awka. The South has just ruled for 6 years, 3 months, and 24 days with Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Virgy Etiaba, and Andy Uba on the fort. So, in the spirit of equity, the majority of people believe that the crown should go south.
Since the infamous administration of Mbadinuju, with its notorious godfatherism, Anambra voters have come to see election as a jealously guarded tool for the protection of the country’s nascent democracy.
In their very own eyes, they saw their governor kidnapped and courts and television stations burnt by enemies of the state. So, to prevent a repeat of history, the personality and background of contenders are of utmost importance to Anambra voters.
During electioneering, the state’s rank and file listen and collect money from any politician they cross paths with but on election day, they largely vote according to their conscience.
History has shown that candidates who have done exceedingly well in their private or professional lives are usually considered more than professional politicians when it comes to gubernatorial elections in Anambra state.
Financial base/ contacts
Electioneering anywhere is financially sapping but when one puts into consideration the Nigerian political culture of vote-buying and other electoral malpractices, then the picture of the amount one needs to have before throwing his or her hat in the ring will be clearer.
In addition to a strong financial base, to make it in the forthcoming election, a contender must be highly connected, both within and outside the state.
Remember what happened to Soludo when he used federal might to seize PDP gubernatorial ticket. The strong men within the state dealt with him squarely.
Also, this includes friendship outside the state. For a candidate to be a force to be reckoned with, he/she should, at least, secure strategies and financial support from governors of other states.
As a candidate, you can only be sure of your polling units and, to a greater degree, your local government. To succeed, you don’t just need donors, but, also, trusted allies who will not transfers election funds to personal accounts.
Position of the federal government
Corollary to the above, the position of the federal government on the race is of utmost importance.
Incumbent federal governments have never hidden their propensity for fashioning things according to their image and likeness. The implication of the above is that if the Buhari-led federal government wants to take Anambra state, they will deploy both security and judicial apparatus to that effect. What happened in Imo state will tell you the extent they can go.
Both administrations of Peter Obi and that of Willie Obiano have tried to establish cordial relations with the federal government. This explains why the former allowed level-playing grounds in the 2013 and 2017 gubernatorial elections.
Will the federal government maintain the status quo or will it like to foist its party in power as will see in Oyo, Imo, etc? Only time will tell.
Recent studies have confirmed correlations between the candidates’ denomination and votes garnered in Anambra elections.
From Peter Obi’s era till date, the government of the state has always been a compromise between Catholic and Anglican churches. In terms of population, the Catholic church has the highest number of voters in the state hence always produces the governor while Anglicans produce the deputy.
However, the above years of marriage of convenience have been badly battered with the Bishop Crowther Memorial School’s controversy, which Anglicans considered bluntly as a religious war declared against them by the Catholic church.
The former seized the opportunity the controversy availed to expose what they dubbed the overbearing influence of the Catholic church on the Anambra state government.
It was reported last year that protestant churches in the state will team up and fight any candidate that will secure the support of the Catholic church.
Summing up, politics, in its practical sense, is a game of numbers and connections. However, where the pendulum of political power swings, the aforementioned factors will go a long way in determining who will succeed Obiano when his tenure elapses on March 17, 2022.