Policy Briefs

News Track: The Obi factor in Anambra election

As the clock ticks for the November 18, 2017 Anambra gubernatorial election, one question that is agitating the minds of many political watchers of the state, is the extent the Peter Obi factor will determine the outcome of the contest.
According to the figures made available by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), about 2.2 million registered voters are expected to make a decision of the person and party they would want to preside over the affairs of the state for the next four years, beginning from March next year.

Peter Obi is the immediate past governor of Anambra State between 2006 and 2014. Like a cat with nine lives, he survived an impeachment and an election was upturned in his favour both at the Court of Appeal and at the Supreme Court.

For the eight years he spent as governor of Anambra State, Obi made a bold name in Anambra politics, nay the whole of Nigeria. He was seen as an austere governor, who did not believe in unnecessary expenditure. Today, he prides himself as one who helped the state cut down on unnecessary spending, and blocked revenue leakages that saved the state millions of naira.

As Anambra decides on November 18, 37 political parties are contesting the governorship election with notable candidates.

Analysts say that the odds favour only five of the 37 parties whose candidates are jostling for the position, the ones to watch in the race include the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Tony Nwoye, All Progressives Congress (APC); Oseloka Obaze, People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Godwin Ezeemo, Progressives Peoples’ Alliance (PPA); Osita Chidoka, United Peoples Party (UPP); Oby Okafor, Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and Henry Ikechukwu Onuorah, Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN).

Shortly after he left office in 2014, Obi’s relationship with his political godson and successor, Willie Obiano, went sour. It would be recalled that he personally picked and supported Obiano to win the Anambra gubernatorial election on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Obi’s sterling performance while in office appears to have become a gauge to measure the abilities/performance of the incumbent governor. He has become a regular speaker at events where good governance is the theme. At such fora, he gives a personal testament how he demystified power.

However, some observers have said that it was this perception of his administration as being “perfect” and beneficial to Anambra State, which he, tried without success, to insist the Obiano administration must replicate that may have strained his relationship with the incumbent governor.

“Peter Obi did his best while he presided over the state as the governor, but like most Nigerian godfathers, he has refused to accept the fact that although he was instrumental to the emergence of Willie Obiano as governor in 2013, he must not dictate the pace for Obiano. He can offer pieces of advice, but Obiano is not bound by any law to take such advice. So, the inability of the former governor to realise that he is not in charge has been the crux of the matter,” said a political observer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Recall that for the two tenures he served, Obi governed under the APGA, a party considered by many to be regional.

Even after he left office, Obi was respected and almost revered by many who appreciated his style of leadership. However, his defection to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), at a time his looming image and father figure was badly needed in APGA, was considered in some quarters as a betrayal too hard to bear and an “unkindest cut”. Obi’s romance with the PDP during the 2015 presidential campaign and unhidden support for Goodluck Jonathan riled many of his kinsmen, who began to question his morality and ideological conviction in politics.

While some die-hard members of APGA say the reason for their disappointment in the manner Obi dumped the party was that the former governor allegedly reneged on the promises he made to the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu that he would never abandon APGA, some other Anambra indigenes who see Obi as the father of the modern Anambra politics say politics is like a masquerade that is impossible to watch standing at one point while the display lasts.

Okechukwu Okoye, a supporter of the PDP in Anambra and Obi’s admirer, said: “I get amused when people begin to say that Peter Obi did not keep to the promise he made to Ikemba concerning loyalty to APGA. We must get one thing very correctly; when one dies, whatever agreement such a person had with the living has expired. How can Peter Obi continue to keep a promise with a dead man? Death breaks every agreement. So, those who hold some grudges against Obi on that basis are not wise. That aside, anyone who thinks that Obi does not command any influence in Anambra political space as of today is just simply deceiving himself and November 18 will prove that.”

The Obi factor in the November 18 poll

Recently, Obi was quoted as saying that he would sacrifice the last drop of his blood to ensure that Obiano does not return as governor. Neither Obiano nor APGA took the threat with a pinch of salt, because they know what Peter Obi is capable of doing both in terms of cash and connections.

While addressing a campaign rally recently also, Obi was quoted as saying: “If you followed my campaign for Governr Willie Obiano of APGA about four years ago, I promised to lead the campaign to vote him out, if he failed the people. That is what I am doing now.”

The threat, it was reported, jolted Obiano into taking his campaign more seriously. Obi is solidly behind Oseloka Obaze, who is the standard bearer for the PDP. Allegations of misappropriation are being hurled at Obiano from the Obi’s camp.

An indigene of the state, who would not want his name in print, told BusinessDay that Obi and Obaze are two individuals that command so much respect in the state, adding that the gubernatorial election will be “tough”.

“One does not need to go far before one sees the reason why Obiano should be concerned about Obi’s threat. Going by his modest achievements in the last three years plus, Obiano should go to sleep and not campaign at all because he has been able to do one or two positive things that are verifiable. But the point is, if you put his achievements side by side with what Obi did in Anambra, you will easily see why Anambra people are passionate about Obi even out of office. So, it is said and feared among the ruling party in the state that Obi’s level of acceptance combined with the personality of Obaze and what he represents (in the state), cannot be wished away. That to me is the reason why APGA cannot say it is over until it is over,” BusinessDay was told.

Analysts foresee a tsunami

Political observers foresee a situation where the November 18 would be a moral equivalence of war in Anambra. Obi is a dogged fighter. He contested the governorship in 2003, but Chris Ngige of the then PDP was declared winner by the INEC.

After nearly three years of litigation, Ngige’s victory was overturned by the Court of Appeal on 15 March 2006. Obi took office for on 17 March 2006. On 2 November 2, 2006, he was impeached by the state House of Assembly after seven months in office and replaced the next day by Virginia Etiaba, his deputy. Obi challenged his impeachment and was re-instated as the governor on February 9, 2007 by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu. Etiaba handed power back to him after the court ruling. Obi once again left office on May 29, 2007 following the general elections, which Andy Uba won. Obi, who refused to be part of the election on the basis that his tenure had not ended, returned to the courts once more, this time contending that the four-year tenure he had won in the 2003 elections only started to run when he took office in March 2006. On 14 June 2007 the Supreme Court upheld his contention and returned Obi to office. This brought to an abrupt end the Uba tenure.

Pundits say that with Obi, the never-say-die fighter, solidly behind Obaze, the November 18 contest cannot be an easy ride for Obiano, even with his incumbency advantage.


Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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