The PDP plans to regain control and consolidate its influence in the region ahead of the 2023 presidential election, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the party currently in power, believes it can still retain popular support and goodwill in a state it has ruled in since 2006.
In Nigeria, the all-important 6 November governorship election in the southeast Anambra state is yet another testimony that beyond the numbers, politics is a game of interests, compromise and offerings.
For the APC, it is not leaving any stone unturned, but also believes many of the bigwigs in the state are already in its fold. After the 2019 elections ended, it displaced the PDP in two states in the southeast – one by a supreme court verdict and another after the governor defected.
APGA devalued me all the years I [was] in the party. […] so people who priced me off the shelf with (a) tangible offer approached me…
“If you check the number of politicians – not just names but active political players in Anambra state, they’re all in APC,” says Victor Afam Ogene, who is campaigning for Senator Andy Uba, the APC governorship candidate in the state.
Although there are 18 governorship candidates seeking to replace Governor Willie Obiano, who is rounding off his second term, it is a clear battleground, with three contenders battling for the soul of the southeast geopolitical zone: Andy Uba (APC), Valentine Ozigbo (PDP) and Charles Soludo (APGA).
In recent weeks, both the PDP and APGA have been rattled by a gale of defections, with APC as the key beneficiary. Prominent individuals who’ve decamped include:
- The deputy governor Nkem Okeke
- Joy Emordi, a former senator who resigned as a member of the PDP board of trustees
- Stella Oduah, a current senator
- Six current members of the house of representatives
- A host of state lawmakers
APC’s game of favours at play in Anambra?
At a press briefing on Friday 29 October, Okeke offered insight into how the APC swept him off his feet into their fold.
“APGA devalued me all the years I [was] in the party,” he said, describing himself as an accidental politician. “I do not believe in operating on demerits, so people who priced me off the shelf with (a) tangible offer approached me, it is not my fault.”
Although he didn’t clarify what he meant by “tangible offer”, it is no different from the position of most other prominent politicians from the Igbo ethnic group in the southeast.
When Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State defected from PDP to APC a year ago, he spoke of how the PDP has “maltreated” southeast and the prospect of the geopolitical zone to finally produce a president under the APC. “This new house that is built on trust, justice, equity, and fairness is going to accommodate all of us…we are tired of empty promises. We want action, […] now,” he said.
When Senator Stella Oduah, from Anambra North, dumped the PDP for APC, Mai Mala Buni – the Yobe governor and chairman of the APC caretaker committee – told her: “You will enjoy the privileges enjoyed by all members of the party because you will have a waiver.”
However, the media focused on the money laundering charges against her, which are still pending in court. The APC government, under President Muhammadu Buhari, has been accused of overlooking corrupt leaders within its fold. This includes Senator Danjuma Goje, whose corruption charges were withdrawn after he stepped down for Ahmad Lawan, who is rumoured to have been favoured by Buhari in the race for senate president. Lawan eventually won and Goje’s case is yet to resume in court.
What are the PDP’s chances?
In the last governorship election in 2017, the PDP’s Oseloka Obaze came a distant third with 70,293 votes, while APGA’s Obiano secured 55% of the 422,314 valid votes cast, leaving the APC in second position with 98,752 votes.
Still, “the PDP has the brightest chance of winning the election,” Ndubuisi Nwobu, its chairman in Anambra, tells The Africa Report. “From our movements, our prayers and findings, we discovered that the people were looking forward to voting for the PDP. The government in the state has absolutely failed the people. The people want a change.”
In addition to having big names, such as former governor Peter Obi, who was the PDP vice-presidential candidate in 2019, Nwobu says the party is moving “from house to house, door to door” to seek the support of the electorate and argued that by so doing, the defections will not hurt it that much, to the advantage of the APC.
“The populace has not gone with them (and) there is a difference between politicians and the people that will cast their votes,” the PDP chairman says.
“Politicians are less than 5% of the populace and […] politicians think that they are in charge of the people; that they are the ones that will tell them where they will vote. That is not correct. The citizens are very much conscious and aware of what they want in every election. I don’t think their defection will affect the chances of the PDP winning the election,” he says.
APGA counting on the Ojukwu factor
For many residents in Anambra, APGA remains the party to beat. Odumegwu Ojukwu, the late governor of Eastern region, who founded the party in the early 2000s, remains their hero. In the 1960s, he led a bid for the southeast and parts of the south-south to break away from Nigeria and form an independent nation called Biafra.
Although it was a failed attempt that led to the Nigerian civil war, many Igbos – especially in Anambra where Ojukwu came from – believe they are eternally indebted to him for the push to secede from Nigeria. The calls for separation still exist due to claims of marginalisation.
After APGA won the state governorship election in 2013, then-national chairman Victor Umeh said: “We dedicate this victory to the evergreen memory of our late leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, whose vision and legacy have been sustained… The light which our late leader put on while he was alive is now shining gloriously with this victory.”
Speaking on AGPA’s chance in the election, the party’s national legal adviser Sly Ezeokenwa said: “Anambra is an APGA state like everybody knows. Until recently, APGA controlled 27 out of 30 seats in the House of Assembly. It has saddled the affairs of the state for the past 16 years. APGA has the best candidate, a professor and former governor of the Central Bank (of Nigeria), together with the dividends that APGA has brought to bear in Anambra. I can tell you we have between 80% and 90% chance of winning the election.”
Is the southeast closer to or farther from the presidency?
During the last elections, the main reason the APC got far fewer votes than the PDP in the five southeast states was the common view that the party is ‘anti-Igbo’.
The Buhari administration continues to face allegations of marginalising people of the southeast. Separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu is still in the custody of Nigeria’s secret police, as he faces charges of terrorism and treason. His group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), was outlawed in 2017 as a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian military, while the APC has been silent on whether it will zone the presidency to the southeast, amid cries by the region that it has been sidelined over the years.
But against all the odds, the APC believes it will take over Anambra and the remaining two states – not under its control – out of the five in the southeast.
“If you don’t join in baking the cake, do you want to take a share of the cake? We decided to put all our eggs in one basket and it hurt us badly,” Ogene, who is helping to lead the party’s campaign train in Anambra tells The Africa Report. “We are talking about a president in Nigeria of Igbo extraction. You cannot be isolated and think that you will get power at the centre. You must reach out, extend hands of fellowship across the Niger, sit on the table of brotherhood with your brothers from the component parts of Nigeria and negotiate power. Beg, cajole, and do whatever [you must] to get power.”
“It is going to be a tight race but mainly between the APC and APGA,” says Chijioke Iloanya, an Akwa-based political analyst. “The APC seems to have a greater chance than the PDP because of its style of politics of luring prominent individuals with offers like [what] you saw with Oduah and the deputy governor. But for APGA, it will be difficult for them to lose. If not for anything else, Ojukwu’s legacy is still very much alive here.”
According to Ogene, if the APC wins in Anambra, it will be “easy” for the APC to get the remaining two states – under PDP’s control in the southeast – into its fold.
“Already, with Anambra close to getting into the kitty, that will take us to three states out of five, and you can be sure that when that happens, by the next election cycle, which is 2023, the others will simply melt into the APC coalition in the south east,” he says.
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