By Kanayo Esinulo
The gladiators are warming up and it is likely going to be a tough outing this time around. One thing that makes the politics of Anambra State interesting and, somewhat, fascinating is that its electorate is highly enlightened and sensitive. Its voter population knows exactly what is at stake. This is the state that gave birth, as it were, to political icons such as the Azikiwes, Ojukwus, Okongwus, Orizus, Ekwuemes, and Okekes.
Anambra State can easily be described or showcased as one of the states in Nigeria with the highest number of politically literate and conscious citizens that easily understand the many critical issues that get discussed during election periods like now, not just by politicians but also by the intelligentsia.
How does the voter in Anambra State differ significantly from his counterpart in the other parts of the Southeast, indeed the rest of Nigeria? At any public gathering, social/cultural or political, in the state or elsewhere with a remarkable concentration of Anambra indigenes, politics is instantly the topic on everybody’s lips. It makes them feel good, and discussants are usually aware of the intricacies and nuances of what may be needed to get their beloved state working for everyone and for every segment.
Devoid of emotions and lousy sentiments, the Anambra man understands what it takes to put his state on a sound road to development. And he is always willing to submit to superior arguments and accept that the man on the other side has unassailable points.
Yes, on November 6, 2021, the people of this important state in Igbo land will again troop out to choose who represents them at the State House of Assembly and who, specifically, occupies Government House, Awka. The known big political parties and a few others that have been angling for space in the struggle to capture the imagination and political attention and loyalty of the Anambra electorate will slug it out.
In the last elections in the State, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, performed exceptionally in all the 21 local government areas. The rival Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) which suffered a considerable dislocation in the state since its major crises in 2003/2004 when a seating governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, was seized by rebels within the party, beaten up, humiliated, and forced to write a letter of resignation against his wish, and kept incommunicado for a number of hours by a clique that believed that the state belonged to it.
That was, in my view, the beginning of the divorce process between this important state and the then ruling party at both the state and federal levels. It was at this point that APGA came to the rescue through the intervention of the courts, the insistence of the leader of the party, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and all those who shared his views about the state. Peter Obi became a ready ally that was easily deployed to complete the total liberation of Anambra State from the hands of dangerous predators who were bent on deeming the Light Of The Nation.
Chris Ngige was lucky to have left the den of the Anambra lions alive, although seriously bruised and regrettably humiliated – with his bloodied head unbowed.
Then began the enduring love affair between Anambra State and APGA that has lasted till this day. Since 2004 to date, this political party, one of the legacies of Ojukwu that prides itself as a worthy and tangible instrument of development left behind by “the leader”, and commonly referred to as Nke a bu nke anyi (this one is our own), Ugwumba, (the pride of a people), etc that has, let’s say the truth, transformed Anambra State from its former decrepit state to what it is today. The party has succeeded in giving the state a new look, a new face, redefined its destination, increased its revenue base, created a dazzling road infrastructure that has made the connection between towns and villages easy, smooth, and a pleasurable ride, more than doubled school enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, returned peace and security to a state that became, at a time, too dangerous to live in, travel to or through it; or visit for business.
The clique that held Ngige and his PDP government in the state hostage was dismantled, disabled and peacefully run out of town. Peace and progress returned to a state that has now become a reference point in the region and beyond.
But this is not to say that APGA under the leadership of Dr. Victor Ike Oye or its government led by Chief Willie Obiano has solved all the problems it inherited from and during the days of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju. That would amount to making frivolous and hard-to-substantiate claims or assumptions.
The November 6 governorship election in the state is going to put to severe test the enduring love affair between APGA and the people of Anambra State or witness a slight, not too significant, kiss-on-the-cheek shift to the new entrants into the political arena of the state – the Young Peoples Party, YPP, led by Senator Ifeanyi Uba and its candidate, or the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP, that is fielding Dr. Obiora Okonkwo for the governorship election.
Will it is a tough election for the dominant party in the state or will it be a sweeping victory, like happened four years ago, when APGA swept all the 21 local government councils in the state with ease and profound self-confidence? Would that level of victory happen again on November 6 or will the tide change, however, slightly this time around? Will APGA’s stronghold on the support and loyalty of Ndi-Anambra remain intact?
It remains to mention that the Chukwuma Soludo choice by APGA as its flag-bearer seems to have put the other active political parties in the state into confusion, however temporary. Never mind the avalanche of court cases that kept the leadership of the parties busy and somewhat agitated for a while. It is only to be expected this season, and in the case of Anambra State, it is normal.
It was the season and a period when frivolous court orders are easily sourced and arranged from far away places like an unknown suburb in Jigawa State and other far-flung locations as suit the fancy of the litigants. But the prompt intervention of the Chief Justice of Nigeria in summoning six Chief Judges that judges in their states issued conflicting orders to political parties was a needful and logical step to take before the polity becomes messed up by political parties, overzealous politicians and their money-minded lawyers who would never give good legal advice became so common during this season.
Also, the delay by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to put its foot down when controversies appeared to be enveloping some parties, and imposters were emerging everyday in courts and on television and radio stations didn’t, in my view, help matters. In such situations, INEC should have been bold enough to show its teeth, though within the ambit of the electoral laws. Interestingly, and at last, INEC saw reason to do the needful and restore sanity to the process. Anambra State is calm now, or so it seems and the campaigns will soon pick up with vigour and strength.
Anambra State electorate will, hopefully, troop out on November 6 to make their choices from among the array of candidates canvassing their votes.
It will, I think, be a choice between continuity and a tortuous fresh beginning.
All in all, it looks like the people of Anambra State come November 6 would prefer the lover they know to a new friend they rarely know his style or his preferences.
•Esinulo, a veteran journalist writes from Lagos