Godfatherism, power rotation, the agitation for the breakaway state of Biafra and intra-party disagreements are some of the key issues that will determine the governorship election in Anambra State in November, a study by the Centre for Democracy and Development, a not-for-profit research and advocacy group has revealed.
Governorship elections in Anambra State, the commercial nerve centre of the south-eastern region of Nigeria, is traditionally fraught with controversies and the study titled: One Election, One Godfather, indicated that this year’s election may not be different from previous elections.
The report which recounted the history of election-induced political upheavals in the state since the return of democratic rule in the country in 1999, revealed that while some of the issues that have led to conflict in the state are still much in play, new and perhaps more serious ones have been added to the mix.
IPOB AND THE CALL TO BOYCOTT THE ELECTION
Chief among some of the hurdles before the successful conduct of the election is the call its boycott by the Nnamdi Kanu-led separatist group, Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB.The group has vowed that election will not hold in the state until the Nigerian government accedes to its demand for a referendum for the realisation of the breakaway state of Biafra.
The report stated that the IPOB’s call for a boycott of the election may lead to an increase in violent confrontations in the run up to the election and during the election proper and may ultimately lead to the militarisation of the region.
Apart from possibility of violent clashes, the threat that the voters should boycott the election may lead to low turn out during the poll, the report stated.
“Such a threat by the IPOB leader may instill fear in the minds of voters who might not come out to vote on the day of the governorship election.”
The report, however, stated that the turnout during the election will also be a test of IPOB’s popularity and Mr. Kanu’s influence in the south-east.
“The problem of the call for a boycott is that if it fails, it will definitely diminish the popularity of Nnamdi Kanu and the agitation for Biafra.”
ZONING/ROTATION OF POWER
According to the study, another major factor that may affect the outcome of the election is the rotating of important political positions to different geographical regions within the state.
According to the study, the zoning became a major political determinant in the state at the twilight of the tenure of the immediate past governor of the state, Peter Obi.
The report stated that of the three senatorial districts in the state, Anambra South has produced four governors – Chukwuemeka Ezeife (1992-1993), Chinwoke Mbadinuju (1999 to 2003), Dame Virginia Etiaba (November 2006 to February 2007) and Andy Uba (2007). Anambra Central district has produced two governors – Chris Ngige (2003 -2006) and Mr. Obi (2006 -2013).
The first governor to come from Anambra North district is the incumbent, Willie Obiano, who is also contesting for a second term in office.
The importance of zoning in the election is underscored by the fact that all the candidates of the three major contending political parties in the state – Mr. Obiano of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; Tony Nwoye of the All Progressives Congress, APC; and Oseloka Obaze of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP are from Anambra North district.
Ironically, the only other notable contender for the position of governor who is not from Anambra North, Osita Chidoka, candidate for the newly formed United Progressive Party, UPP a former minister of aviation, is believed to have the backing of IPOB. Osita is from Anambra Central district.
“No agreement has been formally made on zoning among the various political parties, but their leaders are alleged to be quietly canvassing the issue, each trying to zone the election of their aspirants to Anambra North,” the study stated.
“It is becoming obvious from the just concluded primaries of the PDP, APC and APGA, that the election will be closely contested amongst the 3 big parties and candidates from the Anambra North senatorial zone. What will likely determine the eventual winner will narrow down to religion, zoning, party affiliation, rural–urban base and possibly federal power,” it added.
Whilst leading political parties in the state are strategising on how to emerge victorious during election, their chances may be hindered by unresolved intra-party crisis, the study showed. The crisis bedeviling the ruling APGA started after the party’s National Executive Committee led by Martin Agbaso passed a vote of no confidence on the party’s chairman, Ike Oye, and suspended him alongside two other national officers for gross misconduct.
“The crisis has continued unresolved with two factions, one led by Chief Victor Oye and the other led by Chief Martin Agbaso, each announcing different dates for the party’s primaries for the nomination of APGA candidate for the governorship election.
“The Agbaso group fixed 14thAugust 2017 as the date for his faction’s primary, while Oye faction selected 15th August 2017. The primaries have finally been conducted and candidates have emerged with incumbent Governor Willie Obiano emerging as the candidate of the Victor Oye faction of APGA and Chief Ifeanyi Igwebuike as the candidate of the Agbaso faction,” the study stated.
Similarly, the acrimonious primary of the APC between Andy Uba and Mr. Nwoye may impact negatively on the party’s chances during theelection.
HOW PREPARED IS INEC?
Nwachukwu Orji, the resident electoral commissioner for the state, whose job it is to organise the election, was sworn in on July 7, 2017, which gives him only 130 days to plan for the election.
Proper logistics during election has been the bane of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and there is no sign that commission will get it right this time around, the report stated.
“To be sure, in the 2013 governorship elections, observer groups noted the late distribution of electoral materials, late commencement of voting and accreditation, particularly in Idemili North, Idemili South, and Ogbaru Local Government Areas.”
Other issues the INEC may be confronted with during the election are multiplicity of voter registers, multiplicity of candidates, litigation and the threat of violence.
“Aside from the logistic challenges INEC may face in the conduct of the elections, the state has always posed severe challenges to the electoral management body. For instance, in the 2013 elections, while 23 candidates were put forward by the political parties, there was multiplicity of candidates fielded on the platforms of APGA and PDP, thus by the closure of nominations on 17thSeptember 2013, INEC was confused as to who the candidates for the two political parties shall be.
“While the police in Anambra have assured everyone that no person or group could stop the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra, it is important that INEC, political parties, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the security agencies do not take such a declaration as an empty threat in order not to scupper the election. The federal government must also refrain from using the threat of possible violence to militarise the state to prevent voter apathy,” the study adivised.