Anambra is synonymous with political godfatherism. The reputation was gained from a trend that started from the first governorship election in 1999. But on Saturday, the tides turned as a virtual “orphan” carried the day in a manner that left nothing to dispute.
The old trend had led to recurrent instability in the state. As soon as an election is over, the godfather and the godson begin an unending battle for supremacy at the expense of the people.
The political godfather usually brings the godson to the limelight of politics and introduces the latter to the people that matter. However, the godson having clinched the seat with the support of the godfather both financially and otherwise, seeks to sideline the sponsor and renege on their agreements. This may be as a result of over-lordship by the godfather wanting to dominate the government, giving directives and controlling the administration.
In fact, for each electoral cycle in Anambra, there was a godfather.
1999-2003: CHINWOKE MBADINUJU AND EMEKA OFFOR
After the return to democracy in 1998, Chinwoke Mbadinuju became the Peoples Democratic Party candidate for Anambra State governorship after a stiff competition with A. B. C. Nwosu, a professor who later became Minister of Health under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Mr. Mbadinuju was elected governor in April 1999 and is still derided as posting the worst performance in the office since the creation of the state in 1991.
Mr. Mbadinuju’s campaign was bankrolled by Emeka Offor, a businessman. After a fallout between godson and godfather, the face-off between the two men crippled the machinery of government in the state. By September 2002, unpaid teachers had been on strike for a year and civil servants and court workers had been on strike for months.
2003- 2006: CHRIS NGIGE AND CHRIS UBA
Among the politicians Chris Uba, another businessman, “sponsored” in 2003 was PDP gubernatorial candidate, Chris Ngige. The terms of their relationship were spelled out in remarkably explicit fashion in a written “contract” and “declaration of loyalty” that Mr. Ngige signed prior to the election. It is widely believed that a copy of the contract was authenticated at the infamous Okija shrine.
Relations between Mr. Ngige and Mr. Uba deteriorated rapidly after the polls. In July 2003, Governor Ngige after rejecting some of Mr. Uba’s demands, was kidnapped by armed police officers and forced at gunpoint to sign a “letter of resignation.” Mr. Ngige earned the unenviable reputation of being the first governor in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic to be kidnapped from the Government House.
2006-2014: PETER OBI AND EMEKA OJUKWU
Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the late Biafra warlord, was one of the most revered Igbo leaders. He led his people into the civil war in 1967.
Although he did not go far in his own presidential bid in 2003, there is no doubt that his influence helped the then relatively unknown Peter Obi to win the governorship contest in Anambra State in 2003. That victory was not upheld until the court ruled that the election was won by the candidate of Mr. Ojukwu’s All Progressives Grand Alliance.
Mr. Ojukwu’s name and image became even more iconic as Mr. Obi sought re-election in 2010. “Vote him, this is my last wish”, the aged Mr. Ojukwu pleaded with the voters of Anambra on behalf of Mr. Obi who was re-elected despite the strong financial and political forces marshalled by his challengers.
2015-2017: WILLIE OBIANO AND PETER OBI
Willie Obiano who left the banking sector to join politics in 2013 was no doubt a novice on the political terrain and unarguably a new name to the people. Just like in the other cases, Governor Obi, who was about to leave office, handpicked and introduced Mr. Obiano to the state’s electorate after helping him to secure the APGA governorship ticket. He won the election and was sworn in on March 17, 2014 to succeed Mr. Obi.
However, as usual, trouble broke out between the two shortly after Governor Obiano’s inauguration. Mr. Obi claimed he left N75 billion in the government’s coffers but Mr. Obiano said he only met N35.5 billion. Mr. Obi left APGA after an internal crisis hit the party and joined the PDP, which was at the time in power at the federal level.
It was not surprising that analysts had the foregoing at the back of their minds while predicting the outcome of Saturday’s election.
In all the previous governorship elections in the state, a godfather and his godson had manoeuvred their way into office. That changed on Saturday.
The squaring up in the build up to the election was quite spectacular. Mr. Obi, already a kingmaker, anointed Oseloka Obaze, the PDP candidate whose emergence left many stalwarts of the party disgruntled. Mr. Obi’s main aim was to unseat the incumbent governor who, according to him, had not performed well. Many viewed Mr. Obi’s move as political vendetta at the expense of the people of Anambra.
“We finally broke the jinx of godfatherism, which has been existing in the state from the beginning”, Allison Onyeji, the traditional prime minister of Ufuma community in Anambra said after the poll.
Mr. Onyeji explained to PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Obi was the godfather of Mr. Obaze, the PDP candidate, while Arthur Eze sponsored the APC candidate, Tony Nwoye. He said Mr. Obiano was on his own.
“The only godfather I will say he has is the people and so we voted him according to our wish. Even though many collected money, after collecting they still voted their conscience”, Mr. Onyeji added.
“What we decided was that we don’t need anybody to show us a good leader. We the people have eyes to assess you and if we see you have performed well and is equal to the task, we will vote you and that is what happened on Saturday,” Mr. Onyeji said.
Another governorship aspirant in the state who backed Mr. Obiano in this election told PREMIUM TIMES about how the campaign success was achieved.
First we let the people know that “APGA is our (Igbo’s) own,” he said. Then we spread the slogan that “if it’s not broken, why change it” especially as everybody knew Obiano was performing well, the source, who asked not to be named, said.
The source, a core supporter of the governor, explained that long before the day of the election, Mr. Obiano had penetrated “98 per cent of churches” market unions and town union.
“We knew there was no way we would lose,” he said.
THE PEOPLE SPOKE THROUGH THE BALLOT
Out of the 422,314 valid votes, Mr. Obiano won in all the 21 local government areas of the state to poll 234,071 votes.
Mr. Obiano was followed from a distance by the APC candidate, Mr. Nwoye, who polled 98,752 votes.
Mr. Obaze of the PDP returned third with 70,293 votes, while Osita Chidoka of United Progressives Party, UPP, came a distant fourth after garnering 7,903 votes.
This shows that Governor Obiano trumped all his opponents and their sponsors in their various local government areas.