In this piece, TONY ORAEKI examines what the crowd of political gladiators in the Anambra Central Senatorial re-run election brings going into the election
The latest news on the Anambra Central senatorial rerun is that Senator Uche Ekwunife has been disqualified by the All Progressives Congress, APC. No contender in the senatorial zone wishes her away. As long as she has a ticket, every other contender sits up. To put it simply, she is the greatest force as long as the Central zone is concerned.
Ekwunife’s sin was her lack of support to the present PDP management in the state led by Ken Emeakayi. She stepped on too many toes in the run up to last PDP congress in the state and therefore she knew that it would be a mission impossible to regain her nomination under Ken Emeakayi led party executive.
This prompted her to activate her ill fated plan B, which was dead even before she activated it.
Unless, Senator Ekwunife quickly jumps into another party, the rerun will take place without her name on the ballot and this throws the contest more open.
In her absence from the PDP, many gladiators have emerged and have thrown their hat into the ring.
The Anambra Central Senatorial district is made up of seven local government areas namely; Awka North, Awka South, Idemili North, Idemili South, Anaocha, Dunukofia and Njikoka.
Osita Chidoka- he was the former Corp Marshal of Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC and also the immediate past Aviation Minister. He hails from Obosi in Idemili North. It was gathered that the PDP hierarchy is lobbying him to be the party’s flag bearer in the election but some other stakeholders are kicking against it, arguing that it would be unfair to have him in the Senate when his younger brother is currently serving in the House of Representatives.
There are also some flaws in giving him the ticket. He has been some sort of a technocrat, who has spent the best part of his career delivering lectures and pontificating on how best things should be done.
He does not possess the grassroots mobilisation acumen needed to win an election of this magnitude where his opponents have better grassroots structures. This is a huge minus and why the PDP in dire need of revival may not want to risk fielding him.
Peter Obi- A two time governor of Anambra state under APGA. He hails from Anaocha local government. He is a shrewd politician and well understands the terrain having won a keenly contested elected on two occasions in the state. He does not need tutorials on how to campaign and win votes.
But the snag is does he know the way of the PDP, having just crossed over to the party at the twilight of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan who is his close friend.
It can still be said that of all the candidates touted to want to carry the flag of the PDP, Obi still remains the only one who can match any other candidate in all political gimmicks; followership and finances inclusive. But the question is will Obi accept the bait? It is most unlikely.
Obiora Okonkwo: Popularly called ‘Dikeora’, he is also in the race via the PDP primaries. He is an Abuja based business mogul who is a native of Ogidi in Idemili North. He was among the contestants in the previous primary and he has all it takes to contest the election both in finances and courage. But he lacks the needed wider political base and perhaps grassroots support to garner enough votes in the general elections.
Sylvester Okonkwo: He is also in the ring to get the PDP ticket. He is a political godson of Senator Annie Okonkwo who is also in the race under the PDP. He gained political prominence through the careful tutelage of Senator Okonkwo. He worked for Annie Okonkwo’s senatorial bid in the late 1990s under United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP. He is a good orator from the same town with Annie Okonkwo, Ojoto in the same Idemili North.
SenatorAnnie Okonkwo: he came second in the discredited party primary that threw up Ekwunife. He still insists that PDP should allow him to fly the party’s flag for the election. He was a senator. He had gone through the crucible of electioneering campaigns and knows well how to win one. If given the ticket by the party, he would not enter the race as an entirely unkown quantity.
The former national chairman of APGA, Victor Umeh is presently seen as the king of the jungle in Anambra political landscape. No gainsaying that he knows the state political intrigues, its permutations and some attendant shenanigans.
In this contest, he has planned to win by making sure that his only political headache, Uche Ekwunife was removed from the ring by APC and he strongly believes if Ekwunife is taken out of the race, no other person would withstand him.
And now with Ekwunife, his nemesis almost effectively out of the way, Umeh regards himself as the man to beat. He may not be wrong. The state is controlled by APGA and the state governor, Willie Obiano has equally taken it as his own project to deliver Umeh in order to fortify his own re-election in 2017.
Though a leading contender, there are those who have grudges against him. There are those who have vowed to get their pound of flesh owing to the manner in which he conducted the last local government election.
Many aspirants that paid for their nomination forms and other fees were denied from participating in the election. Their anger was not only that the primary was not conducted but virtually all that were chosen as chairmen and councillors were political neophytes.
Since then, these people are hell-bent on frustrating Umeh in the senatorial election and they see this as a golden opportunity to pay him back.
Though, Umeh has started a reconciliatory moves to douse the tension generated by this, feelers from within the camp of the aggrieved say Umeh’s move may be too little too late.
Sharon Ikeazor: She can be regarded as the freshest face in this crowded contest. Smooth talking and relatively unknown amongst this crowd, Ikeazor has remained steadfast in the opposition. From the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party, to the Congress for Progressives Change and now to APC, she has followed President Muhammadu Buhari and this is her reward. However, getting the ticket of the ruling APC is one thing, and it is another thing to win with that ticket in a place like Anambra.
She hails from Obosi, in Idemili North and a daughter of the legal luminary and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ikeazor, she is set for her first political baptism of fire. The odds are understandably stacked against her; an unpopular party, no huge finances and no formidable grassroots structure, how she hopes to sidesteps her formidable opponents and win the general election still remains to be seen.
However, with Dr Chris Ngige, Nigeria’s minister of Labour and Employment, who is the leader of the party in the state bringing his structure to campaign for his party, it may still be a winnable election for her.