Home » Anambra, Legislature, National Politics, Senate, State News » Anambra Central: Dicey Contest Awaits Akunyili

Anambra Central: Dicey Contest Awaits Akunyili

Now, it is a whistle blow going by the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) timetable which has made it mandatory for parties to ensure that their primaries are concluded at least by the second week of January, 2011. And with that, it has become a race against time for almost all the parties and the aspirants under their platforms who have begun to traverse the length and breadth of their constituencies canvassing for votes of would-be delegates irrespective of the seeming disorganization in their parties.

In the same breadth, alliances are being formed with parties and aspirants in their bid to realize burning ambitions and cross-carpeting from one party to the other amidst intrigues and behind the scene maneuvers that characterize them. In Anambra State for instance, even when the governorship election is not among the elections expected to be conducted next year, national and State Houses of Assembly elections are billed to be conducted as in other parts of the country. Whereas state chapters of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) had held successful state congresses paving way for aspirants on their platforms, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still broiled in controversy over the leadership of the party at the state level.
It would be recalled that the Emma Nweze-led PDP State Executive Committee (SEC) was recently elected in the primaries conducted by the South-east zonal office of the party on the directives of the National Working Committee (NWC). The exco has however been asked to vacate office for Benji Udeozor by the Court.

But penultimate week, rumours of possible reconciliation and harmonization of the factions and the aspirants who obtained forms from either of them with a view to enable the chapter beat the INEC deadline on the conduct of primaries and presentation of candidates for the 2011 general elections were rife. It would seem however that the success of APGA in the February 6, 2010 governorship election in the state has become a major inspiration for people from other parties to come over to the party to see how they can ride on its crest to electoral victory. A few months after the election, former PDP Senator for Anambra North Senatorial district in the National Assembly, Senator Joy Emodi, former Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) candidate in the February 6, 2010 governorship election and member of the Federal House of Representatives, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, former PDP senatorial aspirant in Anambra Central zone, Engr. Emma Nweke and former Information and Communications Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili had all cross-carpeted to APGA where they are all aspiring to win one elective position or the other.

But with the coming primaries of parties and the subsequent elections expected to follow, Anambra Central Senatorial zone where Anambra’s former Governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, Akunyili, the incumbent senator, Chief Annie Okonkwo, former member of House of Representatives, Hon. Chudi Offodile, former APGA representative in the House of Representatives, Hon. George Ozodinobi, widow of former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mrs. Stella Okoye and Mrs. Chika Ibeneme have declared interest to vie for the senate seat of the district presents in all honesty a political scenario worthy of examination visa-viz the interest of the parties.

Whereas Ngige is the only known aspirant so far on ACN platform in the zone, Akunyili, Okoye, Nweke and Ozodinobi are chasing the ticket of APGA, while Okonkwo, Okoye, Ibeneme and Offodile are known figures in the state’s central zone aspiring for the PDP ticket before the general elections.

Akunyili who hails from Agulu in Anaocha council area belongs to the same Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia constituency as Ozodinobi from Nimo in Njikoka and the PDP aspirant, Ibeneme who hails from Agulu-Izuigbo also in Anocha council area.
Ngige, hails from Alor in Idemili South, while Okonkwo is from Ojoto also in the same council area. Both Ngige and Okonkwo belong to the same Idemili North/South Federal Constituency, while Nweke and Offodile, hail from Awka in Awka South council area. Both Offodile and Nweke belong to Awka North/South Federal constituency in the state’s central zone.
Akunyili’s recent resignation from both the PDP and her ministerial position, as well as her subsequent declaration for APGA, has since been a subject of discourse and controversy in the zone and even within her own party with differing opinion as to the real reason behind her resignation. Many feel that former minister’s resignation and subsequent declaration for APGA was more or less a face-saving measure since she was said to have lost out of President Goodluck Jonathan’s inner-circle, as well as unconfirmed claims that she has been offered the Vice-Presidential slot of PDP presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar.

“You know Atiku is Jonathan’s major contender for the PDP ticket. And if you were the president, would you really be comfortable with this kind of situation from a cabinet member of your administration. Curiously, however, her replacement was immediately announced after her resignation in the council chambers thereby giving credence to the loss of face theory. “She is not a member of the President’s inner circle. She was not a member of Goodluck/Sambo Presidential council to which some of the ministers like the Defence Minister, Minister of Police Affairs, and of course her replacement Labaran Maku are members,” the source said, adding however that the President had in the actual fact wanted Maku to take over the functions of Akunyili because he was the one projecting his image and ambition.
Within APGA and among her contenders for the ticket to represent the Central Senatorial zone of the state, there appear to be discordant tunes reverberating all over the place. A fellow aspirant, Ozodinobi described her resignation from PDP and declaration for APGA as shocking and ill-advised given that according to him, she hardly knows the terrain and does not even know who the women leader of her ward in Agulu is.

He sees her resignation from both party and office as a gross show of ingratitude to the party that brought her to lime light and a slap on the face of the president who from all indications would need her support.
According to Ozodinobi, he didn’t want to believe that Akunyili was being drafted by the party top echelon to be imposed on them as its candidate for Anambra Central. He said that doing that would negate the very essence of internal democracy and transparency which the party had pledged in the selection of its candidates. He said if that is true, then the move would no doubt turn the APGA into the Anaocha APPA.
While trying to buttress this point, he said, the Governor, Mr. Peter Obi is from Agulu, the party’s National Chairman, Victor Umeh is from Agulu-Izuigbo, a major House of Representatives aspirant in the party, Hon. Uche Ekwunife is from Nri, the state Commissioner for Works is from Adazi-Nnukwu and now Akunyili for senate is from Agulu too, all communities in Anaocha council area in the state’s central zone. “Beyond this, I am not afraid and only pray that the party conducts a transparent primary to select its candidates,” he said.

The party’s state Secretary, Okorie Akirika however countered this saying it was more of a coincidence that these personalities are just from the same communities in Anaocha and not an enthronement of Anaocha hegemony or a kind of political nepotism as being speculated. He said that people are attracted into the party by the good works of Obi through his Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) and the people of Anaocha cannot because Obi is from there and not identify with the party. He cited an example with the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ who he said mainly came from the tribe of Judea in Israel and described as circumstantial Jesus’ selection of the 12 and the fact that Anaocha people are all over the place angling for one elective National Assembly position or the other was deliberate.

Even the Governor, Obi sees Akunyili’s resignation to join his party as a courageous decision that only those with strong characters could take. Obi who spoke after he declared open a workshop on local government system in Awka, said that for the former minister to resign so that she could vie for the senate is an opportunity to represent her people, a course he said is worthy of emulation. He equated her coming to contest for election as a representation of hope for which he reasoned the state must present its first eleven. “Anambra cannot be a highly sophisticated state with highly intelligent people and continue sending one-legged men to represent her in a political competition,” he said, adding that Akunyili’s choice of APGA tells a story that APGA is doing well and challenges the party to do even better.
Chief Ben Ndi Obi, the Director General of Atiku Abubakar campaign organization however sees Akunyili’s resignation for another party as a clear indictment of the Jonathan administration because Akunyili sees ahead of her colleagues politically and knows that the ship is sinking.

“It is in the same vein that she spotted the sinking ship of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and gave her support to Jonathan. Now, she is seeing ahead again and doesn’t want to be in the ship when it capsizes and has decided to join forces with APGA at the state level to contest for a senatorial seat,” he said.
Even at that, there is wide spread thinking that Akunyili, who kicked off her campaign tour of the seven local government areas in Anambra Central senatorial district, Monday, December 20, 2010 and got endorsements from traditional rulers and would be delegates in these areas, is not only relying on the good will of the state government in what observers called direct reciprocation of her alleged role to help install Obi for a second term in office on February 6, 2010, but looked every inch the APGA candidate for the zone all things being equal.

In keeping with this fate, Akunyili told party faithful in all the areas she visited that she needed their votes as delegates to become the party’s candidate in the January primaries and their votes to go to the senate in the general elections so that she would compliment the good works Obi started in the state. She also said she is not a political neophyte having started his political career as a councilor until she became minister, pledging effective representation failure of which would see her resign if there was no positive transformation in the lives of her constituents.
But the truth remains that Akunyili’s foray into the senate race in Anambra Central district has somehow presented a very big challenge to both APGA and other parties which must respond to her sweeping political volcano if they should remain relevant. This response, THISDAY learnt, is making parties especially the ACN and the PDP do a rethink of its likely candidates for the zone in the forthcoming elections.

The question now is if Akunyili becomes the candidate of APGA and Ngige likely to be the candidate of ACN, who among the aspirants in PDP – Okonkwo, Okoye and Offodile will be a marching candidate for the two to be able to win the Anambra Central senatorial seat for PDP. The emerging scenario is not a simple one especially for the PDP in a state it is not controlling the executive power. It is also a scenario that requires the permutation of both the local governments’ strong hold of the contenders, as well as their intellectual prowess.
Agreed none of them is a push-over. Ngige was a former Governor of the sate loved particularly by the people of his Idemili North and South Federal constituency who have never stopped being grateful to a man who single-handedly transformed the entire area into a sub-urban city. In all fairness, none of the parties with deference to Ngige stands any chance in Idemili North and South where Ngige is seen as a thin god no matter who they field for the election.
Although the incumbent senator, Okonkwo is from the area but he may not stand a chance in these two council areas if Ngige is in the contest.

Given Akunyili’s acceptance by her people, where even traditional rulers in her native Anaocha and Njikoka council areas have endorsed her, and given that these council areas are also that of the Governor and the National Chairman of the party, it will be a fait-accompli to say that Akunyili will sweep the votes in these areas.
Offodile, a former federal lawmaker and highly respected lawyer from Awka Federal Constituency, appears to be an underdog but who in the thinking of pundits stands the best chance to pick the PDP ticket given the scenario on ground which favours likely candidates of APGA and ACN holding tight to their controlling council areas. Offodile is known as one dogged and indefatigable political fighter from whose grips no one can take his Awka South and North council areas. The incumbent senator, Okonkwo may not likely march Ngige’s political maneuvers in the two council areas of Idemili North and South from where both of them hail.

Given this scenario, pundits say there is the likelihood of candidates of APGA, ACN and PDP controlling and winning two council areas a piece if Akunyili, Ngige and Offodile emerge in that order as candidates of their parties in what will seem as an interesting show down during the general elections, leaving Dunukofia the deciding factor.
The argument has been that whoever the major financier of parties and philanthropist of the first order in the area, Prince Arthur Eze throws his weight, influence and support behind him or her in Dunukofia may finally become the senator representing Anambra Central zone. It will therefore be a very tough fight for these three leading parties given the pedigree of the aspirants and the desperation of the parties.

-Thisday

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Posted by on Jan 2 2011. Filed under Anambra, Legislature, National Politics, Senate, State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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