David-Chyddy Eleke reports that the Anambra governorship election has pitted former governor, Mr. Peter Obi against his successor, Chief Willie Obiano.
Saturday’s governorship election has again renewed the ego war between the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi and the incumbent governor who succeeded him, and who he played a big role in his emergence as governor in 2017, Chief Willie Obiano. Both men have been very busy in what can be described as last minute campaigns as they drum support for their candidates the impending governorship election.
While former Governor Peter Obi is in the forefront of the campaign for the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Valentine Ozigbo, Obiano has expressed his commitment to ensuring that the candidate of his party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof Chukwuma Soludo is elected as his successor.
Obi and Obiano had parted ways shortly after the swearing in of the later on March 17, 2013, when rumours crept in that Obi was demanding a certain amount of money as either compensation for installing him or refund of monies spent on running his campaign. But Obi denied making any demand on the governor, insisting that he left behind the humongous sum of N75 billion in the state coffers and that if he needed any money as compensation, he would long have deducted it before Obiano’s swearing in, and bequeathing him the remainder without any fuss.
Acting on the revelation that Obi left N75 billion for him, Obiano’s aides quickly held a press conference, discountenancing Obi’s claims, stating that the money referred to were shares and assets procured by the former governor, most of which they said were fixed for particular number of years and as such can not even be accessed. They stated this as a reply to allegations that Obiano had squandered the money upon assumption of office. The cold war had defied interference from top rated traditional rulers in the state, bishops of the major churches in the state and members of the state’s elders council, until Obi eventually took his exit from APGA, a party he funded for years and stood as its highest political office holder.
During the run up to this Saturday’s election, both men had played very active roles in the emergence of the candidates of their various political parties in ways that angered other aspirants from the parties.
Obi in his normal way refused to state his preference for any of the about 18 contestants for the ticket of the PDP, even though they openly wooed him. However, the emergence of Mr. Ozigbo as candidate of PDP has been attributed to him, with some aspirants of the party decamping to other political parties to further their aspiration, or just to spite Obi and his candidate. One of the decamped aspirant, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo who moved to Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) told journalists that Anambra can not return to the days of political godfatherism, after having fought against and overcome it many years ago. He said he is the only candidate who has no godfather, but believed only in God Almighty.
Obiano also is clearly responsible for the emergence of Prof Soludo as the candidate of APGA. About six aspirants of the party who were seen to be strong competitors of Prof Soludo were disqualified under controversial circumstances, and many believe that the action was to pave way for Soludo to emerge. This caused a rancour in the party leading to three separate primary election, which also involved litigations that went all the way to the Supreme Court level, even though Soludo later won. The support of the governor has also been interpreted to mean another way of installing godfatherism in the state’s politics.
As election holds on Saturday, the two men are no longer hiding their hand in the attempt to make governors. Obi, who has joined the Ozigbo team to a lot of communities for campaign stated in a recent visit: “Nigeria is collapsing, Anambra is collapsing, and our only problem is the habit of installing incompetent people in leadership positions. In Valentine Ozigbo, Ndi Anambra has someone who cannot afford to fail. Vote for him; he will not disappoint.”
Obiano on the other hand has sworn to ensure that Soludo emerges victorious. Besides massive campaign rallies, Obiano has gone ahead to ensure speedy completion of projects that can give APGA the needed appeal by voters. A source said that Obiano’s insistence on commissioning the Anambra International Cargo Airport was to shore up the support for APGA and Soludo. “When the governor heard that NCAA had stopped the commissioning of the airport and commencement of commercial flight, he quickly dashed to Abuja where he rectified things, and today the airport had been commissioned and commercial flights have commenced. He knew that if it happened after the election, the needed impact would not be there,” the source said.
As Anambra goes to poll on Saturday, the people of the state are yearning for a leader who will take her to a high level and build the state’s infrastructure, to put her in the league of ‘A’ list states in the country. But for Governor Willie Obiano the election means, being able to pass on the baton to another member of the party, the way it was given to him. For Obi, even though he had long played his part as governor, the election would present yet another opportunity to spite Obiano, after missing the chance in 2017, when Obiano ran for reelection.