By Princess Ekwi Ajide
On 6th November, 2021, Anambra State electorate would go to the polls to elect a new governor to run the affairs of the state for another four years.
Presently, many have indicated interest, aspiring to take over from the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano who will be concluding his eighth year in office then but only one man can occupy the seat at a time.
People are often in a hurry to pontificate about what politics is and what it is not. For me, politics simply involves getting and using power for the advancement of public welfare which must include activities provision of public goods and services. However, in today’s Nigeria politics has become an all comers affair.
Instinctively, the name Anambra conjures several things in the minds of people in the political arena. From the bizarre to the ridiculous, every observer awaits something out of the ordinary, sometimes dramatic, often distracting and diversionary, seldom entertaining but always surprising. In fact, no one who has ever been anticipated to become the next Anambra governor ever did. Somehow it gets thwarted midway.
Anambra politics is such that reveals the good, the bad and the ugly. Since the creation of the state in 1991, there is hardly any dull moment ever. Paradoxically, it is the state that is home to several intelligent, successful and influential people in regional and national politics. However we have had our own share of political luck.
Some notable individuals that have emerged from the South East geopolitical zone come from Anambra State. These include the likes of former President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, the only Nigerian whose name appeared in the constitution, former Governor of the South Eastern State, Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Dr. Charles Soludo, erstwhile Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, a former Senate President, the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, the late Dr. Dora Akunyili, former DG of NAFDAC, the late Dr. Chike Obi, the first Nigerian to hold a PhD in Mathematics among several great persons who are indigenes of Anambra State.
The race to occupy Agu Awka is gradually gathering momentum as political parties may soon begin the process of party conventions to select candidates. No doubt the horse trading may have begun in several quarters.
Beyond mere aspirations, Ndi Anambra should begin to deliberately scrutinize those aspiring to lead them. With the literacy rate of over 92 percent, there is no explanation for us to produce a governor without the right educational credentials. Or is that too much to ask?
The economy is an important aspect in the to-do list of the leadership of the state. Especially for a state with a population of 4.1million according to the 2006 national population census, so, which has what it takes in terms of quality man power or otherwise to support any form of investment.
With huge industrial possibilities, any focused visionary government should easily tap into these potentials. For instance, Nnewi is the home of some of the biggest manufacturing companies in the whole of the south east region. One wonders why there is no concrete plan yet to transform the city to compete favorably with the likes of Taiwan. What about Onitsha? It is currently one of the biggest hubs of commerce in West Africa. With the right strategy and infrastructure it can become and even overtake Dubai.
In agriculture, Anambra can earn close to 2billion USD annually if the disputed Omasi Farm Settlement had been recovered.
Some states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) generated a whopping sum of N612.87 billion as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) between January and June 2020 as disclosed in the States IGR report, recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). With the right developmental plan, Anambra can compete with Lagos and Kano in terms of IGR.
Despite the fact that indigenes of Anambra State remain among the biggest investors in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, most of these investments are located outside the state hence the large migration of the youths in search of greener pasture outside the shores. This can be a source of worry when you consider the atmosphere of insecurity and divisive politics in the country today. One can only begin to think that it is time for these investors to come home to Anambra and invest their money “k’aku ha wee luo uno”. This could have quantum multiplier effect in the state only if the enabling environment is created and coordinated in synergy with Ndi Anambra in the Diaspora.
The politics of godfatherism however, appears to be one issue that has held the development of the state hostage. The experience of the late former Governor Chinweoke Mbadinuju easily comes to mind. The whole idea of irrevocable payment order and direct deductions of election expenses from government coffer is a direction that we ought not to go again.
Recall Mbadinuju’s successor, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige and the struggle to arguably overcome the hold of godfathers during his tenure as governor. Many people are yet to fully figure out the actual details of the alleged plot to forcefully remove him from office and how it was foiled.
Ngige’s successor, Mr. Peter Obi may not be known to have a known godfather, but some say that “the powers that be” never really gave his administration the freedom needed for excellence as he spent most of his time in court challenging one way or another. He did his bit but some say that he eventually emerged a godfather himself.
Andy Uba’s regime lasted only 17 days so he never had chance to perform. This may well be his reason for always coming back to contest for the seat to try to show that he can do it.
During his second tenure, Peter Obi and his All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), started the conversation on zoning and Chief Willie Obiano from Anambra North Senatorial District apparently became the beneficiary. He was sworn in on 17th March, 2014 having won the 16th November, 2013 governorship election.
Despite the initial political issues, Governor Willie Obiano remained focused in the business of governance which earned him the 21/21 victory during the November 2017 governorship elections for a second term in office on 17th March, 2018 and the rest today is history.
Observers of the current administration admit that despite his quiet disposition to publicity, the Willie Obiano led administration has fared well in several areas including education, security, healthcare delivery and agriculture. Many of his opponents will contest these but facts about his achievements abound for all to see. In spite of these, the political footprints in the state remain a work in progress but the succession battle is on.
As we begin the countdown to Anambra 2021, we must try to diagnose how we got here in the first instance. So, who becomes Anambra’s next governor? There are conversations about zoning and equity. However, whether the political parties will respect zoning system remains a conjecture.
If that is the case, then one will argue that it is the turn of contenders from Anambra South Senatorial District to produce the next governor therefore, one will expect that aspirants of the major political parties from that zone will have the best chances of emerging victorious. However, those who know better insist that zoning remains voluntary and strictly an internal party affair just as a school of thought believes that zoning in Anambra may breed mediocrity. Others argue that with the quality of personalities from towns in the seven local Government Areas making up Anambra South Senatorial District, the question of fielding unqualified candidates may not arise.
Are there godfathers lurking in the shadows to take Anambra back to Egypt? Money politics remains part of the reason many intellectuals and captains of industry shun politics for as it stands today, you need to be a member of a particular denomination or the other in Anambra or spend a huge sum of money to carry out a successful campaign, so, where do we strike the balance?
Everyone comes bearing the message of salvation or consolidation but who has what it takes to continue where Governor Obiano will stop? Granted Anambra State remains one of the best in education, health and conducive environment for businesses to thrive. Who has the capacity and courage and technical know-how to turn things around further for good?
The concern in the minds of many is whether our state is cursed or if we are the cause? For me, it is time for us the electorate to set an agenda by providing clarity about the kind of governor we want. We must take back our politics and force these rampaging godfathers and political entrepreneurs to beat a retreat. To do this, we must jettison all forms of money, party or religious sentiments and choose the best. Another opportunity has come for us to move the conversations about the potentials of Anambra to an implementable reality. We must not squander it. Anambra must move on for the better.
Princess Ekwi Ajide writes from Abuja, Nigeria. She can be reached at [email protected]