will go to the polls to elect a successor to Governor Peter Obi, the first governor of the state to be elected to a second term in office. There are many parallels between the ‘machine’ politics that prevails in Anambra State and the rancorous politics of Kano, Oyo, Adamawa and Bayelsa States. It is generally believed that no one wins and retains power in any of these states without having some rough edges or losing his or her innocence in the process.
What should we expect from Anambra State on Saturday? Raw violence is rarely a major theme in the politics of Anambra state. Rather contestants have a way of using (or abusing) court processes to create a stalemate if things are not going their way. Contestants were known in the past to negotiate with fellow contestants on the basis of the number of court injunctions they had secured in advance or capable of securing. So we should be looking out for a major court ruling – disqualifying one candidate or granting an injunction to another a few days to the election.
We should also be looking out for hi-tech rigging. Though INEC under Attahiru Jega has improved the transparency of the electoral processes, including the conduct of elections, given the role of the state as the chief instrument for dispensing privileges and for wealth accumulation, the stakes are simply so high that for many of the candidates, it will be a ‘do or die’ affair. It should therefore be expected that efforts will be made to rig the election though it may not be the old-fashioned way of ballot snatching or ballot stuffing. Special attention should be paid to the potential sabotaging of the electoral processes such as late or non-arrival of electoral materials in the perceived strongholds of some of the leading candidates and the possible manipulation of vote tallies at the collation centres.
One of the questions that obviously agitate the minds of many is who will emerge the winner? For full disclosure, it may be germane to state upfront that in the last two weeks or so my sympathy has been tilting towards Patrick Ifeanyi Uba, founder of Capital Oil, and the candidate of the Labour Party. I will however underline that I have never met or discussed with Uba or anyone working for him. I will elaborate later on why I feel Uba is the ‘man of the elections’.
On paper the candidate to beat is Willie Obiano, not only because he is the candidate of the ruling APGA, but also because he has been endorsed by Peter Obi, who, in my opinion, has a slightly above average performance as a Governor. I am not especially a fan of Peter Obi but I give it to him that he has carried himself very well as the Governor of the State. For instance, his public persona does not display any ostentation – despite being stupendously rich. He remains the only Governor who is content to be addressed as ‘Mr Peter Obi’ – others are either ‘Chief, ‘Dr’, ‘Alhaji’ or ‘Comrade’. Also despite his deceptively girlish voice, Obi is a master of intrigues and a real trader at heart who has perfected the art of manipulating church, town union and ethnic politics to achieve political ends. Will Mr Obiano benefit from Obi’s express endorsement or will he be hurt by it?
There is no doubt that in many parts of Anambra State Obi is already facing voter fatigue, which could rob off negatively on Obiano’s candidacy. I am particularly irate that Obi who fought the political godfathers to a standstill in Anambra State chose to play godfather himself by plucking out Obiano, who is thought to be his business associate from Fidelity bank in which he has a major interest to be his successor. This, in my opinion, is poor political judgment because if anything has been conclusively proved in this country, it is that investments in political godsons rarely bring the expected outcomes. Obiano has also not shown he is prepared for the job and in one occasion could not even remember the name of his running mate. I strongly doubt that Obiano has what it takes to contain the sharks and political godfathers that lurch on the sides in the state.
For Tony Nwoye, the PDP candidate thought to be bankrolled by the original godfather of Anambra state politics, Arthur Eze, he simply does not have any pedigree to be a Governor. He neither has any academic qualification (he did not complete his medical studies) nor is he known to have run any business. His only ‘qualification’ was that he was President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). If Tony Nwoye wins, then Anambra state will witness a reminiscence of the Mbadinuju era when godfathers held the state hostage. I cannot help wondering why of all the candidates in its fold, the PDP felt it is Nwoye it should present as its candidate for a state as complex as Anambra, where the voters expect candidates to combine academic accomplishments with distinction in other fields of human endeavour.
Ngige remains one of the most popular politicians in Anambra State. He was certainly the first Governor to show that the State has enough money to pay salaries of civil servants as and when due. He won election into the Senate on his own recognition in a fierce contest with Professor Dora Akunyili despite (or because of – as some say) active support from Governor Peter Obi.
I doubt however if Ngige will live up to expectations if he is elected. He distinguished himself as Governor between 2003 and 2006 largely because his predecessor Dr Mbadinuju had set an exceedingly low bar of public expectation. My personal opinion is that Dr Ngige has had his moment of glory as Governor because the sequel to any drama, film or book rarely lives up to the original work. Besides, I do not see any hunger for the job in him. He appears to be running on past glory and did not demonstrate special preparation for the elections. A typical example was a recent televised debate between him and Ifeanyi Uba. He appeared cocky, pedantic and unprepared. And when he was asked to mention any constituency project he had attracted to the state, he could only mention a VIP toilet in a certain primary school. And clearly lacking on what to say further, he waved off the question and went and sat down. I was disappointed in his performance in that debate.
Though he may not win, my sympathy in the last two weeks has moved to Patrick Ifeanyi Uba. I was initially unsympathetic to his candidacy – a young ‘money miss road’ without education trying to buy Anambra State, I thought. I have since changed my opinion of him.
I have been very impressed by his doggedness, energy and preparedness for the job. Of coursethis could be because I had a rather low bar of expectation from him. During the debates however he was often the most articulate of the candidates and many who expected him to make many grammatical mistakes or to fumble because he does not have university education, were disappointed. Quite often he spoke with the specificities of statisticians – and on a flipside also with the hyperboles of a typical Nigerian trader. I also wish he does not go about calling himself or causing people to call him ‘Dr’ Patrick Uba. It is very unnecessary. He has made his mark in the business world, not in academics, and that honorific suggests a sort of inferiority complex – something his performance in the debates disproved.
Unlike other people of immense wealth from Anambra who are often content to play godfathers, Ifeanyi Uba, by offering himself as a candidate, took the bull by the horn. I see Uba’s candidacy as a bold statement to the political godfathers in Anambra State – throw your hats into the ring if you want to be in politics and let people scrutinize you instead of hiding behind fellows that appear malleable in the hope of ruling by proxy. I am equally impressed that despite all that happened when his company was mentioned among the oil marketing cabals that defrauded the country through oil subsidies regime and his well-publicised problems with Coscharis, he refused to allow these to affect his ambition to rule the state.
Uba’s wealth is both his greatest asset and heaviest albatross. Was it not the French novelist Honoré de Balzac who told us that behind every fortune lies a hidden crime? So whether it is Atiku or Uba, there will always be that public suspicion of the ‘real’ motive of the wealthy when they dabble into politics. And when that wealthy person is relatively young and one of his companies is known to be in trouble, then the public suspicion will only be reinforced. Unfortunately for Uba, not many people buy the argument that the wealthy are so accomplished that they will not be tempted to fiddle with state’s resources. Euripides, the Greek tragic dramatist, tells us that while the poor are envious, the rich are usually greedy for more.
Whatever may be the outcome of the election, I feel that Ifeanyi Uba has made a bold statement. He may not win but he may have announced his presence on the national political stage.