By Michael Jegede
On 26 August, 2013, Chief Willie Obiano, a seasoned and consummate banker turned politician, emerged the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), for the 16 November governorship election in Anambra State at the end of the party’s primaries.
Obiano, an erstwhile Executive Director of Fidelity Bank, who was said to be the last entrant into the race for APGA’s ticket, scored a total of 817 out of 1,072 votes cast to carry the day. Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Environment came second with 150 votes. Other contestants, Paul Odenigbo had 49 votes, Emeka Nwogbo scored 22 votes and John Nwosu clinched 18 votes. Prince John Emeka, whose withdrawal was turned down, got one vote while 33 votes were invalid. Patrick Obianwu had stepped down for Obiano before the commencement of the primaries.
Prior to the primary election, 6 aspirants out of 13 that appeared before the party’s screening panel had been disqualified. The disqualified aspirants included Professor Chukwuma Soludo, former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Henry Obaze who has just been reappointed as Secretary to Anambra State Government (SSG), after resigning to take part in the contest for APGA’s slot, Emma Nweke, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, an industrialist and Prince Chinedu Idigo, a legal practitioner.
The exercise, which was moderated by Chief Martin Agbaso as the Chairman of the Electoral Committee, was described by many as peaceful and transparent, and a true reflection of the desire of party members who were fully in support of Governor Peter Obi’s wish for his predecessor to come from the northern axis of the state for the purpose of fairness and equity. It is believed that Obiano as a banker of high repute, just like Obi, has all it takes to govern the state and ensure prudent management of its resources for the benefit of the entire Anambra indigenes in line with the ideals of APGA.
In his acceptance speech, the APGA candidate said: “I speak to you today with every sense of humility and accept this call with full sense of humility and responsibility. I congratulate other aspirants, even those who were disqualified. My dear friends, this is not the end but our job has just begun. It is not personal but a victory for all; I will work tirelessly with the governor (Peter Obi) to ensure continuity of the project.”
The Chairman of APGA in the state, Mike Kwentor described the outcome of the primary poll as the “voice of the people” and expressed confidence that the party would remain in the corridors of power in the state devoid of the slightest difficulty.
The party’s national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh who was absent at the congress for strategic reasons, averred in a statement signed by his media aide, Stan Okeke, that Obiano’s landslide victory was a confirmation of his acceptance as the unanimous choice of the party for the number-one seat of the state. Umeh, who recently reconciled with Obi after his triumphant outing at the Court of Appeal, as regards the protracted leadership tussle in APGA, maintained that Obiano has the requisite credentials, including quality education, experience and exposure to provide good governance to the people of the state. While imploring the defeated aspirants to embrace Obiano and support his candidacy, he vowed that all and sundry will be accommodated.
In an interview before the conduct of the primaries, Umeh had expressed optimism that his party will retain the Government House seat, while noting that the November governorship contest will mainly be between APGA and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as according to him, All Progressives Congress (APC) and others are nowhere in the state.
“We will continue to do those things we have done for the people of Anambra State that have made the people get so attached to APGA. We have done a lot of revolutionary things in the state. We have laid very solid foundation for the state. And we have no reason to disappoint them or let them down. So, their hope should still rest on APGA for the fact that we are not known for scrambling for state resources. The state resources will still be better managed by APGA government. As a major stakeholder in Anambra State government, during the crisis I never disturbed the government. I never sponsored mayhem.
“I never incited anybody against the government. It is a remarkable difference. When the PDP members quarrelled in the past, they burnt all the public buildings in the state. And if they come back, there is no guarantee that they will not quarrel again. If you give them that government, they will quarrel again and they will burn down the public buildings. The treasury will be their target. And once they quarrel over it, they burn down public buildings and there will be no governance. So, that stability which APGA has brought to governance in Anambra State should be allowed to endure. And the only way it can endure is by entrusting governance in the hands of an APGA governor in the November 2013 election,” the APGA helmsman declared.
Obaze, who was disqualified for not possessing a voter’s card at the time of screening, equally welcomed the emergence of the ex-Fidelity Bank director as the candidate of the ruling party in Anambra State for the coming gubernatorial poll.
For him, “Chief Obiano’s victory brings to fruition our long and assiduous campaign for a candidate from Anambra North to be picked as APGA’s standard bearer. The people of Anambra North should be elated and gratified by this positive development and I thank all those who voted for or offered moral support to Chief Obiano. I am particularly indebted to my colleagues, the other aspirants from the North, who in the end, were able to either cede their candidacy or rally in support of Chief Obiano’s candidacy. We note and welcome Obiano’s pledge to continue the proactive ANIDS policies of the Peter Obi administration. I, like many within the APGA family, remain mindful of the work and campaign ahead in the run up to the 16 November election.
Accordingly, we must work collectively and diligently for APGA to retain power in Anambra State.” However, one of the disqualified aspirants, Obidigbo, appeared to remain disillusioned with the entire process that led to the emergence of Obiano as APGA candidate for the governorship election. The industrialist regretted that Obi was not honest in his promise to be neutral in the quest for a tested and dependable candidate from the northern part of the state to succeed him.
His words: “Towards making sure we gave the opportunity our best shot and above all to put our best foot forward, all aspirants from the zone faced the internal screening by prominent organizations like Olu na Adagbe, Anambra North Youth Organization, All Presidents-General and Women PGs of Anambra North Communities and finally the Anambra North Council of Traditional Rulers. It is on record that I, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, emerged the prime choice of all these groups. Now, it is unbelievable that after sending us on a wild goose chase, Mr. Peter Obi would come out with his own preferred candidate. This comes after several promises of neutrality in the search for a credible candidate from the zone. The truth is that being the choice of Anambra North Senatorial Zone, I was removed so that his anointed protégé can have a smooth sail.”
Michael Jegede, a media practitioner writes from Abuja, 07065574368