By Kelechi Mejuobi
Again, it is victory for the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in Anambra State. The party’s candidate, Chukwuma Charles Soludo, according to records of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, scored 112,229 votes to defeat closet rival, Valentine Ozigbo of the PDP who garnered 53, 807 votes. Among the notable candidates who came behind them in the November 6th, 2021 governorship contest are Andy Uba and Ifeanyi Uba of APC and YPP respectively.
In the build up to the contest, APGA’s future was slightly hazy considering the pronounced threat posed by the ruling APC who handed Andy Uba its governorship ticket.
There were strong permutations that APC would add another South East State in its kitty to shore up presence in the zone. Recall, APC despite status as the ruling party can only boast of a state in Igboland.
Armed with the federal might and strong bargaining power to lure the top shots and the masses to its side, speculations were rife that APGA would lose the only state it can boast of to the ruling party in the country. The end result has somehow proved bookmakers wrong as APGA not only retained power, but won convincingly according to what INEC posted as final result. The outcome has also afforded the party to make a bold statement about its prominence in Igboland.
Having succeeded in retaining Anambra State to be counted among the commity of parties controlling a state, the trickle down effect on other states in the South East is of immense interest to followers of political developments in the region.
Unarguably, APGA is a regional party gaining biased support and followers in the South East only, which Imo is part of.
With things looking up to the next general election, watchers of events in Imo are also apprehensive of any possible impact of the Soludo victory in the political hemisphere of state fondly called the Eastern Heartland, considering the proximity to each other and circumstance that the party had ruled the Imo in the past.
Apart from Anambra, Imo is the only state APGA had opportunity to produce a governor in Nigeria’s political archives.
APGA had controlled Imo State through Rochas Okorocha who was elected governor in 2011. Okorocha later dumped the party to become part of the founders of APC in 2013/14. He jettisoned APGA for APC to run second term in 2015, thereby eclipsing APGA’s identity in Government House, Owerri.
APGA’s retention of Anambra in 2021 after this November election has opened fresh panoramic venture into how the 2023 governoship race in Imo would be.
A brief sojourn into the trajectory of APGA when Okorocha exited to APC, showed that the party in Imo hadn’t the opportunity to parade a mercurial political figure, with the appropriate talisman, that could have turned the tables again in the 2015 election. Okorocha may have had his faults after eight years in office, but his charismatic traits and philanthropic gestures combined with the pro APGA postures of the South East people sold him into the hearts of Imolites who voted for his party in 2011. How he went about that mandate is now history and not the subject matter of this commentary.
In 2015, Emma Ihenacho, a business man with interest in shipping, oil and gas cum politician from Emekuku, Owerri North LGA of the state had APGA governorship ticket. He came third and was not able to even have one of the 27 LGAs of Imo State to his credit. After the race he had to shove off strong opposition from Okey Eze before he picked the ticket, no one has heard his voice again in the political jingles of the state since that dismal outing.
The battle for who succeeded Okorocha in 2019 election was an interesting scenario APGA was not left out too. Similar to the jiggery-pokery that characterized the selection of candidates by the parties, that of the Okokorokooo party was amazing.
A flashback indicated that APGA was the beautiful bribe of the governorship race contenders judging from the armada of classified politicians who invaded the party for the ticket. Since the two major parties; APC and PDP were no go areas because of the already established schismatic warfare centre on who produced the candidates, APGA became the available option for other pronounced aspirants. With Okorocha hellbent on his son in-law, Uche Nwosu grabbing the APC ticket against a strong and resilient Hope Uzodinma, while Emeka Ihedioha and Samuel Sam Daddy Anyanwu were on each other’s throat for PDP’s flag, others who didn’t want to be submerged in the titanic warfare of APC and PDP ran into APGA. The influx of eggheads into APGA set the stage for the big showdown that rocked the party in 2019.
However, at the end of the hostilities, Ifeanyi Araraume who left APC was APGA’s flag bearer.
Initially, the likes of former governor of the state, Ikedi Ohakim, a Lagos based business who have always wanted to govern the state each election year, Humphrey Anumudu, celebral banker and Zenith Bank Chief, Stanley Amuchie, top political figures like Ike C Ibe, Uche Onyeagocha and ABC Transport owner Paschal Nneji, and Mbaise kinsman, Okey Eze were also in the race.
Though, most of the contestants lamented against the process that led to the emergence of Araraume, but the two time Senator however showed tremendous prowess to not only win in some LGAs of Okigwe zone but led the party to produce five House of Assembly Members in Orlu and Okigwe zones who were of APGA after the Governorship/House of Assembly election.
Though, both Araraume and the lawmakers have bid APGA bye, the outing was enough signal that the party can’t be easily wished away in Imo.
At the moment, the party is managing to march on Imo as expectations are high that the outcome of the Anambra governorship election would blossom its fortune in two years time the next poll will hold.
Irrespective of what soothsayers may come up with before 2023, because of Soludo’s victory in Anambra, certain self destructive tendencies may be APGA’s albatross in the quest to regain seat of power in Owerri. And these may aptly synchronize with the popular ongoing slogan “Anambra cannot be Imo”
Yes, “Anambra cannot be Imo” not just because what happened in Imo 2019/2020 may not repeat in Anambra in 2021 as many opposed to the ruling party have been crusading but what happened in Anambra in 2021 may also not happen in Imo in 2023 if certain indices in APGA are considered.
It will be unfair to end the commentary without elucidating factors that support why “Anambra cannot be Imo” in next general elections.
There is no gainsaying the fact that unlike in Imo where the party has no significant presence, the party can be said to be a religion in Anambra to occupy Government House, Awka, because of the continuous presence of its elected members in political offices. No APGA member is of the Senate, House of Reps and State Assembly in Imo at the moment to oil the machinery of the party. None too has Local Government chairmen and councillors position to galvanise the grassroots structure before the next election year. While Anambra APGA enjoys this grace, nothing like that in Imo.
In Anambra, APGA has noticeable party offices from ward to LGA and state levels, but such cant be found in Imo except for a state office in the state capital. The basic grassroots structures believed to be the backbone of parties are lacking and in most cases non existent in Imo.
Remarkably, the leadership of APGA has Anambra as headquarters while other states in South East can be said to be playing subordinate roles. I stand to be corrected that since formation, it has been the exclusive preserve of people from Anambra state to superintend affairs of the APGA as national chairman. Irrespective of legal tussles that have always characterized the ownership of the leadership, the party is yet to allow other sister South East states ability to produce the chairman.
Again, lack of necessary internal democracy in Imo state chapter that would have rejigged the party into winning ways is another self inflicted injury. In the state, there have been no pronounced congresses to elect ward, LGAs and state officers for years.
When the absence of such democratic processes and structures are missing, the party becomes less attractive and lacks capacity to compete in major elections. It is a popular believe that APGA has become a temporary bus stop to those I describe as Internally Displaced Politicians, IDPs.
Lack of Internal Democracy, has made the Imo State chapter of APGA alternative to IDPs. Overtime, the party has always allowed “outsiders” to fly its flag in governorship race. It only worked out in 2011 when the former strong man of the party, Martin Agbaso surrendered the structure to Okorocha that enabled his younger brother, Jude Agbaso become the Deputy Governor. Okorocha joined APGA from PDP In 2011.
In 2015, Ihenacho had dreams of picking PDP ticket, but when no chance to grab it couldn’t be realised, he got consoled with that of APGA. Similar incident occured in 2019. Araraume was of APC prior to the election before he moved into the party and became the candidate. The irony is that those who ran with APGA ticket since 2011 have dumped the party and never cared to build its structures after the elections. The leadership of the party has always presented the Imo APGA as transit camp for the IDPs who run into it to contest elections only. The party has not really laid down proper procedures to integrate their IDPs into the APGA system for growth and progress of the party. Until the party eliminates the Hocus pocus ravaging it in Imo, indeed, Anambra indeed cannot be Imo in 2023.