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2014: The Boys Are Separated from the Men (part 1)

By Mazi Odera
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At the beginning of the last lap of the race for the seat of power in Awka my dog took a hard look at those contesting for the position and came out with a damning verdict (see 'My Dog Declares for Anambra Guber', July 6-12 edition, 2013). It lampooned those candidates it viewed as unserious who merely indicated interest for the sake of answering their excellencies even before the election. It also queried the genuineness of others who despite their shady background kept disturbing our peace. Well, a few months after, the pretenders have been separated from the contenders.

In this piece I will zero in on the back ground of candidates I consider to be contenders who are seeking your votes and analyse their chances. This is what you deserve to know as is the practice in developed countries. I have chosen them above the others not because of the size of their billboards or that of their posters but strictly on account of their activities. They are taken in their alphabetical order.

Anthony Nwoye (PDP)
He was declared the authentic PDP candidate by the court after INEC dumped him for Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu. A former student unionist and former president of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Nwoye who hails from Anambra North also won his appeal in court as the PDP candidate for House of Reps in his zone but is yet to be sworn in.

Strengths: Nwoye is a charismatic young man who cuts a popular figure in Anambra North who is known to speak his mind. He is popular among the youths.

Weaknesses: it is obvious that the position of governor is a little too big for him and not a few Anambrarians will consider him as not being the sort of person to govern the state at this time. Besides the crisis in his party will likely whittle down his chances as protest votes which have become a feature of PDP may do him in.

His academic background is also unclear and mired in controversy as to whether or not he went to medical school or not, with rumours flying around that he is using school certificate as his official qualification. Such controversy will not do his reputation any credit.

Verdict: the stage is too big for him to make any impact beyond Anambra North. Like his motto which is k'anyi na ga'meaning let's keep going, he will really have to keep going and await another opportunity.

Chris Ngige
Does this man need any introduction in Anambra, nay Nigeria's political scene? Of course not. Much of his popularity (his detractors would say notoriety) however comes from controversies. In fact the man seems to have been born to be controversial.

Ngige came into limelight after the 2003 general elections in which he contested as the PDP gubernatorial candidate. Before then he was virtually unknown. But his foray into politics signalled the beginning of his controversy which kick-started with the Okija Shrine saga.

This was where he was taken to in the middle of the night by his godfathers to swear to an oath of allegiance. His godfather-in-chief was a certain Chris Uba who in a bid to ensure Ngige's loyalty decided to take him to the dreaded shrine to swear to the Okija gods of his loyalty. Ngige did and was later declared winner in what is still regarded as the greatest electoral robbery east of the Niger.

While the winner of that election, Peter Obi, resorted to court, Ngige slowly wormed his way into the hearts of the people by a combination of political guile and result-oriented leadership anchored mostly on road construction for which many would argue was lopsided in favour of his Idemili axis where he comes from.

While he tried to impress the people he was involved in a battle with his godfathers against whom he had begun to renege on the agreement they reached at Okija on the sharing of the state's resources. This caused the godfathers to execute the first kidnapping incident in the state. He was abducted on July 10 2003, less than two months after coming on board. He survived miraculously and then began to also fight with then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

At the height of this face off Ngige declared that his and Obasanjo's results were written on the same table, a first time admission that he did not win the election.

Frustrated by what they deemed Ngige's stubbornness, his godfathers then burned the state in what is known as the November Mayhem. The idea was to simulate a state of anarchy in order for the federal government to declare a state of emergency on the state and perhaps install Andy Uba as administrator from where he would easily slot in as governor after the next election they had planned to rig again. This was the general belief.

By this time however many Anambrarians had begun to line up behind Ngige either out of sympathy or admiration of his cow boyish leadership style, with some seeing him as the man who had opened their eyes to the fact that there was money in the state.

But just when many thought that Ngige had beaten his enemies, Obi struck. First the tribunal in Awka and later the appellate court in Enugu nullified his election and sacked him. He had spent nearly three years as governor.

He returned in 2010 on the platform of then AC to contest against Obi but lost. But not giving up he went for senate for Anambra Central in 2011 and won. He has remained at the senate to date, with his opponents accusing him of inactivity there.

He is contesting for the third time for the governorship seat on a third platform, the APC.

Strengths: He is a flamboyant politician who seems to understand the politics of the state. Many indeed will believe that an election without him will be colourless. He has been around and will be sure to have learnt his lessons from past failures.

Weaknesses: three factors are chiefly working against him. The first is that his face is becoming all too familiar in the same election and some people appear to have started getting tired of him. Two: his popularity appears to be on the slide owing to issues he has with some of those he previously worked with. Thus it is pretty difficult now to count any strong politician still in his camp. Three: this is perhaps his strongest disadvantage and that his the perception of his party as a Yoruba party. In a country where ethnicity still plays a big role this is perhaps Ngige's biggest challenge.

This perception is not helped by the recent controversies associated with his party by way of the deportation of Ndigbo from Lagos by Gov Fashola of APC and the party's 'disrespect' to the Onitsha chieftaincy institution when it chose the day of the Ofala Festival to flag off its campaign in Onitsha. This had so angered the traditional ruler that he was said to have placed a curse on APC.

Verdict: I tip Ngige to come second despite his travails simply because other opponents are not too strong.

Godwin Ezeemo
He is seen as bringing a fresh air to the politics of the state. Hitherto unknown he was initially thought to be among the flash in the pan contestants but with just less than a month to the elections people now know better.

Ezeemo who spent some of his time abroad is perceived as a nice gentleman. He first joined ACN at the start of the current race but was forced to switch over to PPA after he lost out in the ACN primary election which he described as manipulated to ensure victory for Ngige.

A philanthropist he single-handedly took over the completion of the secretariat of the Anambra council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and went on to establish the Orient Newspaper and Magazine in Awka with standard facilities and good remuneration for the workers. This has stood him out as one of the few Nigerian publishers genuinely interested in journalists' welfare.

He is not associated with any blemish yet. His running mate is a Physicist who lectures at Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Dr Raphael Chikwenze.

Ezeemo showed his dogged side in his fight to ensure equity and fairness while in ACN. Those who know him believe he is a man that can be trusted.

Strengths: he is too new in the system to have serious enemies and consequently is not being heavily targeted.

Weaknesses: his newness also means not many people know him. His party is also virtually non-existent, thus making him a one man riot squad.

Verdict: he should be content with making a mark in his first foray into politics and prepare for another time.

Next week Hygers Igwebuike and Willie Obiano will come under my radar.