The primary of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State is scheduled to take place on June 22. But, the chapter is facing some challenges ahead of the contest. The Nation examines the crisis confronting the party and how they may affect its chances of retaining power in the Southeast state.
All is not well with the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State, as the countdown to the November 6 poll begins. The party has held sway in the state since 2006 when it dislodged the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) through a Supreme Court judgment.
Governor Willie Obiano’s tenure will end on March 17, next year. He secured his second term mandate in 2017, by winning in all the 21 local governments. However, as the succession battle within APGA intensifies, it is enmeshed in a serious crisis.
There are five key aspirants who have declared their intentions to succeed Obiano on the platform of the ruling party. They are Nnonso Smart Okafor, Sir Damian Okolo, Chief Akachukwu Nwankpo, Chukwuma Umeoji and Prof Chukwuma Soludo.
The crisis in APGA started with the banning of other aspirants from going to the party’s secretariat to declare their intentions. That was after Soludo visited the office to tell the party executive and members of his intention to run.
The order, The Nation gathered, came from the governor and it has not gone down well with stakeholders. Soludo has been introduced to the people in some of the functions by Obiano as the candidate of the party; even though the party’s primary is yet to be conducted. The primary is scheduled to take place on June 22.
A level-playing field may not be provided to give other aspirants a chance to compete. But, they are not giving up. For instance, the duo of Umeoji and Okafor have traversed the nooks and crannies of the state, trying to convince stakeholders to ignore Obiano’s choice in the interest of the party.
The body language of the APGA National Chairman, Dr Victor Oye, shows his disapproval for the choice of Soludo.
APGA’s position on zoning
Before now, there was a consensus to zone the ticket to Anambra South senatorial zone, for equity and fairness. The zoning was institutionalised by former Governor Peter Obi, who fought to ensure that Anambra North produced the governor, almost to eight years ago.
That was what led to the emergence of Obiano. The governor apparently wants to remain faithful to zoning. All the five aspirants on the party’s platform are from Anambra South. Umeoji is from Aguata; Okafor is from Nnewi; Okolo also from Nnewi, while Nwankpo is from Ihiala; all in Anambra South.
Observers believe any of them who supported by Obiano will win the governorship election, based on the zoning sentiment.
Apart from these front runners, there are other aspirants. But, observers perceive them as pretenders, contesting to legitimise the primary for the preferred aspirant.
Okafor, who represents Nnewi North Constituency in the House of Assembly, said he is contesting to secure the ticket. The 40-year-old lawmaker said he is not afraid of the big names in the race. He said he can only respect names like that of the former Central Bank governor and others for their accomplishments, but would not fear them.
Okafor also debunked the insinuations in some quarters that Obiano has endorsed Soludo as his successor. He said: “I don’t understand what people mean by body language. People should stop dropping the name of the governor just to sway people into favouring their aspiration.
“Anambra is for all of us, and the governor is also for all of us. Soludo is not the only one who knows the governor. I know the governor too. If you know our governor, you will know that he is a very plain person who can tell you his mind, even in public. If he has endorsed anyone, he would have said it.”
The Nation gathered that some billionaires in Nnewi, where Okafor comes from, are behind his aspiration. Reacting to that, Okafor said it is natural for him to have followers from his hometown, just as others might have supporters from their different areas too.
He said: “This is an era where people are yearning for young people like me as leaders. So, I can say that there are others who are being sponsored to spoil my chances.”
Challenges before APGA
One of the challenges facing the party is the negative media publicity it is generating, which is being fueled by media aides of some aspirants. The media aides have a big following in social media and they have become thorns in the flesh of the party executive and the state government.
The social media war is being fueled by the speculation that the governor has someone in mind.
Has APGA endorsed anyone for the governorship ticket? APGA chairman Sir Norbert Obi denies knowledge of it. He said: “We’re conscious of what happened in Zamfara State where a certain political party won elections, but did not rule because its primary was not properly organised.
“So, we shall hold a proper, free and fair primary for the November poll to ensure the most credible person emerges as our standard-bearer. What I can assure you is that our candidate for the election will come from Anambra South; that is where we have zoned the party’s 2021 governorship slot.
“We have been watching with dismay the negative social media onslaught from the media aides of some of our aspirants and advise them to put a stop to such negative publicity forthwith. APGA is a peaceful party and has been in control of this state since March 17, 2006.
“Since then, we have witnessed four major governorship elections; that is, Peter Obi’s first and second tenure election, the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano’s first and second tenure election and none of these elections were characterized by campaigns of calumny, mudslinging and physical attacks on fellow aspirants, as we are now witnessing.
“Never in the history of this party has fellow party men for whatever reason taken themselves to the cleaners, as we are witnessing today and it hurts the party that such energy which could be used to fight opposition parties after the primary is being dissipated on our best 11; that is those who have indicated their willingness to fly the flag of APGA in the November 6, 2021, governorship election.
He added: “It beats our imagination that a media aide who is on the payroll of this APGA government will devote all his time to attacking and running down any person who expresses his intention to run for the governorship on the platform of APGA, once the person is not his own favoured aspirant.
“Such social media aides who take delight in running down the personalities of other party faithful whose only offence is that he has declared his intention to contest on the platform of the party are not doing the party any good. Rather, they are killing the party slowly and painfully. They are also raising the cost of the election for the party.
“Why should we turn our pens against ourselves for a position which must be occupied by one of us after the primary? The primary would be conducted by the party and a candidate must emerge. But, before then, every aspirant and his social media aide should know that APGA is a family and that the primary is a family affair.
“If we do not play according to the rules and engage in insulting ourselves on social media, how do you think we can achieve peace after the primary and unite and work together as a party to win the election? Or do you think that whoever wins the APGA primary has automatically won the governorship election and would not need the support of the other aspirants to win the election?
“How do you think we can work as a team when permanent injuries have been inflicted on some aspirants and their media aides by way of name-calling, physical assault, mudslinging and character assassination? It is, therefore, the intention of the state chapter of APGA to call on all governorship aspirants and their social media aides to stop the media war.”
The state chairman said the party is not happy with the physical and verbal assaults being hauled on one another in social media by chieftains of the same party. He added: “This is very wrong, absurd and condemnable and must not continue as the party will not hesitate to discipline any aspirant and or media aide who continues to flout this order.”
Will the challenges confronting APGA affect its chances of winning the November 6 election? The coordinator of the Soludo Support Group in Awka South Local Government Area and Obiano’s Special Assistant on Community Affairs, Comrade Obi Ochije does not believe APGA has any serious challenge. He said the party has become a movement in Anambra and it is capable of surmounting such challenges.
Ochije described the social media war as factory noise by those he said do not understand what politics is all about. He said the party is intact, despite the bickering. He said: “Don’t bother about what is happening in APGA. When the election comes, you will see the party in action.”
Nevertheless, the challenges are many. For instance, party members are yet to come to terms with what happened to the wife of the late leader of the party, Bianca Ojukwu, during her quest for a senatorial ticket in 2019. Besides, allegations of fraud is still hanging on the neck of some party chieftains in Imo State, because of their failure to render account for monies raised during the 2019 general elections. These issues are still hunting APGA in Anambra State.
But, what would happen during the primary and how it would affect its campaign for the November 6 contest remains uncertain.