FEATURE ARTICLE

Ugorji O. Ugorji, Ed.DWednesday, January 6, 2010
Ugorji@Talldrums.com
Princeton, NJ, USA

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AS THE WORLD WATCHES ANAMBRA, I DREAM A MIRACLE

s the New Year arrives, I am compelled to, in the tradition of my ancestors, offer supplications for great things to come. Beyond the fundamental issues of shelter, food, health, and free enterprise, there is nothing that a Nigerian democrat asks for more than the ability to participate in choosing his or her leaders. Within the confines of a democratic reality or pretention, the guarantee for satisfying that thirst is a free and fair election - an election where those eligible and registered to vote can vote unmolested, have their votes counted credibly, and have the actual vote tallies be the announced vote tallies.


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The upcoming 2010 gubernatorial election in Anambra State of Nigeria, scheduled for February 6th, presents the nation yet another opportunity to signal a resolve towards providing that guarantee. Thanks to the consequential pursuit of his mandate, Mr. Peter Obi's case (Peter Obi vs. INEC, S.C. 123/2007) has placed Anambra in a unique place on the election calendar of Nigeria. As I have indicated in private mails to some of the major candidates for governor in the upcoming election in Anambra State of Nigeria, as well as to Professor Maurice Iwu, the world is indeed watching Anambra!

There are several reasons why I think the Anambra election for governor in 2010 will be exemplary in a positive dimension. In this essay, I attempt to explain how I have come to that conclusion.

The Downsizing of the Behemoth

The Igbo have traditionally been distrustful of behemoths. The bigger an individual or an entity gets, the more distrustful the Igbo is about that individual or entity. Even at the height of his clout, the Great Zik of Africa was challenged at some point by some of his (former) lieutenants. In the days of antiquity, the Igbo made sure that the various indices of power were not concentrated in one person or one village or one clan. The concentration of several indices of power in one person or one entity, have always been a threat to individual liberty and equality before God (Chukwu) and man, both principles of which the Igbo have generally espoused and embodied. Back in the day, the indices of power included population, wealth (in whatever form it is calculated at any given period), the priesthood of the Igbo Religion in each clan, and political headship {whether by divinity as in the case of the first sons (Opara) and first daughters (Ada), or by selection as in the case of titled men and women, including the contemporary version of the institution of Eze or Igwe}.

Since 1999 the political behemoth in Igbo land, and indeed in all of Nigeria, has been the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And given the very nature of the Igbo (distrust of behemoths, and the relentless pursuit of individual accomplishments), the Igbo has by-and-large become distrustful of the PDP. This is the case even before we get into the rational issue of the party's performance in states where it has held political sway. The 2010 election for governor in Anambra has provided the clearest evidence of this phenomenon in the gradual downsizing of the PDP, with virtually all the major candidates for governor now walking and campaigning with PDP pedigree. Other than Obi, virtually all the major candidates are former members of the PDP. This means that the battle is essentially between the APGA and the PDP/PDP Alumni. Andy Uba, Chris Ngige, Chukwuma Soludo, and Uche Ekwunife are essentially from the same PDP bloodline, in a dissipated existence that augurs well for the downsizing of the behemoth (that is if you wish that the behemoth be downsized - I take no position here). It is my considered submission that in an election where such great forces are engaged in an honest contest as flag bearers for different parties, Anambra will get closer in 2010 to a free and fair election than virtually all other states have witnessed. With the type of serious competition we now see brewing in Anambra, comes sunshine in the process; with sunshine comes transparency; and with transparency comes freedom and fairness in what is and will always be an imperfect exercise.

The Umpire's best chance

Whether deserved or not, Professor Maurice Iwu's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been judged by some not to be an umpire at all, let alone a fair one. Some of the positions taken by INEC in the past three years in battles and matters where it should not only be neutral but be seen to be neutral have fostered this image. Here now is the brother's chance to turn the tide. I remain steadfast in believing that every man, Iwu included, longs for approval and for posterity to have something good to say about him. I have this dream that Iwu would see this election in Anambra as his last guaranteed chance to do right and do better, not just by his nation, but by his Igbo brethren, as he and INEC enables the electorate in Anambra to choose its governor freely and fairly.

Now to the Contenders

In the Igbo's relation with the cosmos, all great things happen in quads or in multiples of four. I have arrived at the list below by considering the political parties involved, the individuals on the tickets, and the peculiar options these combinations provide for the Anambra electorate. Thus, as I see it, the consequential candidates in the upcoming election are eight, and they are (in no particular order) as follows:

Governor Peter Obi (All Progressives Grand Alliance), the Incumbent Governor

Whatever you say about the man, Peter Obi has made his mark in Nigeria's electoral history. And that mark, as it relates strictly to his pursuit of the mandate that Anambra voters gave to him in 2003, is an honorable one. I will leave the voters in Anambra to judge his performance and his legacy. His incumbency status, however, make him one of the top formidable candidates in the race. And his party, APGA, despite its rancor, remains one of the few ideologically driven parties holding sway in any part of the nation. Its national leader, Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, has made Obi's reelection his "last wish" to the Igbo, in a message that is going to be hard to ignore.

Chief Andy Uba (Labor Party)

There are at least three things significant about the Andy Uba candidacy. First, his current party (the Labor Party) already controls the governorship seat in one state of the Federation (Ondo State). Second, he and his brother, Chris Uba, know the PDP and the electorate in Anambra better than the current flag bearer of the PDP in that state. And three, the brother (Andy) brings to the table resources and connections that virtually everyone in this race (or in any race for that matter) would like to have. Having been delivered once as the "governor" in 2007, his candidacy is indeed a formidable one.

Dr. Chris Ngige (Action Congress)

Chris Nwabueze Ngige's candidacy is perhaps one of the most fascinating. The AC is one of the formidable ideology-driven parties in the country, with the distinction of now controlling two governorship seats in the nation (Lagos State, and Edo State). Ngige also knows Anambra's electorate and had the opportunity from 2003 to 2006 of leaving some footprints as "governor" of Anambra before the Supreme Court intervened. Whether those footprints were negative or positive, compared to the incumbent's, is now something, on which Anambra voters have a chance to pass judgment.

Professor Chukwuma Soludo (Peoples Democratic Party)

I am intrigued by Soludo's candidacy for many reasons. He appears the antithesis of virtually all political gladiators now in the country. He brings an intellectual heft (which he is not shy of letting you know), an international network of support, and tremendous resources that make him quite formidable indeed. I am even more impressed that he is risking all of that in his current foray, rather than retire to some comfort and silence at some faculty in some institution overseas. And let's not forget, he is now the PDP flag bearer (until the courts say otherwise). If you (and he) get past the issue of how he emerged, his performance in the Anambra election will shape how intellectuals see their chances in politics in Anambra and in the nation moving forward.

Hon. Uche Ekwunife (Progressive People's Alliance)

Uche Ekwunife is the only serious woman candidate in the octagon of serious contenders. Taking into account that women account for at least 50% of the electorate in Anambra, and if you assume that these women can be organized with some gender consciousness in the election, she is indeed formidable. Her party (the PPA) also controls one governorship seat (Abia State), with its national leader, Orji Uzor Kalu, desirous of controlling the politics of the East as a bargaining hand for President or Vice President at some point in the future.

Dr. Eugene Ezekwueche (Peoples Mandate Party)

The US-based pharmacist flag bearer of the PMP gives the party perhaps its greatest chance of securing a state as a beachhead for its community-centered ideology. The PMP and its national leader, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo, make no pretence about its belief that the East must give its mandate to a party that is ideology-driven, with Igbo-centered colorations. In a battle pitting Davids against Goliaths, Ezekwueche is one David whose candidacy also portends messages for the Nigerian Diaspora and their aspirations at home.

Ichie Mike Ejezie (All Nigerian Peoples Party)

At some point, the ANPP (which used to be the APP) was the most formidable alternative to the PDP in national politics. Many people will argue that it still is. The party controls six (or is it seven?) states in the Federation, which is formidable by any standards. General Mohammadu Buhari and Barrister Mike Ahamba (SAN) have waged respectable battles for ANPP's relevance and conscience that any candidate the party features as its flag bearer (in this case, Michael Nnamdi Ejezie) is consequential and formidable.

Chief Ralph Nwosu (African Democratic Congress)

Ralph Nwosu's party does not control any states in Nigeria yet, but it is one of the parties with an African consciousness that should not be ignored. The ADC's leader, Pat Utomi, and his remarkable run for the presidency of Nigeria in 2007 make Nwosu's platform and candidacy consequential in the upcoming Anambra election for governor.

Conclusion

One of the above candidates will emerge as the governor of Anambra State in 2010, but not without a run-off. Given the apparent balance of forces and resources in this historic election, I don't see any of the candidates winning it all on the first ballot. I foresee a run-off between the two top candidates, and it would all have been for one of the freest and fairest elections during Iwu's tenure as INEC Chair. This is my dream and I am sticking to it.

A leading authority on the Nigerian Diaspora, the author, publisher and scholar, Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji, is the Executive Director of the Princeton, New Jersey-based African Writers Endowment, Inc. He is the publisher of Sungai Books, and serves as the Host/Executive Producer of www.Talldrums.com

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