Posted by Ifeoma Okafor, Awka | 17 November 2017 | 1,770 times
Since the return to democracy in Nigeria, political campaigns in Anambra State had been one of ease lace, with a show of wealth and connection. The state witnessed a line-up of wealthy Anambra men who held sway in deciding who picks the baton, both for the Agu-Awka seat of power, national and state assembly tickets and appointments. The reason was because they had connection and enough money to buy people over to their side. The big guys who held sway then include Chief ABC Orjiakor, Sir Emeka Offor, Engr Authur Eze and some years later, emerged the Ubas from Aguata who took control from 2007. Those days witnessed campaigns that were issue-based, with money playing the major role.
Fast forward to the present political era, where an incumbent is fighting to retain his seat with an assumed political enemy on the other side of the bench, the dynamics have changed.
The change in dynamics was rebooted by the campaign-train and foot-soldiers of the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano. Shortly before the campaigns kick-started, the internet was awash with name-calling and smear campaign targeted against the person of former governor Peter Obi. Though Obi is not in the race, but only supporting the candidate of his party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the atmosphere appears to be so charged between him and his successor. Campaign on the side of the incumbent’s party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), is mostly directed at the person of Obi and the ills he did while holding sway. For example, at the party’s campaign in Njikoka, one of the speakers, Bianca Ojukwu, the wife of late Biafran war-lord, late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, took a swipe at Obi, saying that Obi left the vision and mission entrusted to him by her late husband and joined the umbrella party because of money.
Her words: “When Obi was re-elected, my husband, Eze Igbo, told him that upon him and APGA, we will build an infrastructure to take South-east to the Promised Land. But, Obi disappointed him.
“The rigorous campaign my husband embarked on in 2010 to re-elect Peter Obi made him to get sick, which finally led to his death. Obi left the vision and mission entrusted to him by my husband and joined the ‘Umbrella party’, the PDP, because of akpiri-ego (lure of money).
“He will not prosper politically in this journey and I ask Ndi-Njikoka to come out onNovember 18, vote APGA and protect their votes for the future of Ndigbo is in APGA. Nke a bu nke anyi (this one is our own).”
The campaigns – as currently obtained in the ongoing campaigneering of political parties – are bereft of issues, as candidates are busy criticising and digging up each other’s dirt. For example, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has overtly condemned the leadership style of Obiano. In one occasion, Nwoye accused the governor and his wife of stealing state money, saying that he had wasted all the money left in his care without doing much for the state.
The PDP, on their part, have continued to tow the line of presenting to the electorate the huge sums of money the incumbent governor have squandered as well as the debts already incurred but, even while condemning and criticising the government of Obiano, the PDP campaign train have in several occasions spelt what the central focus of PDP government steered by the combination of a retired Diplomat Oseloka Obaze and a lady of many portfolios, Chidi Onyemelukwe would be.
That include free education from primary level to JS3; placing the aged in the state on regular, monthly stipend; improving on the general well-being of Anambra people, etc. Obi had severally said that he was not supporting Obaze to slight Obiano, but only because, he is the candidate of the party he belongs to.
His words: “I don’t have any issues with Willie Obiano, he remains my friend. The person I have problem with is the Governor. I said it when we were campaigning for Willie Obiano that if he fails to do well, I will lead a campaign against him. That’s exactly what I am doing.”
In a recent interview, Obi had said that every statement he made to buttress the need for a change in the governance of Anambra State was the truth.
“All you hear me say about money I left, the accruals, total absence of projects, my savings are all verifiable. They sponsored people to make comments about N7 billion, but I have restricted myself to the truth, and I will continue to do so.”
The incumbent have also allegedly employed the services of some aggrieved members of the PDP, as well as the perceived enemies of Obi to work against PDP.
For example, a former governorship aspirant of the PDP, Dr Alex Obiogbolu – who came second in the party’s primary – recently claimed that Obi had opposed his candidature because he was from Onitsha, saying that he had hijacked the party and planted his man as the PDP candidate.
Also, the suspended former state chairman of PDP, Prince Ken Emeakayi, has been rumoured to be working for the return of APGA government, after allegedly being paid mouth-watering sums. Recently, a statement attributed to him accused the PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze, of doctoring his PDP card.
There is also the fictional one month suspension of the duo of the Caretaker chairman of the party, Prof ABC Nwosu and the Secretary, Mrs Josephine Anenih, as claimed by the self-acclaimed chairman of PDP, Anambra State Caretaker Committee, Hon. Humphrey Nsofor. Though there is no official statement from the national working committee (NWC) of the party confirming the claim, Nsofor had explained that the duo got the hammer for breaching section 58(1) (a)(d)(h)(i) of the party’s constitution.
He also accused Nwosu of assisting the former governor to create a parallel party organ at the state level.
Another area of suppression is the defacing and knocking down of opponents’ billboards. The PDP standard-bearer, Mr Oseloka Obaze – who was the first to lament on the issue during an interaction with journalists in Awka – said that he was reliably informed that Obiano instructed the Anambra State Signage and Advertising Agency (ANSAA) to pull down billboards belonging to political opponents.
He said: “It is painful that after paying the required fee to ANSAA, the state government still directed them to pull down our billboards in Awka, Onitsha and other locations
“My supporters had brought reports of numerous destruction of PDP billboards and my campaign posters by the officials of state Signage agency who move around with official vehicles with the inscription – ‘Willie is working’ – and accompanied by security officers to damage billboards belonging to my party.
“On September 27, I paid the agency with receipt No: 0003951. And, in spite of the proof of payment, government chooses to damage the billboards they collected money for.”
On his part, Dr Chira Obiora, Director-General of the Campaign Organisation of Mr Godwin Ezeemo - the governorship candidate of Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) – also lamented the destruction of PPA candidate’s billboards, which he claimed were being destroyed by persons suspected to be supporters of Obiano.
“We have been recording this problem of our billboards being destroyed by government officials, in spite of collecting monies from us; and the problem is getting more intense as we close in on the November 18 election date,” he said.
Also, the Tony Nwoye’s campaign organisation had expressed sadness over what it described as the wanton destruction of APC candidate’s billboards and posters across the state.
Though, it urged its supporters not to retaliate, the campaign committee chairman, Sir Azuka Okwuosa – who addressed journalists at the party’s secretariat in Awka – described the party’s candidate as a lover of peace, saying: “We know what to do. We will not be distracted. We are hundred per cent focused.”
Meanwhile, Mr Jude Emecheta, the Managing Director of Anambra State Signage and Advertisement Agency, said the reason for the poster fee was for the clean-up of defaced environment after the elections. He denied that the agency was responsible for the destruction of billboards, saying that only candidates who defaulted in payment have had their billboards removed.
He noted: “Our outdoor Advertising workers are officially saddled with the duties of pulling down any billboard that is indebted to the agency. In order not to be seen to be supporting the government in power, we reduced the signage fee from N9 million to N1million in each zone.”
The smear campaign employed by APGA against Peter Obi – who incidentally is not a candidate of any political party but only a supporter – took a hyper dimension when a leaflet defaming Obi was circulated at the party’s rally in Orumba north and south.
The leaflet with the inscription – ‘Obi’s self-inflicted Injuries’ – alleged that “religiously, Obi belonged to the Olumba, Olumba Obu moon and star church, with headquarters in Calabar by marriage, then a Catholic by birth, while being a strong cultist of different powerful orders.”
Neither Obi or the candidate of PDP have taken to name-dropping in retaliation but, while other political parties are busy canvassing for votes from the electorate, the three major contenders – PDP, APC, and APGA – are in fierce competition to woo voters to their side with smear campaigns.
One wonders where issue-based campaigns have gone, and if it will ever get any better. According to a political analyst, Echezona Eruchalu, “The dimension political campaigns have taken in Anambra State really gives me cause to worry. I don’t know how we got to this point, is it desperation or having the wrong bunch on the track? I expected this campaign to be an issue-based campaign; that way, voters will be well directed on who they line up behind. I have not seen any candidate that has impressed me: they are busy abusing themselves. I must say, it’s not the way to go; we need to grow, not retard.”
Given the foregoing trend, one wonders if voters will have enough armour to be able to decide on whom they should vote for, come November 18.
•Ifeoma Okafor is News Express’ Awka Correspondent.
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