With voter apathy likely in Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State, a situation occasioned by the palpable insecurity in the state and accentuated by the fear of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), victory amongst the three big contender parties – the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – might be dependent on the fallout of the recent governorship debate organised by Arise News Channel.
The difference between victory and defeat will ultimately come down to who amongst the three front runners is better able to mobilise his party’s supporters to go out and vote even as the threat from IPOB looms over the election.
What this means is that the performance of each of the candidates of the three major parties: Chukwuma Soludo of APGA, Andy Uba of APC and Valentine Ozigbo of the PDP, at the debate might ultimately ride on the back of their ability to mobilise their campaign organisations, in spite of the fear of IPOB in the state.
Therefore, beyond the popularity of the candidates and their parties as well as their avowed war chest, their established presence in the local politics of the state would come to play big time as the major driver of any effective mobilisation by the parties at this time of sweeping insecurity.
Soludo, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was believed to have put up a good showing and expectedly big on data, given his background.
For a man, who also understood what the issues were, Soludo carefully addressed the threat constituted by IPOB and like others, declined to either take side or condemn the group long proscribed by the federal government, after it was designated a terrorist group.
The former CBN governor, who identified himself as a pan-Nigerian Igbo man, insisted that the reasons for the agitation by the group needed to be discussed, rather than the use of force.
Putting it on the record one more time that he once visited Nnamdi Kanu in Kuje prison, to dialogue with him and also asked for his release the last time, he believed that everything should be put on the table in a democracy.
“There’s a consensus that we need to have a dialogue on IPOB,” he said, insisting that what Anambra needed at the moment was a transformational leader, who has had a blameless record of public service.
Unfortunately, for Soludo, who is expected to ride on the record of the incumbent governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano, the alleged failure of the current administration in different respects and Obiano’s inability to manage the ruling party in the state, APGA, as one political family, might have become an albatross for him in the election.
Besides, as a governorship hopeful, many had also condemned Soludo’s disposition and mannerism at the debate, describing him as both conceited and small-minded, albeit not taking away his brilliance, intelligence and accomplishments.
His closest rival, Uba of the APC, leveraged his experience as a politician, who had played kitchen cabinet politics and also one who has had a whiff at the governorship seat for a few months, save for the court ruling that sacked him and reinstated former governor Peter Obi.
At the debate, therefore, Uba was of the opinion that the agitation for secession had only become pronounced because of growing unemployment.
In breaking down his plan, the federal lawmaker, who seemed to have an insight to some of the possibilities this weekend, stressed that voter apathy had always been an issue in the state, but posited that the situation was compounded by Governor Obiano, who had refused to engage people and consult widely on the security situation in the state.
“The governor is the chief security officer of the state. Let me tell you, in this case, the governor has not done what he’s supposed to do,” he said, even though he too expressed belief in dialogue, adding that, if he eventually won, he would set up a security response team and have a public phone number that people could call to report cases of insecurity instantly.
While a majority of the people believed that Uba and his party, the APC, stood to benefit more from the IPOB sit-at-home order, the governorship candidate explained that instead of condemning or supporting IPOB, Nigeria needed to sit with the agitators to know what they wanted.
“I won’t support or condemn IPOB,” he reiterated for the record.
Yet, many people believed the debate had inadvertently exposed Uba’s poor intellectual capacity as his answers were said to have shown lack of substance, in addition to his seeming bland personae. Aside poor articulation, he was adjudged to have mostly ended his positions on issues on rather weak notes, coming off a somewhat guileless and impractical candidate.
Ozigbo, candidate of the PDP and chartered accountant, largely sold himself as young and untainted, often riding on the clause that he had never been in government before.
Like the other candidates, Ozigbo too held the belief that the popularity of IPOB was clearly due to leadership failure and argued that what Anambra required was a young vibrant, trendy person, who was passionate about the state, and had served in the private sector as well as grown businesses all over the world.
Specifically, on security, he held the view that what the agencies needed more was intelligence to tackle the situation in the state, contending that the situation has only festered, because nobody has been brought to book for committing crimes.
“Above security, there’s a lot we can do. There is indeed a lot we can do. Just even go back to when Peter Obi left it. Just providing money monthly to these vigilantes, paying them, providing vehicles and making sure that they are well empowered, because there’s no community that doesn’t know the criminals around them,” he argued.
According to him, both the APC and the APGA, had failed the state, but promised to provide resources for vigilante groups, create employment and engage with agitators.
He however, stated that the reasons for agitations by IPOB were not unfounded and went on to demand the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader, as well as canvassed the de-proscription of the group.
The former Transcorp president, who promised to cut waste, run a people’s government, curb touting, make Nnewi an industrial hub and Awka a true capital city, said the state under him would attract help from multilaterals to curb erosion, embark on recycling and ensure process improvement.
These nonetheless, many people believed Ozigbo was not quick-witted in the debate, because he failed to understand that it was an entirely different platform from informal conversations, a situation believed to have prevented him from seizing some of the crucial momentums during the engagement.
That aside, there are those, who argue that some of his ideas were rather too simplistic, skin-deep and impracticable to fit the concept of ideal government and address real governance issues, especially, that he devoted most of his time doing character debate, as evident in his obsession with Soludo, a co-debator, than selling his own programmes.
Above all, some also believed Ozigbo was not street smart, at least from his demeanor and answers. The argument supporting this assumption is that, for a candidate, whose party was not in power at the state that is currently up for grab, or at the center, where federal might could be mustered, his devotion to fighting dirty was considered a miscalculation, particularly, when making Peter Obi, who left the state some eight years ago, his campaign issue.
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja