Anambra Election: The Untold Story of Buhari's Big Victory Amid APC's Loss

Dr. Tony Nwoye and President Muhammadu Buhari

If the large victories of the Democratic Party in the United States of America at the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey on the 8th of November, 2017 could be used to estimate the popularity of the Republican Party chieftain, President Donald Trump; then Nigeria can also draw conclusions from the Anambra election.

As the leadership of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA in Anambra State relishes its landslide victory in the recently concluded gubernatorial election; someone is focusing on the bigger picture which has been made clearer through a crystal ball. That person is the 74-year old Nigerian leader, President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress who is surreptitiously eyeing his re-election into office come 2019. 

Buhari's election upset in the 2015 presidential election which democratically ousted former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the People's Democratic Party, PDP had its voting strength in the northern region of Nigeria with a fair victory in the South-western part of the country. President Buhari's 'Change' mantra wasn't bought in the South-south and was apparently rejected in the South-east where he only raked 198,248 votes as against Jonathan who swept the region like the Hurricane Harvey with 2, 464,906 votes. Specifically, Buhari recorded a paltry 17,926 votes in Anambra State during the 2015 election while his counterpart, Jonathan excitingly hit 660,762 votes.

The 2015 general election voting pattern shows that the APC which is seen as an “Islamic party” (Senator Uche Ekwunife 2014) within the Igbo nation will be a tough sell. This was further confirmed by a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu when he decamped to the APC in November, 2016.

He said;

“If they see us (himself) in this place, they will know that that APC is not an ethnic or religious party,”

“It is something that we need to be explaining to the Catholic bishops, Anglican bishops, the Pentecostal churches and the rest of them.

“Between Sunday when I registered at Igbere and now, there are 4,000 new members already registered with the APC in Abia without making it open"
 Kalu said in a press briefing to announce the move.

The disparity in the voting patterns in the 2015 presidential elections appeared to have prompted President Buhari to disregard treating the geopolitical zones in Nigeria equally while speaking in the U.S in 2015.

"(Going by election results), constituencies that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated, on some issues, with constituencies that gave me 5%. I think these are political realities. While, certainly there will be justice for everybody but the people who voted, and made their votes count, they must feel the government has appreciated the effort they put in putting the government in place. I think this is really fair." Buhari said.

This statement alongside Buhari's lopsided federal appointments tilting regularly towards the north according to political analysts spurred the secessionist agitations. Following the principle of politics of prebendalism and patronage, a political leader is realistically bound to compensate his cronies who invested their support in his political ambition. It could have been on this ground that Buhari felt embracing the South-east despite his fatherly role in the country as President will amount to fetching water with a well-weaved basket or compensating a prodigal son unlike the biblical provisions.

So the old logic of Buhari’s assumed political permutations is simple; he could still be President again with a landslide victory in the northern states (setting aside the recent Abubakar Atiku factor), fair victory in the South-west, fair loss in the South-south (Edo State cushioning the effect) and predictably an abysmal performance in the South-east where the 'python had the undesired dance' to cripple a divisive pro-Biafra group, Independent People of Biafra. On the contrary, this calculation might not be necessary for the 2019 presidential election with the present trend of political alignments and re-alignments in the South-east.

Gradually, the ruling APC is gaining impressive popularity among the very skeptical Igbos. Political bigwigs of Igbo extraction have continued to take refuge in the party for diverse reasons which might be admittedly far from public interest. 

Some notable examples are; former Governor of old Anambra State Senator Jim Nwobodo; former Ebonyi Governor Martin Elechi; immediate past Governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sullivan Chime; Anambra Senator Andy Uba; Senator Uche Ekwunife; former Senate President Ken Nnamani;  Chief Emeka Ojukwu Jnr.

Others are Mr Eugene Odo, the former Speaker of the Enugu State Assembly; Coordinator of the 2015 Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential campaign organization in Enugu state, Chief Rex Onyeabor; a former two term commissioner for health in Enugu State, Dr. Simon Idike; the wife of the former National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, veteran politician, Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu; former member of the House of Representatives, Uchenna Ekwe amongst other crowd-pulling figures. These eminent individuals have boosted the acceptance of the APC among the Igbos.

The APC's superlative performance at the 2016 re-run elections in Imo State is another indication of an increase in its popularity despite the economic uncertainties Nigeria has been plunged into.

The All Progressives Congress gallantly won the three available seats in the South-eastern state. Mr Ben Uwajumogu of the APC was declared winner of Imo North Senatorial District rerun election held on July 28, 2016 by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Similarly, Mr Nkenna Nzeruo of the APC emerged winner of Oru East State Constituency, while Mr Collins Chiji also of APC was declared winner for Isiala Mbano State Constituency.

Back to the subject-matter of this piece, 98,752 votes for the APC’s governorship candidate in Anambra State  – Dr. Tony Nwoye in the face of threats of security breach by the Indigenous People of Biafra, their propaganda, disappearance of secessionist leader, Nnamdi Kanu; Operation Python Dance controversies, formerly potent secessionist claims, allegation of lopsidedness in political appointments and the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu factor as the founder of APGA in Anambra State portends a remarkable progress for the ruling party.

The response of the APC to the outcome of the Anambra election which re-produced incumbent leader, Governor Willie Obiano shows that the party never fully anticipated victory maybe aside Dr. Tony Nwoye. The party has set up a team to look at the loopholes not exploited judiciously during the electoral exercise towards winning the hearts of more electorates in future elections. 

Some excerpts from the party's National Chairman, Chief Odigie John Oyegun stated;

“I consider that we have made a lot of gains in spite of not winning Anambra state.

“But it is clear if people interpret properly that the APC given the base from which we were starting, given the kind of intense propaganda that goes out there that the South East is against the APC – whether it is religion, ethnic or even historical – we have made some progress. But we are not resting on that.

“For people to join us at this time is a clear indication that they understand what is going on and are ready to put their names, reputation, energies, and resources behind our effort to rebuild the country and be part of this process of change”.

Even President Buhari strangely congratulated Obiano on his victory promising to work with him for the “peace, progress and development of Anambra State”. Obiano also made out time for a private meeting with Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa which has been interpreted to be an odious relationship between the lion and the sheep.

Obiano's victory in all the 21 LGAs in the state is a confirmation of the slogan that indeed 'Willie is Working'. This is a governor who has embarked on numerous capital projects across the state, invested in sustainable agribusiness, effective management of local economy, maintaining adequate security, securing an airport construction deal and ultimately the prompt payment of salaries of civil servants which is becoming a rarity in Nigeria. 

In a recent interview, a PDP chieftain, Chris Uba humbly gave Obiano a pass mark; such sincerity is an absurdity in Nigerian politics when the biggest purveyor of untruths, half truths, post-truths and outright fake news rules.

A recalcitrant Buhari appears to have woken up from his slumber and has decided to extend the olive branch to the Igbos. He enjoyed a two-day visit to the region where he was joined and celebrated by some South-eastern PDP governors namely Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikeazu; Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi and his core loyalist from Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha (APC). This is beginning to change the narrative that he is a 'sectional President'. 
Buhari was celebrated like the New Year in the South-east during his short visit. While in Ebonyi State, he bagged the traditional title of 'Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi', meaning 'Trustworthy Friend of Ebonyis' and the the traditional rulers of South-east, as a body named him the 'Ochioha Ndigbo', meaning 'Leader of Igbo People'.

According to a presidential media aide, Garba Shehu, Buhari as at May, 2017 has embarked on the rehabilitation/construction of 600 kilometers of roads across the South-east zone’s five states.

Buhari in the budget proposals read at the National Assembly recently listed the strategic Second Niger Bridge as one of the top priority projects of his administration which an allocation of N10 billion expenditure for 2018. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also revealed N2 billion has been released to fund the project by the current administration. The Buhari administration has also set sights on the construction of a new international terminal in Enugu State, a coastal rail line with its route alignment passing through Aba in Abia State and Onitsha in Anambra State. And also, the dredging of the River Niger to facilitate maritime access to the sea by the South-east and the North.

These impressive feats will continue to endear the Igbos to Buhari ahead of 2019 regardless of the slow pace. Before his visit to Anambra and Ebonyi States, Governor David Umahi of the main opposition party – PDP ostensibly ‘endorsed’ Buhari for a second term, abandoning political differences.

Governor Willie Obiano's recognition of Buhari in his election victory speech for creating a level playing field during the Anambra election has further sold Buhari and the APC in the South-east as a true democrat. Even the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed admitted that Buhari fought off temptations to interfere in the Anambra governorship race with his 'federal might'.

It’s also worthy of note that Obiano ran to Buhari when his security aides were contentiously withdrawn by the Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim ahead of the election. This is not new in Nigeria politics. Before now, politically motivated attacks of that form were targeted successfully at former Governor Chris Ngige, former Governor Ahmed Tinubu, former speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and others in the past.

Buhari's harmony with Obiano, impartiality and transparency in the largely free and fair Anambra elections has fuelled rumours that Obiano could cross-carpet to the APC in the nearest future. All these are positive indicators that would play out well in 2019 if the beacon is left on.

In a nutshell, APC had a good outing in Anambra State. Tony Nwoye's support base can be improved upon in favour of Buhari with good governance and selfless leadership ahead of the 2019 presidential election. Obiano is the winner of the gubernatorial election at the moment but posterity is set to unveil Buhari as the bigger winner in the nearest future.
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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on Phone number: +2347053302356.
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