Posted by James Atah | 14 October 2013 | 4,773 times
The constant chiming of the clock continues to narrow the possibility of a seismic shift in the political pulse of Anambra in the November 16 elections. All things considered, it looks like a two-horse race between the incumbent party APGA and erstwhile eminence grise of the ruling elite, Chris Ngige, whose celebrated antics in turning against his benefactors as rogue governor demystified the entrenched hold of the PDP apparatus and ultimately paved the way for the rise of APGA and the blooming of his own career as well.
For his daring, in an era of omnipotent godfathers with connections to Aso Rock, Ngige won many hearts and votes along the way and today seats as a celebrity political turncoat in the upper chambers of the National Assembly. Essentially, Ngige remains a serious factor in the politics of Anambra State for two reasons: some people still have fond memories of his populist policies which he hurriedly undertook to stave off his estrange godfathers, the Uba brothers. Another reason is he masterfully played the victim, set upon by an angry godfather who had the backing of an enemy of Ndigbo; General Olusegun Obasanjo. In so doing, he attracted the sympathy of some vulnerable members of the society who felt that he was a victim of a gang-up.
The APC candidate has a lot going for him; that fact is not lost on him and his political minders. But what appears to be lost on him is the fact that he has taken on an opponent that has everything going for him. The times have changed; unfortunately, Ngige’s politics have not changed with the mood of the moment. This much is clear from his campaign rhetoric and body language. However, the outcome of the November elections in Anambra will be determined by a combination of cold and hard facts.
First, let’s look at the hard facts; a proper reading of the mood of the electorate in Anambra will reveal a people concerned with real issues and not easily swayed by fancy campaign promises of building airports and magical transformation of living standards and infrastructure as Ngige has made. APGA has spent the last eight years in the trenches successfully battling the ghosts of bad roads, insecurity and political instability. Gone forever is the spectre of swashbuckling, machete-wielding vigilante groups unleashing a fearsome brand of terror on the populace in the name of fighting crime, against the back drop of an overwhelmed police force. The politics of sorrows that paralysed governance and led to running bellicosity between the Government House in Awka and equally powerful opposition camps within the PDP structure of the Ngige years is now a forgotten blot in the political archives of Anambra state. So also the political thuggery that coloured the political landscape and inaugurated a constant atmosphere of instability and anarchy is now extinct. Those tragedies are faint echoes of the Ngige years.
In their place, we have a state that has become accustomed to law and order complete with effective security run by a functional police force. Commerce is booming, buoyed by a safe and stable socio political environment. The government has steadily expanded the economic base of the state through huge investments in oil exploration and state owned refinery. Foreign Direct Investment has been on the ascendancy with South African beer and beverage companies taking advantage of the stable atmosphere in the state to set up shop. There is a general sense of direction, of getting it right, of focused leadership.
Then there’s the hard-to-ignore legacy factor. Governor Peter Obi has carved a niche for himself as a nationally respected statesman and primus inter pares amongst governors of the South East, with a firm grip on things. He has demonstrated great awareness of the larger issues in contention and commitment to the founding ideals of APGA. In the process, he has emerged as a legitimate custodian of the Ojukwu political dynasty and by extension the purveyor of the only credible home grown platform dedicated to the advancement of Igbo causes at both the regional and federal levels. But perhaps, the greatest legacy Obi is leaving behind is in his choice of successor. In carefully selecting an ex-banker and dedicated technocrat with a sterling record of excellence in the private sector with no known political antecedents, Peter has demonstrated clear understanding of the wishes of the people for more leadership, more management and less politics.
The battle-weary electorate in Anambra clearly does not wish to see a regression to the politics of brawling of the Pre- APGA years! This is where Ngige appears to have gotten it all mixed up. So far his career has flourished on the crest of the misfortunes of fellow political brawlers and the miscalculations of his god fathers. His only real test of leadership so far is his current position in the Senate where he has failed to make a mark in any conceivable direction. The politics that Ngige is familiar with has no place in the psychic reckoning of voters in the state at this point in time. Unfortunately, Ngige has failed to rebrand himself and has little to offer against the rich legacy laden background of APGA.
APGA has provided solid and inspiring leadership. And the choice of a technocrat as successor over the horde of professional politicians available for the job is a strong signal of intent to pursue on-going reforms rather than politically expedient choices.
With the hard facts stacked so overwhelmingly against Ngige, the cold truth clearly evident to any discerning observer is the simple fact that APGA cannot afford to lose Anambra. Ngige’s advertised qualities lack the punch and depth to upset the party at the elections with all the powers of incumbency in full gear. Additionally, APGA has attained the same level of institutional symbolism enjoyed by ACB bank. As an enduring mark of Zik’s economic legacy, the Igbo elite rallied round to salvage the poor fortunes of ACB bank in the face of imminent collapse during the Soludo consolidation exercise. Today, APGA exists as a political monument in honour of the revered Ikemba of Nnewi. That singular factor is worth its weight in gold. If anything, the party will be aiming to capture other South East states, with its base firmly established in Anambra. In the end, the ultimate choice before voters will be between Ngige’s legacy and the APGA legacy, and it is not hard to tell which way the pendulum will swing.
•Atah sent this piece from Awka. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org •Photo shows Senator Chris Ngige.
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