The state with one of the highest concentration of Billionaires in Nigeria is set for election next month
The Nation’s associate editor, Sam Egburonu, reports on the concern over alleged display of power and excessive use of money in the campaign for the November 18 governorship election in Anambra.
As most of the leading political parties and candidates flagged off their campaigns with great display of affluence, observers are concerned that the election may again be another battle of desperate billionaires, set to throw money around in order to gain power…
As would be expected, concerned stakeholders are already crying out loud, warning that a return to money politics will spell doom for the people and overall development of Anambra State.
Pomp and money in Awka, Onitsha
So far, Awka and Onitsha have been taken, by the political parties and their candidates as the take-off points for the forthcoming race. Perhaps, because of the political and economic status of Awka, the capital city, and Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the state, the campaigns there have so far reflected the pomp that only executive power and real cash can afford, a development critics said may be a reflection of what is to come.
“If you look at the game so far, it is as if there is no chance for ordinary candidates hoping to be given a chance to contribute their quota in Anambra politics. This display of power and ill-gotten wealth is not acceptable anymore by Ndi Anambra,” said Kanu Nwokoma.
In fact, most observers, who spoke to The Nation, said the sheer grandeur of the campaigns and display of wealth so far exhibited during the flag-off campaigns of some leading parties, attended by powerful political leaders across the country; suggest a desperate battle for power.
It would be recalled that on Tuesday, 2017, Onitsha, the commercial city of the state, was agog when PDP stalwarts, led by its National Chairman, Ahmed Makarfi; former VP Alex Ekwueme; ex-Deputy Speaker of House of Reps, Emeka Ihedioha; Senator Ben Ndi Obi; ex-Governor Peter Obi; Mrs. Josephine Aneni; Alhaji Abdul Ningi; Senator Magery Okadigbo; Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu and Raymond Dokpesi, stormed the city to flag off the party’s campaign for the state’s governorship election.
Earlier in the month, when Willie Obiano, the APGA candidate flagged off his re-election campaign in Awka, the state capital, the city literarily stood still as his party’s who-is-who took over the Alex Ekwueme Square, the venue of the event.
Besides using the revered name of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, to pull a massive crowd of commoners, APGA campaign also attracted some high net-worth personalities.
Some personalities present at the event included ex-CBN Gov., Charles Soludo, DG of the Campaign Organisation, Chief Victor Umeh; former Deputy Governor of the state, Virgy Etiaba; Dr. Alex Otti; Labran Maku and Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rita Maduagwu.
Even the APC is not left out in a seemingly deliberate effort to flex muscles and show opponents in the contest that it is the party to beat. Report of the party’s governorship campaign flag off announced in bold headlines that VP Yemi Osinbajo and Senate President Bukola Saraki, are among the political heavyweights to storm Anambra State on Wednesday for flag-off of APC governorship campaign.
“The intimidating show of power and display of wealth by the so-called big political parties have been carried out without honour, but I can assure you that we are not intimidated. The electorate in Anambra today is set for a real change and that is why we are moving on in this contest with confidence,” Emmanuel Anazie, a UPP chieftain said.
Over the years, the South-East state of Anambra has been identified as one of the states in Nigeria where money has openly dominated the game of power and relevance. As would be expected, such over use of money always create heightened intrigues in Anambra State politics.
Although the immediate past governor of the state, Peter Obi, reportedly labored hard, during his two-term tenure in office, to de-emphasize money politics in the commercially vibrant state, some critical insiders said what seems to be playing out today suggest a possible return of the moneymen and godfathers at the centre of the state’s political theatre. They said the signals, so far, are disturbing.
One of the concerned governorship candidates in the election, the candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, brought this development to the fore during the week, when he threatened to sue Governor Willie Obiano of APGA and Oseloka Obaze, the candidate of the PDP for allegedly overshooting officially approved campaign expenditure. He said he has been monitoring the candidates that had flagged off their campaigns so far and is concerned over the huge amounts of money they have so far expended.
The ADP candidate, Okonkwo, said he will drag the flag bearers of the ruling party, APGA and PDP respectively to court for allegedly exceeding the amount stipulated in the Electoral Act for governorship candidates in such contests.
He handed down the threat in a press briefing to unveil his manifesto for the governorship election. Okonkwo explained that he “has been monitoring the candidates that had flagged off their campaigns and have been noting down the enormous expenditure they incurred and would not fail to drag them to court to explain where the monies came from.”
He also accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of being weak; adding that the electoral umpire has not succeeded in tracking the expenditure of individual candidates in the election so far, notwithstanding the provisions of the law governing the game.
Quoting Section 91 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, which provides the maximum amount to be spent by candidates at various levels in an election, particularly the section which stipulated that a presidential candidate can spend a maximum amount of N1billion, while a governorship candidate can spend a maximum amount of N200 million, Okonkwo told journalists during the week:
“I will go to court to challenge these expenditures. We need to know where they are getting all these monies they are spending. For those who have flagged off their campaigns, I am tracking their expenditures.
“I know how much it costs to invite Channels Television to provide live coverage for events, and these parties have consistently been on the live television broadcast for all their events. We see all the vehicles they have bought and branded and we know how much each of the vehicles cost.
“We will even need to know who is leasing these vehicles to them if they were procured on lease. These are the questions we will be finding answers to in court.”
Meanwhile, the Director Voter Education and Publicity in INEC, Barr Oyewole Uzzi, has reacted to Okonkwo’s threat over the huge amount spent on the election by the duo of Obaze and Obiano.
He admitted that the commission was aware that the electoral act stipulated N200million as the maximum sum to be spent by individual candidates, but the commission will not disqualify those who exceed it, especially as the total sum spent by the candidates is usually tabulated and announced by the commission after the election.
“We won’t disqualify anyone based on election over-spending as contained in the Electoral Act. The ground for disqualification of a candidate in an election is contained in the constitution and overspending is not one of the conditions for disqualification.
“INEC has a unit that would look into such budget, but not for the purposes of disqualifying anyone,” Uzzi was quoted as saying.
INEC’s position notwithstanding, many stakeholders have expressed concern over the alleged return of money politics in the state.