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Anambra Elections 2017 – State Competitiveness and Candidate Assessment

Politics
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Saturday, November 18, 2017   04.09AM / NCCN

 

Today, November 18, 2017, Ndi Anambra will go the poll to elect a governor for a four-year term. The election is exceptional for many reasons. It is atypical in Nigeria’s quadrennial cycle of elections (2017 vs 2019), and it is the only state not ruled by either of the two major parties (APC and PDP).

 

If that is not unique enough, Anambra holds the distinction as the only state in which the past four elections were decided by a plurality - as opposed to a simple majority that characterizes Nigerian elections.

 

Key Issues

Our survey* of adult Anambra State resident in the state and registered to vote tomorrow revealed the following key issues:

 

Economy

Like other Nigerians the Anambra electorate has faced adverse macroeconomic conditions with inflation, unemployment and poverty on the increase. Interestingly GSS figures for 2015 to date reveal that the state (unlike others) did not experience a recession but a marginal growth in output. However, when translated to per capita income, the economy contracted as population outgrew economic growth. In terms of fiscal management, Anambra keeps a very low debt profile and has an enviable record of prompt salary payments - unusual in an era where most states have backlogs stretching into four months and beyond.

 

Security

Kidnapping and armed robbery are a recurring decimal in Eastern Nigeria and Anambra was not exempt. The commercial hubs of Nnewi and Onitsha attracted their fair share of violent crime incidents. In the last three years - based on anecdotal data - violent crime has dropped significantly. The improvement in crime is in stark contrast to neighboring states like Imo where kidnapping remains unabated. The paradox for the incumbent governor is that security might be losing its valence as an issue.

 

Biafra

Perceived marginalization of Igbos is an emotive issue in Anambra state and sympathy for the proscribed indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and a referendum runs high in the state.

However, majority (78 %) of registered voters polled do not intend to boycott the election. While 93% believe the south-east is marginalized. Candidates’ positions on a referendum or

engagement with the Federal Government could prove to be electoral liabilities or assets.

 

Institutions

Corruption and nepotism weigh in the minds of voters. Anambra ranked 37 out of 37 in both corruption and government contracting in the recent subnational competitiveness index released by the nonpartisan National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN). There is concern about the cost of certain projects in Awka and the proposed airport. Osita Chidoka of the UPP weaponized the issue in the recent television debate.

 

Power Rotation

Anambra Central and North have produced all the elected governors in the current political dispensation, with the preponderance in Anambra Central. The issue gained salience in the last election and played to Gov obiano’s advantage. There is an extant strong sentiment for power to rotate to Anambra South. While some sympathize with rotation in 2017, others are content with waiting till 2021. There is also a strong sentiment for Anambra North to complete eight years in office as the current incumbent hails from the North. It is instructive to note that three of the five leading candidates are from Anambra North and one from Central. There is only one significant candidate from Anambra South. It is difficult to evaluate the impact of place of origin on the total votes and scope of split voting within Anambra North.

 

Infrastructure

Power, transportation and water feature strongly in voter consideration. Some voters conflate healthcare and education with infrastructure in terms of schools and hospitals. Anambra – like most of Nigeria - suffers severe power outages and epileptic supply. Roads and water have improved considerably under Governor Obiano. Critics say the infrastructure is concentrated in Awka and the costs have been inflated. 

 

The NCCN Competitiveness Report on Anambra State

From the recently released first sub-national competitiveness report by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN), Anambra State was ranked 12th.

 

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Anambra state’s ranking on State finances reflects comparatively low levels of domestic and external debt and low Debt to Revenue ratio. From respondent’s feedback, the state is also a favourable destination for migration.

 

Poor access to finance (driven by sub-indicators like the affordability of financial services) reduced the state’s score on the Economy pillar. Respondents also identified the quality of infrastructure as an area needing attention within the state.

 

 

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 The Gladiators

In alphabetic order of party :-

 
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Dr Tony Nwoye, APC

A trained medical doctor turned politician, Tony Nwoye flies the flag of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). A former student union leader, Dr Nwoye is no stranger to Anambra politics having served and contested in various capacities in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Nwoye is a current member of the National Assembly, representing Anambra East/West. President Buhari and Governor Okorocha of Imo state campaigned for Dr Nwoye at a massive rally two days ago.

 

Strengths:

1.  At 43 years old, Dr Nwoye is the youngest candidate in Saturday’s race. Intelligent and intellectually sound.

2.  Dr Nwoye is wholly edaphic to eastern Nigeria and is frequently hailed as a patient and balanced politician.

3.  Dr Nwoye enjoys the support of the ruling party. In past elections, support from Aso Rock translated to support from the security agencies (police and military), the electoral body (INEC), Judiciary and state security (SSS). It also meant funding resources. These position nullifies one of the greatest strengths of Obiano’s incumbency. Nwoye has tried with limited success - to make the election a referendum on Gov Obiano and secured support from Sen Andy Uba, a major player in Anambra politics.

 

Weaknesses:

1.  The primary challenge Nwoye faces is his platform. In today’s Anambra state, some regard APC as a toxic brand that could mortally harm Nwoye’s candidacy. To compound matters, Nwoye is from Anambra North and two major candidates are well established in the zone.

2.  For a former speaker of the student’s union at UNN, Dr Nwoye is not a natural orator and his challenged messaging obscures what might be beneficial policy positions.

3.  Nwoye’s losses within the PDP and some of his past efforts point to gaps in his mastery of realpolitik

4.  Finally, his ambivalence on the marginalization of Igbos is a likely impediment to Dr. Nwoye’s gubernatorial aspirations.

 

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Willie Obiano, APGA

The incumbent governor of the state, Gov Obiano is an accomplished banker who rose to executive directorship in Fidelity Bank and is a fellow of the chartered institute of bankers. Gov Obiano is 62 years old and is from Aguleri in Anambra North.

 

Strengths :

1. Willie Obiano appeared to have credibly managed the opposing tensions between a Federal Government from a different party and intra-party conflict in APGA. Obiano had a very public fallout with his erstwhile political mentor and predecessor in office, Peter Obi. The avuncular relationship transformed to an adversarial one as Obiano failed to genuflect to Obi. That Gov Obiano is still in the running is a testament to his metamorphosis from protege to Don.

2.  A strong administrator with private sector executive experience, Gov Obiano has brought his accounting and banking background to bear in managing the state’s debt and creating fiscal space. Under his stewardship, Anambra continues to pay salaries as and when due. A policy that has endeared him to public servants and positively impacted the local economy,

3.   Massive investment in roads, flyovers, street lights and Awka township are a visible sign of performance that tends to resonate with the Nigerian electorate. The barometer for evaluating “performing” governors tends to be in visible construction, Hence former Governors like Asiwaju Tinubu, Chief Godswill Akpabio and Raji Fashola are perceived as performers.

4.   The improved security situation in the state is a potent electoral tool for the soft spoken Governor.

5. The Governor’s campaign touts increased rice production, Agric produce export and increased foreign investment as major achievements during his tenure.

 

Weaknesses :

1. Obiano was not wholly successful in equilibrating the aforementioned tensions. The proscribed IPOB called for a boycott of the elections, Peter Obi has endorsed and committed resources to PDP’s Obaze, while the FG recently withdrew some of Gov Obiano’s security details through the Inspector General, President Buhari subsequently made a declaratory reversal.

2.  Biafra is a hot button issue among the younger generation of Anambara citizens. IPOB and other interlocutors have branded Gov Obiano a “sell out”. This might have significant electoral impact regardless of the veracity of their claim.

3.  Gov Obiano’s campaign lags behind in digital campaigning and this reflects in the smaller digital footprint compared to Osita Chidoka on Facebook (32,000 vs. 143,000). However he dominates the field in twitter (15,100 followers) and is way ahead of all other rivals combined. Digital campaigning has greater salience for Gov Obiano as users are primary in the demographic he struggles with: young male Anambara citizens.

4. Finally, the perception of weak institutions is an area his adversaries seek to capitalize upon. To the Governor’s credit, he leveraged on his audit background to establish a tenders board and independent price surveys.

 

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Oseloka Henry Obaze, PDP

A seasoned public administrator, Hon Obaze garnered cognate experience in multilateral, federal and state governments. Educated in the United States, Obaze studied political science and treaded in the footsteps of the Great Zik (Owelle Nnamdi Azikiwe).

 

Strengths

1. Obaze is a highly competent technocrat and is somewhat familiar with issues of governance in Anambra - having served as the SSG and in multiple capacities.

2. Obaze comports himself in an aristocratic manner and effortlessly converses in well-articulated English in an accent dissimilar to his rivals. This was evident in the debate where many adjudged him the winner. While Apc’s Tony Nwoye whose intonation, articulation and fluency beclouded his manifesto. Of course governance is more than fluent speech and the electorate is unlikely to attach a significant weight to this trait. Nonetheless, Anambra’s elite praise the departure of this election from past episodes where sometimes semi-literate candidates or Godfathers dominated.

3.  Obaze enjoys the support of former Governor Peter Obi and the structure of the PDP platform. A party that held sway for eight years in the state and currently controls all three Senate seats.

4.  In a political masterstroke, Obaze picked a female deputy, who is the daughter of Chief Alex Ekwueme, a political titan in Anambra state.

 

Weaknesses :

1.  Hon Obaze is 62 years old. Ordinarily, this is not a weakness, but his total grey hair and less than dynamic movement fits the narrative of being aged. Ironically, Obaze is the same age as Gov Obiano (according to official INEC data) but Obiano does not suffer the same adverse perception on age. A clear strategy of the Nwoye and Chidoka camps is to portray both as old. In a world or France’s President Macron, Canada’s Trudeau, younger Igbos are looking to younger leadership, this is evident in the popularity of IPOB’s Nnamdi Kanu among the youth and their repeated abnegation of established elders on the Biafra issue.

2.  Virtual absence of a digital footprint. Obaze is relying wholly on a traditional campaign having vacated the digital space with 9,000 likes on Facebook and 1,500 Twitter followers.

3.  While an astute administrator and technocrat, Obaze struggles to portray a convincing picture of a visionary and strong leader.

 

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Osita Chidoka, UPP

A vibrant and energetic individual, Chidoka is one of two post-civil war candidates. 46 years old, Chidoka studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsuka. Where he obtained a Bsc in management and an Msc in transport and logistics from George Mason University USA. He was appointed as the Head of the Federal Roads Safety Corp by President Yar’Adua and re-appointed by President Jonathan who ultimately appointed him Minister of Aviation.

 

Strengths :

1.  Chidoka is young and dynamic and appeals to youth in the state. Chidoka famously drove IPOB’s Nnamdi Kanu in his car upon his release from detention. His unapologetic position on a referendum and Igbo marginalization has cemented support among young Anambrarians sympathetic to Biafra.

2.  A robust orator, Osita Chidoka sways audiences with his firm and compelling positions. As chief executive in the FRSC and aviation ministry, Chidoka chalked up executive experience.

3.  It is noteworthy that Osita chidoka secured endorsements from key religious figures in the Catholic and Anglican churches. Anambra is 99% Christian and overwhelmingly catholic.

4.  Chidoka runs a well organized campaign with strong outreach in traditional and digital forms.

 

Weaknesses :

1.  Chidoka’s main weakness is the absence of a strong party platform. UPP is a new and tenuous platform that lacks the resources, legacy and network of APGA, PDP and APC.

2. A second formidable challenge facing Team Chidoka is the overlap between his supporters and IPOB loyalists. IPOB is yet to forcefully rescind the election boycott. Adherents who comply with the boycott are more likely to be prospective Chidoka voters than other candidates’.

3.  Chidoka’s lack of experience at the subnational level and in Anambra contestive politics is seen by some as an electoral liability, while his team positions it as positive change to an electorate inured to local godfathers and self-serving politicians, older voters appear sceptical.

4.  Finally, Chidoka is yet to articulate a persuasive case for voters against Gov Obiano to enable them coalesce around him. There is no clear competing policy narrative with Obiano. Demarcating himself from the other frontrunners (Obaze and Nwoye) against the incumbent is absolutely necessary to win on Saturday.

 

Other Candidates

33 other candidates are on the ballot on Saturday. A candidate but worthy of mention is the leading candidate from Anambra South, Businessman Chief Godwin Ezeemo. He is currently polling at a lower level than the aforementioned quartet of gladiators. Educated at the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro in marketing, Chief Ezeemo featured in the recent Channels TV debate and is running a considerable grassroots operation in the field. The viability of his candidacy is limited by a variety of structural constraints. However, nothing is certain in politics and he cannot be completely ruled out. It will take an upset of unprecedented proportions for him to win.

 

The Election

The Federal Government has so far deployed 26,000 policemen and an undisclosed amount of military personnel. With the strong security contingent and a gallimaufry of local/international observers in attendance expect peaceful, fairly transparent elections.

 

Voter Turnout

Residents of the state have historically been apathetic to elections. Registered voters in 2009 and 2013 were only 44% and 39% of the population respectively. More disturbing, only 7% of the population voted in 2009 and 9% in 2013. Voter turnout (registered voters who actually voted) was 16% and 23% in 2009 and 2013 respectively. This points to a systemic problem.

 

Saturday’s election is projected to have greater engagement despite the damping effect of IPOB’s boycott effort. INEC figures indicate an increase in registered voters to 2.16 million from 1.77 million in 2013. This increase is largely attributable to population growth as the ratio of registered voters to population remained 39%. Given the elaborate security arrangements, relatively few disruptions and electoral violence is anticipated.

 

Race Structure

Gov Obiano enjoys a structural advantage in Saturday’s race. The last three elections were won with 32 to 43% of votes cast. Each of Obiano’s rivals in the Big Four (Nwoye,Obaze and Chidoka) is certain to poll between 15 and 30 %. Gov Obiano’s threshold for victory is in the 34 to 40% range. Failure of anti-Obiano voters to coalesce around a single candidate will ensure victory for the incumbent.

 

Outcome

It is a dark art to predict elections, however given the foregoing analysis, the election is likely to be in part a referendum on Gov Obiano and in part an endorsement of a stand out candidate among Obiano’s rivals. Our opinion is that it is Gov Obiano’s election to lose. Saturday looks promising for democracy. Look out for our post-election analysis.

 

*500 random adults by mobile phones between October 31 and November 2, 2017. +/- 4% margin of error/

 

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