Anambra ElectionsColumnsOpinionWhy Anambra Assembly May Become the New Political Battle Ground

“It is thoroughly doubtful that the governor’s influence will make any difference going forward” ―Ebuka Onyekwelu

Careful observation of the political situation in Anambra state now can very easily predict that Anambra state House of Assembly will become the new political battleground. While the outgoing government is struggling to perfect its papers, and perhaps, see if the government can get just one more budget passed for it by the Assembly, the incoming government is also scheming from background to persuade the members to stay active on critical aspects of governance involving the House’s approval. Members of the Assembly will also try to quickly move on with the incoming government in their own best political interest. It is surely an interesting time ahead.

The signs though suggest that Governor Willie Obiano will likely not have a smooth transition with the House of Assembly. Notwithstanding that the House, as many people would wish to believe, has been more or less an extension of the governor’s office, but with the governor near the exit, the reality has changed and this will have a profound impact on the relationship between the governor and members of the House. Granted that the governor contributed personally, to the emergence of the twenty-five APGA members of the House, yet, with the current power shift in which reality is beginning to set in, it is thoroughly doubtful that the governor’s influence will make any difference going forward.

When we look at the Anambra Assembly, despite having five members of the PDP, it is usually difficult to distinguish opposition lawmakers from those of the ruling party. This is to say that the Assembly members work seamlessly without recourse to political identity. But perhaps, it should not matter. After all, Hon. Somto Udeze representing Ogbaru 11 constituency was formerly an APGA member but in 2019, he was denied a second term ticket by the party and so he joined PDP and got the ticket, then went on to win the general election. So in a way, he is entrenched in APGA and now familiar with APGA politics. Hon. Udeze is also the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Assembly; his committee is the most sensitive committee in the House. He virtually has details of all the transactions, loans; every public money that has been appropriated and expended legally or illegally by the government, both at the state and local government level. Despite being in the opposition, and having unrestrained access to information that can be damaging to the government, he has not used his position to damage the government in any way. Even as the House of Assembly is currently performing oversight on government Ministries, Departments and Agencies -MDAs, one expects that the committee on Public Accounts will be harder on MDAs, but it is yet to be seen. With the governorship election barely four months away, the opposition may mount pressure on the repository of damaging information, like Hon. Udeze, in a bid to run the government out of campaign ideas.

With the governorship election barely four months away, the opposition may mount pressure on the repository of damaging information

Another member of the House who is of opposition stock is Hon. Douglas Egbuna representing Onitsha North 1 constituency. Douglas popularly known as Osite was a former Local Government Chairman of Onitsha North, but despite his undisputed popularity, he was denied a ticket by APGA in 2019. He then moved to PDP and secured the ticket and subsequently won the general election. Yet, for two years as a lawmaker, he has worked well with the APGA government. The other three opposition members of the House, Hon. Onyebuchi Offor representing Ekwusigo constituency, Hon. Johnbosco Akaegbobi, who defeated the former speaker, is representing Nnewi South 11 constituency and Hon. Noble Igwe representing Ogbaru 1 constituency, were previously not members of APGA.

In the past years, it appeared there was no opposition whatsoever in the Assembly. But right now, APGA members of the House are insufficient opposition to the government, especially with the politics of Obiano’s succession in full gear. As a matter of fact, many House members are opposed to how Governor Obiano and APGA leadership handled the party’s governorship primary election. Before now, it has also been variously reported that Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji has more supporters in the House of Assembly than other APGA aspirants.

In the House of Assembly, two members of the House were suspiciously disqualified from taking part in the governorship primary election of APGA that was held at the Women Development Centre, in Awka the state capital to produce a governorship candidate for the upcoming gubernatorial election. Both Hon. Nonso Okafor and Hon. Carter Umeh were prevailed upon, from taking part in that primary election. With the reality of power shift, the anger and ruffled feathers, this may contribute to Governor Obiano finding it really difficult to navigate smoothly in these last days of his administration and that could prove to be damaging. If the members decide to carry out their duties without a lot of political considerations seeing that the outgoing governor and his allies have little or no stake in their political future, then, it is difficult to spot how the government will not end in deep scandals and indictment for financial recklessness. What I am saying is that the House can always find something damaging to make public. It will get worse if notable opposition figures or just those who do not like the governor make any move to influence the House and incite them against the governor, as was the case during Peter Obi’s first term.

With the Obiano’s government winding down speedily, how well or badly the last memory of the government serves to be remembered is largely going to be determined by the role the Assembly choose to play in the administration’s last days, as well as how well the administration tries to do its job, which admittedly still cannot be faultless.

The political reality is that Governor Obiano’s led government is nearing its lowest and weakest point

Opposition members like Hon. Somto Udeze, who was frustrated out of APGA may want to pay the government back, if so, there is no better time. He has what it may take to do just that. He may simply want to just do his job as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Just by doing his job, the government can be nailed in a nearby wall. Hon. Egbuna may also wish to pay back and this right now may be his time. So also Hon. Okafor and Hon. Umeh, among many other disenchanted House members. The political reality is that Governor Obiano’s led government is nearing its lowest and weakest point, and with an Assembly that still has two years before the expiration of their tenure of office. Not only that the government will be unable to recover from such onslaught, but the governor will also have no deciding influence in their future political career as far as it is possible to foretell.

With a lot of people not exactly happy or satisfied with the government, there is a tendency for the tension to quickly degenerate into a sort of political earthquake which even the incoming governor, even if of APGA party and governor Obiano’s choice, will be encouraged to be sustained so that he too can have a solid foothold. And with a budget that he will sign to go with, by the time he is sworn-in in March 2022. Governor Obiano must now carefully choose how he may wish to exit Anambra Government House, come March 2022, even as all public office holders continue to learn in a very hard way, that political power is transient.

♦ Ebuka Onyekwelu, strategic governance exponent,  is a columnist with the WAP

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