ColumnsNigeriaOpinionPoliticsThe Peter Obi Effect in the Next Anambra Governorship Election

“In two years, Anambra will be a testing ground for Peter Obi’s popularity among voters in his home state,” —Ebuka Onyekwelu

How bizarre this may look notwithstanding, but preparations are in full throttle for the next governorship election in Anambra state. Although still over two years ahead, but the next governorship election in Anambra state is already taking shape to the extent that any serious politician or political player in Anambra has commenced total planning towards the election.

Again, no matter how strange or awkward this may be seen by some people, the fact remains that every astute politician thinks of the next election from the day of the last election.  Interestingly, the next Anambra state governorship election would still involve three key players in the last governorship election of November 2021. The only new variable ahead of the 2025 Anambra governorship election is the Peter Obi effect. However, there is an imminent suspicion that the failure of the opposition to effectively mobilize against APGA, would likely deliver the usual results.  What is left to be seen is if Peter Obi will move in fully to do the groundwork for such an unprecedented assault on the ruling party.

One of the major high points of the 2023 General Election is the momentum it gave to Peter Obi and his party, Labour Party. It is this momentum that Peter Obi is now working hard to consolidate, for another presidential run in the next four years. Real or imagined, in two years, Anambra will be a testing ground for Peter Obi’s popularity among voters in his home state. Put differently, the outcome of that election would either give impetus to Obi’s presidential aspiration or dent it. In 2025, Peter Obi would likely throw his full weight behind his preferred candidate and try to unseat the incumbent governor, but will that be enough? Will Peter Obi’s support guarantee victory for Labour Party in Anambra in 2025? It is not clear, but without a winning strategy that would involve a concrete alliance between Anambra South and Anambra North senatorial zones, there might not be any real contest against the incumbent.

Also, gubernatorial elections in Anambra state are usually different. Peter Obi had supported Oseloka Obaze in PDP to unseat Obiano in 2017, but could not. However, in 2019, PDP and Atiku received unprecedented support in Anambra state because Obi was his vice and the PDP won with more than a landslide despite all efforts by active political players to destabilize that massive support. Therefore, Peter Obi’s effect would need more than ‘Peter Obi’ to help Labour Party scratch the surface of real opposition against APGA in any eventful effort to unseat the APGA government.

As the only new variable in the build-up to the Anambra election in 2025, the option before Peter Obi is to try to drive the Labour Party towards the set target by moving in to build alliances for a focused and deliberate push at wrestling the Anambra seat of power. Therefore, Obi’s biggest contribution towards the next governorship election would be to the extent that he is able to create a united opposition front that will join forces against the incumbent. This remains the only hope and path through which the opposition may manage to put up a good fight. Otherwise, Obi’s effect would be symbolized by his campaign outings and speeches which the voters would conveniently ignore when they have their ballot papers in hand, in their various polling units. Without synergy and consolidated opposition, Peter Obi and Labour Party might focus on good governance for all they care, but once they are unable to win, there is nothing they can do about their fine policy statements and programmes expressed in manifestoes.

As of today, Governor Soludo is politically ahead of the opposition in many respects. He also has state power as backup, but importantly, the sentiment of the coming election would be in his favor. Ironically, Peter Obi is from Anambra Central, and Labour Party has a considerable following in the zone expected to mount this sentiment in favour of the incumbent governor. The senator of the zone, Chief Victor Umeh, is also of the Labour Party. Are they prepared to manage the sentiment that bringing a fresh candidate from Anambra South might distort the zoning arrangement which is now nearly generally accepted? This is a struggle for state power and because it is not out of place to be ambitious, it cannot be out of place for someone like Sen. Victor Umeh to be preparing for the governorship race around 2028. This could be consequential for Labour Party in 2025. Therefore, those who are of the opinion that with just Peter Obi’s full support, Labour Party would sail into the Anambra state Government House, are reminded of the enormous task at hand. For that reason, Peter Obi’s biggest contribution to Anambra 2025 would be his ability to leverage his political vantage position bestowed by the 2023 General Election, to create a common opposition that would extensively mobilize against the ruling party.

Ebuka Onyekwelu (Staff Writer)
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