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Soludo and Obi

Election: Soludo, Obi battle for control of Anambra Assembly

By Adekunle Sulaimon

With two days to the governorship and state assembly elections scheduled to hold on Saturday, March 18, the focus in the South-East state of Anambra will be on who controls the state House of Assembly. This is so because there will be no governorship election in the state.

Nonetheless, both Anambra State governor, Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, will be slugging it out in the battle of who guides his party to control the majority of the membership of the state House of Assembly.

Although Soludo belongs to the ruling APGA, a party that has controlled the politics and governance of the state for the past two decades, it is the same party Obi rode on as the governor of the state between March 2006 and March 2014.

The party also has majority of the House led by Mike Balonwu and controls the three Senate seats in the state until the February 25 elections when it’s decisively defeated by Obi’s new kid on the block, LP.

Over the years, APGA has occupied a special place in the heart of the South- East because of its attachment to the late Dim Chukwuma Odumegwu-Ojukwu. But even when the party seemed to have its appeal in the region, it remained the dominant party in Anambra politics until February 25.

Former governors Obi, Willie Obiano and Soludo have all benefitted from the party’s popularity and widespread acceptance in the state. Things took a new twist when in the lead to the 2019 elections, Obi announced his defection to the Peoples Democratic Party after the completion of his tenure as governor in 2014.

Obiano was the first to kick against his (Obi) move after personally attacking him that he vowed never to leave APGA until his death. The dispute got heightened after Obi booked the PDP vice presidential ticket in 2019 to contest against the incumbent regime of the President, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

The national chairman of APGA, Victor Oye, once said Obi “cannot achieve anything” in politics unless he returns to the party.

In a chat with Arise TV on November 10, 2021, Oye claimed that Obi reneged on his “vow” never to leave APGA  “until death does them part.”

The APGA chairman then said if Obi “wants to achieve anything politically, he should come back to APGA”.

“Go to Anambra State, workers are paid every 25th to 27th of the month. No government since Peter Obi till now has failed in that responsibility. Remember that Peter Obi was in APGA, and he performed superlatively when he was in APGA, but the moment he left, the APGA spirit left him, and he never achieved anything ever since,” Oye said.

Soludo inherited this distaste against Obi from his predecessor, always comparing Obiano and Obi’s administrations and rating the former above the latter in all spheres.

After Obi won the presidential primary of the Labour Party to contest in the just-concluded presidential election, Soludo publicly announced that he would never leave the presidential candidate of APGA, Professor Peter Umeadi, to support the LP candidate.

Besides, aside from Soludo tackling Obi on live television for his poor investments in the state, he also graced it with his open letter titled, “History beckons and I will not be silent,” on November 14, 2022, where he said, “For full disclosure, let me state that Peter Obi and I are not just friends, we call ourselves “brothers”.

“But we have political differences: he left APGA for PDP after his tenure as Governor while I have remained in APGA since 2013. During the last two governorship elections in Anambra in 2017 and 2021, he led the PDP campaigns but APGA won a landslide in both elections.

“By the way, in 2016, he visited and proposed that I defect to PDP and contest the 2017 election against the incumbent Willie Obiano, but I declined. After my victory in November 2021, he called to congratulate me as I did to him in 2010.

That is the Anambra way: we fight fiercely during campaigns but share drinks at the next social events. After all, it was the great Zik of Africa who taught us that in politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies but only permanent interests.

The former Central Bank governor added that he is not envious of Obi, but only wants the best for Ndi Igbo advocating for their alliance with either the APC or PDP candidate because Obi’s candidacy, to him, was not strong.

The letter led to disunity among the Igbo with some praising the governor while others upbraided him for ditching his own brother – Obi.

But Obi’s Labour Party ticket endeared him to the Nigerian youths, who saw him as a third force to displace the allegedly failed APC and PDP years of rulership.

The LP effect manifested in the presidential election results when Obi out of the 624,612 votes cast in the state, polled 584,621 compared to APGA that polled only 7,388.

The effect also extended to the National Assembly election where the LP dealt a big blow to the PDP by winning its two senatorial and five House of Representatives seats.

However, members of the two parties have engaged in a war of words. While APGA claims it will be a different game on Saturday, the LP believes the ‘Obidient effect’ will repeat itself.

Political observers believe the state assembly election will therefore be a straight fight between LP and APGA. While Obi called on the candidates of the Labour Party to win and support the APGA-led government, Soludo urged the electorate in Anambra to ignore Obi and vote for his party.

In preparation for Saturday’s election, Obi met with Labour Party House of Assembly candidates in Anambra last week charging them to go all out and campaign to win.

He said they should win and support the APGA-led government to deliver dividends of democracy to the people.

According to him, “I have told my people to go and campaign and win the election.

“Their job as a legislator is to work with the governor and ensure he provides the dividends of democracy to our people. Help him to make good laws on education, health and other sectors.

“Soludo remains our governor, our job is to support and pray for him,” he said.

In his reaction, Soludo described the call by Obi for the Anambra electorate to vote for the Labour Party as deceptive and a strategy for laying landmines for him.

Soludo, speaking through his Press Secretary, Mr Christian Aburime, instead urged Ndi Anambra to ignore Obi and vote for APGA candidates for the 30 seats in the House of Assembly.

“That call is inappropriate and meant to deceive Anambra people. Obi can not be talking about development in Anambra and also be talking about asking the Anambra people to elect lawmakers from an opposition party to work with Soludo.

“He worked with a legislature that was dominated by lawmakers from the PDP and he knows that it was not easy for him.

“He even suffered impeachment because of that, so Anambra people should go all out on March 18 and vote for APGA, if they want the developmental strides of Mr Governor to continue,” he said.

Aburime said instead of canvassing votes for Labour Party, Obi should throw his weight behind the ruling APGA as payback for the massive support the people of Anambra gave him on February 25.

He urged Anambra residents not to relent in retaining APGA in the State Assembly and avoid stalling the economic and security gains achieved by the Soludo administration so far.

Should Ndi Anambra perform a repeat of the February 25 feat by voting massively for Obi’s Labour Party on Saturday to win majority seats in the Anambra assembly, it may signal the beginning to an end of the stay in Agu Awka House (seat of power) for Soludo whose chances of reelection in three years time could have been upended prematurely.

And should Soludo against all odds overcome the ferocious tide and win the contest with his party winning majority seats in the state parliament, Obi could have had a fatal blow to his bourgeoning political career.

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