Obiano's Successor, the Early Birds

Jun 28, 2019

Dr Vincent Okpala, middle, during his swearing in as Health Commissioner recently

By Jude Atupulazi

To many, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, has nothing left to worry about, having successfully engineered his re-election for second term. To these people, all he needs do is to take it easy and serve out his tenure and retire in peace. But it is not as easy and as straight forward as that. To those conversant with recent developments shrouding the succession saga in the state, and especially insiders; who succeeds Obiano is a very serious issue; indeed as serious as Obiano's second term bid. The seriousness the issue commands is illustrated by the strained relationship between the incumbent governor and his predecessor, Peter Obi. For those who may not remember, after serving for a whopping eight years, Obi looked forward to having someone who would not just take over the baton, but who would make it seem as if he was still in government; or almost. After much picking and dropping, Obiano was finally chosen as his successor. Today, however, both mentor and mentee are almost not seeing eye to eye.

Now, as Obiano cruises along his second tenure, the time for a successor is beginning to draw ever so near. Both the governor and those whose turn it is to produce the next governor of the state are considering many candidates. For now, I will limit those candidates to a few known ones and analyze their marketability against the backdrop of people's opinion about them.

Prof Chukwuma Soludo

This is a name that needs no introduction in the country. His headship of the country's apex bank marketed him as a bright young man and one not afraid to take on challenges. It can be argued that his stay at the Central Bank marked the best period in that sector. Sadly however, the success he recorded as a technocrat has not been replicated in politics. His first foray into politics was in 2010 when he contested against his friend and godfather to his son, Peter Obi. It turned out a disaster as he was beaten even in his own town of Isuofia. He had contested on the platform of the People's Democratic Parry, PDP.

After a brief hiatus, he re-emerged on the political scene, this time under the umbrella of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. He soon faded only to re-appear just before the 2017 governorship election in the state. He supported incumbent governor, Obiano, and was best known for his statement that there was no need mending what was not broken.

Many believed that his support for Obiano was for Obiano to endorse him when the time came, as APGA's guber candidate, being from Anambra South which is expected to produce the next governor.

But despite Soludo's antecedents, he is seen in some quarters as not cut out for politics. For one, he is seen as floating, having no grassroots structure and appeal. Also he is seen as too elitist to understand and play the nitty-gritty of politics. Indeed, the core politicians do not seem to trust him. They see him as one who is arrogant and aloof and therefore won't carry them along if he becomes governor. These reasons, many believe, cost him victory when he contested against Obi and it was even believed that some members of his party then worked against him.

Also, it is feared in some quarters that it may be difficult to enjoy his loyalty should he get to the Promised Land.

In my opinion, I think Soludo is ideally cut out for a parliamentary role. As a senator, for instance, he will be unbeatable; being that he is blessed with eloquence and panache. As for the position of governor, however, methinks that his apparent lack of grassroots appeal is a major disadvantage and that could make him a risky gamble.

 

Godwin Maduka

He is one of the best philanthropists ever known in these parts. He single handedly transformed his community, Umuchukwu, to a semi-urban town, building houses for widows, building roads, markets, hospital, police stations, churches and schools.

A medical practitioner based in the United States, Maduka is being lately associated with politics and came to the fore during the guber, national and state assembly primaries of APGA. Now, he is rumoured to be among the favoured few being considered as successors to Gov Obiano.

Maduka is a very wealthy man who until now had steered clear from politics of any sort. That was why his philanthropy impressed many who came across him, being that the usual thing is for those interested in political office to turn emergency philanthropists overnight. Maduka's philanthropy has spanned over two decades.

However, glittering as his antecedents are, he is also believed to be arrogant and aloof, though close to his people. Outside his community, however, he may find it a mite difficult to pull his weight and impress the political class who have a way of torpedoing the ambitions of those who have no structure.

To me, he has paid his dues with his unparalleled philanthropy and has practical connections and business acumen to steer the ship of Anambra State to the desired course. However, his seeming naivety in politics may be his undoing, given that this time around, the political kingmakers are looking for home grown candidates whom they can understand trust.

 

Ben Nwankwo

Unlike the other two earlier mentioned, Ben Nwankwo ticks all the boxes. He is a grassroots politician. He is intelligent. He has a well-oiled political structure. He knows the politics of the state inside out, having been around from the start.

He started off as a Commissioner for Works in Anambra State under the Gov Chinwoke Mbadinuju regime. During that time, he contested and won election into the Federal House during the time of Abacha but was not inaugurated.

Unrelenting, he pressed on and eventually became a Federal House member although on two occasions, he spent only two years each owing to the lateness in retrieving his mandate in the courts. It was only in the third attempt that he spent a full four years. All those years, he was a member of the PDP. He defected to APGA in 2017.

Although not well known by the government hierarchy, he is the toast of some grassroots politicians in Anambra South who know him and whom he knows.

In my opinion, he is the type of candidate that will command grassroots appeal. He is close to the people, very accessible and frank. He may not have the money or fame of the other two but he remains a candidate that if chosen, can guarantee loyalty, accessibility and forthrightness.

 

Dr Vincent Okpala

Although government sources are keeping mum on the rumours, it is believed that Dr Vincent Okpala, recently sworn in as the new Health Commissioner, has been brought in by Obiano to understudy him in much the same manner Peter Obi brought in Oseloka Obaze. Okpala is virtually an unknown quantity. He is said to have come from abroad just for the earlier stated purpose. No none knows the truth for now, but the nature of his appointment and his coming from the favoured Anambra South, point to the fact that this smoke may not be entirely without fire.

Again, having come from abroad, it is possible he had worked with Obiano at some point over there, or well known to him to the extent of trusting him.

However, should he be the anointed one, he and the governor will certainly have a fight on their hands for the sole reason that the kingmakers do not know him and prefer a home grown politician this time around.

Anambra South where he comes from, is a politically enlightened place peopled with political heavy weights. Without regard to party, they will likely vote for only the candidate they can trust and whom they know. The victory of Ifeanyi Ubah in the senatorial election on the platform of unknown Young People's Party, only a few weeks after he fell out with APGA, is a recent and strong reminder that whoever the people want, they will go for such a person, no matter the platform.

Thus, even though APGA holds all the aces for now as the ruling party, it may be committing political hara-kiri if it fails to listen to the pulse of the masses.

It is early days yet and chances are that as the days unfold, more contenders will surface. For now, though, the above are the front runners in the ruling party.



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