How Obi’s Tsunami Benefited Candidates in Anambra

By Ikeugonna Eleke

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in the early hours of Wednesday, declared the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the winner of the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria, though in controversial circumstances.

Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor, was declared the president-elect after the 70-year-old polled 8,794,726 votes to win the 2023 presidential election at the International Collation Centre in Abuja. PDP polled 6,984,520 to come second, while LP 6,101,533.

Remarkably though, the three leading presidential candidates won in 12 states each, making the contest the first ever three-horse race, being that it was normally two parties that go neck and neck.

The announcement came in the wake of condemnations over the methodology adopted by INEC which resorted to manual posting of results against its earlier assurances of immediately uploading polling unit results. This had cast a huge slur on the outcome of the presidential election, with many independent observers, including the European Union, faulting the process.

Also the other major parties, mainly the People’s Democratic Party, PDP; the Labour Party, LP; and the New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP, condemned the conduct of the presidential poll and even staged a walk out during the collation of results in Abuja.

While the nation awaits further developments, vis-à-vis other parties challenging the outcome in court or not, one emerging trend was discovered which was the toppling of some traditional strong holds of parties. For instance, the Labour Party, led by Peter Obi, pulled the feat of taking over Lagos and Abuja. The Lagos victory was particularly remarkable as it has been a no-go area for other parties, being the stronghold of Tinubu.

The same Labour Party also pulled off remarkable victories in other parts of the country, with the victory of a commercial motorcycle driver in Kaduna standing out. The young man won the House of Representatives seat.

Elsewhere, a Labour Party candidate defeated a sitting governor in Enugu State, just as an All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, candidate defeated the governor of Abia State in the senatorial contest. This proves that a new trend is sweeping across the nation’s politics.

But if any party is to take the lion’s share of this new phenomenon, that party is Labour Party. Its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, provided the platform for many politicians, including rookies, to gain victories.

The enthusiasm and interest among voters in Anambra State, both old and young in Saturday’s election is one that can be compared to none in recent history. As early as 7am in most polling centres in the state, voters, including the old, had thronged the centres, waiting for the arrival of INEC officials with voting materials.

Though many centres with high focus, especially in Anaocha Local Government Area, where the candidate of Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi hails from – got materials on time, hence, the commencement of voting by 8am, – in many places, INEC seemed determined to frustrate the wishes of the people. Up till 1:30pm at many voting centres across the state, election materials were yet to arrive.

This caused elections in the state to linger late into the night, especially with the high number of turnout in all the polling centres. Not even the harsh sun of the day, or even the threat of rainfall, late in the night could make the electorates to diminish in number, even after close of voting. This was because the people in their numbers were eager to see the election results entered into the result sheets and transmitted in the same way they voted earlier in the day.

It is however noteworthy that no incident of violence was registered during period of the election in the state. Meanwhile, the candidate of Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, who voted at exactly 11:45am at his Amatutu Ward 2 in Agulu Community in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, told journalists that he was up to then satisfied with the process in the state, and wished that it would be the same in other parts of the country.

‘This election is very important to Nigeria, and I have confidence of victory. I have the mental capacity, energy and drive to lead this country. We need to get things right in Nigeria,’ the presidential candidate had said.

In all the 21 local government areas of the state visited by Fides on election day, the voters were optimistic of a clean sweep of Anambra State by Obi.

Meanwhile, what many have referred to as the Peter Obi hurricane has cost many established politicians in the state their long held positions, just as some politicians who were described as greenhorns have ridden on the back of the presidential candidate of Labour Party to attain victory in their quest to go to the National Assembly.

Some of the established politicians who Obi’s influence cost their positions include: Senator Uche Ekwunife, a grassroots politician who has been in the national assembly for a cumulative 16 years, and who represents Anambra Central. Another is Senator Stella Oduah, who is also a sitting senator who has held a firm grip on Anambra North Senatorial Zone which she has also represented twice.

Some very established politicians also gained from the Peter Obi effect, despite being household names themselves. They include Senator Victor Umeh and Hon Tony Nwoye who floored Ekwunife and Oduah, despite joining Labour Party late to contest for Anambra Central and North Senatorial seats respectively.

However, some politicians who were not given any chance because they were either thought to be unpopular, or running under a small party also sprang surprises, defeating more established politicians in the race for the House of Representatives.

Among the 11 Federal Constituencies in the state, LP candidates were able to clinch six seats, while APGA got four and YPP one, through the influence of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.

Some of the candidates who humiliated their opponents through the influence of Peter Obi’s popularity include; Mr Uche Okonkwo who ran on the LP platform for Idemili North and South Federal Constituency. He ran against an incumbent member, Hon Obinna Chidoka of PDP and Hon Ifeanyi Ibezi of APC.

In Ogbaru Federal Constituency, A former House member and journalist, Hon Afam Ogene, humiliated candidates of the PDP, APC and even the ruling party in the state, APGA, after he contested on LP platform.

Also in Awka North and South Federal Constituency, a first timer, Prof Lilian Orogbu, who had earlier resigned her appointment with Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, was able to humble both APC, PDP and APGA candidates to clinch the seat.

The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, which is the ruling party in Anambra State, was one of the first casualties of Obi’s popularity as most candidates of the party who spent lots of resources to acquire the tickets of the party failed woefully.

As the state assembly elections loom, many believe the candidates of other parties are still wary of the Obi factor which also played out in the last general elections when Obi was the running mate of PDP’s Atiku Abubakar. Before last weekend’s elections, candidates of other parties openly endorsed Obi of Labour Party for fear of angering the people who saw any attack on Obi as an attack on them. Unfortunately for some of them, however, many Labour Party candidates rode to victory on Obi’s popularity.

Will it repeat  in the State Assembly Elections? Only time will tell, although the outcome of the presidential election may have dampened the morale of many.

Additional reports from Jude Atupulazi