What 2023 General Election Means for Anambra Voters in the Quest for Quality Representation
By Ebuka Onyekwelu
Next year’s General Election in Nigeria will be a crucial outing in Anambra’s political sphere for two main reasons; it is a test on some established political stake holding, but also a chance to raise the bar for elective political offices in Anambra State. This is even more detrimental because for some established power brokers, it is a make or break situation and they know this. However, while some elected officers will be working hard to revalidate their essence, others are working hard to come to political limelight. So far, the impression is that Anambra voters are likely to choose differently. This is to say that the people perhaps, might be asking for new leaders in 2023 because, not much have been seen of most of the elected representatives since 2019 till date. This then even further drives the 2023 contest to the edge and clearly leaving it for the very best and most prepared. Without mincing words, the coming General Election is going to be an experience of the unusual in which quality, competence and leadership capabilities are going to be shaping who emerges at the polls.
Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s election is an energizer for more academically sound, and mentally prepared, who are generally ready to serve, to join the race for elective public offices. On the side of public considerations, there is increased clamor for new hands. The people just want to have a brand new experience with leadership and public responsibility. Something different and unusual now more than perhaps ever, appeals to the people. What this means is that many career politicians will be retired in 2023.
For Anambra State, the 2023 General Election is an exclusive election for the legislature. The State House of Assembly election and the National Assembly election are the only elections holding in Anambra State. Anambra State has a total of thirty members in the State Assembly, so there will be election in thirty state constituencies. There are eleven Federal House of Representatives seats in the state cut across the three senatorial zones. Basically, Anambra State will be electing a total of forty-four lawmakers at all levels, in 2023. These lawmakers will decide to a large extent, how the future of the state will look like through the kind of laws and government policies they propose or support. For instance, Anambra State needs to send the best capable hands that are possible to be sent to National Assembly, to mobilize and champion developmental interests of their constituencies and that of the State at large. A first-rate team at the National Assembly as Anambra lawmakers will attract both federal government and international community’s attention to the ecological crisis in the state, among other priority areas that will benefit the state. But the challenge is how these set of lawmakers can be recruited by Anambra voters. This is critical because, if the state must make important progress in governance, then, the people themselves must think beyond the governor and must act from an informed position in ensuring that those who have no business in governance are successfully sent back to their homes for a deserved retirement. Meanwhile those who are ready for the huge tasks of governance are graciously sent to get the job done for the people.
In Anambra South senatorial zone, Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah the incumbent senator will likely fight a political battle of his life to retain his seat in 2023. Otherwise, strong forces are aligning to displace Ubah in 2023. There have been arguments as to whether Ubah deserves to go back to the senate. The point however remains that lawmaking requires a lot of tact and dexterous deployment of skill and knowledge. The extent to which Sen. Ubah has been an ideal senator for Anambra South is a subject of argument. But then, Ubah is socially active and almost everywhere so he has maintained a good relationship with the masses. Yet, does that amount to quality representation? As Ubah appears to be falling out of political favour, his quest to return to the senate in 2023 will be a tall task. Without any doubt, it will be more difficult than his election battles in 2019. However, it is most likely Anambra South senator will still come from Nnewi or Ihiala zone because, Governor-Elect Soludo, is from Aguata zone and the zone will not have both governor and senator. What this means is that political parties will put this into consideration in deciding who fly their party’s ticket. But for the Anambra South House of Representatives seats, most of the incumbent will not return. At least three out of the four seats will not return. Hon. Ifeanyi Momah representing Ihiala Federal Constituency is a young man who ordinarily ought to have a smooth return. But he will not return and here is why. Hon. Momah has not given a good account of himself as a federal lawmaker. He is not on ground in his federal constituency, add to it that he appears to be more interested in showbiz than in lawmaking. However, his most difficult challenge is the zoning formula in Ihiala and by that arrangement, it is the turn of Ebonese and Rt. Hon. Pascal Agbodike, the Deputy Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, a young, assessable and hard working legislator from Ebonese is posed to unseat Hon. Momah in 2023. Dr. Pascal Agbodike without any doubt has what it takes to deliver quality representation to his people and should Hon. Momah fail to honour the zoning arrangement, Rt. Hon. Agbodike has what it may take to contain him and force him into early retirement. In Orumba North and South federal constituency, the incumbent Hon. Okwudiri Ezenwankwo is a grassroots man. He is on ground, but issues surrounding party politics may not allow him to return to the House of Representatives. Aguata federal constituency has similar problem with Orumba. In Aguata, the incumbent Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji is a grassroots politician and he is liked by his people. He has gone through this route before and used Labour Party to win his election into House of Representatives and he has sufficient war chest. If Governor Soludo is determined to take his federal constituency, then Aguata and Orumba may be a mini governorship contest. And if it gets to that, APGA may simply fill overly qualified candidates in those places and with the support of the governor, both Ezenwankwo and Umeoji may not return and this is my prediction. Finally on this, is Nnewi North/South and Ekwusigo federal constituency whose incumbent is Hon. Chris Azubogu. Hon. Azubogu has done his part and now serving his third term in the House of Representatives. He is due for Senate, but the challenge is that he has been in the space for a while and diminishing return has naturally set in. He might still contest for senate, but again, he does not appear to have any magic that will play to his advantage. At the moment, going by the news flying around, Azubogu is in PDP, APC and APGA. In other words, he is everywhere and nowhere.
Anambra Central might be the most interesting of all the senatorial zones. The incumbent senator, Sen. Uche Ekwunife is angling to change party so she can position to re-contest. Generally, Ekwunife has a sense of political balance that has kept her going, but now, the times have changed. Anambra Central may also have a presidential candidate or aspirant in PDP, in the person of Peter Obi the former governor. The former governor, if his presidential aspiration fails to take a flight, may try his luck in senatorial contest which has been rumored is the reason Sen. Uche wants to leave PDP. On the other side is Sen. Umeh who was National Chairman of APGA for over a decade and then took a stint at the senate but could not return in 2019. He is apparently interested in going back looking at developments. Perhaps, Dr. Chris Ngige may be interested in going to senate for Anambra Central as well. One very common denominator is the fact that Anambra Central seems to be revolving around career politicians. For instance, Sen. Uche Ekwunife has been in the picture for some time and while she may be doing her best, the people can afford to try something else. Our politics has not matured so much so that a lawmaker should stay in the legislature for long. Besides, those lawmakers end up doing just a routine the longer they stay in the legislature and loose every sense of allegiance to the people until another election season. For Sen. Umeh, he should no longer contest for senate. My thinking is that he should leave partisan politics and become a statesman. If for whatever reason Peter Obi is truly considering senatorial contest, he should drop that unbefitting idea and rather throw himself into the presidential contest immediately. As for Ngige, he should retire peacefully after serving out his ministerial duties and leave partisan politics for good. It is my conviction that Anambra Central needs fresh ideas and this must come in form of new entrants into the political ring. What this means is that Anambra Central should go for a new senator and most certainly not the usual figures. This time, it has to be someone new, a man or woman who has demonstrated strong will and capability to lead. This man or woman must not be in his 30s or 20s to pander to the not-too-young to run mantra, but he or she must have demonstrable energy and passion to serve and get things done. If he or she has youthfulness, then, it is an advantage that should energize his or her ability to serve competently. Apparently, Uzuegbunam Okagbue who is serving as the Chief of protocol to Governor Obiano and later Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Protocol to the Governor, comes to mind. From Umunnachi in Dunukofia Local Government Area in Anambra Central, Uzu has what it takes to not only bring fresh ideas into play, but also he has proven competence as an astute manager, focused and goal oriented. For eight years, Uzu maintained the code of his office and never was seen or heard, he simply does his job with total commitment. Anybody who has interacted with Uzu can attest to the sharpness of his strategic mind and can easily see why the governor’s protocol has remained the most outstanding and professional team in the government throughout Obiano’s administration that is nearing its eighth year. Uzu himself conducts his activities with decorum and utmost professionalism and people can freely attest to this fact. Is it not better that Anambra Central commits their senatorial district in the hands of someone like Uzu who is not a spent force and definitely will not resume at the senate as his retirement plan? Shouldn’t people like this be better senators than the usual names that have exhausted their ideas?
Then on Anambra Central House of Representatives, Hon. Dozie Nwankwo representing Njikoka/Dunukofia/Anaocha federal constituency is warming up for the Anambra Central senatorial race. Hon. Dozie it does not appear has given a good account of himself as a federal lawmaker and he is not grass rooted. He may not likely return to the House of Representatives as this may not be business as usual. Hon. Sam Onwuaso representing Awka North and South in the House of Representatives is nearly invisible in the House. He has not shown any demonstrable clarity of his job as a federal lawmaker, hence should not be sent back to the House. For Idemili North and South federal constituency, Hon. Obinna Chidoka is not doing an impressive job. If not that he appears just more organized, he is almost in the same league with Hon. Ifeanyi Momah of Ihiala federal constituency. Without a doubt, Anambra federal lawmakers it can be seen are dragging worst performing lawmaker with each other. This must change in 2023.
When we move to Anambra North, Sen. Stella Oduah has held sway for eight years as the senator representing the zone. Stella has a lot of goodwill and sagacity. But her performance in the senate has not been impressive. Mostly absent, neither heard nor seen most of the time. May be, it is time for her to take a bow. Hon. Chinedu Obidigwe representing Anambra East/West federal constituency was in charge of executing Governor Obiano’s political wishes; a job he did to the satisfaction of Obiano. Although he has now moved on as available information suggests that he has not been to the governor’s house since last year December. Obidigwe is uncharitably silent since the election of Prof. Soludo. It is rumored that he is interested in Anambra North Senate. Obidigwe is an ambitious and hard working man whom providence has been generous to, but does he has what it takes to stand where Sen. Okadigbo of blessed memory stood? Your guess is as good as mine. There are some who even question his election to the House of Representatives in the first instance and raise doubt as to if he should be reelected. Mrs. Eberechukwu Obiano on the other hand is said to be interested in contesting the Anambra North senate seat. If true, then, what I think is this, why is she interested in the seat? Although Mrs. Obiano has action and can be a political force, but can she stand sabotage from their once trusted allies, because as it stands, it is even doubtful she will get APGA ticket to stand for the election. Add to it that she does not represent the new breed leadership that the people are eager for. In Anambra North zone, Ogbaru federal constituency has Hon. Chuchu Onyema who is serving at least his third term in the House. Hon. Onyema is popular in Ogbaru as a grass roots politician and mobilizer, but whether he is going to return to House of Representatives or move up to senate is a question that must be answered before he faces imminent diminishing return which will ensure he does not return to the House of Representatives again in 2023. Onitsha North and South federal constituency has Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu as their representative. While almost invisible in the Green Chambers, she has maintained a fairly good relationship with her constituents. Her return to the House will be a tough walk, especially if APGA and APC present credible candidates with proven capacities. Finally, Oyi and Anayamelum federal constituency, whose incumbent is Hon. Vincent Ofumelu. Hon. Ofumelu is a young entrant who appeared to have been overwhelmed; may be just one more absentee representative. This is Anambra’s story at the National Assembly; a sad commentary for a people who pride themselves in human capital, quality, exposed and capable individuals.
Certainly, Anambra deserves better. All the incumbent lawmakers in the House of Representatives are either not seen, not heard, or they are performing somewhere around below average. Many do not even have any foot holding in their constituencies. While just about one or two who are actually trying to do something meaningful have already outlived their relevance and will be counted as spent forces in 2023. For the senators, the three senators are performing below average. Ifeanyi Ubah as a first term senator appears to be making more effort than Sen. Oduah who is a ranking senator, yet, their outing have remained unimpressive.
Anambra State cannot continue in this direction. It is not enough to have a Governor who is ready to serve, if Anambra federal lawmakers are competing in failure, then, there is absolutely no point in returning them. Lawmaking is serious business and those who appreciate the seriousness of the job should be sent by the people to go and get the job done. This is what Anambra voters must do in 2023.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by writers and shared on our blog, does not necessarily reflect that of Kaluza. We don’t necessarily agree with the views/opinion shared on our blog.