New Telegraph

Assembly Poll: Soludo, APGA survive Labour Party scare

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OKEY MADUFORO examines the victory recorded by Governor Charles Soludo and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State in last weekend’s state House of Assembly election

Shortly after the presidential election, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State found themselves at the firing range of the Labour Party following his non-support of its presidential candidate, Peter Obi. The Labour Party swept off the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the National Assembly elections and it was believed that the party had a grand plan of retiring APGA and by extension sending feelers on the way of Governor Soludo that he would not enjoy a comfortable first term in office.

The Labour Party further posited that Soludo would be the last APGA governor of the state, hence indicating that his second tenure dream would be a nightmare as former PDP governorship candidate, Valentine Ozigbo would ultimately take over as governor of Anambra State under the Labour Party.

The conspiracy and campaign of calumny were grave and the APGA government in the state was apparently kept on its toes ahead of the election. But the party leadership did not lose sleep over that open threat as was made manifest by its National Chairman, Ozo Victor Oyeh who refused to be intimidated by that affront. Oyeh said: “We are not moved by the open challenge of the Labour Party because we are on the ground and a party that has just stepped into the political war field just less than four months to attempt to challenge a party that has become war veteran is a huge joke. I don’t need to talk now because we know our people and they know their party, so what we are preparing is the celebration of victory over a battle that our party has already won.” The certainty as was displayed by Oyeh no doubt gave that impetus for the party to take on its major opposition in the state, the Labour Party.

But before them, APGA had to face the gargantuan task of standing up to those odds against it. The church once again found itself in a dilemma of choosing between two of her sons in the race who is Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Governor Soludo of APGA. While some campaigned against electing APGA House of Assembly candidates as a payback to Soludo, another section of the church contended that such moves would be counterproductive to the church and may resonate that dreaded politics of religion that would ultimately sentence her to litanies of internal wrangling hence creating a permanent divide within the faithful. Hence, the church leadership intervened and cautioned both the cleric and the laity against that and it was gathered that priests who were guilty of this crime were placed under watch while chieftains of APGA who hold very strong positions among the Orders of Knighthood, Parochial Church Committees and Laity Council stepped into market APGA, a party that they had in the past midwife its growth in the past twenty years. This was a minus for the Labour Party in Anambra State which had earlier thought that the entire 30 seats of the Assembly are in its kitty. APGA was able to overcome those religious threats using their memberships in the church leaders who had warned about the grave consequences of that brand of politics.

It was fast becoming a task before the Catholic Church over between Peter Obi and Soludo who is more Catholic than the other hence that sector of the battlefield was taken care of by the ruling party. Perhaps the fear of APGA crash landing in that election if it had taken place on March 11 was doused when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced a new date of March 18. It was feared that the vigour that the electorates displayed in the Presidential election would have robbed of negativity on the ruling party APGA. While the two weeks of grace lasted, the Labour Party began to lose its steam and the vigour was fast coming down hence giving APGA that opportunity to return to the drawing board and reassemble its war chest.

However, the Labour Party may have gone to sleep with the old notion that it is going to be a clean sweep as usual while the ruling party crisis crossed the entire state in a desperate bid to retain its stronghold on the state. Deepening the fate of the Labour Party was also the voter apathy occasioned by the poor turnout of voters on that day. Those that came out to vote had no more confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC and never bothered about its outcome and those in support of APGA took the day. It would be out of place to say that the 365 days of Governor Soludo is not an ingredient of the APGA success story.

The restoration of confidence in governance through aggressive work on collapsed social infrastructure had its great multiple effects on the choice of the electorates. The Press Secretary to the governor, Christian Oburime, who confirmed this, noted: “We are currently carrying out massive road construction of about 261 km of roads across the state and many have reached several advanced stages of completion. The fight against insecurity in Anambra State by the governor gave Anambra people the impetus to come out and perform their civic duties and the clear coast for political parties to carry out their campaigns without government interference also did the magic against the common practice of a ruling party trying to frustrate opposition parties.” The Commissioner for Local Government and Town Union Matters, Tony Collins Nwabunwanne, recalled the employment of 5,000 teachers and the employment of 400 medical personnel has remained green in the memories of Anambra voters.

“What about the salary increase for Anambra workers and the liquidation of the backlog of pensions and gratuities? These are things that our people were enjoying before that election including the training of Local government staff on ICT which has emboldened the workforce.” The Special Adviser on Political Matters, Dr Alex Obiogbolu, an experienced politician, was in charge of the field operations with his team of party stakeholders took on the task head long which indeed paid off at the end of the day. “The National Assembly elections saw Labour Party win all the seats owned by the PDP but APGA retained its strong hold without the Labour Party having its way in that election. The reduction of taxes and levies being paid by markets, parks, Keke and bus drivers was the master stroke as well as the chose your projects scheme among the Communities in the state,” he said.

In 2003 the party had only one seat in the state Assembly and the lawmaker defected to the PDP during the impeachment of the thengovernor, Peter Obi. In 2007 the PDP won all the seats at the State Assembly which Peter Obi inherited and come 2011 the party won twenty-five seats with the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) getting three seats while the rest went to the PDP.

In 2015 APGA sustained its dominance with twenty-seven seats while PDP had three seats and in 2019 the party still remained in the majority followed by PDP. However, APGA lost six seats to the All Progressives Congress APC during the gubernatorial election last year while the PDP still retained the position of Minority Leader of the Assembly. Today, the party still remained in control though with less seventeen seats, followed by Labour Party with eight seats, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Young Progressives Party (YPP) took three seats each. As it stands, APGA will produce the next speaker of the State House Assembly while the Labour Party becomes the strong opposition in the hallowed chambers. It is being touted in some quarters that there is likely to be an alliance between APGA, PDPand YPP as the three parties see the Labour Party as a common political rival.

Though APGA had a challenge with the number of seats at the National Assembly, the YPP alliance is true to its own advantage and would certainly rely on it when Governor Soludo commences his second term bid. But it is not in doubt that should the courts fail to grant the prayers of Obi at the tribunal, the issue of cross-carpeting by some Labour Party members to APGA may be inevitable hence widening the coast of the party. This was reiterated by the former political adviser to the immediate past governor of the state, Willie Obiano, Ifeatu Obiokoye.

“Politics is never over even after the elections and the possibilities and likelihood are still open at this stage. APGA as a party has options before it and true to politicians, every lawmaker wants to be relevant if Governor Soludo continues with his good governance policies, he would succeed in creating platforms for some lawmakers to dump their present parties for APGA which is not unlikely,” he said. For Governor Soludo, last weekend’s state House of Assembly election was a litmus test of his popularity in Anambra State after just one year in office and pundits are of the view that he would sustain it by taking one step at a time.

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