Anambra State retains a unique place in Nigerian history.
Culturally, the state is home to Nri, the ancestral origin of Ndigbo. Historically, it has produced some of the most popular Igbo figures, including the nationalist leader Nnamdi Azikiwe, separatist leader Odumegwu Ojukwu, and literary scholar Chinua Achebe. Politically, it is the only Nigerian state to ever have a female Governor and has not been governed by either the People's Democratic Party (PDP) or All Progressives Congress (APC) since 2006.
Between 1999 and 2007, 5 governors led Anambra State, at a time when Nigeria only elected two Presidents. It had 4 different governors between 2003 and 2007 alone; one of whom was impeached, with another allegedly kidnapped while in office.
Perhaps, the fascinating feature of the state is its elections. It is the only state missing a representative in the Senate, despite a 23-month-old court order requiring an election after the Anambra Central Senatorial election was nullified. Yet, the same state had INEC clear 35 candidates for its November 18th governorship election.
Anambra State is also the ancestral home of Biafra and has remained a major stage for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Today, Nnamdi Kanu's IPOB has publicly demanded that the upcoming November 18th elections be boycotted, a threat which has led to severe agitation.
As we approach the fated elections, we ask, "What makes Anambra State so puzzling?"
Few states have changed their Governor as frequently as Anambra. To be specific, there have been 7 administrations and 6 different civilian governors in 18 years. In fact, the off-cycle November election is a direct result of an electoral challenge in 2006 which disrupted its electoral cycle. In addition, Anambra bucks the trend when it comes to the power of incumbency, a difficult to explain situation as reliable data on voting patterns in constituencies is not readily available.
So why is this trend unique to Anambra? Are Anambrarians just not satisfied with the Government in place or are elections a cover for launching new political careers? The answer is unclear.
Even under military rule, three different parties at one point occupied the Government House in Awka. Between 1979 and 1992, the state governors were Jim Nwobodo (NPP), Christian Onoh (NPN) and Chukwuemeka Ezeife (SDP). Thus, it is not surprising that two parties have led Anambra in the democratic era.
The PDP thought they had a stronghold in Anambra State with consecutive tenures from 1999 to 2006. However, over the last eleven years, Anambra has been the flag-bearer of the All Progressive's Alliance (APGA) vision. Andy Uba (of PDP) being sworn in as the governor for 14 days in 2007, before being removed by a Supreme Court decision, is the only blot on APGA's dominance.
Politics Before Governance
The constant state of change in the state gives the impression that a new candidate is always knocking at the door. One could argue that the revolving-door nature of Anambra Government forces governors to perform. At the same time, politicians may feel less 'cheated' if they lose their positions because they view Anambra as a state that does not give a second-chance to non-performance. This portends many to see the state as truly democratic; a government by, for and of the people.
But digging deeper reveals more.
Politics may explain why the state turned from PDP to APGA. The troubles of the PDP were heightened by the poor performance of Governor Mbadinuju (1999-2003) and abduction of Governor Ngige in 2004. Furthermore, two names have been disruptive. The first, Peter Obi, then a political 'novice' provided a breath of fresh air in the early 2000's. The other, late Biafran leader Ojukwu, is prominently used in APGA electoral campaigns to connect with Igbo voters who still hold him in high esteem.
In addition, the state is known to be a seat of ‘godfatherism’. The Centre for Democracy and Development, in their report, point to a number of godfathers who have had a direct hand in the selection of candidates. Under Governor Mbadinuju, Emeka Ofor is alleged to have played the role of 'Godfather', and under Governor Chris Ngige, Chris Uba was the apparent figure. The re-election of Peter Obi in 2010 was apparently helped, in no small measure, by the overwhelming support of the late Igbo leader Ojukwu, while the rise of the present Governor Obiano is openly acknowledged to be the work of Peter Obi. Even the circumstances around Chris Ngige's ousting from the Government House in Awka of 2006 is traced back to the hand of a few 'father-figures'.
If these trends suggest anything, then the relationship between leaders and their godfathers, especially as they turn sour, provides a more compelling argument for the turnover of governors in the state.
The Old Meets the New
Today, Anambra faces a new existential crisis. IPOB threatens to disrupt the November 18th elections despite statements from security services and political stakeholders telling us not to worry. Such assurances do little to douse the tension when local police simultaneously complain about not having enough agents to cover the election.
While Anambra state has always had a complicated political structure, this new dynamic has the capacity to reshape the landscape. Over the years, as a political party which started in Anambra, APGA built up a relationship with the separatist leader Ojukwu. In fact, he was selected as their Presidential candidate in 2003. However, the new form of the Biafran movement under Nnamdi Kanu may prove tricky for the older political leaders to navigate. One of the biggest tasks ahead for the next Anambra Governor will be how to handle the IPOB issue, including addressing agitations for a referendum.
Some pieces of Anambra's puzzle box have again been dusted from the shelf of Nigerian politics and laid bare here. Finding and fixing the missing pieces will be the enviable job of the winner of the November 18 spectacle. The job is daunting.
In the meantime, all candidates must focus on campaigning, and keep an eye out for the likely court cases that tend to follow elections in Anambra.