ANAMBRA 2025: SOLUDO FACES TOUGH HURDLES AHEAD SECOND TERM BID
There are several factors that will constitute opposition against Anambra State governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo’s quest to be returned by Anambra people for a second term as election holds later in 2025.
Soludo has been governor of Anambra for less than two years, but opposition parties and politicians have started showing interest in taking his seat.
Soludo has yet to declare his intention to contest for a second term, even though it is a privilege that is within his right, and many believe he will not turn it down. The general belief is that he will seek reelection.
Despite being an incumbent, which is known to be an advantage to anyone holding the position, it is believed that Soludo will face a very tough battle in his quest for reelection.
This is not only because he occupies an exalted position which many envy, or because Anambra has severally been described as an “A” list state, which parades men and women whose brains are bursting with ideas, or pockets fully loaded with cash made from private enterprise, but because elections generally are battles.
Part of the hurdles will be as a result of miscalculations that the governor has made, which has brought him enemies. This means that besides individuals who have interests and political parties that exist to win elections, there are also institutions that ordinarily should remain neutral, who may likely take sides because they have been offended, or feel offended by the governor, one way or the other.
Religious politics has remained dominant in Anambra, and this plays a major role in who becomes governor of the state. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the church in Anambra has played roles in the emergence of governors.
And in this, the Catholic Church has always had an upper hand. Save for Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju who was elected in 1999, every other governor of the state has either been a Catholic or Anglican.
These two have remained the dominant religious bodies in the state, and they are not unaware of their own powers, and they deploy it to make kings, even if it meant preaching politics from the very sacred altar of Christ.
Soludo the incumbent was himself elected on the basis of his being a Catholic, and it was not by mistake that he chose an Anglican, Dr Onyekachi Ibezim as his running mate.
But recently, Governor Chukwuma Soludo had a spat with priests of Catholic Church when he openly, in the presence of Bishops and Archbishops chastised a priest, Rev Fr Emmanuel Obimma, the Spiritual Director of Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, Uke, during the burial of his mother. Soludo had recently begun championing the enforcement of a law which regulates ostentatious displays of wealth during burials.
The governor had himself buried his father in December, in strict adherence to the law. But in the case of Mrs Obimma, his sons, who are wealthy, chose to give her what they called a befitting burial.
This drew the anger of the governor who was at the ceremony. He chastised Rev Fr Emmanuel Obimma and his brother, Charles Obimma for such a show of opulence in a burial.
Charles, a former lawmaker, was in the Anambra House of Assembly when the law against such displays during burials was passed, and Soludo was said not to have spared anything in chastising him for breaking a law he contributed to making. He was also said to have come hard at Fr Obimma, and by extension the Catholic Church by showing his disappointment at a priest involved in such disrespect for the law.
This was said to have irked the Archbishop of Onitsha Archdiocese, Valerian Okeke, who took the microphone and thoroughly rebuked the governor for involving in petty matters and disregarding the main issues of governance.
Though the matter had been managed amicably, it is still believed that Soludo’s temerity to speak to priests in such matters may not be something to go away so easily. If the Catholic Church which Soludo is also a part of decides to fight him, his chances of survival may be slim.
Recent fight with monarchs
The traditional institution is another institution that may pose a challenge to Soludo in the election.
He recently had a running battle with some traditional rulers, which also led to the suspension of some of them. The issue had been the conferment of chieftaincy title on Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.
Ubah was conferred with the chieftaincy title of Odenjinji by the traditional ruler of Neni Community, Igwe Damian Ezeani. He was, however, suspended by the state government for doing so without obtaining the approval of the traditional ruler of Nnewi Kingdom, where Ifeanyi Ubah hails from.
A press release by the State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Hon Tony Collins Nwabunwanne, suspending Igwe Damian Ezeani, supported its action with a section of the Anambra State Traditional Ruler Law.
The action generated a lot of dust, with many condemning the Soludo government for such action. This had led to the monarch, and all others who conferred titles on Ubah within the Christmas period, tendering apologies, with some even withdrawing the titles.
In what looked like drawing a battle between the traditional institution and the governor, the chairman of Anambra State Traditional Ruler Council, and Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe wrote the commissioner, backing the monarchs.
He condemned the action of the state government, and accused Soludo of thoroughly belittling the traditional institution in the state.
Achebe reminded the state government that a stipend of N170,000 which he pays monthly to all monarchs is not enough reason for him to denigrate them that much or see them as his boys.
He reminded him that the traditional rulers were accomplished personalities in many fields before taking up the traditional stools of their communities, and should not be looked at as errand boys.
This may have sparked a war that is believed to have been managed perfectly by the state government, as Governor Soludo in a visit to the meeting of the traditional rulers recently dissolved the Achebe-led council, citing that it was improperly constituted.
As properly as this has been managed, it is believed that the election of 2025 will present an opportunity for the monarchs to draw a pound of flesh from the governor too, when he will be needing them and their subjects to cast their votes for him.
2023 Obidient’ wave force
No doubt, the goodwill and support enjoyed by the former governor of the state and presidential candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 election, Mr Peter Obi is one factor that may play a key role in challenging Prof Soludo in the next election.
Obi would like to stamp his feet as the symbol of new democracy in Nigeria by trying to install a Labour Party governor in his home state, Anambra, to make a huge statement for future political endeavours.
Besides these, through his popularity in the last presidential election, Obi has gathered for himself top politicians in Anambra State from across the three senatorial zones of the state as disciples, most of whom benefited immensely by winning political positions in that election.
These men include Senator Victor Umeh, Senator Tony Nwoye who are sitting senators, and many other current members of the House of Representatives.
Umeh, the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District is a grassroot politician, who had been in All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) all through his political career, until Soludo came along and edged him out.
He was edged out of APGA in 2023 by forces believed to be propelled by Soludo.
The forces oscillated between Uche Ekwunife of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Dozie Nwankwo of APGA. Nwankwo won the APGA primary election against Umeh. But Umeh who later picked the LP Senatorial ticket for the race floored both Dozie Nwankwo and Uche Ekwunife in the contest. The 2025 governorship contest will undoubtedly present an opportunity for him to pay Soludo back.
Senator Tony Nwoye on the other hand is also a strong politician from the Northern senatorial zone of the state. He has been described as a one-man riot squad.
He has, however, been touted to have interest in running for governorship, using the Labour Party platform, even though he hails from the northern senatorial zone, where the immediate past governor, Chief Willie Obiano hails from.
But on the whole, many are of the opinion that the party may stick to Valentine Ozigbo, the candidate of the party in the 2021 election, and a close ally of Mr Peter Obi to prosecute the election.
Ifeanyi Ubah and his APC goons
Since billionaire oil mogul and senator representing Anambra South senatorial zone, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), there have been palpable tension among the membership of APGA.
Previously, Anambra people have never given APC a chance. It became even worse during the tenure of outgone president, Muhammad Buhari. In the rural parts of Anambra State, many rural people refer to APC as a Fulani party, and the brazen attitude of herders during the administration of Buhari even heightened the hatred for the party.
With Tinubu now in charge, the hatred is dying down, and more Anambra sons have embraced the party. Beyond that, the likes of Ifeanyi Ubah have begun a campaign to make the state see political parties as mere vehicles used by politicians to arrive at political offices.
This has started to soften the mind of the people towards the party. Ubah, a known grassroot politician, who equally has deep pockets had in a recent interview revealed his interest in the election.
He is also touted to be attempting to oust Soludo by pairing up with another popular politician and grassroot mobilizer, Senator Uche Ekwunife as running mate.This has sent jitters up the spine of the ruling party, and may probably be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to Soludo’s reelection if fielded by the APC.