How will Ekwueme’s absence affect Anambra’s elections?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

Dr Alex Ekwueme is, as a matter of fact, the most valuable living political personality of South Eastern Nigeria. His place in history as the first elected Vice President is assured, even if that tenure was cut short by a coup led by the man who has now approved his medical treatment abroad, President Muhammadu Buhari.

An elder statesman of intellectual and stately distinction, Ekwueme has been the de facto father figure in Anambra state since the demise of Dim Odimegwu Ojukwu. His views on issues affecting the state have a high degree of respectful assent with the people, even if it may not always lead to consent. His family is one rich in that sagely wisdom that appears scanty in the modern age. His brother, Igwe Prof Laz Ekwueme, the iconic choral conductor, also holds his own as a reference for proper direction on state affairs.

Come November 18, the Ekwuemes are hoping to have another one of theirs in Government. The Gubernatorial ticket of the People’s Democratic Party is held by Mr Oseloka Obaze, a former Secretary to the Anambra State Government under Governor Peter Obi, and Barr Chidi Ekwueme-Onyemelukwe. She is the daughter of the former Vice President and it is the belief of the party that the combination of the antecedents of Mr Obaze with the private sector expertise, supported by prestigious background, of his running mate will convince the Anambra people against other candidates. The incumbent, Willie Obiano, is also facing the challenge of the APC’s Tony Nwoye, UPP’s Osita Chidoka and Mr Godwin Ezeemo, the candidate for the Progressives Peoples Party, PPA.

The influence of former leaders and the radiance of their halos can be exaggerated. However, it is not unreasonable to have the feeling that Mr Obaze’s campaign has augmented the goodwill it enjoys, from the affiliation it bears with the Ekwueme family. More than having the backing of former Governor Obi (who shares the title of most admired former Governor with Donald Duke), the association with the respected former Vice President arguably gives the PDP’s flag-bearer some edge that is not enjoyed by the other candidates. Mr Chidoka, the former Aviation Minister and Corps Marshall of the Federation, is also reasonably esteemed for the Awka job, but he does not have the oracles that have queued in support of Mr Obaze.

With Dr Ekwueme set to be away from the country for an undefined period, it will be interesting to see how his absence influences the remaining weeks of the campaigns. The insinuations that the Presidency has booked him for an overseas medical trip as a way of getting into the hearts of the eastern region could be twisted in another way: how unsettling will the absence of the octogenarian father be for his campaigning daughter and her party, the main opposition at the federal level?

Will it be a spur that gathers momentum to victory or will it lead to a blur that punctuates the journey to the Promised Land?

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