2023 Senatorial Race in Anambra: Umeh, Ekwunife, Oduah, Ubah, Azubogu, Others in a Race of Their Lives

Alphonsus Nweze

The Anambra State political gladiators like their counterparts in other parts of the country have filed out for the 2023 legislative contests.
Since the Governorship slot will not be in contention in the state in 2023, the key contest in the State will revolve around National Assembly election on February and State Assembly election on March 2023 respectively.
Key political figures in the State who have indicated their interest in the race and satisfied the conditions set out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the poll have been high on strategy on how to win the election.

The race in each of the three Senatorial zone of the State is by every indication likely to be very tight given the calibre of the candidates. The emergence of former Governor of the State, Mr.Peter Obi, as the Labour Party Presidential candidate has even worsened the situation for some of the candidates as most electorate might be influenced by Obi’s candidature in their voting pattern as they did in 2019 when Obi ran with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as his running mate.

Candidates of Labour Party might attract undue sympathy in this election because of Obi. Some of the electorate might even vote based on ignorance or bandwagon effect, since the National Assembly election is taking place on the same day with the presidential election.

This makes the job of other candidates more difficult and complex as they have to devout extra resources and time to explain and convince the voters on how to cast their votes for them after they might have voted Obi. This is because it is expected that most people from the State, indeed South East would cast their votes for Obi during the election on February 25, 2022.
But the quality of each of the candidates and their closeness to the people will speak for them in this election as some of the voters will make extra efforts to sift Obi from their preferred Senatorial candidates in casting their votes.

In Anambra Central Senatorial zone, Senator Victor Umeh, former National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and now Labour Party candidate will slug it out with the incumbent Senator, Iyom Uche Ekwunife of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Dozie Nwankwo, who is the current House of Representatives member.

He beat Umeh during the primary to emerge the APGA candidate and of course, there is the All Progressives Congress (APC), candidate, Chief Okelekwe.

In Anambra North Senatorial zone, the incumbent Senator, Stella Odua will square it up against the Labour Party candidate, and former House of Representatives member, Tony Nwoye and of course the APGA candidate, Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, popularly called Osodieme, the immediate past First Lady of the State.

The battle is even stiffer in Anambra South Senatorial zone where the incumbent Senator, Ifeanyi Ubah of Young People’s Party (YPP) will slug it out with APGA Senatorial candidate, Hon. Chris Azubogu better known as “Mr project” due to his penchant to attract projects to his constituents of Nnewi North, Nnewi South and Ekwusigo Federal Constituency, the PDP candidate, Chief Chris Uba and APC candidate, Umeoji.

The Anambra Central Senatorial zone battle would be a three-pronged one that would be keenly contested by Chief Umeh, Ekwunife and Nwankwo.

In 2019 election , Ekwunife carried the day against Umeh, ostensibly because of Obi who was the running mate of Atiku Abubakar, the PDP flagbearer.
The bandwagon effect of voting for Obi who is from Central, many believe gave Ekwunife that victory over Umeh who was the APGA candidate then.
This time the situation has turned around as Obi is the presidential candidate of Labour Party and Umeh who was technically edged out in APGA is now the Labour Party Senatorial candidate. Many are of the opinion that this time around the bandwagon voting will favour Umeh who has his own large chunk of supporters too.

But Ekwunife is said to be a grass root politician and mobiliser who is in touch with her supporters at every point in time. She would put every arsenal available to her at work in this contest to win this election. She will do everything to make her supporters distinguish between PDP and Labour when casting their votes. This is however technical and difficult issue in an environment like ours, where many voters are not known to be highly educated and sophisticated in election matters.

Nwankwo, the APGA candidate is not a push over in the race as he is believed to posses financial war chest to prosecute the battle. He also has his own supporters having been in the game far back since 1999 too. He is not a neophyte in the game. He knows the tricks too. These therefore, coupled with the traditional APGA supporters who will not let their party down during the election, can make Nwankwo turn the table against other contenders.But this entails a lot of work, if he must beat the too old war horses: Umeh and Ekwunife, in the game.

In the South, the battle is between the two brothers from Nnewi, Ubah of YPP and Azubogu of APGA. The happenstance has heightened the tension and intensity of the contest. Both politicians have unique strenghts and advantages. Ubah, the incumbent is a huge campaign spender, who can sway the support of critical stakeholders and voters to himself. Azubogu on his part has been representing the Federal Constituency for about 12 years and now wants to upgrade to Senate. The massive constituency projects he attracted to his constituency and even beyond has earned him the sobriquet, “Mr. Project”. No doubt the voters of the Federal Constituency who in one way or the other might have benefited from Azubogu projects and empowerment initiatives would want to reward him by voting him. This might also earn him more support in other parts of the Senatorial zone who would want to extend his effective representation to them in the upper chamber.

But Chris Uba of PDP who is contesting in the seat is also not a push over. He and Umeoji of APC who are from Aguata Local Government Area of the State will scramble for votes in the Local Government and the adjoining Orumba North and South Local Government Areas of the State that make up the Senatorial zone.

However, Uba will no doubt have upper hand as APC is not a popular party in this part of the country, rather the contender want to use it to bargain for a position at federal level if they retains the presidency.

But the battle here is a straight one between YPP and APGA candidates. Labour candidate in the Senatorial zone seems not to be popular and not engaging in a serious campaign to emerge victorious in the election.

Another hot zone is the Anambra North where the incmbent Senator, Princess Stella Odua, PDP is being hotly challenged by no less persons than the former First Lady of the State, Mrs Obiano, APGA and the current House of Respresentatives candidate, Tony Nwoye of Labour Party. If you like call it the battle of Amazons, the fact is that Odua and Osodieme have deep pockets to prosecute this electoral war. Odua as the incumbent has done a lot of projects including roads and empowerments among others to convince the electorate to cast their votes for her. She is known to be ruthless campaigner as she always embarked on massive and extensive campaign, which his aides assured she will reenact once again. It may still work for her, although some of her supporters have accused her of “use and dump” and claim to have left her for other candidates.

Osodieme, sources said, is not taking her campaign for senate lightly, although she is a new entrant in the game. But she is believed to have more than enough resources to carry out the battle. The APGA grassroot support will be also be available to help work hard to deliver her. Mrs. Obiano no doubt need to work hard to convince the people of Senatorial zone to vote her because she is not popular among the people. Many Anambra people believe her husband did not do enough and she was part of the reason he did no do well. Osodieme needs to work extra hard to disabuse this rather erroneous impression.

Another strong contenders in the North is Tony Nwoye, an old war horse, having been a student union leader, chairman of PDP in Anambra State and a member of House of Representatives. Nwoye is poised to give both Odua and Osodieme the run for their money in this election but how strong his machinery and support base across the Senatorial zone to achieve this feat will soon be seen with the commencement of the campaigns.
The strengths, weaknesses and chances of the candidates would be better appreciated as electioneering progresses in intensity in the next few months to come

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