POLITICIANS interested in standing in the forthcoming 2021 Anambra State gubernatorial elections have turned the Onitsha market into a virtual campaign ground using it as a rostrum upon which to announce their governorship ambitions.
On October 16, a petrol tanker caught fire in Onitsha and in the ensuing inferno, hundreds of innocent people were either killed, made homeless or left without any means of livelihood. Onitsha market is the largest commercial centre in Africa based on geographical size and volume of goods and the average trader in the area is known to bring in at least six consignments of 40 tonnes containers of goods annually.
Following the tragedy, many politicians have turned the burnt Ochanja market into a possible source of votes, with many of them either making promises to the affected traders, or issuing statements blaming the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (Apga) for the crisis. Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State is a member of Apga and many of his political opponents have said his government is responsible for the fire outbreak.
Over the last week, youths who stormed the market in large numbers, turned the area into political carnival of sort for the politicians. Among politicians that have either visited the market or reacted through press statements were former governor of the state and vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Peter Obi, Labour minister Chris Ngige and Senator Uche Ekwunife representing Anambra Central, who is believed to be nursing governorship ambitions.
Other possible candidates who have visited the scene include Dr Obiorah Okonkwo, Senator Alphonsus Igbeke, Senator Stella Oduah Dr Tony Nwoye and Chief George Muoghalu, the director-general of the National Inland Waterways Development Authority, who is also rumoured to be nursing governorship ambition for 2021. Apart from Dr Okonkwo who promised to donate an ambulance to the market and gave some money to patients still receiving treatment in the hospital, others who visited promised to assist the traders one way or another.
During their visits, they toured the burnt area with the victims practically dragging them to see the extent of their losses in their individual shops. Some of the traders even made special arrangements for the visit and used the occasion to castigate the state government for, according to them, not equipping the Anambra State Fire Service properly, to the delight of the visiting politicians.
Don Adinuba, the Anambra State commissioner for information and public enlightenment, said it was immoral for politicians seeking to contest the 2021 governorship election to exploit the people’s misfortune. According to the commissioner, is unfair to subject the people of Anambra State to another round of electioneering campaign now.
He added: “These politicians are not interested in helping Anambra people find out why three tankers laden with petrol fell in three different places in the state within 24 hours. Nor are they interested in helping to find a solution to the frequent collapse of petrol tankers in the state, which has cost precious human lives and destroyed assets worth billions of naira.
“These elements should borrow a leaf from Governor Obiano who, in a move to make the state fire service more effective and efficient in its operations like quenching early enough fires from fallen petrol tankers, has decided, subject to approval by the state legislature, to remove the state fire service from the stranglehold of civil service bureaucracy and make it autonomous. This is the way to go.”