It is breathtaking to watch the politics of Anambra, the shining star of the East. The other day, IGP Onovo invited the army of governorship aspirants and made them sign an undertaking to be of good behaviour in the election that will take place this weekend, 6 February 2009.

Of all Igbo states, Anambra has the greatest number of world-class intellectuals, produces a disproportionate number of Igbo professionals and senior federal civil servants, and boasts the greatest number of Igbo millionaires per square meter of land. Consequently the citizens of Anambra – academics, moneyed class, and commoners alike – are exceedingly proud of the fact that they are the cultural, political, and economic bastion of Igboland.

But Anambra is, alas, a state at war with itself. It is a land where money is lionized, far and above other virtues. Because it has abundance of intellectual and material juggernauts in almost equal measure, a war of supremacy has arisen between the two. This contest, between intellectualism and materialism, is largely fought on the political plane and is intense, fierce, and unending.

In the beginning, Anambrarians who elected to pursue money and wealth at the expense of education – mainly boys – ended up being the laughing stock of those who went to school, because their grammar and diction made them misfits in the larger Nigerian setting, and because they could be impoverished with a stroke of government policy. The situation of the unlettered class changed somewhat during the long years of military rule, when succeeding generals pitched camp with the Anambra moneyed class, and bred a group of powerful but unlettered billionaires who turned up their noses at the school types. Their reign was, however, severely threatened during the Shagari Administration, partly because an intellectual from Anambra became the Vice President, partly because inflation and world-wide economic recession entered the survival dictionary of nations and individuals, and partly because of politics. At any rate, it was during this time that the political trouble besetting Anambra today was reared.

The intellectual and material class staged a final battle over the soul of Anambra when President Ibrahim Babangida blew the whistle for party politics in 1987. In 1989 the moneyed class, as expected, pitched their tents with the National Republican Convention (NRC), while the intellectual class moved to the rival Social Democratic Party (SDP). Anambra would always vote the intellectual class, and knowing this, a subtle maneuver was launched by the moneyed class to also snatch the governorship ticket of the SDP.

One of the frontline contenders for the SDP governorship ticket was an interesting gentleman called Chief (Dr.) Okey Odunze. The intellectuals of Anambra were, however, not impressed with the lofty achievements of this candidate, who paraded a combination of formidable traditional and academic titles. It was sold to the public that Odunze was either a 419er himself or is being promoted as the front for the 419ers and drug barons, in line with their desire to take the state. To back up their claims, these disgruntled party members alleged, among other bizarre revelations, that Chief Odunze bagged his Ph.D long before he earned a primary school certificate!

Okey Odunze was not intimidated by the insinuations and blackmail of the little minds in his party. Neither were majority of his party members persuaded by the 419 and other allegations that were placed on the primaries voting table, to try to halt the hurricane of victory provoked by the Chief and his group. The first of the primaries was conducted and Chief Odunze, the barely literate moneybag, won handily.

There was consternation. Anambra being what it is, this primary was voided and a return match called. He won that too, with a wider margin. Anambra academics and federal civil servants were incensed and moved decisively to checkmate the series of embarrassing outcomes. But the Chief and his group were ready, and shut them up when he posted a most resounding victory at the third and final primaries.

There was agony and gnashing of teeth at the intellectuals camp. Money was apparently talking and its voice was heard clearly in the Anambra State branch of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). What made the situation so unacceptable to the intellectuals was that another Anambrarian, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, chair of the National Electoral Commission, had earlier told Nigerians that SDP, a government creation, would be “a little to the left,” meaning that it was the party of the intellectuals and their bedfellows, the labour movement. How could a moneybag highjack it in the state?

Chief Odunze’s run of political luck ended when the late, world-renowned economist, Dr. Pius Okigbo, allegedly rallied the Anambra intellectual class and retired policy makers to prevail on President Babangida to cancel the Anambra primaries “fraud”, and ban Chief (Dr.) Odunze. As soon as IBB allegedly gave the nod, Prof. Nwosu immediately added Chief Odunze to the list of old politicians that government removed from the contest, and gleefully announced his immediate ban on national television. It was a spectacle to behold. The SDP primaries introduced Nigerians to a formidable Anambra State political juggernaut called Chief (Dr.) Okey Odunze. But from the lips of Prof. Nwosu on NTA (when he announced the ban), we heard that his full names were Mister Raymond Okechukwu Odunze.

Chief Odunze, a dogged fighter, moved on. We heard that, after this political setback, prompted by his lack of sufficient education, he learnt what every Anambra trader now knows – that for one to really arrive, one is required to parade an authentic academic certificate, in addition to one’s impressive certificates of bank deposit. We hear that he subsequently went to London to obtain a bachelor degree, and later crowned it with an authentic master degree in political science from the University of Lagos! But by then it was too late – his rising political star was irredeemably dimmed by the intellectuals. An authentic academic, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Harvard-trained and retired federal permanent secretary, became the beneficiary of his misfortune and ruled Anambra for a short while, before June 12 befell us and destroyed the fledgling democracy.

Since the Odunze debacle of 1989, the political war between the intellectuals and the moneybags has continued to rage in Anambra.

Another governorship contest is in the offing and many political pundits are claiming that it would be a straight fight between three intellectuals: incumbent Anambra Governor Peter Obi, his predecessor, Chris Ngige, and another former “Governor” Charles Chukwuma Soludo. Among the pundits is former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the man who benefited from Odunze’s political waterloo. Okwadike (that’s Ezeife’s title) says that no matter what happens, Anambra State would have an intellectual servant-ruler come February 2010. What he is saying in essence is that the intellectual camp, once again, has the upper hand, and that the moneybags would have to wait for another day?

Dr. Andy Uba, the Labour Party candidate, and Chief (Dr.) Okey Odunze have something in common. Uba, the former senior special assistant on Presidential Household Matters to ex-President Obasanjo, has powerful backing. Despite the hues and cries of Anambra intellectuals in 2006, he was able to bulldoze through the PDP primaries, sweep the governorship contest organized by INEC, and was sworn in as Governor of Anambra State in May 2007.

But Anambra being what it is, it was no surprise that the intellectual camp, once again, rallied public opinion against Uba, and made a compelling case for his ouster by the Supreme Court. Like Odunze before him, Chief (Dr.) Andy Uba, you will recall, was also accused of being a fraud. Among the many bizarre allegations against him was that he got a Ph.D long before he got a secondary school certificate! Like Odunze before him, he was not intimidated by the antics of the little minds, and has continued to roll over everyone like the political bulldozer that he is.

Dr. Pius Okigbo is now late, and that leaves former Vice President Alex Ekwume to lead the charge and apply the Anambra Solution in order to oust Uba permanently from the PDP, and from the leadership of Anambra. Ekwueme has apparently made his choice, in the person of Prof. Soludo, and appears to have thrown a spanner in works for Ngige, the popular candidate who belongs to a “wrong” party, as well as the struggling but able incumbent.

Are we back to 1988, when a formidable intellectual and technocrat benefitted from the Odunze misfortune through the application of the Anambra Solution? In the February 2010 contest, Andy Uba has refused to be intimidated out, but has rather resurfaced in another party, where he is, once again, staking a claim to leadership of the state. Will an intellectual and policy wonk give him a solid and final defeat, or will Chief (Dr.) Andy Uba be the one that gives the intellectual camp reason to rethink their Anambra Solution, which they have hitherto successfully applied whenever anyone they consider an unlettered moneybag stakes a claim to the leadership?

It is breathtaking to watch the politics of Anambra, the shining star of the East.