Anambra 2021: The Battle This Time

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By March 2022, when Governor Willie Obiano will be leaving office after eight years in power, it will be 16 years that the Peoples Democratic Party has been out of power in Anambra State. But, what will the battle for the soul of the state look like next year? David-Chyddy Eleke asks

Members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State take pride in referring to the state as a traditional PDP state. What they mean by this is that the party remains the most dominant party in the state, and even though it is not currently in power, both at the state and federal levels, it still controls a large chunk of the people of the state, including some of the state’s biggest politicians.

Apart from this, the PDP in the state believes that even though it has been out of power for a very long time, it still influenced the victories that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) enjoyed in all the governorship elections conducted since after the 2003 election, in which its candidate, Dr. Chris Ngige emerged as the governor.

Internal rancor and disagreement over choice of candidates have remained its problem in previous elections, leading to some of its members working for the victory of other parties and their candidates as payback, and costing the PDP victory.

But as 2021 draws near for another election, the party under Mr. Ndubuisi Nwobu has promised to lead her to victory. To ensure that a repeat of the outcome of the previous elections does not occur, Nwobu and members of his state working committee are now working endlessly to dot the Ts and cross the Is. Nwobu at a meeting of members of the PDP at the state party secretariat said already, early signs have shown that the party is headed to victory.

Even at that, there is a foreseeable cog in the wheel of the intended victory of the party, following an old meeting of members of the party, including aspirants, who argued on the need to zone the governorship position to the southern senatorial zone. But Nwobu, speaking at the meeting, said those who met did so on their own behest, and not at the party’s.

He said the party had all along not discussed the zoning of the governorship position to any zone as it negates the constitutional right of those who seek to contest the position. Though he alluded to a meeting of some members of the party, who were seeking to pressure the party into zoning the governorship position to the south, however stated that the party had not discussed it.

“At no time has the state leadership of the party deliberated on zoning in Anambra State. You are conversant with the clear mandate of the party that only the party in the state can say if there is zoning or not.

“We have members of BOT (board of trustees) in Anambra, we have two senators, seven House of Representatives members and six state House of Assembly members. Even the overall leader of the party in the state, Mr. Peter Obi and the former governorship candidate of the party, Mr. Oseloka Obaze and his deputy, Chidi Onyemelukwe, are all there. So, it is not a decision a few people in the state will just meet and agree on, without the others.

“It will be completely out of place for us to say we have zoned the governorship. In every political party, there is a pressure group and you cannot stop people from such agitations. The people who met have no one on the state leadership. If there will be zoning, the party will take that decision, not for people to come and say so after a meeting without the party making input. They said for themselves, and may I also tell you that it is the constitutional right of the people to contest, so you cannot use zoning to shut some people out of their legitimate rights,” he said.

On the chances of the party to win the 2021 governorship election, Nwobu said, “Our party is adequately positioned to reclaim power in Anambra. It is our appeal that all hands should be on deck to achieve the same. Today, among those, who have indicated interest to run for governor under our platform are distinguished men and women with proven track records of excellence and academic attainments.

“They understand the problem of our state and will hit the ground running if elected into office. We wish to assure each and every one of them that we, working in synergy with our national leadership, will conduct a very transparent, free and fair party primary, from the processes to the final determination of a candidate for our great party. Our destination come 2021 is Agu-Awka Government House.”

To underscore the recent strength of the party, Nwobu also stated that the party has become viable again for political office seekers, such that so far, 12 governorship aspirants have already notified their intention to contest for the ticket of the party for the 2021 governorship election.

In a separate forum with journalists in Awka, Anambra State capital, Nwobu listed members of the party, who have notified their intention to run for its ticket for the 2021 governorship election to include Harry Oranezi, Ifedi Okwenna, Emeka Azubogu, Valentine Ozigbo and Godwin Maduka. Others are Uche Ekwunife, Obiora Okonkwo, Ike Oligbo, Emeka Etiaba, Godwin Ezeemo, Chuma Nzeribe and Ugochukwu Okeke.

Part of the strategy to ensure cohesion in the party, Nwobu also revealed, is a free and fair primary election, devoid of interferences from political bigwigs and godfathers. He said only a free and fair primary would quell the agitations that have always trailed governorship contests in the party, saying if the right candidate emerges, other aspirants would realise the need to give their support.

“We have promised a level playing field for all the aspirants. Part of the assurance the aspirants have gotten from the party as commitment to holding a transparent primary election is that each of the aspirants, who have made their intention known already has been given a list of the statutory delegates to the primary election.

“We have given delegates’ lists to all persons, who are running for the position of Anambra governor on our platform. This has never happened before. We are bent on ensuring that the right person, who is elected by the people, wins the ticket of the party for the election.

My name has been associated with a lot of aspirants, but truth is that I cannot do much.

“The aspirants should go to the field and convince our party men. They already know who the delegates to the primary election are. Before now, the list is only produced a day or two to the election, and usually compiled to favour one person or the other. But in this executive, we want to be fair to all.

“This executive does not have a pay master and we do not pander to the whims and caprices of any pay master. That is why we do not have money to do some of the things we should do in this party, because money bags, who usually throw money about are not comfortable with us, because we are not ready to do their bidding,” he said.

Political analyst also believe that with members of the PDP in the state, the party has the might, both financially and numerically to take the state, but have always said its problem stems from disunity, which usually arises from the choice of candidate of the party in the run up to a governorship election.

In 2010, the choice of Professor Chukwuma Soludo, who had freshly left the Central Bank of Nigeria as its governor, as against Hon Tony Nwoye, led to the failure of the party as Nwoye, his supporters and other aspirants, who were dumped by the party for Soludo decided to work against the party.

In 2014, the party fielded Hon Tony Nwoye as its candidate after a protracted battle. The choice of Nwoye did not go down well with some other aspirants, who felt that the National Working Committee of the party simply handed Nwoye the ticket without considering their opinion.
That decision cost the party the election as Chief Willie Obiano won the election (with the help of the incumbent governor Peter Obi, who also cashed in on the trouble in the PDP to woo some of its prominent members).

In 2017, the party settled for Mr. Oseloka Obaze, a diplomat and former secretary to Anambra State Government under Peter Obi. Members of the party worked against him on the premise that Obi, who had moved into PDP with his supporters singlehandedly imposed Obaze on them without their consent. They believed Obaze was too young in the party to fly its flag above other old members.

As 2021 draws near, THISDAY gathered that PDP is taking note of some of the factors that have led to its failure in the past, and is working hard to make amendments on those areas. Last weekend, the party held a reception in honour of the state party chairman, Nwobu. As if to show that the amendments being made in the party was working, all members of the party, including leaders and aspirants thronged the venue.
Unlike other events, where prominent members of the party avoided events once they learnt that some others that they were not friends with were coming, last weekend’s event even turned out different as all attended.

Leaders and governorship aspirants of the party at the event, who spoke acknowledged that only unity could guarantee the party’s victory in the forthcoming election, while also expressing satisfaction with the attendance. Nwobu did not also mince words, when he told the party that only unity could help it win the forthcoming governorship election.

“I have received tremendous support from our leaders. This reception will spur me to put in the best, but the biggest honour will be when we get the governorship seat of this state, and it is highly achievable if we all work together.

“I promise you that the process to the emergence of candidate shall be free and fair, and I urge you all that anyone who emerges should be supported by all. Our journey to the Government House starts now, and from here,” he said.