Anambra 2021: Faces, Charisma and inside tackles of top contenders for PDP’s flag

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Ahead of the forthcoming Governorship Election in Anambra State, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, reports that there is growing concern as stakeholders in the state’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) worry over the emergence of a generally acceptable candidate amidst the contending issues like zoning

AS the 2021 Governorship Election in Anambra State draws closer, the battle to fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has become even more intense. Aside the fact that most of the aspirants on the ticket of the party have been described by some analysts as ‘heavyweights,’ insiders said even the large number of aspirants on the platform has become a source of worry to concerned observers.

As at September 2020, the State Chairman of the party, Mr. Ndubuisi Nwobu, confirmed that at least 12 members of the party have given notice of their intention to contest for the ticket of the party for the 2021 governorship election.

Nwobu, who spoke at an interactive session with journalists in Awka, Anambra State’s capital, also identified some of the issues that may play up but assured all that the leadership of PDP in the state was ready for the election. As he puts it: “We have given delegates’ lists to all persons that will run for governor in Anambra State 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.

As at that day, over two months ago, Nwobu also listed aspirants that have shown interest in the party’s ticket for the 2021 governorship election to include Senator Uche Ekwunife, Mr. Obiora Okonkwo, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, Mr. Harry Oranezi, Mr. Ifedi Okwenna, Mr. Emeka Azubogu, Mr. Godwin Maduka; Mr. Ike Oligbo, Mr. Emeka Etiaba, Mr. Chuma Nzeribe and Mr. Ugochukwu Okeke.

Our sources learnt that the list may have increased following behind-the-scene negotiations involving some top politicians interested in the position who preferred to clear the zoning issues before coming out in the public. “The list may not have ended. I know at least two other influential aspirants currently consulting, especially because they are afraid the zoning debate may not favour them. When you hear some analysts saying repeatedly that zoning in Anambra State is not cast on iron, some of those speakers are merely testing public opinion on behalf of their aspirants. No one would be surprised if we record last minute entrants in the race for PDP ticket,” said our source.
CONTENDING ISSUES

Internal rancour and PDP’s bid to regain power

Though the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost power in Anambra State about 16 years ago and has remained out of power in the state since then, political commentators have always felt free to describe the state as a traditional PDP state, notwithstanding that since the party lost power in the state, All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) has been in power.

The Southeast state has been so described mainly because PDP has remained quite visible or even dominant in the state. Currently, it may not boast of producing the governor of the state or the commissioners, but it is common knowledge that a large number of the most influential politicians from the state are still PDP members.

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

A source revealed that the party’s influence in the state is so much that even opponents of PDP in the state agree that its greatest enemy have remained internal rancour and disagreement over choice of its candidates. “So, given that the big aspirants in PDP will never agree on one candidate, no one would be surprised if the party again loses to either APC or APGA,” he said.

The source, an aide to one of the top governorship aspirants in the state, concluded that “PDP’s current urge to regain the power it lost in Anambra, 16 years ago, will depend, to a very large extent, on its ability to conduct a generally acceptable primary election from where a generally acceptable candidate would emerge. If you know the people, the powerful aspirants I am talking about, and their political history, you will agree with me that this would be a difficult task,” he said.

Our investigation confirms that members of PDP in the state have what it takes to dominate the political scene. The challenge however has always been the disunity that usually arises from the choice of candidate of the party in the run-up to a governorship election. This has always impacted negatively on PDP in the state as the gladiators usually fight against each other, leaving the opponent to grab the political prize.

It would be recalled that in 2010, the sudden choice of Professor Chukwuma Soludo, who just left the Central Bank of Nigeria as its governor, as against Hon Tony Nwoye, who had campaigned extensively, led to the failure of the party as Nwoye’s supporters and other aspirants, who were dumped by the party for Soludo decided to work against the party. Of course, PDP lost the coveted governorship election to APGA.

Though the party fielded Hon Tony Nwoye as its candidate after a protracted battle in 2014, the choice of Nwoye did not also go down well with some other aspirants, who felt that the National Working Committee of the party then simply handed the ticket to Nwoye without considering their interests.

Again, this internal disagreement cost the party the election as Willie Obiano of APGA won.

Even the party’s choice in 2017, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, a diplomat and former Secretary to Anambra State Government under Peter Obi, was also a victim of internal rancour. It is alleged that some members of the party, who believed that Peter Obi, who had then joined PDP, singlehandedly imposed him, worked against him.

So it remains to be seen how far the current leadership of PDP in the state would go in convincing the various interest groups in the party to line up behind a candidate.
Zoning debate

Also, all students of Anambra politics contend today that zoning is one issue that may tear PDP and even the state apart if it is not handled properly ahead of the 2021 elections. This is because many believe that the power rotation in the state among the three senatorial zones helped to stabilise the polity and made it less rancorous. But today, while the people of Anambra South Senatorial District are calling on politicians and other stakeholders to respect zoning arrangement in the state, others from Anambra Central and even Anambra North are preaching open contest for all the zones.

Those calling for zoning say Anambra Central has dominated the governorship of the state. It would be recalled that while Anambra South ruled the state through Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju from 1999 to 2003; Dr. Chris Ngige ruled the state for three years before Mr. Peter Obi recovered his mandate through the courts and ruled the state for eight years. After Obi’s tenure, Anambra North, through Willie Obiano, took over. Obiano is in the second term, totaling eight years.

Responding to fears expressed by many over the likely effect on PDP’s fortunes if it fails to zone the plum seat to Anambra South, the party’s state chairman, Nwobu, recently identified free and fair primary election as the secret remedy. He said “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.

In a more recent meeting, Nwobu also expressed confidence in his executive to get it right when he said: “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.”

His assurances notwithstanding, many observers doubt if PDP top politicians have learnt enough lessons to work as a family. Given that APGA, as the ruling party must have gained more strength and given that All Progressives Congress (APC) has received more boosts in the Southeast zone, most observers say PDP may again lose the prize to any of the two, except its rich and powerful aspirants agree to field and support a candidate. Who such a candidate would be remains to be seen.