Strategies for 2021 governorship election in Anambra state are gathering momentum as political parties gear up for the forthcoming election.
Last week Saturday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its 8th stakeholders meeting in Awka with a call for aspirants to begin subtle campaign so as not to allow a dull moment in the party.
Expectations are high and those who are familiar with politicking in Anambra State are watching with keen interest to see what comes from the 2021 governorship election. This is because, the two major political parties, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which is the ruling party and the PDP, are in somewhat role reversal. While the PDP has all along been known as a party that was almost impossible to manage, APGA, on the contrary, managed to control its internal squabbles successfully. But these roles seem to be on the reverse this time.
Since the assumption of office of Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, former Awka South Council chairman as well as former state chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the PDP fortunes seem to be on the upward swing. This was attested to last Saturday at the PDP’s stakeholders meeting.
Party members who attended the meeting testified that for the first time, candidates emerged from the party’s primary election without any ambiguity. Former aspirants in the party had lamented how they were excluded in the past and yet in the end, they never got party nomination.
Former Senatorial candidate of the party in the 2015 election, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo lamented how he and his colleagues were fleeced during the party primaries. To make the matter worse, Okonkwo continued, “when I thought that the matter was over, I was asked to cough out N35 million before I would be given the ticket.” Another the party stalwarts, Chief Okey Muo-Aroh said, “Our tragedy had been that some people sit in their house and extort money from others at a very high cost. If we have made a resolution to go to the Government House, which we are original occupants, we must not sit down and let others feed us.”
On the role of Abuja politicians in such cases, Muo-Aroh urged the party “to look them in the face and tell them that we are not a trading ground.”
A former governorship candidate of the party, Oseloka Obaze, who also attended the meeting, said the party must give Nwobu credit for holding the PDP together, maintaining that when he joined the PDP many years ago, there were factions.
While addressing Nwobu, he said: “You promised free and fair primary election and you did it. Local government chairmen held forth when it was necessary. We won’t take members who stuck to PDP for granted.”
Nwobu in his address titled: “Repositioning For Power and Good Governance”, praised the party for doing well in the state in the last general elections. The party, according to him, won two senate seats, six House of Representatives seats and six state assembly seats with the hope of getting more from the election petition tribunals.
He acknowledged that shortly after assuming power as chairman of the party, there was a storm before the party primaries but the party was able to weather it. Most importantly, Nwobu continued, “There was no incidence of an aspirant being defrauded or fleeced of his or her hard earned resources. Although there were certain instances of manipulation, outside the state, I am certain that those who engaged in same must come to terms with the fact that fraudulent practices shall never be rewarded with success.”
Nwobu took the party leaders down memory lane on the strength of PDP in Anambra State before now, saying, “at least, the starting point of the current democratic process in 1998/1999, the party won the five states in the South East. In Anambra state, he recalled, the party won massively with 18 chairmen in the 21 local councils of the state, 10 House of Representatives seats, three senatorial seats and 29 out of the 30 seats in the House of Assembly. That feat was repeated in 2003 until Mr. Peter Obi who he described as a ‘Game Changer’, contested the governorship election on the platform of APGA and ousted the Governor who was elected on the platform of the party.
Nwobu said the task of the party now is to come together, united as a body to reposition the party. “With the galaxy of eminent and distinguished personalities in the party, this shall surely be accomplished,” he stated.
Virtually, all the attendees of the meeting hammered on unity and praised Nwobu for a job well done and they all expressed their readiness to go, just as hey vowed to reclaim Anambra and make the state a PDP state.
However, the contrast is that while PDP is dropping its old habit of crises and fleecing of aspirants during party primaries, APGA seemed eager to inherit that. The party’s primary election in 2018 prior to the election drew a lot of criticisms from aspirants. The party’s primary election and the numerous allegations of sleaze by the party leaders seemed to be putting the party on edge.
Some members of the party from Imo State described the party “as the ATM with which Anambra people duped their brothers in Igbo Land.” Apart from Imo State, Anambra witnessed its own rumble in the primary elections. A notable case was the senatorial primary of Anambra South Senatorial District in which Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah and Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu slugged it out. That primary election was so turbulent that many days after, it was not clear who actually clinched the ticket. The outcome, when the result was announced further divided the party and created enemies within.
For instance, since then, stalwarts like Ambassador Ojukwu became a major critic of the party and in a back page of a national newspaper some months ago, she launched a tirade on the national chairman in which she prayed the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Governor Willie Obiano to ensure that the national officers, especially Oye did not return when the party held its national convention on May 31, 2019.
Initially, allegations that the party leadership swindled aspirants to various elective positions were denied.
Special Adviser to Governor Obiano, Ifeatu Obi-Okoye claimed that during reconciliation committee meetings called to calm frayed nerves, nobody came up with any allegation against the chairman, Chief Victor Ike Oye.
In an interview with Daily Independent, he said: “I remember we called on people to come up with evidence of certain allegation but nobody did. But people prefer to sponsor blackmail in the social media. Nobody, not one person can say authoritatively, or came up with any proof of those things your hear in the social media. I am not holding brief for the national chairman but with all that noise, I expect people to come up with clear proof but it didn’t happen and I think it is time the big stick of the party is wielded to put the party in check.”
Oye, on his part, defended his role in the party’s primaries saying: “I have not deliberately offended anybody in the course of my duty as the national chairman of this great party. During our primaries in 2019, I didn’t send anybody out to do untoward things for me. I sent them to go and do good jobs for our party and bring me results. If anybody went there to do any dirty thing, it was his integrity that he destroyed not mine nor that of the party.”
However, when the dust appear to be settling, former national chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh unleashed a barrage of criticism on Oye and suggested that he steps down “because if he remains in power till the next election, nobody will trust his leadership.”
Umeh made his position known through social media links, where he wrote: “I, Senator Victor Umeh, I am the oldest member of APGA in Nigeria today, from 2002 till today, I’ve been in this party. I have a very huge stake in the party, in the sense that, I with my colleagues in leadership nurtured this party out of the turbulent times and established it firmly in Nigeria as a very popular political party.
“It is clearly obvious to all party members that in October 2018, when we had our primaries, party people complained across the South East, that they were not treated well. I saw some of those things but in the spirit of being an eldest in the party, I didn’t want to join the public fray to bring the party to a greater ridicule.
“I had intended that with time we would be able to take care of our challenges and that time was when we wanted to elect managers of the party.
“I felt that the party needed a change in the leadership, and I try to see that it was done but I was not listened to. I had to say so because everybody in Nigeria will always come to me to ask me questions about APGA, and when people started complaining bitterly, I asked them to give me evidence of what they have to show that certain things that were wrongly done affected them and documents were sent to me,” Umeh said.