From Magnus Eze, Enugu
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the national and zonal to the Anambra chapter are upbeat that the party would emerge victorious in the November 6 governorship election in the state.
National Organising Secretary of the party, Austin Akobundu, recently assured the 16 governorship aspirants of the party in Anambra that the PDP will organise a free, fair and credible governorship primary election that would produce a candidate that could win the main election.
On his part, National Vice Chairman, South East, Chief Ali Odefa while addressing the 13th stakeholders’ session of the party in Awka had appealed to aggrieved members who were still having cases in court to withdraw them in the interest of peace and harmonious coexistence, noting that no party can succeed in the general elections with a divided house.
Odefa was categorical on the tendency of the party winning the governorship seat when he declared that: “Anambra is fully a PDP State. With two Senators and six House of Representatives members from the state, you will know that Anambra is a PDP state.
“If we work hard, we will be in the Government House next year. I am very confident about this. It is simple. We want to bring transparency in the primary election processes. The process must be free and fair. We know that if the process is transparent; contestants will not work against the party during the election.”
Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP in the last general elections and former Anambra Governor, Peter Obi who also addressed the session, said the party shall face the forthcoming election as one indivisible entity and come out of it with a resounding victory.
He enjoined the aspirants to go into the field and convince the electorate for their votes instead of fighting among themselves.
“None of you aspirants is contesting elections against each other; the man you are contesting against is Willie Obiano. You must do all to go out and canvass for votes,” Obi stated.
The former governor continued with the same message during his recent tour of the 21 LGAs in the state and advised party faithful to “look for someone with the capacity to win an election. Please use your brain to assess all the aspirants before you cast your votes. Think deep well and think about who can win an election and not somebody who will just give you money.”
Before this period, the National Working Committee (NWC) of PDP had declared that its ultimate goal was to win Anambra; therefore, zoning was not on its card in the governorship race.
National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodinyan in a press conference at the National Secretariat, Wadata House, Abuja, on August 14, 2020, after the 502nd meeting of the NWC, said the party had taken a decision on the issue and there was no going back on it.
According to him, the NWC had adopted all resolutions of the South East Zonal Working Committee meeting of the party on July 3, 2020, in Enugu, thereby burying the issue of zoning in Anambra PDP.
Part of the July 3, 2020 resolution reads: “While reiterating that the PDP is not zoning the governorship, we wish to commend all the gubernatorial aspirants of our party in Anambra State, for their matured politicking. We bring them the assurances of our National Chairman of a level playing field and the conduct of most transparent primaries.”
Several PDP leaders have also continued to advise that the party’s priority at this period should be to reclaim the Anambra governorship seat which it lost to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) about 16 years ago.
They insist that this would only be possible if the PDP produced a capable candidate that will win the election for it.
One of such leaders is former Secretary to Anambra State Government and governorship candidate of the party in 2017, Oseloka Obaze. In an interview with newsmen in Awka, he dismissed the idea of zoning the PDP governorship in Anambra, saying “As far as I know, PDP is not into zoning.”
He said the party needed credible and competent politicians from the three senatorial districts of Anambra who could govern the state well, if elected.
“What PDP requires to win the 2021 governorship election in Anambra is to produce a good candidate that will enjoy popular acceptance and support rather than yielding to zoning appeal,” he said.
The Public Policy and Governance expert said PDP should not blow its chance in the election on the altar of zoning.
“What PDP needs is to put its best foot forward in order to wrestle power from the ruling party.
“For PDP to succeed, it must present its best candidate and a united front, the zone from which the candidate emerges notwithstanding.
“The risk we face is the possible polarisation and fracturing of the party over the so-called zoning arrangements.
“If I recall correctly, since 1999, PDP aspirants from the three Senatorial zones have always competed for the governorship ticket, it happened in 2013 and again 2017, so I don’t think it will be any different in 2021.”
However, Obaze has foretold an inherent danger that would manifest, “if the South decides to allow their zone to scuttle the chances of a PDP candidate who is not from that zone, were that to happen, the PDP will remain in the doghouse and in opposition for another four years and perhaps, beyond.”
The issue of zoning of the Anambra governorship seat has been recurrent for aspirants from the Southern zone of the state. It followed the zoning of its slot by APGA to the Southern District of the state since the outgoing governor, Willie Obiano hails from Anambra North.
Many have argued that zoning of the governorship seat was purely an APGA thing, since it was initiated by Obi during his tenure as governor on the platform of APGA. The argument remains that the PDP had not for once contemplated zoning the seat in Anambra as one of the party chieftains quipped that “you can’t give what you don’t have. We can only zone when we have won the governorship seat.”
Meanwhile, the 12 aspirants from the Southern part of the state met on April 20, 2021, and resolved to push for the PDP ticket to be zoned to them.
According to them, their position was hinged on the provisions of Article 7(2) (c) of the PDP Constitution which provides for the principle of zoning in the party, to ensure equity, fairness and natural justice.
They also cited what they called the prevailing zoning principles existing and being practiced currently in Anambra State governorship elections.
Their communique, which took about a month for all of them to endorse stated: “We the undersigned hereby demand that the zoning principle be applied in the nomination and selection of the PDP candidate in the upcoming PDP Governorship primaries in Anambra State.
“By the said principle of zoning, the governorship of Anambra State shall devolve to the Anambra South (having regard to the fact that Central has governed for eleven years, North eight years and South less than four years and six months).
“All members of this forum do undertake to support any one of them from the South who emerges through a credible process as the party’s flag bearer after the June 26 PDP primary election.”
Those who signed the document were Walter Okeke, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna; Mrs. Chidi Onyemelukwe, Godwin Ezeemo, Chris Azubogu, Val Ozigbo, Dr. Godwin Maduka, Dr. Winston Udeh and Chief Johnny Maduafokwa.
Others include Sen. Ugochukwu Ubah, Chief Chuma Nzeribe and Emeka Etiaba, SAN.
The other four aspirants from Central and Northern zones who are majorly leading contenders are Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Sen. Uche Ekwunife, Hon. Tony Nwoye and Mrs Genevieve Ekwochi.
Prior to meeting of Southern aspirants, Azubogu, Onyemelukwe and Etiaba, had met and agreed to work together to ensure that a Nnewi indigene clinched the PDP ticket.
Azubogu who spoke on the meeting of Nnewi aspirants said: “We have capable aspirants from Nnewi; two men and one woman. Each of us is more than qualified to rule Anambra State as governor. But we must not dwell on the euphoria of our credibility and qualifications, and lose out.
“Our common goal is to ensure that one of us picks the ticket. When that happens, others will cue in, and make sure that PDP wins the general election.”
Etiaba had boasted that Nnewi cannot afford to miss this opportunity of producing next Anambra governor, noting that “previous governors of this state were made by Nnewi people. Go to the records. This time, we want to make it for ourselves.”
Daily Sun gathered that the Anambra South meeting had excluded Sen. Ekwunife who hails from the zone but married to Anambra Central. The situation has infuriated the senator who vowed to use all at her disposal to shame them.
For her, the issue of zoning cannot hold waters. It was learnt that she boasted that she would not be a quota governor but one elected on merit principally due to her proven competence.
Dispassionate commentators have wondered why aspirants from the South were pushing for zoning; an issue that had long been settled by the party.
“Nobody forced them into the wrestling ring. So, why do they want some persons disqualified? If you are talking about zoning, you can’t zone in isolation; have we zoned other positions in the state? Unless they are saying that there should be zoning for confusion,” one of the local government executives of the party said in Awka.
One other snag to the demand of the Southern aspirants is that some of them are seen as political merchants and jobbers whose stock in trade is to use the governorship contest for transaction. In fact, a few of them are reportedly being funded by the so-called godfathers while some others may have borrowed money for the purchase of the nomination forms from other serious contenders across party lines.
Informed sources said that these people are merely grandstanding and also looking out to executing their ultimate motive of merchandising.
For them, it is all about holding political opinion for consideration and to the highest bidder.
However, another school of thought welcomed the ingenuity of the aspirants from the South in reaching a decision to work together. That being the case, the thinking is that they should have also resolved among themselves to get a particular aspirant and support the person to face aspirants from other zones instead of muddling the waters with their divisive demand for zoning.
Meanwhile, one of the aspirants from the South was reported to have recently engaged 40 social media influencers to resurrect the zoning sentiment and keep it alive till the June 26 PDP governorship primary election.