By Valentine Ayika
For every human action, whether positive or negative, there is a corresponding consequence. As the consultations by aspirants of Anambra’s most dominant political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), gains momentum, the nature of the race begins to take shape. The people’s favourite aspirants emerge, the least popular also become evident. As aspirants are given their natural positions in the race – based on acceptance, visibility, and popularity, those who feel rejected by the party’s delegates and the grassroots become agitated. The feelers from the public space indicate that they are doing poorly in the race, and at the same time, the top contenders are gaining grounds, building momentum towards the primary.
Frustration is building up among aspirants who are tailing in the race. This frustration will lead to a desperation that will culminate in negative acts of name-calling, casting of aspersions on leading aspirants, and mudslinging. This is the reality of March 2021 as it concerns the race for the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP. Stakeholders, local government, and ward executives with whom the aspirants are interfacing will confirm that desperation and frustration are now directing some aspirants’ conduct and speeches.
Many Nigerians have become accustomed to viewing Anambra from a prism of a politically vibrant, violent and brutal state. So it is expected that an aspirant for the state’s governorship would be a tough-talking, overly aggressive, antagonistic, anything-goes, do-or-die kind of person. Indeed, some of the aspirants vying for the coveted seat fit this mould. There is a need for circumspection, however. We must interrogate our beliefs and bring some consciousness to politics. Is violence in our politics necessary? Must we continue the behaviours of our past? Can’t we chart a new path? After all, this is the 21st Century; the brain is superior to brawn. There’s a new class of citizens who eschew violence and embrace decency.
Isn’t it possible for a decent, soft-spoken, civil, easy-going, down to earth aspirant to be given a chance to lead? These are the qualities that Valentine Ozigbo, a globally celebrated Nigerian CEO and business mogul, brings to the game. Suffice it to say that if he wins the PDP ticket, it signals a change for the better for the PDP and Anambra politics at large.
All PDP’s stakeholders and party executives at all levels can attest to the fact that Valentine Ozigbo does not indulge in name-calling of any kind. He does not criticise, run-down, or malign his fellow aspirants. In a media briefing in January 2021, a journalist asked him, “Are you not too gentle, too civilised, and too peaceful for Anambra politics?” This question sums up the way and manner Val is perceived. With his graceful disposition, gentle mannerism, soft-spoken nature, and his choice of compassion and community over hatred and antagonism is Valentine Ozigbo fit for the party’s ticket?
Before answering the question, let us consider the implication of the ugly developments and state of affairs where members of the PDP family, brothers and sisters of the same state, in the quest for the party’s nomination, would say unprintable things about their fellow aspirants. Making false statements, denigrating other aspirants, and maligning their colleagues is now commonplace. Those who do these things appear to forget that they will need their fellow aspirants, in one way or another, to win the general election, that is, if they end up clinching the party’s ticket. A wise man makes a friend before he needs the friend and keeps a friend he knows he will need in the future. The answer is that it is a pointer in the direction that, if nothing meaningful and urgent is done to mitigate the division, suspicion, and hatred among the aspirants, then it would be difficult if not impossible to build the highly needed consensus by the party to approach the general election under one united front. The urgent question, therefore, is: Who will bell the cat?
The national leadership of the PDP, the Anambra Board of Trustee members and His Excellency Mr Peter Obi, the party leader in the state, should intervene and admonish the aspirants to apply the brakes to the hostile, destructive, and disuniting act of discussing persons rather than issues.
There is sufficient evidence for me to conclude that Anambrarians, including you, reading this, want civility over rudeness, calmness over violence, discussion of issues over persons, and orderliness over arbitrariness. We, the people of Anambra State, are not interested in who can criticise others for a whole day; instead, we are interested in who can tell us how our lives and properties will be secured, how jobs will be created for our teeming youth, how our hospitals will be equipped to care for our people, how our children will be given free and quality education, how our roads will be made motorable, among other responsibilities of government. These are the things Valentine Ozigbo talks about when he meets with the party faithful. No wonder he is currently the leading aspirant for the Agu Awka race under the PDP platform.
It isn’t easy to learn new things in adulthood. Valentine Ozigbo was raised by a disciplinarian mother and his catechist and headmaster father. He was not nurtured along the path of violence, falsehood, or hooliganism. His upbringing was founded on the noble virtues of fair competition with clear rules of engagements, respect, and love for others. This upbringing formed the habit of excellence, which earned him excellent results in his academic and career lives. He was taught from the cradle that ideas, not brawn, rule the world. Disappointment awaits those who may be expecting Val Ozigbo to jump into the fray of name-calling and telling of lies against others or to start responding to the lies against him. Such time may never come as there are so many topical issues about the state to be discussed.
Mr Ozigbo has gone on record several times, espousing his ideology and approach to politics. He has spoken of the need for politicking with respect. In his own words published in ‘The Guardian’ in June 2020, “In charting a path to the governorship, I intend to play in the arena of ideas for good governance, for growth, and for giving back to our people. I intend to articulate my policy prescriptions for meaningful and sustainable change. And I entirely reject the approach of making undeliverable promises and wild accusations against my opponents.”
He has repeatedly called for love among the aspirants and has taken practical steps to demonstrate it. He has equally appealed for unity in the party and respect for the party’s leadership at all levels. Publicly and privately, Val has said that the leader of the party in Anambra State, HE Peter Obi and other leaders should be accorded their due respect and recognition. He has also repeatedly appealed to them to collaborate and synergise with each other so that the party gets on one page and becomes a united family. His unalloyed position is that all party members, irrespective of rank and designation, are valuable, and their opinions count. Thus, he calls for carrying everyone along and building consensus across the board.
And I ask again, is he fit to fly the PDP flag with his background and disposition to life? What do the Anambra people want of their next governor?
Barrister Ayika is the Director of Strategy and Media of the VCO Campaign Organisation