Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
That the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to regain control of the Anambra State Government House in the 2021 governorship poll in the state, is not in doubt. Ahead of the predictably tough election, the PDP is one party that many are watching out for to give a good fight in the race.
For the party, it is a familiar terrain as it produced the first governor of the state at the inception of the present democratic dispensation. Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju who ran on the platform of the PDP, won the governorship seat in the 1999 general elections.
However, the political fortunes of the opposition party nose-dived in March 2006, after the Appeal Court, Enugu Division, nullified the election of Senator Chris Ngige as the governor and declared Mr Peter Obi as winner of the disputed 2003 governorship poll in the state.
Obi had contested the 2003 governorship election in the state on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance ( APGA), while Ngige, who is presently the Minister of Labour and Employment and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was the PDP gubernatorial candidate in Anambra State in the 2003 general elections.
Since then, it has been a tale of woes for the opposition party as several factors truncated its every move to control political power in the state. Though the PDP has always made a strong showing in the National Assembly elections, the much coveted governorship seat has eluded it in three election cycles.
Regardless, in the run-up to the next governorship poll, the PDP is not leaving anything to chance in its quest to regain control of the Anambra State Government House, as it has started addressing some of the issues that have militated against it in recent gubernatorial polls in the state.
Last week, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) ruled out zoning of the party’s gubernatorial ticket, stating that the contest for its standard bearer in the 2021 Anambra governorship poll will be thrown open to all qualified members of the party in the state.
The opposition party, which declared that the days of “merchandising” with its platform were over, said its major concern was to produce a credible candidate that will win the governorship seat.
The PDP went a step further to address the issue of the leadership of its Anambra State chapter by recognising Sir Ndubuisi Nwobu as the authentic chairman.
Consequently, the PDP directed all persons, who have opened parallel party secretariats to close them immediately and join hands with the Nwobu -led executive in building the party ahead of the next polls. It also directed all party chieftains to withdraw all pending cases in court on the leadership of the party in the state immediately and warned that it will not hesitate to impose sanction, if they fail to comply with the directive.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who conveyed the NWC decision at a press briefing at the party’s national secretariat, Wadata Plaza, in Abuja, said the opposition party’s national leadership at its meeting last week adopted all the resolutions of its zonal working committee in the South East, at its meeting on July 3, in respect to the Anambra PDP.
Ologbondiyan warned that the party would not hesitate to sanction any of its members, who continue to foment trouble in Anambra State and goes against the directive of the PDP national secretariat.
The PDP National Secretary, Umaru Tsuari in a letter addressed to the party’s national vice chairman for South East, Deacon Austin Umahi had noted that “the National Working Committee (NWC) in her 502nd session of Wednesday, August 12, 2020 resolved to uphold he decision of the South East Zonal Working Committee of July 3, 2020.
The South East PDP had in the July 3 meeting reiterated that the party will not zone its 2021 governorship ticket. Nevertheless, it assured all the gubernatorial aspirants in the state that there would be a level playing field and a transparent primary that will produce its candidate in the forthcoming poll.
A communique issued at the end of the meeting read in part “The Zonal Working Committee of our Party states in very clear terms its resolve to ensure that our party wins the 2021 governorship election in Anambra State.
“That the PDP in Anambra State remains one united family under the leadership of Hon Sir Ndubisi Nwobu, and that the secretariat of the party at No 1 Dr Ezidiegwu Road, Udoka Housing Estate is the only secretariat known to the party as well as Zonal Working Committee, which remains open to all party faithfuls.
“That we seize this opportunity to call on all fifth columnists within the party to toe the part of honour and join their paymasters in other parties, as we shall be prepared to enforce all disciplinary processes to smoke them out. The days of merchandizing with Anambra PDP is over and done with because we are determined to take the party to winning side.
“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 a most transparent primary.
“We call on all party faithful, as a demonstration of loyalty to the party, to withdraw forthwith all matters in the court, and avail themselves of internal conflict resolution mechanism, as we assure them that all complaints shall be adequately attended to timeously by the South East zonal leadership.”
Analysts say last weekend’s declaration underscores the opposition party’s preparation for the Anambra gubernatorial elections. Pundits say by the steps it has taken so far, the PDP has sent a strong message about its desire to decisively tackle the issues that have worked against its successes in recent governorship polls in the state.
In recent times, the bane of the PDP in Anambra had been the factionalisation of the party structure across different levels in the state. The implication is that the party oftentimes has gone to the governorship election with a divided House and the result has always been the failure; it has always suffered in the gubernatorial contest since 2010.
For instance, struggle for party structure in the Anambra PDP during the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial polls in the state is perceived to have seriously militated against the opposition party as most of its leaders worked at cross purposes during the two elections. The inability of party leaders to work together at the 2017 Anambra gubernatorial poll.
Therefore, the pronouncement of the party on the leadership of the Anambra chapter, will help to prevent unnecessary disputation about the party structure in the run-up to the gubernatorial polls, as was always the case. Also, the riot act to would-be trouble makers is also perceived as a step in the right direction.
However, pundits say there is need for the PDP’s NWC to be firm in its resolve to deal with recalcitrant members and be ready to match words with action, when it comes to enforcing discipline in its Anambra chapter.
The lack of political will by the party’s leadership, in the past, to rein riotous chieftains, who resort to court actions at the slightest opportunity, has weighed heavily against the PDP in Anambra State in the past.
Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Austin Umahi, says it will be a different kettle of fish henceforth.. According to him, “on the issue of litigation, we said it clearly that anyone that deviates from the decision of the National Working Committee is going to be sanctioned because we must have to instill discipline for this party to move forward.”
There is no doubt that the stakes will be very high in Anambra 2021 gubernatorial poll. While APGA, which is the ruling party in the state is working round the clock to retain the governorship, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is making frantic efforts to gain a foothold in the state.
Therefore, analysts say for the PDP, the most important strategic thing to do is to field a credible candidate, who will win the governorship poll, irrespective of the zone, he or she comes from.
Party sources said it is in a bid to boost it’s chances in the next Anambra gubernatorial poll, that the PDP NWC endorsed the decision of the South East chapter of the party to throw the contest for its governorship ticket open to all qualified aspirants, so as to ensure that the best candidate emerges.
The PDP national vice chairman for the South East, in response to a question on the zoning of the gubernatorial ticket, had told our correspondent: “I don’t know the zoning arrangement, you are talking about. But we are determined that a credible candidate emerges, with a free and fair primary, because the most important thing is to occupy the Government House. “
Regardless, a school of thought says in as much as the PDP has decided to throw the contest for its governorship ticket open, it must be wary of serial defectors, within its fold.
This school of thought argues that for the PDP to make headway in the next Anambra gubernatorial contest, in addition to shopping for a credible candidate, the party must look out for one with a track record of unflinching loyalty to the party and broadbased support and acceptability across the length and breadth of the state.