Anambra 2021: PDP’s rowdy race to primary election

If there is anything the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wants to prove to Nigerians, it is that the party still remains the preferred choice of the people of the Southeast zone. The party intends to win the Anambra governorship election in November to clear all doubts.

however, a look at developments in the recent past indicates a serious question mark on the PDP’s claim of zonal dominance. The party had sprinted ahead by winning elections in the five states at the 1999 general elections. That victory gave it unassailable edge over others in the zone.

Six years later, however, it lost the Anambra State governorship seat to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but controlled the other four states of Abia, Imo, Enugu, and Ebonyi. APGA has controlled Anambra since then.

Over time, the party began to lose grip of the zone. This is because a lot happened to challenge that claim and threaten its hold. While savouring its victory in the 2019 general elections that returned Imo State to it, little did it know that the joy would be short-lived. A pronouncement by the Supreme Court a year ago shattered the victory dance, as it pulled the rug off the party’s feet and bestowed the state on the All Progressives Congress (APC).

As if that was not enough, towards the end of last year, another major blow was dealt the party when Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, dumped it and pitched his tent with the APC. It was a development the PDP never anticipated as it made mincemeat of its calculations in the zone. Now the PDP is rethinking its strategies on how to keep the remaining two states of Abia and Enugu at least till the 2023 general elections, as well as add Anambra State to its fold to retain its zonal dominance once again.
 
Two quick moves officials of the party made in Anambra on December 11, 2020, and January 5, 2021, after Umahi left indicated that the PDP is on fire and would spare no effort to ensure it restored the state to its fold.

Leading one of the programmes tagged ‘Youth Summit’ for the Southeast zone in the state capital, Awka, last December, which he promised to replicate in other zones across the country, the party’s National Chairman, Mr. Uche Secondus, told the gathering that the party was ready to hand over its structure to Nigerian youths to provide leadership.

Accompanied by the party’s BoT Chairman, Mr. Walid Jibril, Enugu State governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, Senate Minority leader, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, among others, Secondus insisted that the party remained the number one choice for anyone aspiring for a better future, stressing that the APC had failed the country.

Secondus told the packed audience that the party would continue to dominate the political space despite certain challenges that came it’s way, stressing that PDP remains the hope of the common person.

“This is the platform where your aspirations will not be truncated,” he said. “Southeast is PDP and PDP is Southeast and we will demonstrate that by picking the Anambra governorship seat in 2021.”

A Zonal Working Committee meeting followed the youth summit also in the state on January 5, 2021. The party’s National Vice Chairman, Chief Ali Odefa, reaffirmed the desire of the PDP to return to Anambra Government House via the 2021 governorship election as a sign of the party’s dominance in the zone.
 
According to him; “We will demonstrate that Southeast is PDP by taking Anambra in 2021. See the number of National Assembly members we have in Anambra. How come we are unable to win the governorship seat? That is the mathematics we will solve very soon.”

Odefa, who expressed satisfaction with the progress of PDP in Anambra, promised that the zonal leadership would ensure that the primary election produced the best and most popular candidate. He advised the “money bag” aspirants to deploy their money in lobbying delegates “and not try to bribe any leader of the party,” noting that money would not play any role.
 
He said: “Anambra PDP has all it takes to win the governorship election and the aspirants are equally capable and qualified. Under my watch, we shall have a free, fair, and transparent primary where the popular candidate will emerge and others will support him. My mission is to produce a PDP governor in Anambra.”

Odefa said the party remains strong in the Southeast and ruled out the possibility of any other PDP governor defecting to another party.

PDP still a beautiful bride?
THE party appears to be the preferred destination for those angling to become governor in the state. Checks by The Guardian revealed a long list of politicians who have indicated interest to run. The story is not the same with the APC and APGA.
 
A list obtained by our correspondent shows such names as Chris Azubuogu, Ugochukwu Okeke, Chuma Nzeribe, Obiora Okonkwo, Ike Oluigbo, Emeka Etiaba, Harry Oranezi, and Obinwuda Ohaegbu. Others are Ifedi Ogbonna, Uche Ekwunife, Val Ozigbo, Goddy Maduka, Godwin Ezimo, Westin Ude, and Walter Okeke have indicated interest to run on the PDP platform.
 
Sources said the entry of these bigwigs in the 2021 governorship race has raised the political ante of the state. A cursory look at the list shows that aspirants of the PDP dwarf aspirants of other political parties. It is also presenting the PDP as the party to beat in the coming election, with its members upbeat that 2021 offers the best chance for the party.

Checks show that so far all the aspirants mainly come from two senatorial districts – the South and Central, a development that may be difficult for any other party to successfully challenge in a free and fair election should the party manage its affairs well, especially at the primary.

The party’s vice-presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections, Mr. Obi, has called on all aspirants to stop competing against one another. He urged them to see the ruling APGA as their common opponent. He said the aspirants should shun social media hype and get to work by going to the villages to meet the electorate and make a commitment on what they intend to do if elected. He called on the party leadership to design programmes for a tour of communities in the state.

Odefa also insisted that the level of interests being shown by aspirants on the PDP platform clearly signposts the acceptability of the party, stressing that Anambra people are tired of other political parties, including the ruling APGA.

He said in an interview: “I am convinced 100 per cent. Anambra people are tired and fed up with the ruling APGA. They are fed up with the lackluster performance of the government of APGA in Anambra State. Nothing is working. So, the people are fed up. They are looking to make things better in Anambra State. So, I am 100 per cent assured that with all the things we have lined up, we will definitely win the governorship come 2021 election.

“We are not unmindful of the fact that the PDP has been away from the Government House for about 16 years or thereabout. We are not undermining that fact. Therefore, it is a catalyst that is propelling us to work even harder. At the meeting I organised earlier, I told the stakeholders that we have a lot of work to do to secure the governorship of Anambra State. We know that Anambra people are favourably disposed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and that’s why this time we want to do everything possible, starting from providing level playing field for all the aspirants to contest and then letting the most popular person emerge as our candidate. I will not tell you all what we have been doing, all our strategies. It is not for public consumption, but I can tell you that there are strategies that have been lined up to ensure that we capture the seat of governorship in the state.”
 
Odefa had admitted that the party’s efforts at winning elections in the past in Anambra had been marred by the outcomes of primaries, whereby aspirants who lost joined other parties to sabotage the PDP, as revenge tactics. He, however, stressed that the party would overcome that ugly scenario this year.

“The era when people are muzzled out and tickets or candidacy given to a favoured candidate is over,’ he said. “That’s what leads to other aspirants either defecting to other parties or sabotaging the party out of anger and annoyance. That is ill-treatment. So, all these things we have put into consideration, and we have put mechanisms in place to check them. And I can assure you, they will never happen again; not under my watch.” 

Zoning still an issue
PERHAPS, the way aspirants on the party platform have emerged clearly shows that PDP may apply zoning in deciding where the pendulum would swing in the November election. As it is, aspirants have emerged from the Central and South Senatorial Districts, leaving the North without a candidate. Governor Willy Obiano is from the North.
 
Whether zoning should apply or not has become a challenge for party leaders. Certain stakeholders have said consistently that since Peter Obi came from Anambra Central and the incumbent is from Anambra North, it would be fair to allow Anambra South to produce the next governor.
 
A party chieftain, Obinna Okafor, told The Guardian that zoning would reduce acrimony and infuse a sense of belonging among members. He stressed that a party like the PDP that is the bride of many politicians in Anambra would not thrive well if zoning was not respected.

Okafor, who hails from Anambra North, cited states like Enugu where zoning has worked as a case study. He explained that the PDP had erupted anytime there was an election “because everybody wants to run and be considered as the best candidate.”

He insisted that there is a binding agreement on governorship rotation in the state, which was popularized under the administration of Peter Obi. He said it was that ideology that fueled the campaign for power to be shifted to the North after Obi.

The party’s former National Vice Chairman, Mr. Austin Umahi, had his ego bruised when he insisted a few months before leaving office that the party would throw “the contest for its governorship ticket open for any qualified Anambrarian.

“However, for the avoidance of doubt, our position as a zone is very clear: we remain firm and resolute on our ultimate interest to win the Anambra State gubernatorial election 2021 with the best candidate provided he or she is an Anambarian. We maintain that our candidate in the election could come from any part of the state. The PDP cannot be blackmailed into adopting APGA or APC zoning arrangement in Anambra State.”

A source, however, confided in The Guardian that efforts were on to tackle the challenge, stressing that “the national leadership has put up an inquiry into this matter and has been able to arrive at the fact that there is zoning in Anambra State. So, we await the implementation such that it would not cause disaffection and, in the long run, undermine the party.”

The source added: “It was an effort to address this challenge that the stakeholders’ meeting was called a few weeks ago. There, we resolved to withdraw all contending issues from the courts and hand them over to the zonal executive for resolution. We will embark on interpersonal visits to the key stakeholders and aspirants, so that we all can see this election not as ‘a do or die’ affair, but something that should further strengthen the party.

“It’s a litmus test for the true acceptance of the PDP in Anambra State. This is because we will be challenging a party that has held power for 16 years and planning to continue. If that party has a good scorecard, our people will re-elect it, but if not, then another party that will serve their interest better will step in.”

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