The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has begun deft moves to recover the governorship seat in Anambra State. On January 4, 2021 the new national vice-chairman in South East zone, Chief Ali Odefa, presided over a retreat between the members of the zonal working committee and leaders of the state where they mapped out various strategies to ensure that the party emerges victorious in the upcoming Anambra state gubernatorial poll.
In attendance were formidable forces within the party who command strong followership not only within the party but across the state on issues bordering on the political leadership of the area. Some of the people in this category are former governor of the state and vice-presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 general election, Mr. Peter Obi, Senator Ben Obi, Senator Joy Emordi, former Minister of Education Prof. ABC Nwosu, running mate to Mr. Oseloka Obaze, PDP’s governorship candidate during the last gubernatorial election in the state, Lady Chidi Onyemelukwe and, the chairman of the PDP in the state, Sir Ndubuisi Nwobu, among others. Obaze, a retired senior United Nations official and former secretary to the Anambra State government according to sources was absent on grounds of ill-health.
Others present at the meeting included PDP executive members in the state, all the local government areas and 326 wards in Anambra state. Except two of the aspirants for the party’s governorship ticket, the rest were present. The two aspirants who did not attend were the American-based Godwin Maduka and popular philanthropist-cum-industrialist, Mr. Gowin Ezeemo. Their supporters were however present.
Among the contestants for the party’s governorship ticket who attended were incumbent senator representing Anambra Central, Senator Uche Ekwunife; ex- Transcorp boss, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo; former Commissioner for Environment, Chief Ifedi Okwenna; member representing Nnewi-North/Nnewi-South/ Ekwusigo federal constituency, Hon. Chris Emeka Azubuogu, Chief Johnny Maduaforkwa, Ike Oligbo, Ugochukwu Okeke and Chief Wilson Udeh.
The deliberations at the meeting centred essentially on the strategies to ensure that the PDP wrestles back the state Government House.
The PDP had lost the governorship seat since the 2003 general election. Though its candidate in that election, current Labour and Employment Minister, Senator Chris Ngige, was governor for about three years after that poll, he was eventually sacked by the court which declared the candidate of the APGA, Mr. Peter Obi, as the actual winner of the governorship election. Obi was consequently sworn in as governor on March 17, 2006.
Though the PDP had since then sustained a record of high popularity in the state’s politics, especially in national elections by always winning majority of the state’s seats in the National Assembly and also recording impressive victories in elections into the state House of Assembly, it had not been able to recover the governorship seat from APGA.
APGA had always been the highest beneficiary of the intra-party squabbles and divisions within the PDP during the governorship elections since 2003.
It was obviously the knowledge of the situation that accounted for the joy expressed at the retreat by Senator Ben Obi when in his brief remarks he stated that PDP’s chances of winning the coming governorship election was bright since Peter Obi is now a member of the PDP.
“We are particularly luckier now because the game changer in Anambra governorship contest is now with us. He has the magic wand”, he said.
Obi in the last general election was indeed nemesis of the PDP in Anambra when he was APGA governor for eight consecutive years before he crossed over to the PDP. He was forced out of APGA by forces within the party who were uncomfortable that his presence might hinder their chances under the incumbent Chief Willie Obiano administration.
As part of the strategies to wrestle the governorship seat from APGA, Obi during the retreat advised all the aspirants for the PDP’s ticket to see the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano and APGA as their common opponents in the election. Rather than concentrating their resources on getting the PDP ticket to contest in the governorship poll, Obi urged them to direct their resources to shoring up the popularity of the PDP among the people of the state, especially at the grassroots to ensure that whoever emerges the candidate would win the governorship election.
He even counselled the aspirants to stop seeing one another as opponents, but to joins forces in campaigning to ensure that the PDP wins. He told them that if at the end of the day the PDP loses the poll, all their individual resources committed into the election would go down the drain unlike what would be their individual fates if the party is victorious through any of them.
Obi advised the aspirants to stop spending money on those who are going to be delegates at the primaries and leaders of the party.
“Go and prepare your manifestoes and go to the people at the grassroots and explain to them what you will do to develop the state, how to fix their roads, how to fix the education sector, health, what you are going to do to improve their welfare when you are elected.
“Only one person among you will become the candidate. So, it will become a wasted efforts and time for all of you and every member of our party if the PDP fails to win the election. Those who will cast votes for you to become governor are mostly women, and they are in the villages, go to them and mobilize them to support PDP.
“Stop attending funeral ceremonies and social activities, go to the villages, in the markets, stop campaigning on social media because majority of those who will cast their votes during the governorship election do not even have phones, they don’t surf the internet.
“I have contested elections three times in this state, so I have the experience. PDP has the potential to rule this state, but having potentials is meaningless until it can be translated into willing elections”, Obi advised the PDP stalwarts at the meeting.
He further advised the executive of the party to embark on massive mobilization of support from the grassroots. He charged the PDP leaders to ensure that it has at least 500 registered and committed members in each of the 326 wards in the state.
Obi told the party stalwarts that the election would be a tough contest for the PDP. He reminded the members that in addition to surmounting the strong force of the ruling APGA incumbency factor, the party also has the federal might of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to contend with. He therefore urged the party members that to surmount these two forces required that the party leaders, members and supporters should be extra-vigilant and 24-hours awake in prosecuting the governorship campaigns.
He lamented that except the few Christmas gifts elected political office holders extended to members of their constituencies, the rest of members of the party in the areas where the PDP do not have elected representatives were not reached out to with any Christmas largesse. He noted that such lapse would discourage members and supporters of the PDP in such areas since the leadership of the party in the state did not have the facilities to touch such its members in such areas.
He therefore emphasised the need to mitigate such lapses and announced a donation of N100,000 for the purchase of five-25kg bags of rice, four cartons of Malt, three cartons of beer, and other such items to be distributed as Christmas gifts to members of PDP in each ward. And to discourage the leadership of the party in the state from seeking financial favour from the aspirants for the PDP governorship ticket, Obi further announced that he would donate N4 million monthly to the state executive of the party to cover its running costs in organizing the activities ahead of the election. He asked all the aspirants to stop spending money on members of the executive of the party at all levels, including at the state, zonal and national levels, as according to him, “Nobody will be given the ticket to become governorship candidate of the party because you have money, but, because you are popular among the people of the state, and, can win the election. The aim and commitment of every PDP member here should be that we have a PDP governor in this state even if the person is your enemy. If the governor is my enemy and he fixes the bad roads, he cannot stop me from driving on the road because I am his enemy”, obi argued.
Another important strategy that was emphasised at the meeting that could win the election was for the party to prosecute the election as a united force.
And to achieve this, all aggrieved members of the party were directed to sheathe their swords. They were directed to channel all their grievances to the zonal working committee for amicable resolution of such issues. Those that have litigations in the courts against the party were urged to withdraw their actions and forward their grievances to the zone which would liaise with the national executive of the party and the Board of Trustees (BoT) for amicable resolution.
Odefa and Nwobu particularly pledged commitment to ensure that the primaries for the selection of the candidate is done in a most transparent, credible and fair manner such that such candidate would enjoy the support of his co-aspirants and other stalwarts of the party.
Odefa said; “We are calling on all of you here and the ones that are not here to go and withdraw all your cases in court and let’s come home and resolve whatever differences we may have. We may not all agree with others, but because of the interest of the party, we must ensure that we work together. I am happy with the level of maturity among the contestants. We will bring people to learn from what you are doing here. Save for misunderstanding, no state is more PDP than Anambra. A pioneer founder (late Alex Ekwueme) was from here, and I know that the PDP will get to the Government House again.
“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 process. 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.
“The world knows that Anambra people are rich, but at this level, the money is not the attraction. The attraction is beating my chest and saying that PDP has a government in Anambra. Please do not give us money to influence the primary election for you. We are not delegates, and, our members don’t have votes here, and so cannot help you. We urge you to spend your money wisely. If you give money to anyone in Abuja or Aso Rock to influence the primary election for yourself, it is a dash”, Odefa said.
The outcome of the meeting showed that the PDP seemed to have stuck to the stand against zoning of the ticket to any of the three senatorial districts, particularly to the Anambra South Senatorial zone that seems to be favoured and has the exclusive right to produce the successor to incumbent Governor Willie Obiano who eventually hails from the North Senatorial zone by the proponents of rotational arrangement for the seat among the senatorial districts on equal tenure of two consecutive tenure basis.
“What is more important for the PDP is to select a candidate from any of the zones that can be trusted and supported by voters across the state. Such a person certainly stands a better chance of giving the party victory than a candidate who emerges based on zoning or rotational arrangement”, a PDP sources told LEADERSHIP. The Ndubuisi Nwobu-led executive of the party had insisted that since the leaders had not at any time sat and adopted any resolution to adopt zoning, the arrangement would not be adopted by the party for the poll.
Meanwhile, aspirants who attended the meeting cut across two senatorial districts, including Anambra South Senatorial zone and Anambra Central Senatorial zone. None of them is from Anambra North senatorial zone where the incumbent Gov Obiano is from.
A very remarkable observation at the meeting was the level of praises showered on the Ndubuisi Nwobu leadership of the party. Various speakers eulogized the state chairman for the level of transparency and credibility he had brought into the management and running of the affairs of the party, and pleaded with the PDP top leaders at the zonal and national levels to co-operate with the state chairman in his commitment to ensuring that money does not influence whoever emerges as the torchbearer of the party in the poll.