Anambra 2010 : The Annie Okonkwo factor

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By Emejulu Okpala-Ukwu

LESS than a year to the gubernatorial election in Anambra State, the stage is set as aspirants jostling to succeed Peter Obi beat drums of war. Politics in Anambra State has always been volatile because there are many gladiators on opposing camp or the same camp who are not ready to shift grounds.

Of all the four major parties- APGA, PDP, AC, PPA- that are in the race to form the next government, PDP is the party that has the ace.

But its size and the calibre of members instead of being a blessing to it has turned out to be its Achilles heels. There is so much in-fighting, back-stabbing and tension in Anambra State PDP. This lends credence to the statement by one of the founding fathers of the party, the late Sunday Awoniyi.

According to him, the “PDP is a nest of scorpions stinging themselves”.

Among the front-runners in race  is Senator Annie Okonkwo, a first term senator who  is making so much impact in the upper legislative house.

There is also Chief Andy Uba, Alex Obiogbolu, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, and  Emeka Etiaba of APGA. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo foisted Andy Uba on the state, but the judiciary stopped him twice and finally too after frenetic bouts of legal circumlocution.

If there is anybody Anambrarians would pray not to have, it is Uba. The Ubas have over-heated and generated so much bad blood in the state that the rest of the country now see Anambra as a state that produces endless wrong manuals for decent  politicking.

The Ubas’ posture of “it is either us or no one” has brought odium to them. The wars among them too have become a big trade off as well.

Prince Ukachukwu is another aspirant. He is a reconverted member of the party. In 2007, he left PDP for another party where he sought to realise his aspiration.

Recently, he returned to PDP to continue his pursuit for the coveted office. Jerry Ugokwe, a former House of Representatives member who lost his seat at the election tribunal and in desperation headed to the ECOWAS Court, which was novel in the country’s judiciary system, is also flying the kite for a return to the turf.

Speculations are rife that Professor Dora Akunyili, the Minister of Information and Prof Charles Soludo, the immediate past Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria may join the race. That will be a welcome mix-bag.

The fact  remains that both are green horns in  politics and may not have the tact of bringing some of these aspirants and followers that have taken the do or die positions together. These politicians will see them as coming to reap where they did not sow or contributed to plant.

If the PDP should put its acts together, it may be an easy ride for it but this is proving a difficult knot. Former Speaker of House of Representatives, Alhaja Ghali Na’abba, once remarked that PDP was like a salad with the various vegetables without the cream to mix them. According to him, the vegetables are discreet because of the absence of the cream to unite them.

This may prove to be true in Anambra State PDP but for the Senator Annie Okonkwo factor. Okonkwo from his antecedent and background seems to be the cream that can unite members of the party to form a formidable force to win the gubernatorial seat. The Okonkwo factor appears to be the rallying point in the party. All the politicians and aspirants from different shades that are dangling their swords of war are at peace with him.

Even outside that party, the state governor, Peter Obi during the reception of Senator Okonkwo by the Ojoto peoples stunned the audience when he said that he and Okonkwo are in one party. People thought that he meant he was decamping to PDP or the Senator decamping to APGA. He told them that the name of the party they belong to is Anambra Development Party.

According to him, the statement was necessitated by the quality representation and selfless commitment to service which Okonkwo has brought to bear on the state and his senatorial zone. Chris Uba who is the issue in Anambra politics was also at the reception in solidarity with Okonkwo.

Recently, the court accorded the Chris Uba faction of the party, the control of PDP in the state- the Emordi faction. It takes a politician with Okonkwo’s antecedent to bring these discordant forces into one. He is an excellent crucible for melting the differences in the party in the state.

A look at the strength and weakness of the four major parties in the state shows that the PDP is ahead. Even though the sitting governor, Obi is APGA, the litmus test for APGA’s strength was the bye elections of two different seats to the national assembly. APGA performed woefully in spite of its control of the local councils in the state.

Chris Ngige of AC is still respected for fighting against godfatherism, but he is now a lone ranger. His influence now and while in the office, are two different things. He may be like Okonkwo, the folk hero in Professor Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, who after serving exile returned home and did not realise that the people had embraced change and were never the same. Besides, AC is not all that popular in the state.s

PPA founded by the former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu is spreading fast across the state. Like it happened in nearby Imo State where the PPA profited from the squabbles in the PDP to clinch the gubernatorial seat, such scenario may play up again if the PDP refuses to avail itself of the Annie Okonkwo factor. Okonkwo is the only dove among the hawks scrambling for the number one office in the state.

His representation at the Upper House of the National Assembly has etched his name in the hearts of not only the Anambra people but Nigerians. The reason is that he has been passionately committed and consistent in the fight against poverty and want. This necessitated his presentation of two people centred bills that are currently on the floor of the Senate.

The bills are the National Essential Commodities Commission Bill, and the Nigerian Citizens in Diaspora Commission bill. These bills are intended to address the prevailing poverty and hunger in the country and stem the upsurge in crime and insecurity in the country caused by it.

Mr. Ukpala-Ukwu, a lawyer, writes from Awka, Anambra State.

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