By Vincent Ujumadu
WITH the clearing of 47 governorship aspirants on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State for the 2010 governorship election, the acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics, Chief Chris Uba has begun what has been described as the final sensitization of members of the party in readiness for the election.
Eselu, as Uba is popularly called, has been at the centre stage of Anambra politics since the inception of the present democratic dispensation, culminating in his personal choice of Dr. Chris Ngige as the governor of the state in 2003, an action that later turned sour.
Though his elder brother, Dr. Andy Uba later snatched the political structure from him during the 2007 elections which led to Eseluâ€™s temporary withdrawal from active politics, his supporters have expressed delight that he reemerged at the political arena in a grand style when the national leadership of the party recognized the Uchenna Emodi -led executive of the party which is loyal to him as the authentic executive of PDP in the State. For months, he battled to retain the party structure as other interested groups almost fought him to a standstill.
But being a dogged political fighter, Uba remained resilient and brought out all the weapons in his political armory to remain atop.
As soon as he got hold of the party structure again, Eselu began to fund the party like a businessman would invest in his cherished venture. First was that he distributed buses to all the 21 local government chairmen of the party with mouth_watering sums of money as accompanying logistics. He also provided members of the state executive with funds that enabled them to embark on the state wide tour. This was followed by a tour of the 326 wards in the state by the local government chairmen and their executive.
It was therefore not surprising that when Uba led members of the state executive to embark on another tour of the state, the turnouts at the various local governments so far visited were very impressive. For the local government tour, motorcycles was distributed to all the ward chairmen of the party, while each ward also gets a bag of rice and some bails of wrapper.
The local government tour, which took off from Dunukofia local government area of the state, would terminate at Ihiala local government area. Other notable people in PDP accompanying Uba on the tour include some of the governorship aspirants who were successful at the screening carried out in Enugu.
In all the places visited, the message was virtually the same and that is that peace has finally returned to the once troubled PDP. He has been telling the people that apart from using the opportunity to assure members of the party that PDP has become one family after the protracted leadership tussle, another aim was to put the party in the right shape for the governorship election, adding that the party cannot afford to lose the governorship of the state again.
A big plus for Uba in his ongoing campaign is that the two major actors in the leadership crisis â€“ Uchenna Emodi and Ifeatu Obiokoye have teamed up following the decision of Obiokoye to work with the group. In fact, the two men have beenÂ ridingÂ in the same car to all the venues of the partyâ€™s rallies. Obiokoye, it will be recalled, was the person that dragged Emodi to various courts and laid claim to the leadership of the party.
While the leadership battle raged, Obiokoye was associated with the Nicholas Ukachukwu group in PDP and was at a time, the coordinator of Ukachukwuâ€™s Ikukuoma Campaign organization. Why he threw in the towel was not very clear, but at every local government during the present tour by Uba and members of the state executive of PDP, he has been speaking glowingly of the godfather.
For instance, in his own local government, Idemili North, he begged his people to forgive him for being part of the crisis that rocked PDP in the state. He also apologized to Uba for what he called, the embarrassment he (Uba) received after installing one of their sons as governor of the state and promised that the area will give PDP over 95% of votes to make up for it..
Uba himself has been explaining that he decided to traverse the Anambra political terrain to inform the people that the battle in PDP was over and because of his desire to lead another PDP governor to the Government House in Awka after the terrible disappointment he suffered after installing Dr. Ngige in 2003. According to him, despite all the allegations leveled against him, he insisted on remaining a politician because he wants to make up for the past disappointment, adding that this time around, PDP must study critically all the aspirants before settling for one who would not be a disappointment to Anambra people.
â€œFor six years, there had been the struggle for the control of the PDP leadership in the state and I am happy to say that the major actors in that struggle have decided to work together as a team in the interest of our people who have suffered for so long. With what we have seen in places so far visited, we are happy that PDP is now one united family in the state and that is why some people who did not even believe that peace will return in the party, are struggling to become governors.
â€œCome 2nd October, 2009, we will elect our governorship candidate for the February 6, 2010 election and I want everybody to be very careful in choosing who will carry our flag so that we do not repeat the mistake we made in 2003. I have noticed that some of the aspirants are at it again by trying to bribe the delegates already to elect them. If they come to you, ask them if I am aware of their ambition and if they do not provide a satisfactory answer, donâ€™t have anything to do with them..
â€œThe reason why I am saying this is that some people are trying to enter the Government House through the back door with the purpose of deceiving our people again. Anybody who wants to become the next governor on the platform of PDP must consult me and my promise is that only the right person will lead us, even if he does not have money.
â€œSome people have asked why I am interested in who becomes the governor and my answer is that I want this state to be in the mainstream of the Nigerian politics. I am not looking for money because God has blessed me. I am also not contesting for any position.
What I want is for the PDP to select a credible candidate that can win the 2010 governorship election and be able to wipe the tears off the eyes of our people who have suffered over the years. Besides, I want the State to belong to the same party as the one controlling the federal government because there is a lot to gain there. We know that Anambra is a PDP state and we want to take it to where it rightly belongs,â€ Uba told the people.
But there is one battle Uba is likely to face in his quest to ensure that his candidate wins the February 6, 2010 election and that is the insistence of some stakeholders in the party that the only way to completely heal the wounds of the last crisis in PDP is to jettison the present party register and elect delegates directly for the purpose of the primaries.
However, his stand is that the delegates to the proposed primaries should be those whose names were contained in the party registers in all the wards. According to him, those calling for the discarding of the existing party registers had ulterior motive, warning that failure to use the existing partyâ€™s membership register would offend the PDP constitution and the stand of the present administration on the issue of due process.
Another issue Uba will contend with is which zone should produce the candidate of PDP for the 2010 election. Signs that this may be a thorny issue have started emerging as some youths from Anambra North senatorial zone are insisting that the area should be allowed to produce the next governor, because it has not done so since the creation of the state in 1991.
Though some of the cleared aspirants come from the zone, it is doubtful if they could match those from the other two zones in terms of resources to prosecute the election when the campaigns begin. However, Uba has given an assurance that whoever picks the ticket would be supported, adding that no part of the state would be neglected even if the area did not produce the governor..
Indeed, some of the governorship aspirants who have identified with Uba are optimistic that he will be fair to all of them and have expressed their preparedness to support whoever emerges the PDP candidate after the primaries. Victor Ezenwa, Okechukwu Okelekwe, Emeka Eze, Valentine Ozoigbo, Harry Oranezi, among others, have acknowledged the fact that they can only achieve their governorship ambition if they continue to identify with Uba.
A political stalwart in the state, Chief Okechukwu Odunze who is also on the entourage said that only an unserious politician would dismiss the capabilities of Chris Uba in Anambra politics and advised those gunning for political offices to continue to follow him because he possesses what it takes to make any aspirant realize his political ambition.
The obvious implication of the Uba â€“led tour of the state is that whoever picks the PDP would have less work to do as proper ground work has already been done for him in all parts of the state, provided those who are going to lose the party nomination will be prepared to support him. As for the popularity of PDP in the state, this is not in doubt because apart from the present governor of the state, the party produced all the 30 members in the state House of Assembly, 10 out of 11 in the House of Representatives and the three senators of the state.
With Ubaâ€™s announcement that the local government chairmen of PDP have automatically become the leaders of the party at that level, it has become clear that they will decide those to become delegates fromÂ their wards. Will those opposed to Uba accept the decision? Only time will tell.