ABUJA â€” THE gale of protests that have trailed the nomination of Professor Chukwuma Soludo, as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2010 gubernatorial election in Anambra State is yet to subside as 23 aspirants from the party, yesterday, in Abuja rejected the choice just as 250 delegates from the state stormed the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, demanding that the party primary be concluded.
While the aspirants who addressed newsmen at the Rock View Hotel, Abuja, threatened court action if the party failed to withdraw Soludoâ€™s name, the protesters who arrived the PDP Secretariat from Anambra in a convoy of 23 vehicles around 8.30am claimed that Soludo was a product of an illegitimate process.
The aspirants who noted that they have toiled for the party since 1999, stressed that they will not fold their arms while a new member is imposed on them, alleging that Soludoâ€™s running mate, Senator Emma Anosike, is not a member of the party on the ground that he only returned to the party last year.
Chuma Nwafo, who addressed journalists on behalf of the 23 aspirants who included Senators Annie Okonkwo and Nicholas Ukachukwu said â€œwe call to express our disgust, dismay over the rumour that someone has be chosen as the candidate for the party.
To the best of our knowledge, we are not aware of any name that was submitted. We have an inconclusive primaries in the state, primaries must be conducted in Anambra and it must be free and fair. People have invested in Anambra State PDP since 1999, why just give it to someone who came yesterday?â€
Speaking further, Nwofor said, â€œwe were put on oath by the party in the forms we filled that we will abide by the constitution and complete the process. The ward congress was relatively successful and some of them who did not do well had to go to court through proxy.
The process of getting Soludo was wrong. We are prepared to go back to the field and continue, it is not a race for sale, but a race for votes, a race for the people of Anambra, a race for the peoplesâ€™s destinyâ€.
The aspirants who stressed that letters would go to President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, leader of the party, on the recent development in the state as well as their total rejection of the process, warned that they will go to court to seek redress if the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party fails to withdraw Soludoâ€™s name.
But soon after the briefing, Professor Soludo made a surprise appearance and had a private meeting with the aspirants after which heÂ spoke with journalists, where heÂ described his choice as the partyâ€™s flagbearer as Godâ€™s design. According to him, â€œTo God be the glory.
I believe God has destined that Anambra must sing a new song, to break away from the past, I have tried to reach out to my co-aspirants, one is honoured by the choice, evidently, the party has made a choice.
â€œJust to tell you that after the process, we are trying to build back what we have always been, a very strong united family in PDP, with a big umbrella and it will accommodate everyone. And I think it went very well, with some frankness, people had put in their time and effortâ€
Protesters storm Abuja
Yesterdayâ€™s protest which was led by PDP Legal Adviser in Anambra State, Chuks Okoye, saw the protesters chanting â€œwho can battle with the Lord, we say nobodyâ€, and carried placards with inscriptions, some of which read: â€œNWC, letâ€™s have our democracyâ€, â€œOgbulafor, leave Anambra PDPâ€, â€œOgbulafor, respect internal democracyâ€, â€œWe say no to imposition of candidatesâ€, â€œNo Primaries, no peace in Anambra PDPâ€, â€œAllow us to choose our candidate for 2010â€, â€œThis is rape on democracyâ€ and â€œNWC purge yourselvesâ€.
It took the intervention of the Police, led by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sunday Odunkoya before they left the gate.
Also yesterday, some delegates under the aegis, â€œconcerned Constitutional Statutory Delegates from Anambra State for the Special Congress for the Gubernatorial Primary election, 2010â€ in a letter to the National Chairman of PDP, called on the party to conclude the process by holding a Special Congress (Electoral College) where a candidate for the party would be elected.
In a letter signed by thirty six PDP Chairmen, and Vice Chairmen of the Local Government Councils in Anambra state, they also called for an unreserved apology to them because of the way they said the party treated them.
â€œIt is with deep sense of patriotism and undiluted loyalty that we, the undersigned members of our great party, and indeed the constitutionally-approved statutory delegates for election of Anambra State gubernatorial candidate, wish to express our dismay and total rejection over the brazen move to subvert the process succinctly provided for by the constitution of our great party and the guideline governing the conduct of the gubernatorial primary election put in place for Anambra State primary election for 2010.
â€œAs we express our rejection of the decision to hoist a candidate on us, we must not fail to recall the herculean processes and stages we have been made to pass through.
â€œWe need to recall that the first hurdle which we were subjected to surmount was the unconstitutional punitive and un-receipted fee of Nl0,000 (Ten Thousand Naira) as delegate fee.
â€œThen, of course, we also wish to recall the agony and anguish we were meant to pass through at Awka, Anambra State when we came out to exercise our franchise at the Women Development Centre on Friday the 2nd day of October, 2009 for the scheduled primary before the process was truncated in the most unceremonious way.”
Meanwhile, Senators from Anambra are divided over Soludoâ€™s choice.
While the caucus leader of the state delegation to the National Assembly, Senator Joy Emodi, has pledged to reluctantly back the partyâ€™s choice, Senator Okonkwo (PDP, Anambra Central) has pledged not to back what he described as an illegality.
The third State representative in the Senate, Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah (PDP, Anambra South) could not be reached for his reaction. Senators Obiorah and Okonkwo were both aspirants for the gubernatorial office before the partyâ€™s decision which produced Prof. Soludo as the consensus candidate.
While expressing reservations about the process which produced Soludo, Senator Emodi expressed her determination, in the face of the challenges facing the party, to support Soludo and Senator Emma Anosike who was picked as the running mate.
She nevertheless appealed to party loyalists to put party interests above other personal considerations.
â€œThe position in Anambra State was complicated but as a loyal party member, I have to support him and I think that Soludo will be capable to be Governor of Anambra State.
The only problem we had was bringing him out without any form of consultation at all,â€™â€™ Senator Emodi told Vanguard on telephone.
â€œI have been trying to calm them down and I am calling on all our members to support him so that we will be able to win our election in Anambra State. No matter how hard the thing may be, I have been telling them to try and eschew bitterness and support him.
I am calling on all PDP members and all Anambrarians to support him, he is qualified to be Governor of Anambra State,â€™â€™ Senator Emodi said.
Senator Okonkwo on his part said: â€œAs far as I am concerned, I will not support any illegality, the decision is illegal, it was not the process that we started and that is why as a legislator, anything that is illegal I will not support it,â€™â€™ Senator Okonkwo told Vanguard yesterday on telephone.