BY VINCENT UJUMADU
IF the on–going crisis in the Anambra State branch of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over who should be its flag bearer for the November 16 election is not resolved in the next few weeks, the party would have made itself a less contender in the impending governorship race. For now, supporters of the party in Anambra State are confused and it is therefore not surprising that many of them have become willing tools for swelling campaign rally grounds of other political parties. A typical example was the flag off of the LP governorship campaign in Onitsha on Thursday where many former members of PDP were seen adorned in Ifeanyi Ubah’s uniforms and caps and directing affairs.
While the other major party contenders namely, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, All Progressives Congress, APC, and Labour Party, LP, are seriously mobilizing for the election with their candidates making great inroads in the state, supporters of PDP are behaving like the sheep without the shepherd. Many of them say they have become more confused with the unfolding scenario, especially with two candidates – Tony Nwoye and Senator Andy Uba – laying claim to the ticket of the party.
The latest in the PDP drama is that a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Thursday declared that Senator Andy Uba remains the PDP candidate for the November 16 election and that his crony, Chief Ejike Oguebego should remain the state chairman of the party. The court ordered the Prince Ken Emeakayi-led PDP in Anambra State to maintain the status quo, pending the final decision of the court. In the ruling handed by Justice H.A Nganjiwa, the court also directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to identify with the Oguebego group that produced Uba as the authentic governorship candidate of the PDP.
After the primaries of the various political parties, the picture was that Tony Nwoye from Anambra North senatorial zone emerged for PDP in the primary supervised by the national leadership of the party, Willy Obiano also from Anambra North emerged for APGA, while Senator Chris Ngige from Anambra Central and Chief Ifeanyi Ubah from Anambra South emerged for APC and LP respectively. Senator Andy Uba, another contender for the PDP ticket is also from Anambra South.
When the Alhaji Bamanga Tukur leadership of PDP declared Nwoye as the party’s flag bearer, the fear in the camp of Willy Obiano of APGA was that unless the people of Anambra North were persuaded to dump the PDP candidate on election day, votes from the area are likely to be shared between PDP and APGA, thereby giving Ngige and Ifeanyi Ubah some kind of advantage as they are the major candidates in the other two senatorial zones. However, if PDP dumps Nwoye and gives the ticket to Senator Uba, the people of Anambra North would heave a sigh of relief that their block votes would go to their own son, Obiano.
On the other hand, if eventually Uba gets the ticket for PDP, the worry would shift to Anambra South as himself (Uba) and LP’s Ubah are likely to share the votes from the area. Uba is from the Aguata section of the senatorial zone, while Ubah is from Nnewi section of the same zone. While it would seem that Senator Ngige is in the world of his own in his Anambra Central, the truth is that he has Governor Peter Obi to contend with in the zone. From all indications, Obi is not just waiting to hand over to anybody that would emerge winner after the November 16 election, but he wants to make sure that he hands over to a trusted person who would not rock the boat after his eight years of picking the bits and pieces of what was left of Anambra State after the unfortunate years between 1999 and 2006 when intra party crisis in PDP led to the destruction of lives and government property worth millions of naira.
Indeed, were it not for Obi’s clamour that power should shift to Anambra North after his tenure and going further to ensure that somebody from the zone picked the ticket of his party, the situation would have remained as it had always been in the previous elections where the best Anambra North usually got was either the deputy governor, or the speaker of the House of Assembly. For instance, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju who governed the state from 1999 -2003 had his deputy from Anambra North and when Ngige mounted the saddle in 2003, he chose his deputy from Anambra South in the person of Dr. Okey Udeh, with the speaker of the House of Assembly coming from Anambra North.
When Mr. Peter Obi, who is from Anambra Central recovered his mandate after three years in court, he worked with Dame Virgy Etiaba who is from Anambra South and for his second term, he chose Mr. Emeka Sibeudu also from Anambra South, while the speaker of the House of Assembly, Mrs. Chinwe Nwaebili, is from Anambra North. Dr. Andy Uba, who governed for 17 days in 2007 before the Supreme Court stopped him, also chose his deputy from Anambra North. This is why the people of Anambra North see 2013 election as their best opportunity to produce the governor of the state for the first time since the creation of Anambra State.
Before the primaries of the political parties, stakeholders from Anambra North held several meetings warning their people not to accept to be campaign coordinators or deputies for candidates from South and Central and so far, it had been obeyed. For instance, it was gathered that Ifeanyi Ubah desperately wanted to choose his deputy from Anambra North, but because those approached for the position declined, he settled for Dr. Emeka Eze from Ukpo, Dunukofia in Anambra Central. There are also indications that Ngige will choose his deputy from Anambra South as he did during his first outing in 2003. Willy Obiano of APGA has already chosen Dr. Emeka Okeke from Enugwu Ukwu in Anambra Central as his running mate. With these running mates coming from Anambra Central, the implication is that the area would be up for grabs by the various political parties contesting the election and this may not be good for Ngige who is from the area.
Perhaps one of the greatest issues that would determine the outcome of the election is the political party cohesion. Apart from LP, the other three parties – PDP, APGA and APC have some issues to sort out before the election. Like in the previous elections, the signs are there that aggrieved members of political parties may work against their parties.
Take PDP for instance, if Senator Uba finally gets the ticket, it is not likely that the national leadership and the Kenneth Emeakayi –led group of the party would stick out their neck to support him. This is because while most of the erstwhile governorship aspirants were together and obeying the guidelines stipulated by the party for the conduct of the primaries, Senator Uba and his family members, with Chris Uba as the arrow head, stayed away and held its primary with the senator as the only contestant. It was felt initially that the Uba family was wasting its time, but when the tunes from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, began to sound in their favour, it became clear that the family was not acting in isolation. The climax was the recent ruling of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt making Uba the authentic candidate of the party for the election. If all the former governorship aspirants in the state refuse to work with Uba, he may not find things easy.
Observers believe that for Uba to win the election, he must work with the Emeakayi group who controls the grass root of the party as could be seen in his recent outing before the controversial governorship primaries of the party. For instance, the group has all the ward and local government officials, as well as all the candidates for the postponed local government election. What happened in 2010 when the party forced the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Professor Charles Soludo on the state as the PDP candidate is still fresh in people’s minds and a repeat of such would be a mistake too many for PDP.
Already, most of the people who were with Chief Chris Uba in his hey days as the political godfather in the state have abandoned him for other political parties. One of them, Dr. Emeka Eze, is presently the running mate of Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, while many others are mobilizing for the LP candidate. One of them wondered recently how Chris Uba would achieve his objective in the November election since those of them who were actually doing the abracadabra during the past elections have deserted the family.
For APGA, the wounds inflicted in the party during the leadership crisis between the national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh and Chief Maxi Okwu have not been properly healed. Okwu is still feeling left out and that was why he flew a kite recently by saying that his group had nominated one of those screened out by the party, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, as his candidate for the election. No further action has however been taken either by him or his candidate since he made the nomination in Awka a fortnight ago, fueling speculation that he may have decided to bury the hatchet. However, some of the some who were in either sides of the divide during the crisis became victims of the resolution of the crisis and some of them finally decided to decamp to other political parties. Also, some of those who lost at the party primaries simply vamoosed and have not been responding to the overtures being made to them by Chief Willy Obiano who won the ticket. Unless something is done urgently, the subdued acrimony may cost the party some votes in some parts of the state.
In APC, there is a lot of manipulation going on and unless the situation is handled with utmost care, the lid may soon blow open with its attendant consequences. For instance, a former governorship aspirant, Senator Annie Okonkwo and deputy national chairman of APC, who appointed his cronies as officials of the party in the state, is no longer getting the support from many members of the party, including the governorship candidate, Senator Chris Ngige. With the haphazard manner in which the state congress was held in a hotel in Awka, some members of ANPP and CPC, the two parties that merged with ACN to form APC, have either pulled out or are threatening to pull out of the merger arrangement in the state. CPC, led by its former chairman, Prince Chuba Ikeagwu has since left APC to join the newly formed PDM, while the former state chairman of ANPP, Chief Pat Orjiakor, who at one point, acted as interim state chairman of APC, is being wooed by the governorship candidate of Accord Party, Mr. Hygers Igwebuike, to be his running mate in view of what the Accord Party candidate described as his wonderful mobilization ability. Also, some APC members in the state are complaining that most of the national officers of the party were picked from Ngige’s senatorial zone, adding that such appointments did not give the people from the other two zones a sense of belonging.
In addition to this is the Ezemo factor. Mr. Godwin Ezemo, who contested with Ngige for the ticket of APC, is still angry and it would require the intervention of the national leadership of the party to persuade him not to decamp to another political party as being speculated. It was gathered in Awka that another political party may field Ezemo during the period of the substitution of candidates and if that happens, the ranks of APC would be further depleted.