By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA â€” As the PDP begins the process of electing its gubernatorial candidate from a list of forty-seven aspirants which includes the former Governor of the Central Bank, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Senators Annie Okonkwo, Ikechukwu Obiora, Emma Anosike and Prof Ilochi Okafor, among others, the 5-member panel led by Governor Gabriel Suswam, has warned that the party would not hesitate to disqualify any aspirant associated with any form of malpractice and violence.
Suswam also said that contrary to popular belief, the party has no anointed candidate for the election.
Addressing newsmen in Awka, the Governor insisted that the committee was committed to organising a free and fair congress.
According to him, all the members were carefully selected such that there is no member from the entire South-East for obvious reasons, adding that they were determined to do a thorough job that would be satisfactory to all.
â€œI have come here today (yesterday) to address you on my mission to Anambra State which is to oversee the conduct of the fairest possible ward congresses for the election of delegates to the state congress at which our great partyâ€™s flag-bearer in the next yearâ€™s contest for the Governorâ€™s mansion in Awka will emerge.
â€œAs in most of Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party has been the single most important player in the politics of Anambra State since the inception of the present political dispensation in 1998.
â€œIt is clear to the national leadership of the PDP that the electoral setbacks we have suffered in this richly endowed state with wonderful people have been mostly a consequence of the avoidable, unnecessary and sometimes pointless infighting within our ranks rather than the greater acceptability of our opponents to its knowledgeable and discerning voters.
â€œWe have resolved therefore to seize the fresh opportunity of next yearâ€™s governorship elections to make proper amends by putting our house in order here in Anambra; re-entrenching the much-needed cohesion and unity of purpose within our ranks that will re-create the Anambra PDP as the most credible political platform which our great party has become in much of Nigeria
â€œThe critical starting point for the accomplishment of this mission is the conduct, on a level-playing field, of the freest and fairest possible congresses that will guarantee the emergence of the candidate most acceptable to the electorate, as well as the rank and file of our party, to carry our banner into the contest with other parties for the governorship of Anambra on February 6, 2010.
â€œThe leader of our party, President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and the entire National Executive Committee of the PDP have given my colleagues and I the enormous responsibility of conducting the most credible and transparently fair congresses that will produce a candidate behind whom the entire membership of the Anambra PDP can unite and ride to victory next year.
â€œWe are wholly committed to carrying out this assignment successfully.
â€œWe are well aware that given the turbulent history of politics in Anambra in recent years and the PDPâ€™s unfortunate role in that history, all eyes will be on us tomorrow (today) as we begin the process of choosing our gubernatorial flag-bearer but we are determined to show cynics and critics that we have learnt the right lessons from past mistakes.
â€œOver forty candidates have indicated interest and have been cleared to participate in the primaries. We shall count on their understanding, cooperation and good conduct as loyal party members to ensure peaceful primaries that will be free of rancour, acrimony and bitterness.
No anointed candidate
â€œI will like to reassure them all from the onset that there is no truth whatsoever in reports that President Yarâ€™Adua and the national leadership have any preferred or â€˜anointedâ€™ candidate amongst the contestants.
Anybody who parades himself/herself as such or whose supporters tout him or her as â€˜anointedâ€™ is only deceiving him or her.
â€œThe sole interest of the national leadership of the PDP is to ensure the emergence, after a credible democratic process, of a well-qualified candidate who can heal the wounds inflicted in the course of the regrettable in-fighting within the ranks of the party in past years, unite the existing factions under one purposeful umbrella and lead us to victory next year.
â€œWhile we have to contend with an unusually large field of contestants, we welcome this as an indication of the vibrancy and dynamism of our great party, and an eloquent testimony to the popularity of our platform as a vehicle for elective political offices in Anambra and other states of the Federation.
PDP warns aspirants
â€œAt this point, let me sound a note of warning to all those who believe in the politics of rigging and violence that our party will not hesitate to disqualify any candidate who is associated with any form of malpractices and violence.
â€œIt should be clear to all that out of such large field of contestants, only one can possibly emerge as our flag-bearer in next yearâ€™s elections. On our part, we will conduct the freest and fairest possible congresses without favouring any candidate.
â€œIn return, we expect all the contestants and members of the PDP in Anambra to behave like good democrats and loyal party members by accepting the results and uniting behind whosoever finally emerges as the winner to ensure our partyâ€™s victory in next yearâ€™s elections,â€ Suswam said.
As at last night, PDP members were still purchasing forms to enable them contest for the three slots for each ward.