By Vincent Ujumadu
The National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last week announced the dissolution of the state executive of the party led by Chief Benji Udeozor who took over from Mr. Uchenna Emodi in the wake of Emodiâ€™s resignation to vie for the governorship ticket of the party.Â
As expected, many people saw the action as the final move to remove the party structure in the state from the acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics, Chief Chris Uba to the partyâ€™s embattled governorship candidate for the February 6, 2010 election in the state, Professor Chukwuma Soludo.
Following the crisis that reared its head in the party in the state shortly after the 2007 elections, the national leadership of PDP set out to resolve it.
The Prince Vincent Ogbulafor â€“led national leadership of the party set up the Chief Chuma Nwofor congress committee with a mandate to organize the congress that would usher in a new leadership in the state. As the committee was still carrying out the assignment by consulting various stakeholders and bringing back into the PDP fold those that left in the wake of the crisis that rocked the party before the 2007 election, the party leadership, perhaps, felt that Nwofor, being one of the aggrieved governorship aspirants in 2007, might not be totally unbiased in the discharge of the duties.
Without informing members of the Nwofor committee, the national leadership sent Chief Jim Nwobodo who led another 14 member-committee to take over from the Nwofor committee.
After three days of interaction with PDP stakeholders in the state, the Nwobodo committee made recommendations. But rather than implement the recommendations, which included that there should be a fresh congress at all levels of the party in the state, Nwobodo and members of his committee were accused of being compromised and that ended that exercise.
Shortly after the Nwobodo committee was discarded, another prominent Nigerian, Prof Jerry Gana was invited to find a solution to the PDP crisis in Anambra. For days, Gana met with the various interest groups in Enugu and the report he compiled at the end of the exercise did not see the light of day. As in previous attempts, forces that remotely control the party did not allow the report to be made public.
Eventually, the party settled for the Uchenna Emodi-led executive after the initial opposition, some of the opposing groups joined him and it was thought that his executive would be the one to organize the congresses of the party. But alas, the state executive was ignored during the recent controversial congress that eventually led to the party settling for Prof Soludo as its candidate for the 2010 election.
Indeed, it was an Anambra State High Court sitting in Onitsha that resolved the logjam by granting an interlocutory injunction to the Uchenna Emodi _led state executive of the party, thereby throwing open the leadership struggle in the party again. It was actually based on that injunction that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party recognized Uchenna Emodi.
Soon after its recognition, the Emodi group did everything possible to assuage the aggrieved members of the party who did not welcome the decision of the NWC. With the support and empowerment of the groupâ€™s leader and member of the PDP board of trustees, Chief Chris Uba, the group toured the 21 local government areas of the state during which it harped on the need for peace to enable the party win the governorship election next year.
With the success achieved in reconciling the various interest groups, there were indications that most members of the party were considering toeing the line. Uba himself procured a large number of campaign items, including vehicles, motorcycles, wrappers and released millions of naira which he distributed to the leadership of the party from the state to the ward level.
One group that consistently opposed the recognition of the Uchenna Emodi leadership then was Chief Ifeatu Obi Okoye who led a faction of the party. Obi Okoye had on May 22, 2009 filed an application asking the court, among other reliefs, to vacate the order made by Justice Chinwe Iyizoba of the Onitsha High Court which was the basis for the recognition of Emodi leadership, because, according to him, the circumstances under which it was made did not consider his application to be joined in another suit brought by Emodiâ€™s deputy, Chief Ben Udeozor on behalf of members of the Uchenna Emodi executive.
His argument was that members of the Emodi â€“led executive were parties in a suit he filed at Ekwulobia High Court in the state asking to be returned as the substantive chairman of the party, having been in that capacity since 2004 before an election held at NICON Hilton Hotel, Abuja where Emodi was elected state chairman, in spite of several court orders stopping the conduct of the election.
According to him, the matter had been slated for judgment on October 3, 2008 before the plaintiffs applied for the injunction. He also argued that theÂ Emodi executive was nullified by a High Court in the Ogidi judicial division of the state before the NWC of PDP also dissolved it in 2006 and replaced same with the Tony Nwoye _led caretaker committee which was also later dissolved.
After leading the opposition for several months, Okoye later made a u â€“turn and joined the Emodi group. It was then thought that with that development, a lasting peace would be witnessed in Anambra PDP. But this did not happen as the national leadership of the party decided to sideline the state leadership that had believed it was going to be responsible for the conduct of the state congress for the selection of the PDP flag bearer for the 2010 election.
One person that predicted the stalemate in PDP state leadership was the former state secretary of the party, Chief Ken Emeakayi. Worried by what he described as an abuse of the partyâ€™s constitution, Emeakayi went to court to stop both Emodi and Okoye from laying claim to the leadership of the party. â€œI went to court to salvage the image of PDP in the State.
I went to court to put the records straight and streamline things. The action I filed was for the court to interpret the constitution of PDP because the way some people were behaving in the state could bring confusion and total disorder in the party. Having reached the national secretariat of the party before now for interpretation and I could not get answers, I resorted to the court to interpret the various sections of the PDP constitution.
â€œOne was to determine whether it was right for a member of the party who was holding office in the party and decamped from the party to another political party to come back and lay claim to the same political office he was holding before leaving the party.
Why it was necessary for me to go back to court to seek interpretation was to save the situation because the impression people have down here was that some of our people made the whole thing look as though the problem in the state was coming from the national secretariat of the party. That is not the true position. The true position is that the present crisis in PDP Anambra State is something that is being manufactured here.
The problem is that before now, nobody had brought to the attention of the national secretariat what the problem is. Before now, all that our people did was to go to Abuja and talk about tenure. Another group would go and say, donâ€™t recognize Uchenna Emodi, but recognize Ifeatu Obi-Okoye. Nobody has brought it to the attention of the national secretariat that this was not supposed to be the issue. It was not an issue of tenure. It was an issue of the constitution of the party.
â€œTake Ifeatu Obi-Okoye for instance. I am not disputing that he was at one time or the other, elected as chairman of the party. The issue here is that Ifeatu Obi-Okoye was elected and at a point he left party. I am not dwelling at the controversies that surrounded his election, or his removal or his return.
The point is that on his own, he left the party for another party in 2007, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and became the director-general of the ANPP campaign organization.
The question is, going by the provisions in the constitution of our party, can he, after leaving the party and campaigned against PDP during an election and after the tribunal cases, come back to want to occupy the chairmanship position he abandoned in PDP? Same for Emodi who left and joined DPP and he came back to lay claim to PDP chairmanship.
These are constitutional issues and as a lay man, I decided to go to court which has powers to interpret constitutions.Â Â Â If the court agrees with me going by our party constitution, it should then declare that two of them who were members of the party and later left, cannot come back to lay claim to their former offices,â€ Emeakayi said in an interview.
Soon after Obi-Okoye teamed up with Emodi, the motivator of the group, Chief Uba went into the field during which he explained to the people that the battle for the control of PDP in the state was over.
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.
What is on ground is 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, were struggling to become governors,â€ Uba said during one of sensitization tours in the state before the controversial party primaries.
By the time the party primary drew near, it was obvious that Uba and members of his group were totally in charge and would coast to victory if an election was held within the party. Perhaps, due to other political considerations, the national leadership did not want that and so it decided not to involve the state leadership.
What perhaps angered the national leadership of PDP most was the threat by the state leadership to expel the partyâ€™s governorship candidate, Prof Soludo from the party. The reason for the expulsion threat was the insinuation that the party might have had a hand in the kidnap of Prof Soludoâ€™s father, Pa Simeon Soludo the same day the party organized a rally in the state.
According to some chieftains of the party, it amounted to calling them criminals to associate them with kidnapping. It was therefore not a surprise when Ogbulafor announced the appointment of Dr. Chigozie Ogbu from Enugu State as the chairman of the caretaker committee of the party in Anambra State to replace the former executive and indications are that he would be leading the committee that would conduct the partyâ€™s campaign in the state for next yearâ€™s election.
But the dissolved state
executive did not take kindly to the action of the national leadership as it believed that it was not in the best interest of the party, especially at this time election is drawing near. Former acting state chairman, Udeozor who wondered why the party does not want to utilize the gains made by the state executive of the party in the last one year, said members of the executive reject in its entirety the decision of the party because it ran counter to the constitution of the party.
â€œWe are today witnessing another illegality in Anambra State PDP being manipulated and perpetrated by the Chief Vincent Ogbualfor -led administration. We have not settled down from the slap we received last week after a very successful and challenging general meeting held at the Emmaus House, Awka, which Chief Ogbulafor, Prof. Soludo and the state police command tried in vain to involve the state PDP and its leadership on an issue we know nothing about. But as law abiding group, we continued watching.
â€œAgain, we have heard of an illegal and unconstitutional dissolution of the state executive committee of the Anambra PDP by the same Chief Ogbulafor in an unsigned press release quoting Prof. Rufuai Ahmed Alkali, the National Publicity Secretary. This state executive committee therefore, regrets this illegal, unconstitutional and unpatriotic act in its entirety.
PDP constitution does not allow for caretaker committee or interim management committee. We have taken up the challenge to correct these errors.
This executive hereby calls on Mr. President, Alhaji Umaru Musa â€“ Yarâ€™Adua, to call Chief Ogbulafor to order, else he will destroy the gains of his administration in this country which the opposition has even acknowledged. Chief Ogbulafor has murdered internal democracy in PDP which even leaves our electoral victory against other political parties in doubt,â€ Udeozor said.
The general belief in the state is that the problem in the party has remained unresolved because PDP believes in selecting candidates and not electing them.
In fact, the popular belief in the state is that the surest way to get into an elective office is to control the party machinery at the state level, hence the apparent do or die manner in which stakeholders want to hoist their cronies in the executive.
That was why PDP had had several chairmen in the state and many of them did not want to leave the office because their sponsors considered it very strategic for them to be at the decision_making level all the time.
That is why the commonest question among the party chieftains in the state is, who should we write the election result for? That was also why sometimes, the person that won the primaries or even an election, would not be the person to be declared winner eventually, and this often led to the acrimonies.