…As political godfathers sheath their swords
By Vincent Ujumadu
AFTER many years of political turbulence the peace that eluded the Anambra State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to be at hand.
The state chapter of the party has until now had the negative reputation of being the only state chapter of the party not to have held an accepted State congress since the first congress that ushered in the first elected political office holders of the fourth republic in 1999.
Indeed, at the beginning of the present democratic dispensation, Anambra was virtually a one party state with PDP in control. It formed the government at most levels and produced most members of the state and national assemblies.
However, the interference of godfathers in the administration of the then Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju who was in office from 1999 to 2003 brought a lot of distraction such that the government lost its focus. The resultant effect was that the popularity of PDP began to drop in the state such that by 2003 when another election was due, it became obvious that PDP might not win election in the area if it re-presented Mbadinuju.
That was how Dr. Chris Ngige who initially wanted to contest for the senate was drafted by one of the godfathers, Chief Chris Uba to contest for governor on the platform of PDP.
The result of what transpired between the godfather and godson arising from certain agreements eventually led to the unprecedented abduction of Governor Ngige. It was the first time that a sitting Governor under full cover of the security forces would be abducted by a civilian.
Even before 2003, PDP was already losing grip of the state and this was how All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) emerged as the party to beat in the election of that year. Surprisingly, after the 2003 gubernatorial election, the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared PDP as the winner and it took Mr. Peter Obi who contested on the platform of PDP three years to regain his mandate. This finally put PDP in disarray and its members began to form factions that were busy challenging the authenticity of the various groups. The final blow was when Dr. Andy Uba was removed as governor after barely two weeks in office after the 2007 election as the Supreme Court declared the landmark judgment that Mr. Peter Obi’s tenure would run till 2010.
When it was time for the February 6, 2010 election, PDP was still in a disorganized state that its members could not present an acceptable flag bearer to challenge Obi of APGA. Many members of PDP even worked against the party’s candidate, Prof Chukwuma Soludo during the election and again, the result is now history.
Indeed, the happenings in Anambra PDP were always a challenge to any national chairman of the party that emerged. Chief Audu Ogbeh could not solve the problem. His successor, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor who was the national secretary under Ogbeh, could also not resolve the crisis as all attempts he made failed to achieve the desired result.
The national secretariat repeatedly constituted committees to mediate the repeated crises that engulfed the state chapter.
Indeed, it is alleged that the factionalisation of the party in Anambra State was stoked by some party officials at the national headquarters who supposedly benefited in terms of financial patronage from the diverse groups.
Under Ogbulafor, there were the Chuma Nwofor committee, the Jim Nwobodo committee, the Jerry Gana committee and the Ogbu committee and none of them achieved the desired result of ensuring the return of peace in PDP.
When Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo became chairman, the situation in Anambra PDP still starred him in the face and he vowed to solve it once and for all, warning that if his attempt failed, PDP might decide to forget Anambra State and leave it in the hands of the opposition. That was how he appointed the 30-member caretaker committee headed by Chief Emmanuel Nwaeze to find a lasting solution to the problem of the party in Anambra State .
In fact, the Nwaeze committee that preceded the successful congress was the fifth attempt in two years by the national leadership to ensure the return of peace in the troubled Anambra State branch of the party. Like the previous ones, members of the committee reached out to the major stakeholders and dialogued with them on ways of moving the party forward.
It was the success of that effort that paved the way for the successful congress as even those who were initially skeptical of the committee observed the good intentions of the national chairman to return peace in Anambra PDP.
The enthusiasm shown by stakeholders and other party members during the committee’s first meeting it convened in Awka was an indication that there was hope for peace because most political aspirants realized that it was only in an atmosphere of peace that they could achieve their ambitions. For instance, for the first time since the 2007 general elections, all the leaders of the various factions under the facilitation of the Nwaeze led committee converged to find a way forward for the party that had remained in disarray for years as a result of leadership crisis.
Nweze’s speech on that occasion really touched the hearts of the stakeholders and that marked the beginning of the process for the return of peace as most people present were given opportunity to suggest ways of correcting the imbalances that had existed in the party over the years. In an emotion –laden address to them, Nweze said:
“It is painful that a state like Anambra with great potentials and which has produced great Nigerians in various fields of human endeavour, can get embroiled in such an intractable internal crisis that had portrayed us as incapable of governing ourselves. This is most unacceptable. We need to quickly put all these ugly experience behind us and move forward for the sake of the people of Anambra State, our party and Nigeria .
“With the emergence of Dr. Okwesiliweze Nwodo as the new national chairman, the party has begun to sing a new song in Nigeria. Hope is being rekindled and the ugly practices of marginalization, exclusion and lack of internal democracy are being squarely addressed. The story cannot be different in Anambra.” That speech seemed to be the tonic needed by the members to toe the path for true reconciliation.
Nweze said further that although his emergence as the state chairman may not have gone down well with some highly respected leaders of PDP in the state, those who felt aggrieved should sheath their swords and support the dialogue, peace and the clear vision he has brought.
Some of the stakeholders who spoke expressed their preparedness to cooperate with the chairman, adding that what caused the problem in the past was the deceit by those who were appointed to superintend over the affairs of the party, but had personal agenda which led to the unending crisis.
According to them, no genuine politician would oppose peace, adding that as long as the committee met the aspirations of majority of PDP members in the state, it would receive maximum support from the members
But as Nwaeze was reaching out to the stakeholders to see the need for PDP to regain its wining formula, Benji Udeozor headed to an Abuja Federal High Court asking it to declare the committee illegal, arguing that his group was still the authentic state executive of the party. This put on hold the efforts of Nwaeze and his committee, until INEC directed that PDP must conduct congresses in some states, including Anambra because congresses were due in those states.
The INEC decision apparently consolidated Nwaeze forcing most members of the party to sink their differences leading to his election elected him the state chairman at a successful state congress of the party held last Monday in Awka.
Other people elected at the congress were Chief Cosmos Agagbo who emerged the deputy chairman, as well as three vice chairmen from the zones. They were Chief Chuba Egolum (Central), Chief Kenneth Emeakayi (South), Chief Emma Mbamalu (North), Mrs. Susan Ekwunife, state secretary and Ngozi Agudosi the publicity secretary. Other key officers include Mrs. Genevieve Ekwochi who was elected the new state woman leader and Hon Chief Clems Ezika as the state legal adviser.
Most of the top shots of the party in the state, including the party’s candidate in the February 6, 2010 election, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, among many others hailed the emergence of Nwaeze as the chairman.
The major advantage he had was that he had never been associated with any of the factions sponsored by the major stakeholders and godfathers. For the first time since the crisis began, there was jubilation at the gathering of PDP members unlike what used to happen in the past where thugs would waylay perceived opponents of their groups after meetings.
At the congress which was supervised by a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Chijioke Edoga from Enugu State as the returning officer, a team from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) observed the exercise
In his speech, the South East zonal chairman of PDP, Chief Olisah Metuh, said the party was grateful to the former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu for coming together as a team again to move Anambra PDP forward.
Metuh reminded the new officers that whoever campaigned for them before the congress was no longer important, adding that what is important is that the state has conducted the best state congress ever in Anambra State.
The new chairman of the party, Nwaeze, described the outcome of congress as the wish of the people of the state. According to him, “this is a new era and it is not going to be a cash and carry affair in Anambra PDP again.”
He called on members of the party to rally round the new executive members to enable them return PDP to what it used to be in the state, adding that the days of imposition of candidates on the party were over.
“There is no way the stakeholders, elders of the party and other financiers will sit down to allow the party being sold to one individual in a state where you have political egg heads,” Nweze said
Before the congress, the South East Zonal Working Committee of the Party had invited the chairman of the Benji Udeozor-led group to answer questions bordering on alleged breach of Article 21 of the party’s constitution.
While the crisis lasted, chieftains of the Party were worried that if nothing was done immediately, PDP might die a natural death in the state.
The member representing Awka North and South in the House of Representatives, Chief Emmanuel Uchieze said he was optimistic that the leadership tussle would be resolved before preparations for the 2011 elections get into top gear.
“I am not boasting, but all the noise will die down when PDP goes into action. Most of the people in other political parties, as you know, were originally members of PDP and when the chips are down they will come back to the PDP.
Never mind what happened in Aanmabra State during the February 6th, 2010 when APGA won because that time, we had serious problems in PDP because of the manner our party threw up our flag bearer, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo.
“Believe me; PDP will win 90 percent of the elective offices in Anambra. And for those who are in the race and are not yet working hard to win in a free and fair contest, they should have a rethink because 2011 is going to be who the electorate wants that will win the election,” the lawmaker said.
He commended the national chairman of the party, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo for the reforms he is bringing in the party, adding that with the emergence of the new leadership for Anambra State PDP, there is hope.
He advised the chairman, Chief Emmanuel Nweze and his executive members to take the party to the Promised Land, urging them be fair to all party members and do their duties without fear or favour
According to him, the only way to win the confidence of the members is by providing a level playing ground which, he observed, has been lacking in the party. The peace at hand in the state chapter of the PDP is for now generally regarded as the peace of the grave yard. It is generally assumed that stakeholders have concluded that continuing the state of acrimony was of no benefit to anyone.
That fact is underscored by the increasing strength of APGA which is daily waxing in the face of the implosion of the PDP. By agreeing to sheath their swords the warring stakeholders may only have concluded on one fact, to wit that they are damaging themselves and helping APGA.