BY VINCENT UJUMADU
The crisis ridden Anambra State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has apparently run out of options in finding neutral political mediators to resolve its decade long crisis. As a last resort, party elders have beckoned on a retired judge to help out.
PDP chieftains are banking on the legal and political experience of the former Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Paul Obidigwe (rtd) for a peaceful resolution of the many crises that had denied the party the Awka Government House since 2006.
Justice Odigwe and others representing the interests of the various factions in the party were appointed by the state leadership of the party to ensure that peace returns to the party to enable them fight a coordinated campaign for the November 2013 governorship election in the state.
Justice Obidigwe is, however, not really new to politics. As a young lawyer, he was elected to the old Anambra State House of Assembly in the second republic on the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN.
He later moved into the judiciary and rose to become the state chief judge and retired two years ago. His son is currently a PDP member in the House of Representatives.
It was perhaps the choice of Justice Obidigwe to lead the peace and reconciliation committee of Anambra PDP that made leaders of the various factions to agree to send their representatives as members of the committee.
Disunity among members
Though PDP is believed to have a large followership in Anambra State, it had not been able to win the governorship of the state for some time because of disunity among members who worked against the party during elections.
Rather than support candidates of the party during elections, the factional leaders encouraged their followers to vote against the party, a development that had turned the party into a toothless bulldog in Anambra State.
However, going by the caliber of members of the committee and their antecedents, there is hope that peace would return to PDP ahead of the governorship election in November this year.
Apart from Justice Obidigwe, other members of the committee include Mrs. Beatrice Ekwueme, the wife of former Vice-President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former governorship aspirant in the state, Mrs. Chika Ibeneme, former Chairman of the party in the state, Mr. Bright Nnebedum, Chief Ekene Umeanuka, another former chairman of the party in the state, Mr. Roma Mocha, among others.
The secretary of the committee is Chief Okey Muo Aroh, a political heavyweight who aspired for the position of national publicity secretary of PDP at the last convention of the party.
Remarkably, all but one of the powerful godfathers in the party have a representative each in the committee. Mrs. Ekwueme is representing her husband, Mrs. Ibeneme is representing the interest of the Special Adviser to the President on Technical Matters, Chief Akachukwu Nwankpo, Nnebedum represents Senator Andy Uba, while Aroh is there standing in for past elected local government chairmen. Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu reportedly declined to send an emissary while nothing is known of the intentions of Chief Chris Uba who has sometimes worked with his brother, Andy on political projects.
Anambra State chairman of the party, Prince Ken Emeakayi, who was elated at the decision of all the stakeholders of the party to be part of the peace –making process said at the inauguration of the committee in Awka that reconciliation became necessary because PDP cannot afford to lose the next governorship election in the state.
The committee’s task, according to Emeakayi, is to ensure stakeholders such as Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Chris Uba, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Senator Andy Uba, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, among others, give their full support to the leadership of the party at all levels to enable the party work for the common goal of all. And for the first time in many years, representatives of the four major factions of PDP in the state were present during the inauguration of the committee in Awka.
Emeakayi said further: “This is a demonstration that our members at the grassroots have taken back what belongs to them and today has marked the beginning of the end of PDP factions in the state. We have suffered for too long in this state and we will not want that suffering to continue.”
“Those interested in contesting the governorship election on the platform of the party should go back to their wards to begin preparations because that is the only way they can make themselves relevant. A situation many of them stay in Abuja and hope that they can be made governor there is self deceit. “The kernel of our struggle over the years was our insistence that the party belongs to everybody and that both the big and small members should get their due.”
Apparently as a way of encouraging the reconciliatory moves of the leadership of the party, businessman, Prince Arthur Eze was the first to identify with the call for every member of PDP in the state to forget past ugly experiences in the party.
After collecting his membership card at his Ukpo, Dunukofia ward, he said that the problem in PDP was often caused by those who place personal and regional interests above national interest.
After working assiduously for about one month, Justice Obidigwe and members of his committee submitted the report to the state executive of the party penultimate Monday and expressed delight that almost all the stakeholders that had been leading various factions made inputs towards ensuring a lasting peace in Anambra PDP.
According to Obidigwe, the experience the committee had during the assignment was an indication that members of PDP at all levels were tired of crisis, adding that everybody’s concern is how to ensure that PDP returns to Government House in 2014.
Receiving the report, Prince Emeakayi mandated the committee to go further to the 21 local government areas and the 326 wards in the state to make peace at the grass root. He also gave an assurance that the report of the committee would be implemented to the letter and that the committee will also be involved in the implementation.
For now, all eyes are on Justice Obidigwe and members of his committee to see if they can achieve what others had failed to achieve in the past.