By Henry Umoru
The conduct of the PDP in the run up to the Anambra gubernatorial election shows that the party’s ticket may be for sale to the highest bidder.
PENULTIMATE week, the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, rolled out its guidelines for the Anambra State primary election in preparation for the state gubernatorial poll fixed for November 16.
The party also threw open its Wadata Plaza, National Secretariat for interested aspirants to pick Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms ahead of the August 24 primary election where the party’s flag-bearer would emerge to wrestle with Senator Chris Ngige of the Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, now All Progressive Congress, APC, and the candidates of All Progressive Grand Alliance and other parties in the gubernatorial election.
Wadaza Plaza thus became a beehive of activities, heightening the political atmosphere, and, as against the solemn nature of the Secretariat, praise singers were on ground to hail aspirants who came with their supporters in different kinds of cars. It was also time to raise money for the party, a period some PDP officials described as ‘Ojanta’, meaning, ‘’Market is booming.”
For the Anambra election, the PDP set aside its 2010 guidelines for primary elections which stipulate that an aspirant shall obtain the Expression of Interest Form-Code PD002/G for N500, 000, and the Nomination Form- Code PD003/G, for N5,000,000; save for female aspirants who shall be exempted.
Each male aspirant from Anambra State rushed to the Secretariat, collected the Expression of Interest Form for N1million, not N500, 000 as well as the Nomination Form for N10 million, not N5 million, making it a total of N11 million, while each female aspirant picked the Expression of Interest Form for N1 million and N5, 000, 000 for the Nomination Form, totally N6million as against the former arrangement of N500, 000 for Expression of Interest Form and free Nomination Form for women. There is now a new dispensation in the party where women no longer enjoy the privilege, just as the PDP is also using the Anambra election as a case study for the increase in Nomination fee.
During the period of collection of forms ahead of the Anambra primary election, twenty- six aspirants picked the Expression of Interest Forms to vie for the PDP gubernatorial ticket, but, at the close of submission of both the Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms on Monday midnight, only17 aspirants returned the forms and thus met the 12 midnight deadline.
The implication is that nine aspirants have backed out of the race.
In terms of Naira and Kobo, the PDP raked N12 million from the two female aspirants in the race and N165 million from the 15 male aspirants who submitted the forms at N11 million each.
On Tuesday, the 17 ‘successful’ aspirants appeared before the Ambassador Aminu Wali- led Screening Committee at the National Working Committee, NWC, meeting hall of the PDP National Secretariat.
Other members of the Screening Committee are former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Mrs Biodun Olujimi; Mohammed Umaru Kumalia; former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Austin Okpara and Casmir Ugwu.
The 17 aspirants, who appeared before the screening Committee, are Senators Andy Uba and Emmanuel Anosike Obi; former Minister of Women Affairs and past National Woman leader of PDP, Chief Iyom Josephine Anenih; Dr. Obinna Uzoh; Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu; Barrister Mike Okoye; Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo; Chief Ugochukwu Okeke; Amb. Jerry Ugokwe; Sylvester Okonkwo; Tony Nwoye; Patrick Nduka Ugbomo; Agape Ifunanyachukwu Dike- Kramer; Dr. Alex Obiogbolu; Charles Odunukwe; Onwuanyi Afamefuna Damian and Walter Ubaka Okeke.
Those who picked forms and did not return for reason which may not be unconnected with the hike to N10 million the fee for the Nomination Form fromN5,000, 000 are Eucharia Azodo; Donatus Okonkwo; Chukwuka Onyema; Adimachukwu Calista; Chinyere Udemba; Ikeobasi Mokelu; and Linda Chuba Ikepeazu.
Besides the raising of the fee for the Nomination Form from N5 million to N10 million, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the PDP has pegged N10, 000 each for the three delegates per ward as against the N100 that was hitherto paid by each of the three ad-hoc delegates during the past governorship primary elections, just as over N300, 000 will enter the purse of the party at the end of the exercise.
According to the PDP guidelines, ‘’for the purpose of nominating the party’s candidates for the offices of Governor of a State, member of the National Assembly(Senate and House of Representatives), member of the State House of Assembly and election of National Delegate, each Ward Chapter of the Party shall elect three(3) Ward Ad-hoc Delegates at a Special Ward Congress, at least one of whom shall be a woman…the three (3) aspirants with the highest votes shall be returned elected.”
Anambra State has 326 wards and, according to the ‘Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections’ of the party, ‘’three delegates per Ward elected at Ward Congress at least one of whom shall be a woman, all of whom shall cease to function at the conclusion of the Congresses for which they were elected.”
Sunday Vanguard also gathered that some of the aspirants have kicked against the N10, 000 per the three ad-hoc members as delegates against the backdrop that only the very rich will get the delegates to their sides as the villagers who are coming from the ward cannot afford the money.
Some aspirants, a source said, were also, at the end of a meeting, on Monday night, complained of moves to include, as delegates, all former members of the State Working Committee on the grounds that Anambra has had up to 13 Executive Committees till date, even as the source said that the arrangement will be tailored to favour one of the aspirants.
According to the guidelines of the PDP, those expected as delegates to the Special State Congress to pick the Anambra candidate are the State Chairman; gubernatorial candidates; members of the Board of Trustees, BoT, from the state; members of the State Executive Committee; members of the National and Zonal Executive Committees from the State; members of the National and Zonal Executive Committees from the State; members of the National Assembly from the State; members of the State House of Assembly, who are members of the party; elected Local Government Council Chairmen and Vice Chairmen who are members of the party; Local Government Party Secretaries and Treasurers; Local Government Woman and Youth Leaders; former members of the State Working Committee who are still members of the party; former Governors and Deputy Governors produced by the party who are still members of the party; and former Speakers and Deputy Speakers of the State House of Assembly produced by the party who are still members of the party.
A major hurdle that the PDP will have to cross as it prepares for the primary and governorship elections in Anambra State is the issue of the Chairman of the state chapter that will be recognized as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Bamanga Tukur- led National Working Committee, NWC, are poised for another war on the matter.
The PDP leadership is recognizing Ken Emeakayi as the state PDP Chairman, but INEC overruled the recognition. INEC says it will continue to recognise Chief Ejike Ogbuebego as the Anambra PDP Chairman.
The office of the National Chairman of PDP was served a letter from INEC where it indicated its non- recognition of Emeakayi as the Anambra Chairman of the PDP.
INEC Secretary, Abdullahi A. Kaugama, in the letter, said, “The Commission was served with several letters on the leadership of the People’s Democratic Party in Anambra State. Several Exparte Orders and consent Judgements in none of which INEC was a party were attached to the letters.
“You may wish to be reminded that the Commission monitored a State Congress of the People’s Democratic Party in Anambra State at which Chief Ejike Ogbuebego was elected as Chairman of the Party in the State.
“The Commission accordingly recognised Chief Ejike Ogbuebego as the State Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party in Anambra State. The Commission has not been served with any order in which the Court nullified the election of the said Chief Ejike Ogbubego as the State Chairman of your party in Anambra State.
“This is to inform you that the Commission will continue to recognise Chief Ejike Ogbuebego as the State Chairman of your party in Anambra State until specifically ordered otherwise by a Court of law.”
Now that the PDP has fixed N11 million for both the Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms starting with Anambra State, will the fees be sustained as the party goes for the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states? There are other posers arising from the hike in the fees payable by the aspirants jostling for the Anambra PDP gubernatorial ticket.
Is it a case of Anambra being a rich state? What happens to an aspirant who may be loved by the people and with unquestionable character but cannot raise the N11 million to pick the forms? What happens to that aspirant who may not have sponsors to invest in the business of fielding him?
Will the party extend same to the House of Assembly, House of Representatives’ elections? Should that happen, what hope does a fresh graduate have to vie for such public office? And if the person eventually raises the N11 million, becomes the party’s candidate, and the campaigns begin, how does he manage that his budget will not hit over N1billion.
And if the candidate wins the election, will he not first recoup his ‘investment’ before delivering democracy dividends to the people? There are so many unanswered questions trailing the high fees the aspirants for the PDP gubernatorial ticket are paying such that many analysts of the Anambra election say the ticket appears to be for sale to the highest bidder.