Infighting has cost the Anambra chapter of Peoples Democratic Party the governorship seat of Anambra State for years. As zoning controversy rears its head in the party, David-Chyddy Eleke asks if the party will be able to unite to clinch the seat after its primary election
Though the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been out of power for close to 16 years in Anambra State, members of the party believe it is still strong and standing in good stead. Three times, the party has lost the opportunity of returning to the Anambra State government house since it was removed through the court in 2006, and all three attempts were truncated by infighting among members, resulting from the choice of governorship candidate for the party.
In 2010, a very stiff contest between Hon Tony Nwoye and Prof Chukwuma Soludo led the national leadership of the party to settle for Soludo, who was freshly out of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as its candidate. Other top guns in the party who were deeply opposed to Soludo’s aspiration ensured he lost at the main election, as Mr Peter Obi, then governor won a reelection.
In 2014, Nwoye made it by becoming the candidate of the party, but he was again opposed by some members of his party, leading to his loss in the main election. Also in 2017, Mr Oseloka Obaze who won the party’s ticket was not supported by some members of the party who were unhappy, over his choice as candidate. Many felt Obaze was single-handedly picked by former governor, Mr Peter Obi, who many protested was still new in the party as at that time. They fought Obaze’s candidature, causing incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano to win reelection.
Another opportunity for the party to win over the state will again come in November, but already, the choice of candidate and which zone he or she should come from is causing a row. Anambra has an unwritten rule about the zoning of the governorship seat, among the three senatorial zones of the state, but it has severally been violated by politicians. While the southern zone took one term of four years through Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju in 1999 to 2003, the central senatorial zone took the next turn through Dr Chris Ngige and Mr Peter Obi, spending a total of eleven years. On leaving office, Obi insisted on ensuring that someone from the northern zone succeeded him. Chief Willie Obiano who succeeded Obi will on March 17, 2022 conclude his eight-year term.
Even with the unwritten rule, most politicians in the state from zones not favoured by the zoning formula have always contested the governorship election, each time there is an election, thereby questioning the efficacy of the rule. To continue with the unwritten rule, the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has zoned its governorship ticket to the southern zone for the coming election, but the PDP insists that doing so will be undemocratic, thereby opening its doors to all and relying on the delegates of the party to choose for it a candidate they think can win the main election.
But, in what looks forcing the PDP to recant its position on zoning, 12 aspirants of the party, who hail from southern senatorial zone have formed an alliance, insisting that one of them must be given the party’s ticket if the party must win the governorship election in November. The aspirants, Mr Valentine Ozigbo, Dr Godwin Maduka, Mr Godwin Ezeemo, Chuma Nzeribe, Hon Chris Azubogu, Mrs Chidi Onyemelukwe, Walter Okeke, Ifedi Okwenna, Winston Udeh, Johnny Maduafokwa, Ugochukwu Uba and Emeka Etiaba in a meeting they held recently advised PDP to consider one of them for the ticket of the party. They cited the party’s constitution; article 7(2)C as providing for zoning of positions for the sake of fairness and equity.
To further strengthen the argument, one of the aspirants, Mr Valentine Ozigbo in a press conference he addressed via zoom reiterated the position. He said: “Let me tell you, if PDP fields someone outside the southern zone, then they will not be in the election. I know that the next governor of this state will be from the south. Anyone that is not from the zone that is in the race may be doing so for another reason.
“Of course you know that some people are contesting election to make money or for other reasons that are best known to them. If someone outside the 12 of us from the zone wins the PDP primary election, what it simply means is that PDP is not in the race.”
Ozigbo stated that already, the odds favour him to pick the ticket of the party, saying: “There is already a survey that has just been conducted by an Abuja based consulting firm, Eagle Badger, which was commissioned by a Washington DC based On Governmental Organisation (NGO), Council on African World Affairs, USA, which scored our chances high. The zoning issue is not for me because surveys that have been held favour me, whether there is zoning or not. But let me tell you, we need to get things right in PDP, for the sake of equity, fairness and justice.”
Another aspirant, Dr Godwin Maduka, a Harvard University-trained medical doctor and pain specialist during a press conference re-choed it too. He insists that PDP should be considered not to be in the race if it chooses its candidate from another senatorial zone, other than the south. Though Maduka stated that he was not contesting for the governorship position on the strength of where he comes from, but the ideas he has for the state, he said that choosing someone from the zone will help the party win. He also spoke particularly about himself, describing himself as the best aspirant of the party, and one who has the capacity to win victory for the party.
“I’m not in the race because of zoning, but PDP has to field someone from the south if they have to win. I know what I am losing by being here for the governorship race. If Anambra wants development, then they should vote for me. I’m a triple professor, a holder of four doctorate degrees, so you do not think I’m here to joke,” Maduka said.
Already, the alliance by the 12 aspirants has started unsettling the peace in the party as some of the aspirants have kicked against it. A former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife in a statement he signed disagreed with 12 governorship aspirants. Ezeife who has never hidden his support for Senator Uche Ekwunife queried the reason for excluding Ekwunife from the list of aspirants who hail from the southern zone. Though Ekwunife is from the southern zone, she is married to a man from the central zone and also represents the Central senatorial zone in the senate, just as she has previously represented Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia federal constituency, which is in the central zone.
Ezeife described the communiqué by 12 PDP aspirants, as one made in bad faith. He said, “I am in possession of a communique signed by 12 PDP aspirants who are of southern origin. They based their communiqué on the provisions of PDP Constitution, Article 7, They made special appeal to PDP about zoning. This is very good. I am an apostle of zoning too even though PDP in their wisdom decided not to zone the governorship seat in Anambra State.
“However, I did not see the name of my daughter, distinguished Senator Uche Ekwunife, on the list of those who signed the communiqué, or have the signatories began a discriminatory process against her? Uche Ekwunife is from Igbo-Ukwu in the Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra South Senatorial District. I believe that Uche Ekwunife has the constitutional rights as any Anambrarian to vie for the position of governor, either from Central or South Senatorial District. It’s her right, I strongly believe.”
A source within the party said the resolution by the 12 aspirants was capable of causing infighting among members, thereby truncating the chances of the party in the November election. The source said the 12 aspirants were working towards arm-twisting the party into accepting to zone the ticket to the southern senatorial zone, just as other parties have done. “They may reject the primary election result if someone outside the 12 of them wins, and that would be the beginning of PDP’s trouble in the forthcoming election,” the source said.
True to this source, the 12 aspirants have a large followership base, and may decide to work against the party if anyone from the four other aspirants from the other zones wins the primary election. A lot would therefore depend on the leaders of the party to see a way to pacify the 12 southern aspirants if no one among them wins, especially as the four aspirants of the party from other zones are also known to be powerful politicians who may win the love of delegates at the primary election. The PDP in Anambra has scheduled its primary on June 26 for the 16 aspirants who picked its forms.
The alliance by the 12 aspirants has started unsettling the peace in the party as some of the aspirants have kicked against it. A former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife in a statement he signed disagreed with 12 governorship aspirants. Ezeife who has never hidden his support for Senator Uche Ekwunife queried the reason for excluding Ekwunife from the list of aspirants who hail from the southern zone. Though Ekwunife is from the southern zone, she is married to a man from the central zone and also represents the Central senatorial zone in the senate, just as she has previously represented Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia federal constituency, which is in the central zone