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Congress: Contentions over the soul of Enugu PDP




Ever since the proposed timelines for the congresses and national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were released, the now opposition party that ruled Nigeria for 16 years has been filled with activities and trepidations.

The political party that was recently defeated in a national election by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has since it suffered defeat, succumbed to internal crises.

But beneath the defeat of PDP lay the future potential of a resonating national political party that is even more poised than ever to launch itself back to national reckoning and repossess its lost glory.

It is for this futuristic potential that PDP is presently witnessing an upsurge of interest in the leadership of the party, both at the national and state levels. One of the states where the appeal and magnet for leadership of the party has attracted attention is Enugu State.

Enugu is where the PDP is a household name, a bold brand and towering image of the best-appreciated political party. Evidently, there are enough reasons why the PDP carries a larger than life image in the state. One is that since the return of democracy in 1999, the PDP has dominated the state in winning almost all the
elections conducted in the state.

Secondly, the party in Enugu State has been delivering the expected dividends of constitutional democracy through outputs, not only in physical infrastructure but also in human empowerment and guarantee of freedom of expressions, which is considered the hallmark of
participatory democracy.

It would be recalled too that since 1999, it has been difficult for any other political party to make inroad into winning elections in the state because of the brand of leaders PDP parades in the state. Not only has the state produced the President and Deputy Presidents of different assemblies of the Nigerian Senate, they were and are still firebrands that glow with intellectual acumen and rescuers of the nation at precarious times.

It was Senator Ken Nnamani as Senate President who saved the nation from near derail to authoritarianism, despotism and almost actualization of life rule in the guise of third term agenda in 2006. He was of the PDP stock from Enugu state. Same goes for the patriotism of the current deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

As a result, there are bound to be interests on who leads the PDP in Enugu state. While the concerns are good, especially at creating a robust internal party politics, the merit of selecting the best from the poll of interested persons and groups within the state chapter of the party has become one of the vexed issues in the state.

With the advent of APC in Nigeria politics, the PDP as an opposition party was becoming more aware of its challenges and the possible consequence of making mistakes in the choice of its party leaders. In as much as the APC is not a threat to the PDP-dominated Enugu state, the PDP is being careful in its quest to remain dominant.

As the countdown to Saturday May 10 state congress of the party approaches, more intrigues and horse trading on who becomes the state chairman of the PDP in Enugu state is unfolding with heightened curiosities.

The Guardian gathered that what appears to be the epicenter in determining who could lead the party was the dented unity, which the party suffered since the conclusion of the last general elections that also led to the mass defections of some of her big wigs in the state. It is generally believed that how the party handles the congress would determine its future in the state as many in her fold were said to have perfected strategies to crossover to the ruling APC.

A cold war is brewing between members of the National Assembly from the state led by Senator Ike Ekweremadu and the state machinery led by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who until he became Governor was a
member of the National Assembly for three terms. Both camps are jostling to annex the incoming state leadership of the party to either of the sides for their advantage ahead of the 2019 elections.

It was not clear if Governor Ugwuanyi has penciled down or spotted his eyes on any particular person to be made the state chairman of the party but some contestants are said to be aligned to Ekweremadu and Senator Gill Nnaji, whom sources claimed were working together for a common goal. Such chairmanship aspirants include: Dons Ude, Frank Anioma, Steve Oruruo, Chijioke Ugwueze and Jerry Eneh.

Other aspirants whom nobody is sure which divide they belong to are Deacon Okey Ogbodo, Anthony Nwachukwu and Enoch Agbo. Ugwueze and Agbo, both from Isi-Uzo LGA however have a problem of having affiliations with Nsukka cultural zone, especially since the Enugu East senatorial zone is insisting on giving the position to “Core Nkanu Man.”

Ugwueze particularly was said to be of the dismantled Ebeano dynasty which has become like a leper in the state but which Ekweremadu was alleged to be rebuilding. Nwachukwu has been a founding member of the party. His highest attainment so far however was becoming the youth leader of the party in Enugu East senatorial zone. He is the youngest among them and hoped that his ability in steering the youths of his zone should see him through to the post.

Oruruo a legal practitioner, is currently secretary of the party in the state. He is said to have worked hard to ensure the success of the party in the last elections in the state. His experience working with two party chairmen – Chief Vita Abba and now Chief Ikeje Asogwa may be an asset that could help the party overcome her present challenge in the state.

Ogbodo is distinct from the crowd and possesses a towering credential. He was not just a founding member of the PDP but has been resolute in ensuring that the party remained focused in the state particularly during the “turbulence” preceding the 2003 elections. His prowess in both executive and political party administrations are selling points dating back to 1999 when he emerged the governorship campaign anchor point for Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani who eventually became governor under the platform of the PDP.

Ogbodo is said to be a schoolmate of Governor Ugwuanyi at Saint Theresa’s College (STC) Nsukka, an advantage that may work in his favour when it comes to the governor pandering to whom he had known over the years and could trust.

There are no doubt that there are other contestants in the race especially from the same Enugu east senatorial zone but it is either the contestants are either obviously affiliated, lacked the needed sagacity or were just no match to Ogbodo when it comes to the will power.

One thing that may however work against Ogbodo is his alleged independent-minded posture. Party members claimed that it was often difficult to convince him on issues that were at variance with his Christian faith. “Ordinarily that should be an advantage but the issue is in a political terrain, one needs to be flexible at times,” a PDP member volunteered.

Another member of the party, Chidi Ugwu said it was a contest that was already setting Enugu east aglow, stressing however that with Jim Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani, Chimaroke Nnamani out of the way, there is almost a fair and equitable ground for the aspirants. He however, advised the party faithful “to be mindful in their choice of candidates”.

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