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Anambra 2021: PDP returns to trenches over zoning

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Peter Obi

The last time the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State won governorship election was in 2003. It was a controversial election that brought Dr. Chris Ngige (now Minister) into office. Some months later, the court threw Ngige out of office. Since then, PDP has not come near the exalted office.

Although the party had participated in past governorship elections, it had not been able to muster the necessary attributes that could give it a win over the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which has occupied the seat since then.

Sources stated that the party’s fortunes in these elections were compromised by party leaders, who allegedly took actions that did not only bring disunity among the members but also affected the drive for electoral victories.

A party stalwart, Mr. Obinna Okafor, told The Guardian recently that part of the actions taken that negatively impacted the party was the imposition of candidates and inability to go with the popular views on issues affecting the party in the state.

It is, perhaps, on this background that discordant voices have begun to rage in the party since the conclusion of the Southeast zonal working committee meeting that held in Enugu, where it was resolved to jettison zoning in its guber primary.

Zonal Chairman of the party, Chief Austin Umahi told journalists shortly after the meeting that PDP was desirous of returning to Anambra State Government House in 2021, explaining that part of their strategy was to give an opportunity to the best candidate, irrespective of his zone in the state to fly the party’s flag.

Umahi insisted that sabotage was responsible for the losses the party had recorded in previous governorship elections in the state, explaining that efforts had been intensified to nip it in the bud and for the party to have a smooth sail.

He said the zoning of offices in the state was a creation of the ruling APGA.

“APGA is a local party and the PDP is not. That being the case, you don’t expect us to fall into what we know is not popular and cannot help the party going forward,” he said.

Anambra State chairman of the party, Ndubuisi Nwobu lent credence to Umahi’s assertion, when he stated that previous governorship elections in the state had been contested by candidates from every zone.

Although he added that it was too early in the day to say where the next governor after Obiano would come from, he re-echoed the mantra that rotation of governorship position was APGA’s creation, which should not apply to PDP in the state.

If indeed rotation of governorship seat was created by APGA, it was perhaps during the administration of Peter Obi, who has now found himself back in the PDP, where he became the Vice Presidential running mate in the last election. He worked with stakeholders, especially traditional rulers, and religious institutions to ensure a power shift to the north.

That was responsible for the election of Willie Obiano

Now that Obi is in the PDP, will he support rotation or the emergence of the best candidate as is being mooted by party leaders in the state?

This, perhaps, is the challenge that PDP must overcome before the 2021 governorship election. How would PDP tackle the rage that has ignited over zoning of governorship in 2021?

In what looks like washing his hands off the raging storm over zoning in the state, Obi stated recently that he never tried to institutionalise rotation in the state, but that it was in the spirit of justice and equity that he insisted that governorship after him should go to the north, being the only zone that was yet to produce a governor in the state at the time.

His media aide, Valentine Obieyem said: “It was more of Obi trying to achieve the balance of representation to avoid what was clearly unjust and capable of snowballing into a crisis for the state. If at any time the state wants rotation or any form of political arrangement, it would not be the imposition of one man because, if allowed to stand, history may interpret such as a predisposition of Obi to autocracy.”

Obi’ s explanation notwithstanding, angry voices have risen, since the decision of the Southeast working committee meeting was revealed by Umahi. Many have vowed to resist it, accusing Umahi of leading the plot to deny the party opportunity to recapture the state by replaying what played out during previous elections, which the party lost.

Obinna Okafor, an immediate past member of the party’s Caretaker Committee, literally took Umahi to the cleaners, when he said he was not surprised by his comments, stressing that he was following a well-known terrain.

Okafor said: “I am only embarrassed, but not surprised with the statement credited to Chief Austin Umahi, as he is the Vice-Chairman of PDP and his immediate elder brother is the governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman of Southeast Governors Forum. It is obvious that zoning, equity, and fairness do not run in his DNA.

“Chief Austin Umahi contributed to the poor performance of Anambra state PDP in the last National Assembly election by causing confusion for the candidates on who the real wards and local government executives were…”

Okafor told the zonal Vice-chairman that it would be resisted by all well-meaning Anambra PDP members to ensure that the 2021 election was won.

“It was in the spirit of winning an election that PDP NWC zoned the 2019 presidential ticket to the North because APC also zoned theirs there. So, Chief Umahi is wrong by saying PDP Anambra would not follow APGA’s steps by zoning to Anambra South.

Another stakeholder, George Eze, accused Umahi of conspiring with certain elements in the party who are bent on ensuring that PDP never returned to power in the state, adding that his actions since coming on board clearly indicated the same.

“What action has Umahi taken so far to reconcile PDP factions in Anambra State than the inauguration of the Nwobu-led state executive,” he queried. “I know Nwobu has done his best so far, but he should not complicate matters for them by his unpopular decisions, because, even a toddler knows that there is an existing zoning arrangement in the state.”

Eze further alleged that Umahi’s outburst lent credence to reports being circulated in the state that the ruling party may have permeated PDP leadership, adding that, “they are being used to destabilise the party in the state.”

He insisted that Umahi was a product of zoning, and that “both he and his brother who is now Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi could not have been where they are if there was no zoning in the state. So why is Anambra’s case different? We know who he is working for. We have our ears to the ground. It is a hatchet job and we will reply to him at the appropriate time…”

It was gathered that stakeholders have been strategising on how to take back the state’s governorship from APGA and have almost reached a consensus that the party’s flag bearer in the 2021 election must come from Anambra South senatorial district.

Investigations revealed that Umahi may be acting based on certain facts that support that the number one office in the state had rotated among the three geopolitical zones and therefore, the office is free for grab by any zone in 2021, including that of the incumbent.

Those who hold these views insisted that the South had before now produced Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Mrs. Virgy Etiaba, and Senator Andy Uba. Ezeife was governor between January 1992 and November 1993.

The angst against it is that none of those who emerged from the zone enjoyed a full term of eight years, except for Mbadinuju, others could be likened to “children of circumstance.”

Mbadinuju had full four years between 1999 and 2003, while Andy Uba ruled for 17 days and Etiaba stepped in from November 2006 to February 2007, when the State House of Assembly impeached Peter Obi.

On the other hand, Anambra Central is said to have produced Dr. Chris Ngige, who was governor from May 2003 to March 2006 and Peter Obi, who had his eight years from 2006 to 2014.

The North produced incumbent Governor Willie Obiano, who was first elected in March 2014 and reelected November 2017. Obiano would have completed an uninterrupted eight years in office by March 2021.

Said a source: “From the analysis, you can see that only Mbadinuju can be counted as having been produced by the zone and even at that, the crisis did not allow him to do another term. Ezeife’s administration was toppled by the military. Andy Uba was removed by the court after 17 days, while Etiaba emerged because her boss was impeached.

“Besides, I think we should be looking from 1999 when this dispensation started. Anybody that says power has rotated to the three senatorial zones should then allow South to complete their eight years and from there, we can start all over again.”

As it is, there are those who feel that the segment pushing for rotation of power to Anambra South are doing so because APGA had formerly zoned its governorship ticket to the area, in line with the wishes of traditional rulers, who recently asked the party to do so.

They stated that doing so would place the party on an equal footing to compete with anybody that may emerge from the area, adding that, 2021 exercise would provide the best chance for PDP to recapture the state, following the lack of cohesion the Obiano administration brought about in the state.

Anyhow it is considered, what could give Anambra PDP the needed edge or deny it the opportunity in 2021 is how fast it can move to resolve the zoning disagreement and mobilise its members to act on the same page.


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