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Anambra PDP: Torn between Wike’s warning and exclusion plots

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Wike and Ugwuanyi

When the Rivers State Governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, reminded Southeast stakeholders of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that winning the November 6, 2021 Anambra State gubernatorial should be their major agenda, it was if he saw the challenges facing the PDP in the state.

A hefty number of 13 gubernatorial aspirants are lining up to contest the party’s ticket for the November poll. As such, given the challenges of managing such number of serious contenders, particularly given their huge individual net worth as billionaires, how to prune down the number to a manageable size became a serious issue.

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While some party faithful, especially from Anambra South Senatorial District are rooting for zoning, other stakeholders maintain that zoning has no relevance in the search for the ideal candidate, even as they contend that if there is any need to exclude aspirants, those already holding elective offices should be asked not to purchase the expression of interest and nomination forms.

But, speaking on the silent agitations for zoning and need to prune down the number of aspirants as a way of ensuring a rancour-free nomination process, the national leadership of PDP declared that it would not be forced to adopt the power sharing arrangement of another political party.

According to the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who made the National Working Committee’s (NWC) position on the matter public during a world press conference in Abuja on August last year, “PDP would not adopt the internal policy of another party for the Anambra governorship election.”

The NWC also made it clear the state executive led by Mr. Ndubuisi Nwobu was the only recognised PDP leadership in Anambra State and urged all government agencies and bodies to deal with the Nwobu-exco in any matter relating to PDP in Anambra State.

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But, despite those clarifications, the issue of exclusion reared up during the recent stakeholders meeting at the Government House, Enugu. Prominent PDP chieftains that attended included, the 2019 Vice Presidential candidate of the party, Mr. Peter Obi; Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; former Senate President and Secretary to the Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim; Senator Sam Egwu; former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha; former Minister of Women and Social Affairs, Iyom Josephine Anenih; National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (retd), among others.

The highpoints of the meeting were the selection of Governor Ugwuanyi as the party’s leader for the zone and message of solidarity from Governor Wike, who was in Enugu to commiserate with the state government and the families of Matthias Ekweremadu over the death of former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in the state.

Wike told the stakeholders that winning the November 6, Anambra governorship poll would be a very big boost for their political aspiration, just as he warned them of complacence and divisive tendencies.

The Rivers State chief executive noted that if PDP fails to win Anambra State, it would not augur well for the party, particularly Southeast, which has become a theatre for the supremacy battle between federal governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP.

Analysts recall that PDP’s dominance of Southeast shrank from three to two states after Ebonyi State governor, Engineer David Umahi, crossed over to APC. Therefore, pointing to the forthcoming Anambra State gubernatorial election as a great opportunity to reclaim its dominance, Wike urged the stakeholders to come together.

His words: “The November election offers the PDP a rare opportunity to retake Anambra State and consolidate the party’s grip in the Southeast geopolitical zone. And to achieve this, people must be willing to make sacrifices in the overall interest of the PDP.

“Let us have party interest, not group interest and put everything aside. Anambra use to be a PDP state but because of wrangling and not giving in, that is what has made PDP to lose Anambra. Only two States in the Southeast, which are Enugu and Abia are PDP today. If we add Anambra, it is a good boost for us.”

Credible primary
Perhaps, speaking from experience in the Edo State governorship primary, Wike mooted the idea of a credible governorship primary as the basis of building cohesion and achieving popular support around the party’s standard-bearer.

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He, therefore, pleaded with the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) to allow governors to oversee both the conduct of congresses and governorship primary in Anambra, stressing: “It must be done transparently. Whether the congresses or the primary itself, the governors should be in charge to come and do the election.”

He noted that adhering to his suggestion that PDP governors be allowed to oversee the conduct of the congresses and primary would indicate whether the NWC is serious about PDP winning Anambra election. Wike specifically charged the party’s National Organising Secretary, Col Austin Akobundu (rtd), to ensure that the processes leading to election of Anambra PDP candidate are transparently done to rekindle public confidence that the party means well for all.

“You have a critical role. Luckily you’re from Southeast, tell them (NWC) that look if we lose Anambra, there is problem for us in the South East. And you know that APC is coming out strong to fight in Anambra State. So, let us work together,” Wike told Akobundu.

He assured the stakeholders that PDP governors will support the party in Anambra State to win the November election, declaring, “All of us are ready to give Anambra that support to win this election.”

The Rivers State governor renewed the appeal to members with cases in court to withdraw their suits in the interest of the PDP, even as he urged contending factions in Anambra State to reconcile and work in unison. “In the name of God, everybody keep your ego, part of the problem is ego, let us work as a team and deliver PDP.”

Malicious twists
SIGNS that some party stalwarts might stonewall the peace-building efforts within PDP towards the Anambra gubernatorial poll emerged shortly after the Enugu stakeholders meeting.

No sooner had the sirens of some of the attendees died down than reports made the rounds in the social media announcing aspirants from Anambra Central Senatorial District, namely, Senator Uche Lilian Ekwunife and Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, were asked to withdraw.

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But, perturbed by the malicious twists of the real events at the stakeholders meeting, Dr. Okonkwo, who is a frontline contender, decried the tissues of misinformation trailing the Southeast leaders’ meeting.

Okonkwo regretted that instead of paying special heed to the wise counsel of Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, that members should join hands and work for the collective victory of the party, some desperate aspirants instigated their media aides to churn out negative reports that did not reflect the reality of what transpired during the strategic meeting.

He declared that at no time during the Enugu meeting did issues of zoning or disqualification of candidates feature, stressing that the meeting did not alter or cancel the earlier decision by PDP National Working Committee (NWC), which declared that the party was focused on winning the governorship election with the best candidate irrespective of his/her zone.

In a statement made available to The Guardian by his Dikeora Media Office (DMO), Okonkwo said his attention was drawn to a misleading and fictitious  ‘news’ item on an online platform hosted by rival aspirant alleging that he has been excluded from the contest on the basis of zoning.

“The Southeast Zonal leadership meeting of PDP with some stakeholders from Anambra State, which held at Government House Enugu, did not take any decisions on where the governorship candidate of the party in Anambra state would come from.

“The meeting also did not alter or cancel the earlier decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party which insisted that the focus of the party was to win the governorship election with the best candidate irrespective of his/her zone,” he stated.

While assuring all his supporters that Dr. Okonkwo is fully in the race to win, the Dikeora Media Office recalled that the PDP NWC had in August 2020, at a world press conference addressed by the National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja stated that it would not adopt an internal policy of another party for the Anambra governorship election.

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“The PDP NWC also insisted that the Ndubisi Nwobu executive remains the only recognised PDP leadership in Anambra State and urged all government agencies and bodies to deal with the Nwobu-exco in any matter relating to PDP in the state.

“At no time therefore, did the meeting of the Zonal leadership of PDP at Enugu last Monday discard the above decisions and adopted zoning. That did not happen,” DMO declared.

Also, when contacted, Senator Ekwunife, who represents Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Red Chamber, retorted: “Not at all. Wishful thinking of the people, who are afraid of me.”

The Senator’s supporters had dismissed the reports that she had been “technically excluded” as the handiwork of some aspirants working as moles in PDP, saying: “There was nothing like that, Iyom is contesting the governorship, don’t mind the cowards from the South.”

Although she hails from Igboukwu, in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra South Senatorial zone, Senator Ekwunife is married to Chief Larry Ekwunife from Nri in Anaocha Local Government Area in Anambra Central Senatorial Distict.

PDP has resolved to organise a transparent, free, fair and credible governorship primary, just as the zoning apologists insist on having such a guided shortlist before the process of selecting the eventual candidate.

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