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PDP governors are the ones giving the party headache, says Nnaji

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
06 October 2022   |   4:17 am
Wike is a governor I cherish. I like the way he behaves but not recently. When you overdo certain things, you start getting negative reactions even among the people who love you.

A lawyer and former National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Ray Nnaji, spoke with LAWRENCE NJOKU on developments in the party, and Senator Chimaroke Nnamani’s reported support for the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the 2023 general elections.

… Nnamani’s support for APC, still a speculation

How do you see developments at the national level of your party where some governors led by Nyesom Wike are up in arms against the National Chairman?
Wike is a governor I cherish. I like the way he behaves but not recently. When you overdo certain things, you start getting negative reactions even among the people who love you. Wike is supposed to know when to apply the brakes, having made his stance known. He has done a lot for the party, we agree, but there are certain decisions he had taken to suggest that he did certain things out of personal interest. These include nomination of Ali Modu Sherif, where it took the Supreme Court to remove him; after that, he brought Secondus whom he single-handedly removed when he fell out with him.  His friend, Governor Ugwuanyi was the chairman of the committee set up by the party to determine where the zoning of the national chairman should go. They eventually came up with the report that the national chairman should go to the North. Wike was there and Ugwuanyi happens to be his bosom friend. They did not protest it. The North now rallied round and gave it to Iyorchia Ayu. Wike celebrated it. Then the issue of where the party should pick their presidential candidate came up. Section 7 sub-section 3(c) of the party was brought to fore.

Another of his friends, Samuel Ortom, was the chairman of the committee set up to determine whether the zoning should be retained or thrown open. Unanimously they came out and said it should be thrown open, Wike did not protest. Peter Obi was in the race then and he went to Anambra to say Obi was wasting his time and they frustrated him out of the race. At the end of the day, they went into an open contest and he (Wike) lost; he now remembered what Ayu promised him. It is not fair. If Ayu should be removed it has to follow constitutional procedure, otherwise you create more problems. Yet, these people know all these and are following him. There are some of them that are pretending and these are people that the party has made. It is very unfortunate. It is sad that some people want to pull down the roof of the house because of the party primary. If anything happens to the PDP, all of them will have problems. They should go and resolve this matter and face the elections. Going to the media to talk anyhow will not solve the matter.

I can remember that Atiku said if they zoned the presidency to the Southeast, he would not contest. But Wike never for one day mentioned that it was the turn of the Southeast. Incidentally, my governor is following him. He is following him up till today with Okezie Ikpeazu, whereas he has never for one day said that Southeast has not tasted this thing; that we have been cheated.  He has never supported the fact that it is the turn of the Southeast and my governor is following him sheepishly. Ugwuanyi was in that committee that threw the contest open and he never pulled out when that decision was taken. Even Seyi Makinde has never said that Southeast is being cheated and my governor is still following them. I don’t understand it. So let them go in and talk it over. The primary has been won and lost and we will not have another until the next elections.

How comfortable are you with Sen. Chimaroke Nnamani’s support for the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, against his own PDP candidate?
I have been confronted with this matter earlier than now in a different form. My attention was drawn to that when he was listed as one of the members of the campaign council of Bola Tinubu. Before then, there was a publication he made on the back page of the Sun Newspaper where he eulogized Bola Tinubu but towards the end of the article, he gave credence to the fact that he still remains a member of the PDP and that he was supporting Atiku Abubakar. I actually tried to debunk that before speaking with him when I said that the inclusion was in error because of the fact that before you put somebody’s name anywhere, the person must have consented to it.  I started having a second thought that he may not have consented to it based on the fact that he is friendly with Tinubu; they may have decided to put his name. But I was actually expecting him to refute it but he did not.  That has raised several posers as to whether he is committing anti-party act, being a PDP senator and working for an APC candidate.

I can say that it is too early in the day to determine this. The fact remains that the APC is yet to inaugurate its campaign council and that makes the case a speculation. If they inaugurate it and an appointment paper is released to him and he accepts it, then it can be confirmed that he is working for the APC. So to me, it is still in the realm of speculation. But assuming without conceding that he is comfortable with that name being there, then I can see it from another angle and that is; he may have been angry over a few things in the PDP.  One is that his name ought to be in the list of the presidential campaign council for Atiku, being a founding member of the party but that was not the case; instead a former governor, Okwesilieze Nwodo was given a prominent position in the campaign council. When I discussed it with him, he appreciated the fact that they put his name and that he had told the party hierarchy the same thing.

How can you say it is speculation when there are campaign posters of him and Tinubu on the streets and certain comments from the Senator?
That is why I said that somebody could use his picture and start flying it. They are going to inaugurate the presidential council and the appointment letter will be given to him. If he attends or accepts it, then it will be confirmed that he is now working for a different party, whereas he is a member of the PDP. If that becomes the case, then it does not speak well of him. All those things are in the realm of speculation until the APC inaugurates its presidential council. He has not hidden the fact that Tinubu is his friend and that he made a publication to eulogise him. But I must tell you, that he does not refute it now, does not go to suggest that he gave endorsement to that campaign council. Until the inauguration takes place and he is part of those inaugurated, then it remains a speculation.

Is his silence not sending wrong signals to the party and its members?
Like I said, it is probably a way for him to protest certain things happening in the party that he does not like. For him not to have refuted it does not mean that he accepted it because he knows the consequences of being a sitting senator of PDP and a candidate of a term of another four years on the platform of the PDP, and at the same time campaigning for the candidate of a different party. The constitution of the party is very clear; I don’t think he will reduce himself to the level of answering to a disciplinary committee of the party.

Do you share in the argument that he is doing so to attract APC’s sympathy, apparently to boost his support against APC’s senatorial candidate for Enugu East, who is contesting against him in 2023?
I disagree with that school of thought because I know quite well that Chimaroke Nnamani is one person whose popularity has remained intact. He is the only former governor of the state that has continued to maintain a strong political base. Even the present governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi cannot boast of the type of structure that Chimaroke Nnamani has and this is several years after leaving power. When you leave power is when you know whether you have a structure. It is not about paid solidarity visits by sycophants when you are in office. I must have to tell you that the issue of securing votes to be in the senate is not the problem of Chimaroke. What he needs is one vote against any other contestants. I don’t even know who is challenging him from any other party. So it is not true. His popularity is high. Look at what he did with his former platform, the PDC? The PDP knew it was not an easy task to beat him on each occasion he contested. They knew what they did in the field to beat him. He has been a hard nut under the party he floated and that is to tell you how strong somebody can be. Now with the PDP strength, being the party in power in the state, it will be difficult for a candidate of another party to beat him.

Are you saying that your party is not worried about the way and manner the senator has conducted itself?
One thing you will understand is that he has not announced that he is leaving the PDP.  He knows the implication of doing so. The PDP will not spare a thought in invoking necessary sanctions on anybody that plays anti-party activity.

I have said that it could be a way to protest certain things happening in the party. It could also be that he is not happy with the state of things in the state chapter of the party. One of the things that he might not like is the appointment of Ikeje Asogwa as the Director General of the Peter Mbah/PDP campaign in Enugu State. His appointment has nothing to do with Chimaroke, who understands clearly that Asogwa is being recycled. There is no justifiable reason for the governor to make such an appointment. He is not the only person that can do the job and you can see that members of the party are not happy with the appointment. He is the governor and can do anything he likes, but Chiamroke could be doing what he is doing to say since you rejected me, I have been accepted somewhere, so that could be a way to protest Asogwa’s appointment.

If Chimaroke is not happy with the appointment, what has that got to do with Atiku Abubakar?
Let me be frank with you, the nominees from Enugu State into Atiku’s presidential council must have come from the governor. I believe too well that if the former governor, Okwesilieze Nwodo is playing a prominent role there, there is no justification for Chimaroke Nnamani not to be there. I have a serious feeling that this is part of the problem. Nobody told me, but I have been around politics long enough to know when things are not working well. What he is doing might be his own way of reacting or protesting the development in the party. If it was the governor that recommended those from Enugu in the presidential council, why was Chimaroke’s name omitted?

He was a governor; he was a founding member of the PDP and has contributed to the development of the party. So, even if there is a criterion for nomination/recommendation, I believe Chimaroke is eminently qualified. There is no way Atiku can endorse someone from Enugu without consulting the governor and if the governor had made the recommendations it is not proper. All these, however bother on speculation. I don’t have concrete facts because when certain things are not clear, you come out with speculation.

You said that Asogwa’s appointment could have been the reason for his grievance, was there any other person penciled down for the job?
There are more credible people who can do the job even better. Asogwa to the best of my knowledge is a member of the PDP. But he is being recycled as if we don’t have better alternatives. He was the campaign Director for Ugwuanyi governorship campaign in 2019, why should you bring him back again? Are there no credible people that can do the job better? Why should we continue to recycle those whom we know have lost favour with the people? The governor is not bound to consult any of us. It is his duty but we are watching.

Are you saying that there are ripples in the party in the state?
All I have said is that the governor is in charge and he does things as it suits him. I am entitled to my opinion and I said that there are things that shouldn’t be. I know there are more credible people that can do that job better than Asogwa. Even if he had that appointment because the governor is coming from Enugu East and he needed to balance with Enugu north; there are more credible people from Enugu north that can do the job. Again, when he (Ugwuanyi) campaigned in 2019, he picked his Campaign Director from Enugu north. So why didn’t he replicate the same for Enugu East? We do some of these things because we believe that the PDP has been doing fine and has no challenger; if we have serious opposition in the state, there are things we cannot do.

What areas would you ask the government to address before he finally quits in May next year?
The issue of insecurity has become a serious nightmare in the state. The attack recently on a security checkpoint at Amodu, Enugu South council is the fourth attack in that area this year. The other day was in New Haven, where policemen were killed. It is a very bad omen that should reawaken the state government because people are sleeping with their two eyes open. I think we need more intelligence at the moment. Dirt is seriously taking over the state. Let the government institute something serious in this area because of the health implications. He has done well in the area of road construction. I give him kudos for that road through Abakpa/Adoration/Emene and the fly over at Trans Ekulu, but the internal roads within the state capital have dilapidated seriously and I think something should be done about them.

How would you rate the opposition parties ahead of the 2023 general elections in Enugu state?
The opposition parties are not formidable enough to upstage the PDP. The PDP has a strong structure in the state from the local to the state. These people are on ground and working for the party. The opposition might improve their rating this time around but obviously will not upstage PDP. I cannot, however guarantee 100 per cent for the PDP because; the opposition will certainly improve their rating with the elections.