PDP mired in Dilemma over Anambra Gov. election in 2021

Kola Ologbondiyan
Kola Ologbondiyan
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An air of uncertainty may have enveloped the Peoples Democratic Party () over which political strategy it could adopt to enable it win and return to government house in 2021. Last week, two different statements, coming almost at quick intervals over the vexatious zoning issue in the state confirmed the confusion surrounding the plot to return to power bnext year.

National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan had first told the media two Fridays ago that the party abandoned the zonal formula for the 2021 governorship election in to enable it field a candidate capable of winning the election. He stated that the decision was also in line with resolutions reached by stakeholders of the party in the state and southeast zonal leaders.

Less than 48 hours later, Ologbondiyan issued another statement countering the first on the matter.  Instead, he said that decision on zoning was a state affair.

Hear him: “The attention of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party () has been drawn to conflicting reports regarding its position on issues relating to the coming governorship election.
 
“For the avoidance of doubts, the NWC wishes to state that any decision on zoning of elective offices at the state level remains the exclusive preserve of the State chapter as such falls under its regulatory purview and administrative prerogative as prescribed by the Constitution of the .
 
“The NWC notes that Section 24(2) of the Constitution is clear on the functions of the state chapters in party administration including identifying and resolving political, social and economic issues of concern in states. 
 
“Our party also holds that it recognizes the current chairman of the chapter as well as the structure of the party in the state.
 
“The NWC therefore urges all stakeholders in to continue to work harmoniously for the overall success of our party in the state”.The contention on whether to zone the office of the governor or not has been elevated in the party as the state prepares for another governorship election in November next year. The debate over the issue took a disturbing dimension after the ruling party in the state, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which of course is the architect of zoning in Anambra politics insisted that the office would rotate to Anambra south, when the present occupant must have completed his tenure next year.

 
The party’s position was also endorsed by the elders of the state. At the end of the first meeting of Anambra state elders council on March 4, this year, held at the governor’s lodge Awka, chaired by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the elders had endorsed the rotation of the office of the governor among the three senatorial zones of the state. They had said in their communique signed by Chief Anyoku and Secretary to State Government (SSG), Prof. Solo Chukwudebelu that, it was there “expectation that the next governor of the state will come from the Anambra south senatorial zone”.
 
Apparently thinking that the   resolution of the elders’ meeting re-energized the position of APGA on zoning in the state, a zonal executive meeting of the called a few weeks after in Enugu, ruled out any intention of zoning the governorship office of the state in the party.
 
Deacon Austin Umahi, Southeast Zonal Chairman of the party had told reporters after that meeting that zoning in Anambra state was the brain child of the APGA and that PDP was not taking a cue from the APGA. He stated that instead it would support the emergence of a candidate from any extraction in the state that can win an election.
 
In another meeting convened in July, this year in Enugu,, Umahi  reiterated his earlier position that the party would not adopt zoning for the Anambra state governorship election. He had stated that, it would serve the best interest of the party to tally with any candidate that has massive support in the state.

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He had told newsmen; “For the avoidance of doubt, our position as a zone is very clear. We remain firm and resolute on our ultimate interest to win the Anambra state gubernatorial election 2021 with the best candidate provided he or she is an Anambarian. We maintain that our candidate in the election could come from any part of the state. The PDP cannot be blackmailed into adopting APGA or zoning arrangement in Anambra state.

“Therefore, whatever action we take at the zone shall be legal and tailored towards taking Anambra state PDP to the winning side and our joy shall be fullest when it happens by the Grace of God.”

“Finally and most importantly, we will use all the internal reconciliation mechanisms in our party to get everybody together because only a united house would guarantee us victory. For united we stand divided we fall.”

This was rejected by some stakeholders who regarded his position as an “insult” on Anambra PDP stakeholders. These stakeholders insisted that it was not in the place of Umahi to issue directives on zoning without consulting them, adding that it was the responsibility of Anambra state PDP leaders to discuss the zoning position.

A chieftain of the party, Chief Uzodinma Egwuatu, argued that the acrimony that has refused to heal in the PDP in the state could be traced to the open contests for elective offices in the party. He stated that the party had lost “golden opportunities” of controlling the state because its members have dashed to the rig anytime there was election.

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“Imagine the confusion that arises anytime there was election from the PDP. This is something that has continued to rub us of our chances. We control majority in the state yet we have not been able to recover the governorship slot since we lost it 15 years ago. I think we should allow the zoning in the PDP. It will help us have a focus and reduce the acrimony that has become the lot of the party”, he stated.

He further argued that it was a disservice on the party which according to him “has always endorsed rotation of presidency at the national level among the zones of the country and turn back to kick against such in the states. It shows we lack consistency and can only do things when we feel it favours a segment of the party or certain individuals”.
 
Obinna Okafor, another stakeholder of the party in the state, while reacting to the development stated that, “jettisoning zoning would compound issues in the party”. He added that “all these zoning/leadership issues have been actions to hijack the party structure for a governorship aspirant. How can a party be given directives here and there, without engaging the stakeholders?”
 
He stated that the zoning issue aside, there was a matter in court over the rightful leadership of the party in the state between a faction led by Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu and Sir Chukwudi Umeaba, which he said was a serious factor awaiting determination and the success of the party in the 2021 poll.

The matter between the duo began in 2017, soon after the party lost the governorship election to the incumbent governor of the state.Umeaba claims that he replaced Prof Alphonsus Nwosu who resigned as chairman of the Caretaker Committee in the state soon after the conclusion of the governorship election in 2017. He said on assumption of office, he conducted congress elections on November and December, same year for ward and local government executives of the party, respectively.
 
He stated that he suspended the conduct of state congress because of certain irregularities and non-compliance with party guidelines and constitution, particularly attempt to use fake delegate list to conduct the process.
 
Nwobu, on his own claims that the Caretaker Committee which had Mrs Josephine Anineh as Secretary, actually concluded the state congresses where he emerged as state chairman and had since gone to an FCT high court, Abuja to challenge the claim by Umeaba. The matter is still at the hearing stage, even as the two men have continued to answer ‘chairman’ at different occasions with members going their parallel ways.
 
Anambra Governorship Aspirants In Focus
IN what looks like a counter to the position adopted by the national leadership of the party, however, 10 governorship aspirants last Sunday met at the residence of one of them, Mr Linus Ukachukwu. The meeting reportedly convened by Ukachukwu and a former governor of the state, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife had  however supported zoning insisting it was the turn of Anambra south senatorial zone.
 

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The meeting called at Osumenyi, Nnewi south council had in attendance,  Chris Azubuogu;  Nicholas Ukachukwu;   Uche Ekwunife;   Chuma Nzeribe; Ugochukwu Okeke and Emeka Etiaba; Obunike Ohaegbu; Ifedi Okwenna; Valentine Ozigbo and Godwin Ezeemo.

A communique signed by the 10 aspirants and Ezeife read: “We reiterate our support for the existing zoning arrangement for the governorship position. We re-affirm that the next governor shall emerge from Anambra South in line with the zoning arrangement.

“Whoever wins the primaries and is from Anambra South shall be supported. We also appreciate the leaders, stakeholders, and National and State Assembly members for their goodwill messages sent to this meeting. We also appreciate   the National Working Committee (NWC) for correcting the erroneous statement ascribed to it that portrayed the party as anti-zoning in Anambra state”

Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, who strongly believes he remains the chairman of the party, said every aspirant would get equal opportunity at the primaries. He maintained that PDP had no zoning arrangement, saying the party was looking for someone with capacity to win the governorship.

One of the aspirants, Obiora Okonkwo, said the party had no zoning arrangement. He insisted that efforts should be geared towards getting the best out of the myriad of persons currently showing interest in the governorship race.

Looking Beyond the PDP
There are several other arguments that zoning idea should be jettisoned to grow democracy in the state. Taking a cue from the position canvassed by Obiora are proponents who believes that zoning had run its full cycle in the state with the three senatorial zones having a bite at the governorship seat of the state. This school of thoughts believes that this is the best time to bury zoning, stressing that if any candidate takes the seat on the basis of that, it would take many years to stop the idea.

They argued that a state that produced first class political players like late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, late Dr Alex Ekwueme, late Dr Chuba Okadigbo, late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojuwku among others should not continue with zoning as according to them, ‘it is a way of promoting mediocrity in the politics of the state as has been seen in the past few years”

They believe that those who eventually emerge from the arrangement are usually not prepared for the office and in the long run, retard the development and growth of the state.But how the PDP will manage the discordant views and still remain united to prosecute the coming election will be clearer in the days ahead.

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