Anambra PDP: Between contenders and pretenders
From Magnus Eze, Enugu
Unfolding political dynamics leading to the November 6 governorship polls in Anambra State have shown that there may not be space for godfathers, particularly in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The party leadership has insisted that it will organise a free, fair and credible governorship primary election; that would produce a candidate that could win the main election.
National Organising Secretary of PDP, Austin Akobundu, was emphatic on that while issuing forms to aspirants, stressing that zoning was not on the card of the party.
Also, National Vice Chairman, South East, Chief Ali Odefa, had told party stakeholders similar thing in Awka: “If we work hard, we will be in the Government House next year. I am very confident about this. It is simple. We want to bring transparency in the primary election processes. The process must be free and fair. We know that if the process is transparent, contestants will not work against the party during the election.”
He told Daily Sun in an interview that they would do everything possible; starting from providing level playing field for all the aspirants to contest and then letting the most popular person to emerge as the candidate of the party.
The zonal chairman declared: “I can assure Anambra people that this time we are poised to get it right and we will get it right. The era when people are muscled down and ticket or candidacy given to a favoured candidate is over, that’s what leads to other aspirants, either defecting to other parties or sabotaging the party out of anger and annoyance of ill treatment”.
Sixteen aspirants were recently screened at the party’s national secretariat and one of them will fly the flag of the PDP in the election.
Chairman of the party in the State, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, said the result of the screening exercise was being awaited in readiness for the primary election slated for June 26.
Those jostling for the PDP ticket are Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Dr Godwin Maduka, Mrs Genevieve Ekwochi, Hon. Tony Nwoye, Godwin Ezeemo, Chief Chuma Nzeribe and Valentine Ozigbo.
Others are Mrs Chidi Onyemelukwe, Senator Uche Ekwunife, Hon. Chris Azubogu, Senator Ugochukwu Uba, Dr Winston Udeh, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), Ubaka Okeke, Chief Johnny Maduafokwa and Dr. Ifedi Okwenna.
Daily Sun investigations showed that while some persons are genuinely pursuing their aspiration to become governor; some others are poised to play spoiler role. One or two aspirants in this category were alleged to have recently joined the fray just to build grounds for litigation even as a crop of them is said to be actually working for either the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) or the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Regardless, it is important to have a peep into the backgrounds of the PDP aspirants; their plans for the state including strengths and weaknesses.
Dr. Obiora Okonkwo
Okonkwo fondly called Dikeora has a Ph.D in political economy. A self-made man, he has so far shown positive signs that he has all it takes to govern Anambra State well.
Okonkwo whose campaign slogan is “Maka Ilu Olu Oma” (For doing good work) is poised to take over the State with his grassroots reach. He has not prevaricated that he is PDP’s joker for the November 6 election.
An entrepreneur who sits atop a chain of successful businesses including the recently launched United Nigeria Airline, the Russian-trained political economist can bring his magic wand to bear in the affairs of the state as governor.
Through his humanitarian organisation, Pro-Value Humanity Foundation; Okonkwo has been touching lives of the vulnerable and elderly in Anambra and inspiring the people.
One of the factors which may work for him if he gets his party’s ticket is the voting strength of his immediate constituency. Idemili North and South Local Government Areas boast of bulk votes during elections in Anambra.
Okonkwo, who is of Anambra Central Senatorial District, also seem to have the financial muscle to execute the election. People who know him well say that the man is generous, open-minded and accessible; and can work with people across shades.
He is also said to be home grown; a good quality which Ndi Anambra are earnestly seeking having tasted the odd sides of a governor who returned from abroad.
His recently concluded Meet-the-Delegates tour turned out to become a harvest of endorsements. The ecstatic reception that greeted him and his team at each of the meetings across the 21 LGAs was like the people had finally seen one whose name evoked hope.
Okonkwo has 10-point agenda for the complete overhaul and development of Anambra State. He has also pledged to conduct local government election within a year in office if elected the governor.
The immediate past President/Group CEO of Transcorp Plc, said he joined the governorship race because he was not comfortable with the status quo in Anambra State, emphasising that the State has overgrown mere provision of basic infrastructure and social services out of abundance of human capital and talents therein.
At a town hall meeting with Anambra indigenes resident in Lagos, Ozigbo declared: “Anambra supposed to be an exemplary state in terms of good governance and leadership. I am in the race for governorship to change the story of Anambra for good”.
He held similar events in Abuja and Enugu were he unveiled his manifesto, tagged: “Project Chawapu,” which according to him covers plans for youth and women; healthcare, education, economy and every aspect of governance.
Born in Umuomaku, Orumba South about 50 years ago, Ozigbo is last child of seven siblings, with right Christian values. He made the best results in primary and secondary schools, taught physics and mathematics immediately afterwards before proceeding to the University of Nigeria Nsukka, where he also made excellent result in Accountancy. He then had his master’s degree abroad on scholarship.
He believes that a mix of competence and zoning favours him; but people are raising questions about the circumstance he exited his last employment at Transcorp.
Senator Uche Ekwunife is undoubtedly a political force in Anambra State. A two-time member of the House of Representatives for Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia Federal Constituency, Ekwunife is a grassroots politician.
Her double trouncing of former National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, in 2015 and 2019 to emerge senator for Anambra Central, attest to that.
In 2015, she defeated Umeh of the APGA and Senator Chris Ngige of the APC to become senator.
Although Umeh who came second later fought his way to the senate through the courts, Ekwunife who was the candidate of the PDP in that election defeated him again even as a sitting senator at the 2019 polls.
Ekwunife flaunts her dual citizenship in the State having hailed from the Southern part but married in Anambra Central. She has powered her campaign well though few factors may work against her aspiration. Not a few believe that a core traditional Igbo society like Anambra is not ready for a female governor. So, she would have a herculean task convincing Ndi Anambra to accept her as their governor.
While her financial muscle for the election could not be ascertained; people said though in PDP, that she flirts with APGA and APC.
He is a three-time member of House of Representatives for Nnewi North, Nnewi South and Ekwusigo Federal Constituency.
Though immensely qualified for the governorship, the lawmaker has maintained that it is the turn of Anambra South and indeed, Nnewi to produce the next governor of the State.
What is not known is how far the zoning sentiment can take him. The lawmaker said though he might not be the most qualified aspirant; however, he rated himself as the most prepared, experienced and most competent to govern the State.
He asked the party to ensure that a sellable candidate, who understands leadership, and who has what it takes to challenge candidates of the APGA and APC, flies the party’s flag.
He said: “We need a person, who has the capacity, contact and the wherewithal to confront candidates of these parties. I have what it takes to lead our party to the government house, if given the platform.”
The Senator Ifeanyi Ubah factor in Nnewi may work against him.
Dr. Ifedi Okwenna
Commissioner for Environment, Mineral Resources, Science and Technology under the Peter Obi-led administration, and an avowed PDP aspirant in the November 6 poll, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, has said that his aspiration was based on merit and competence.
The onetime National Secretary of APGA, who has the traditional title of Ugwumba Osumenyi, in Nnewi South LGA, said that the PDP would reclaim the state, but advised that: “We must innovate or we fail to exist. We must rebrand our dear state. If we do, we shall see things begin to shift and move for the better. Our bests will be attracted to return home and we shall become a destination once again. It is important in this day and time that we give attention to innovations.”
Regardless of his innovative ideas, not many have given him a chance even as he has continued to power on.
Dr. Godwin Maduka
The United States-based medical practitioner said that his return to his home state was simply to heed a series of calls by his people who earnestly seek for quality leadership.
But a lot of people see him as an unserious aspirant who merely wants to announce his presence after building a 17-storey multiplex in his village. He stirred controversy November last year when he said he would build universities in each LGA of the State.
The crisis caused by the renaming of his community; Umuchukwu in Orumba South LGA which has claimed some lives is a huge minus to his political aspiration.
A perennial governorship contestant in the state, Ezeemo had previously run on the platform of the PDP; Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and also switched parties. The Umuchu, Aguata-born industrialist described Anambra as a state with abundance of human and material resources which when pulled together and under a visionary leader as Governor, the state can become a world centre of excellence.
“I am particularly concerned with what I can do in Anambra not on the basis of zoning or any other factors. My experience over the years in contesting for this same position serves as a high cultivation of understanding on what Anambra people actually want from the State governor,” he said.
First daughter of former vice president of Nigeria, Alex Ekwueme; and the deputy governorship candidate of the party in the Anambra 2017 election, said all the PDP aspirants were eminently qualified to govern the state; but that the party should make efforts to nominate a flag bearer, who would be there to serve God and humanity.
She said she had the exposure, as well as requisite street and administrative experiences to drive the broad vision of restoring Anambra on the right path to greatness.
Born in Oko, Orumba North, Onyemelukwe who is married in Nnewi recently met with Azubogu and Etiaba, where they agreed to work together to ensure that Nnewi indigene clinched the PDP ticket.
Dr. Ugochukwu Uba
A political scientist, an administrator, a university don and politician, Ugochukwu Uba hails from Umuoru, Aguata LGA in Anambra South.
Elected senator in 2023, Uba who holds PhD in Pol. Science is a former Commissioner in Anambra State; and ex-Director General in one of the parastatals in the State too.
His family has a political baggage following the notoriety that came with his younger brother; Chris Uba’s role as godfather of the State’s politics then.
Though a gentleman, the popular thinking is that Senator Uba may have been prompted to join the race at last minute by his brother Chris.
The Ihiala-born maverick politician was in 2007, smuggled into the House of Representatives as a beneficiary of the ruling PDP’s do-or-die rigging. In July 2009, a panel of the Court of Appeal sacked him from the legislature, declaring that he had usurped the place of Vitalis Okafor, who was the legitimate nominee.
At some point, he was senatorial candidate of APGA for Anambra South. Nzeribe has had to feature in one questionable role or another in the crises-prone politics of Anambra. He was the ‘chief security officer’ to former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju when the Bakassi Boys, a vigilante group, carried out some of its worst excesses, including extra-judicial killings that appeared politically motivated.
He was a key member of the Chris Uba circle that ensured that Anambra remained ungovernable as part of a strategy to cow the stubborn Chris Ngige into surrendering to the godfather he had forsaken.
This cabal arranged the gangster-like abduction of Ngige by scores of police officers led by now diseased Assistant Inspector-General of Police Ralph Ige.
In November 2004, their group sponsored the invasion of Anambra by truckloads of thugs and unleashed an orgy of arson and destruction.
Many are wont to ask, what does Tony Nwoye want? A former students’ leader who became State Chairman of the PDP through the instrumentality of the Uba brothers, he later became a member of the green chambers of the National Assembly.
He was PDP governorship candidate for Anambra in 2013 and that of the APC in 2017 and lost in the two occasions. Loved by his people, Nwoye hails from Nsugbe, Anambra East LGA in northern zone where the incumbent governor is from.
His dumping of the APC few weeks to procuring the PDP governorship forms showed that there was really more to the move.