Opinion

Anambra 2021: Sharp divisions in PDP as Ekwunife, Okonkwo, others lock horns

The Anambra State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) looks good to reclaim the Government House, Awka given the array of aspirants it parade as it readies for the November 2021 governorship election, but so much depends on how the party will manage the process and fall outs of its primary election scheduled for June 26, 2021. Not less than 14 aspirants paid N23 million to pick the governorship nomination forms and were screened by the party’s Screening Committee.

As the date of the primary election closes in and the aspirants making last minute pitches to the statutory delegates, the party is sharply divided on who to vote for. The delegates in whom the future of the party depends are torn between the highest bidder and the candidate that has the capacity to win the election.

In civilized climes one would expect that by now some of the pretenders will be winding down their campaigns and probably endorsing a possible winning horse from among the major front runners rather than stay in the race to the end and further divide the party. The sharp division in the party is glaring given the last minute efforts by the contenders to poach delegates and possibly keep them out of the reach of others. Some of the aspirants had cried out bitterly that they can’t reach the delegates whom they said are being hoarded. When I ran into Dr. Obiora Okonkwo penultimate week, the journalistic instinct in me spiked.

I asked the PDP front runner why he took the 21 local government party chairmen to Abuja? What did he tell them in Abuja that he couldn’t have told them in Awka? The business mogul smiled and calmly explained himself. He told me that he is running against candidates some of whom are serving legislators who have arrays of constituency projects to showcase, and that since he has no constituency project to his credit, he decided to use what he has – that is, using his aircraft to fly the chairmen to Abuja and host them in his topflight Dome facility, so they could unwind, refresh and discuss the future of the party and the state.

He further explained that his relationship with the chairmen is a long history. He denied trying to keep them out of reach. He said he needed to host them in his facility so that they will be inspired. Smart politics if you ask me. However, what would have ended as a nice vacation tour for the chairmen got a bit murky when some of them came back from the trip and issued a communiqué accusing a certain aspirant of incitement and anti-party activities. Promptly, some of the chairmen issued a recant, saying there was no incitement and no anti-party activities against the perceived frontrunner.

I once wrote Obiora Okonkwo off as a seasonal politician who is more comfortable with his private lifestyle as a businessman than in politics. I have since been proven wrong as evidence later emerged that he has been in party politics and never changed parties for once. He was said to have been instrumental to the survival of the party structure over the years.

He told me his latest involvement in active politics is to build that legacy past leaders had ignored to build. He described the Premier of former Eastern Nigeria, Dr Michael Okpara as his role model. As far as this election is concerned, Okonkwo means business; he is putting all his effort to win not just the party ticket but the main election. Clearly the battle for the PDP ticket looks like a definitive battle between Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, Sen. Uche Ekwunife and Chris Azubuogu.

Others are likely pretenders. Like I noted earlier, I expect some realignments and cross-alignments to happen in the coming days whereby some of the aspirants may wind up their campaign and make major endorsement decisions for any of the three major front runners. Whoever wins the primary, I expect the party to remain united and rally around the winner if they must wrestle power from APGA. There is no letting back on this. Chris Azubuogu is eminently qualified to be the governor of Anambra State. He is a very humble man. Sometimes his humility makes him look lustre but you underestimate him at your own peril.

His politics is deft and there is a reason they call him ‘Mr. Project’. When you listen to him, your attitude about him changes immediately. He is cerebral and a strong communicator. His three-term membership of the House of Representatives and 14 years of unbroken politics is a testimony of his political astuteness and sagacity.

To acknowledge that he is tried and tested is not to patronise him but to say the obvious. I nevertheless doubt his capacity to muzzle enough votes to win the prized ticket. But if he does win, I have no doubt in my mind he will be able to bring the other aspirants to rally behind him for the final battle. Another front runner to watch in the upcoming primary election is Senator Mrs. Uche Ekwunife.

She is a proven leader that loves the state. Thus far, she looks good for the ticket. The one argument against her is that she is a woman. Her detractors argue that Anambra is not ready for a female governor. This argument for me is uninspiring because what the people want is a performer, a leader they can trust. She didn’t rise to become a Senator by accident or because she is a woman but by dint of hard work.

Thus far, she has represented well in the Senate. So, the gender argument is weak just like the argument targeted at depriving her of taking advantage of her paternal roots. It’s a gross insult on womanhood for anyone to want to deprive a woman of her paternal root on account of marriage. Women enjoy both marital and paternal leaning as a matter of right.

What the people want is a candidate that understands their needs; who will create a good economy, who will provide the kind of education that will enable them fit into the economy; who understands they need jobs when they can be employed; who understands they need to be paid living wages for works they have done and that when they retire, they retire with respect and dignity. They want someone who will create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. They want when they are sick to be able to go to a good hospital at an affordable cost.

 

They want to live in peace and security. Most people I have spoken to in Anambra State want real change. They want to elect a candidate that understands the issues as it affects them and who can assist in resolving their issues. They are not bothered about gender politics. Like or loathe her, Senator Ekwunife has had a fascinating, impressive and progressive political career. She is a veteran of several elections and reputed to be a hard fighter and goal getter. She is the PDP candidate to beat in the primary election. If given the ticket she will be a formidable force to reckon with.

 

She has a cult-like followership who trust and believe in her. She has the resources as well as the good will to prosecute a major election. She won’t be a parasite on the party; neither would she neglect the party structure because she is a party person. I don’t think there is any of the aspirants within the party who has worked as hard as she has done for the ticket or have touched lives and invested in people as much as she has done. I don’t think any of the aspirants has the political experience she has garnered and none can boast of the kind of intimidating political machine she has built. If PDP intends to field a candidate that is sure footed and courageous, then they need not look farther than Senator Uche Ekwunife. With her, the party is sure of a bright future. She has the capacity to win and make history as Nigeria’s first elected female executive governor.

 

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