OKEY MADUFORO reports on the steps being taken by Mr. Valentine Ozigbo to rally stakeholders and members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State to ward-off opposition to his candidacy for the forthcoming governorship election in the state
There is no doubt that Valentine Ozigbo’s name was not in the calculation of pundits few days to the conduct of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial primary election in Anambra State. The pendulum was swinging between Senator Uche Ekwunife, Chief Obiora Okonkwo and Hon. Chris Azubogu but at the eve of the contest, it seemed as if Okonkwo would carry the day until the table turned and Ozigbo emerged as the candidate of a faction of the party. Ever since his emergence, Ozigbo has been guest to the courts from the state High Court sitting in Awka to the Federal High Court, Awka and now the Court of Appeal, no thanks to the multiple litigations in the party.
While the litigations lingers, some of the frontline aspirants for the PDP ticket, Okonkwo, has dumped the party and picked the ticket of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), while Dr. Godwin Maduka has opted to contest the poll on the platform of Accord Party and it is not clear the next aspirant, who will dump the party for another political platform.
It is against this backdrop that Ozigbo recently convened a meeting of party stakeholders, members, former and serving leaders as well as fellow aspirants. The meeting was aimed at briefing them on the stages of the litigations in the courts and to reconcile members of the party in a bid to move forward ahead of the November governorship election.
The meeting was also meant to curb the looming decimation of the party structure by aggrieved aspirants who are neck deep in collapsing their structures into other parties. Confirming the looming decimation of Anambra PDP, one of the governorship aspirants, Chief Ugochukwu Okeke told our reporter that the problem in the party is the failure of Ozigbo to reach out to other aspirants early after he emerged as candidate. Okeke further lamented that even the national leadership of the party ought to have invited the aspirants for a reconciliation meeting and persuade them to remain in the party and support Ozigbo.
“There is problem in our party and I have a strong belief that we shall overcome it though we had expected that the national leadership of the party should have done the needful by harmonizing the party and averting the aspirants from going to join other parties as I had it on good information that some of the aspirants are already on their way to another party,” he said. Deepening the woes of the PDP is the rumour that the factional chairman of the party, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, has been holding talks with the Young Progressive Party (YPP) to become the running mate of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah. Although Ubah could not comment on the matter, his media assistant, Mr. Kameh Ogbonnaya, said he could not confirm it.
He added that it would not be a surprise if such happens as YPP is the beautiful bride as the party has no crisis or litigations. Head PDP’s New Media, Mr. Tony Ezike, who dismissed the speculation, contended that Nwobu has no such plans to join another party.
He added that it is a mere claim by the Chris Uba-led faction of the party to cause confusion within the ranks of the PDP. At the stakeholders meeting of the party, Ozigbo took time to stress the need for party faithful to close ranks in the interest of all and sundry as he recalled that the bane of Anambra PDP in the last 16 years has been the failure of party standard bearers to abandon their personal interests and differences and face the common goal of winning the election, which according to him, will benefit all members.
Ozigbo further urged members to see the governorship election as one that will unify and harmonize all interests and take the party to another level, adding that the victory of PDP in Anambra State is a victory for all. Ironically, none of the governorship aspirants was present at the meeting and no reason was given by any of them for their absence. This, according to some observers does not speak well of the party and its reconciliation.
Apparently, the pending matters in the courts, explains the absence of the aspirants even as most members expressed the optimism that the crisis will soon be over and that the party will make it at the end of the day. A former governor of the state and PDP’s vice presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, Mr. Peter Obi, who described the multiple litigations by members of the party as a show of rascality, however, expressed strong belief that the litigations will not affect the party’s participation in election.
This is coming as the National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party through the South-East chapter of the party, reaffirmed their support for Ozigbo. Obi said: “I am worried about these litigations and you all know that while I was here as governor, these things were not happening and I call this the height of rascality but I can assure you that it will soon be over and the PDP will go back to where it used to be at the government house. Awka.” Addressing stakeholders of the party earlier, Obi contended that he had no hand in the emergence Ozigbo, adding that he did not influence the primary election. “People are alleging that I was outside on that day, sharing dollars but I want to make it clear that I did not see or share dollars and I am even looking for the dollars.
The primary election has come and gone and the person, who emerged as our candidate is Mr. Valentine Ozigbo and he is the best candidate among those that are contesting the governorship election in Anambra State,” he said. Ozigbo, on his part, confirmed the support of the national leadership of the party for his candidacy through a letter signed by South- East PDP Secretary, Mr. James Ugwu.
The letter read in part: “I, Mr. Ali Odefa, on behalf of the National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great party and the Zonal Working Committee of the party in the South-East express our full support to the stakeholders reconciliation meeting of the party in Anambra State, which you have convened and we encourage you to continue because you have our full mandate and wish you all happy and fruitful deliberation.”
Though the zonal and national leadership of the party have given their endorsements, they are yet to come up strong on the role of the other faction of the party, which has Senator Ugochukwu Uba as its candidate, and despite the latest Appeal Court ruling that reaffirmed Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu as the substantive chairman of the party in the state, the leadership has remained silent over the ruling. For Ozigbo, it is still a long walk to November 6 though some observers believe that he will still scale the legal hurdle in good time. However, Some analysts are of the view that he may need to interface with successive candidates of the party in the time past such as Comrade Tony Nwoye who at the peak of the 2010 gubernatorial election, was still in court with Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu though he later pulled through but the party had no ample time to do the real campaign.
Same was the case with Prof. Charles Soludo who had a running battle with the self-styled godfather of the party, Chief Chris Uba. It is not in doubt that Ozigbo has all it takes to win the election but what must be brought to focus is the intra party face-off, which is the bane of victory for the party.
Ozigbo needs to endeavour to assemble and sustain what is left of the party and with the likes of Obi behind him it would not be much of a heavy task to do that. Similarly it is being canvassed that the crisis in the PDP appears to be a script to frustrate the party and Ozigbo in order to pave the way for the All Progressives Congress (APC) but with the likes of Okonkwo and Maduka leaving, PDP will definitely go into the election a divided house. With the recent Court of Appeal ruling that ousted the factional leadership in the state, Ozigbo is expected through an originating summons, pray the court to declare that the primary election conducted by the Uba faction of the party is null and void and of no effect.
However, this is dependent on the prayers and issues canvassed by the Nwobu leadership of the party. As it stands, Ozigbo appears to be having the support of most party stakeholders, who are not only of the view that Uba cannot stand the challenges of the APGA candidate, Prof. Soludo but also contend that being a candidate without baggage or litany of political crisis, he stands the chance of winning the election given his pedigree.