5 November 2009

Nigeria: Anambra PDP - Unending Theatrics Over Governorship Ticket

Onitsha — Each day is producing a dose of obviously fascinating drama in the power play in the Anambra State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the grueling contest on who will eventually vie for the February 6, 2010 governorship election on the party's platform.

The more the drama unfolds the more people are compelled to ask strings of questions. Unfortunately, the questions are left unanswered. The controversy and protest trailing the nomination of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as the candidate of PDP for the election, which came to a head with the kidnapping of Prof. Soludo's father, Pa Simeon Soludo, and the subsequent invitation of Anambra State political god father, Chief Chris Uba by the Anambra Police Command is again indicative of the party divided against itself.

Uba last weekend alleged that Soludo offered him a bribe worth 10 million dollars to drop his opposition against him(Soludo). Some aspirants who are sympathetic to Uba had earlier made similar allegation that they were approached with an offer by Soludo to align with him. In their own case the offer was in naira.

Then came the bombshell from the leader of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu with a threat that there will be a civil war in the state if Andy Uba is declared the governor of the State by Appeal Court, Enugu Division on the strength of the 2007 poll in the state. The comment is, expectedly, generating variegated reactions.

The PDP circle, the party had planned a seemingly expensive and elaborate primary which ended inconclusive due to a court injunction obtained by one Adibe from Anambra State High Court in Amawbia presided over by Justice Nwankwo.

Following the deadlock and inability of the PDP to elect its candidate even through statutory delegates in Abuja , the National Working Committee (NWC), the elders of the party and the presidency were said to have settled on the immediate past Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor as the party's flag-bearer with Senator Emma Anosike as his running mate.

Since then, there have been vociferous protest from 21 other aspirants and their supporters especially from the camp of Chief Chris Uba who was rumoured to have tipped his brother-in-law, Bertram Dim as the standard bearer of the party.

Also not left in the protest are Senator Annie Okonkwo's camp and that of Mr. Nicholas Ukachukwu, while other aspirants who were believed to have been sponsored by Uba have joined in anti-Soludo campaign.

The aspirants were said to have carried their protests to the streets of Abuja , from where they moved to the National Secretariat of the party, denouncing the emergence of Prof. Soludo.

There have been at least two court cases against Prof. Soludo's emergence since then; one filed by a former Commissioner for Works in Anambra State during Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju's era, Mr. Kenneth Emekayi at Federal High Court, Awka, presided over by Justice Olayiwola.

The other in Abuja which granted an injunction against Prof. Soludo to stop parading himself as the candidate of PDP in the coming election.

In fact, the media have been awash with Soludo stories, commentaries and analyses with allegations flying over the places, one of them being that Soludo offered the aspirants N35m each to drop their protest against his nomination, an accusation Soludo has vehemently denied.

But the last anti-Soludo rally held last Tuesday in Awka where some aspirants including Chief Uba inspite of the advertorials in many national dailies by PDP, South-East zone still baffles a lot of political observers, who are asking what is actually happening within the party. They wonder why the National Working Committee would to allow such mockery without sanction and a categorical statement from the party denouncing it.

Unfortunately, barely hours after rally, Prof. Soludo's father was kidnapped in his village in Isuofia, Aguata Local Government Area. There have been accusations and counter-accusation over the matter.

The Anambra State Police Commissioner, Mr. Philemon Leha immediately directed accusing fingers against Uba and other aspirants who attended the rally and invited Uba over the kidnap. The Commissioner's reason being the scathing remarks they made about Prof. Soludo during the rally.

"Just yesterday, a group of politicians held a meeting at Emmaus House, Awka, where scathing remarks were made on the person of Prof. Charles Soludo. Just after the meeting Chief Simeon Soludo was kidnapped and it is left for people to speculate, who did it and for what reasons" said Leha.

The invitation no doubt angered Uba and his group who did not only refuse to answer police invitation but made a lot of another scatting remarks on the person of Prof. Soludo in his outburst. In fact he betrayed his anger and malice over Prof. Soludo's emergence and vowed to throw him out through the back-door from where he came to the party.

Said Uba, "I am the leader of the party in the state and I have been funding the party since 1999. Soludo is a visitor in the state. He is a visitor in the party, but when he came, we started the primaries and in the delegate election, he got only five, and when he got the few votes, Soludo himself went and brought a court order. Then he later came to the house to beg me for us to discuss. I told him to go first and vacate that court order, he told me the court order could not be vacated.

"Then we went to Abuja to do the congress election. Soludo refused that delegates will vote. After that, the NWC rose and said that they were coming back. They went and slotted his name from behind. He has been calling me, begging me to soft-pedal and I said I will not soft-pedal, that he must vacate because he came in through the back-yard and he must leave through the backyard".

Soludo on his part has not been resting in his oars. He has been reaching out to the aspirants. This was confirmed by Uba himself. Just last weekend, Chief Arthur Eze said to be Uba's master and Chief Austin Ndigwe did not only cross-over from Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) but declared their unalloyed support for Soludo's candidature.

At the rally to welcome them in Awka, the NWC was represented by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali and the National Women Leader, Hajia Inna Ciroma, who was a former Minister of Women Affairs. Also present was Senator (Mrs.) Joy Emordi, the National Vice Chairman, South-East of the party Olisa Emetu among others.

The following Monday, the NWC through Prof. Alkali issued a statement directing its members to stop anti-Soludo campaign. He threatened that the party would not hesitate to expel members of the party who dragged the party to court over the choice of Soludo as the party's candidate for the February 2010 governorship election in Anambra State .

He said "the party has observed with utter dismay the recent cases of gross indiscipline by some party members in some state chapters of the party, particularly those who dragged the party before courts".

In spite of all these, Uba and others are still talking tough and none seem to be responding to the party's directive. Some analysts believe that for Uba to have organized anti-Soludo rally in Awka and be talking tough, the way he was talking, some people within the hierarchy of the party must be behind him. It is said that a boy whose father sent to steal, breaks the door with full confidence.

But many observers are of the opinion that the controversy is now blowing over its standard bearer for the 2010 is self-inflicted one by the party because the leadership of the party brought back Uba, empowered him and surrendered the structures of the party to him in spite of all the court actions.

In fact, all the protests by PDP members in the State against Chris Uba's influence and control of the party structure in the State including Senators and members of House of Representatives from Anambra State were ignored by the National Working Committee of PDP.

It is believed by many observers of Anambra politics that if the party leadership had provided a level playing ground for all the party members, Uba will not today again have this larger than life image in the party in Anambra State .

It is even surprising that after the party had made its choice, some people have openly countered, boasting that they would throw the party's candidate through the back-door, yet they have not been cautioned, neither have they been visited with party disciplinary measures. It smacks of what will befall the party in the next election if PDP does not put its house in order.

This controversy is similar to the acrimony that bedevilled the nomination of Dr. Chris Ngige in 2003 in Abuja after the then incumbent, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju won the primaries several times. At the end of the day, the party hardly had the time to campaign and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) beat them roundly in the election. Although they rigged it, it was bad rigging which led the court declaring the election a nullity both at the Tribunal and Appeal Court .

What the party hierarchy and the leader of the party should be doing now is to reaffirm its support for Soludo with another categorical statement and wield its big stick on those errant aspirants and so-called godfathers in the state.

The earlier they do it, the better for the interest of PDP in the State in the next election. But if they keep quite and some people who are believed to be self-seeking politicians vitiate the status of their candidate and the party, the party may at the end of the election lose Anambra State again.

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