ANAMBRA 2021: FOUR MAJOR ASPIRANTS, HOW THEY STAND, AS PDP GO SOUTH*
By Christian Okpala
Come 6th of November, 2021, the battle for the destiny of Anambra State for the next four years will reach its fever pitch. In preparation for the D-Day, different parties are already gearing up for the party primaries which will eventually throw up the party flag bearer. Even though PDP has been out of power in Anambra State since 2006, the State has remained a traditional PDP State and dominant too, with several frontline and influential politicians. The party also has a greater number of the National Assembly members who represent the State in Abuja.
The air of zoning is blowing ferociously across major parties, PDP inclusive. Major personalities in the party like Mr Peter Obi, the former Governor of the State and Vice Presidential candidate of the Party in the last general election, Oseloka Obaze who was the party flag bearer in the last election and Mr Osita Chidoka as well as influential party leaders are receptive to this idea and have also alluded to this fact in their recent comments. In the interest of justice, equity, inclusiveness and popular demand, the party will much likely uphold zoning as a factor and go south. It follows therefore that Sen. Uche Ekwunife, Chief Obiora Okonkwo and Hon.Tony Nwoye, though eminently qualified, are clearly out of the picture. In the case of Senator Ekwunife, who has the privilege of coming from the south by birth and belonging to the central by marriage, while her qualifications and achievements cannot be argued, the amiable Senator started her long political career from the Anambra central senatorial zone, representing the people of the zone, first as a member of the House of Representatives, and then a Senator. She cannot now lay claim to her Anambra Southern roots and use it for political advantage. Politics is nothing without principles. It is about integrity and fairness on her part. It is even self contradictory to vie for a position zoned to the people of Anambra south while retaining her seat as a Senator representing Anambra central. On the part of the party, politics should reflect inclusion and balance. It is an art of compromise in a bid to aggregate all interests. Nobody takes it all. Anambra PDP has always been haunted by the inability of the party leadership to harmonize all interests and harness them properly during the elections. And so most of the times, stakeholders who are aggrieved with the process leading to the primaries work against the party in the election proper. It is very important that the party gets its acts together because this election holds much promise for the party.
Dr Godwin Maduka
He appears to be the beautiful pride of PDP, with a lot of popular appeal and an electrifying personality that warms up a room by his sheer presence. He is for a fact, the most educated among all the aspirants. In terms of international contacts and network, he is well positioned and ranks high. He is arguably the only candidate coming in to the contention on the strength of his achievements for his people with his personal resources. And when he set out to transform his rural rustic community and make it a city shinning on the hill, politics was not even in his mind. It was sheer selfless love. Though a new entrant in the political arena, he has already acquainted himself with the pros and cons of Anambra political process, building bridges with power players and making them buy into his vision for the party and for the State. Anambra has many political philanthropists, people who indulge in the act of giving because they curry for votes.
Dr Maduka is an example of a philanthropist in the true sense of the word, sparing no cost in his avowed mission of developing his community and empowering its human capital with his personal funds, while expecting nothing in return. He is unarguably the biggest philanthropist Anambra has produced since the creation of the State. He also appears to be the joker of Anambra diasporans who find in him the right person to prove the capacity and competence of Ndi Anambra in diaspora. Furthermore, the fact that he remains untainted by the murky waters of the Nigerian politics is a plus to his candidacy. He comes without any baggage, unfettered and free from any soiled past. Aside the fact that he is a self made man; he has no Godfather and is self financed, and therefore has no strings that will impede his ability to deliver on the job and affect his mission. Since joining the PDP Godwin Maduka has been one of the biggest financiers of the party, probably second after Mr Peter Obi. He recently donated 25 sienna vehicles to the party to cover the 21 local governments and the party Secretariat. Aptly dubbed the lion of Africa, he evokes fear among other contenders in other political parties because he is at home with the masses at the grassroots, the Anambra religious class and the elites. Recently, he has been seen commissioning various individual projects across the state. He has continued to sell his candidacy to the delegates of the party across all the local governments as well as the leadership of the party. If the party decides to present a consensus candidate for the general election, Dr Maduka’s chances are very high because he is largely seen as a neutral candidate without ties to any party bloc, and with the force, the means, the energy and the capacity to turn around the fortunes of the party at the elections and emerge victorious.
MR Godwin Ezeemo
He is a fine gentleman, and industrialist who understands and embodies the principle of Aku luo uno. After sojourning abroad for years, he came back to invest and develop his community. On the political scene, he has been a serial contender over the years. Unfortunately and for no explainable reason, his candidacy has refused to gain traction. Ezeemo has lost steam. Probably the long stretch of contention has taken a hold of him and waned his popularity. Despite his beautiful intentions and track record as an entrepreneur, the electorates do not consider him a force anymore. Again, because of the nature of political campaigns in a State like Anambra and the huge financial war chest it requires, the fatigue that attends his campaign is understandable.
MR Valentine Ozigbo
Val is a gentleman and a technocrat per excellence. An urbane personality with an unassuming attitude, he is a man of letters, with a wealth of managerial experience from the private sector. His years of employment in corporate environment saw him rise through the ranks to become the CEO of Transcorp Hotels PLC and later president of Transcorp Group. He oversaw the business expansion of the company, facility upgrade, mergers and acquisition as well as the general management of the company. He has garnered several awards for his imprints in the hospitality business and left when the ovation was loudest for a shot at the top political position in his home state. Val though a new entrant, is selling his message of “Ka Anambra chawapu” across the length and breadth of the State, reaching out to all stakeholders. His relatively young age is also an advantage to his appeal as a candidate. In an era where the call for youth participation in politics is reaching a deafening crescendo, he is seen as a bridge between the old and the young. However, his candidacy is tainted by his ties with corporate goons and economic hitmen. Anambra’s experience with godfatherism in the past makes ndi Anambra to be wary of pitching their tents with any political figure who seem to have such supporting structure. The electorate sees his candidacy as a proxy project for some entrenched corporate interests which may lead to mortgaging the assets of the State in order to accommodate such interests. Words on the streets are that those interests are not necessarily from the State. Indeed, Anambra cannot go back to the days when few men held the State to ransom, dictated the political development and stifled the economic progress.
Again, despite Val’s electoral appeal, some of his ideas appear elitist and bogus and may be a hard sell to the grassroots. His personality seems to be soft and he doesn’t exude necessary confidence and will power that is needed to wrestle for the top seat when push comes to a shove. He seems not to have the skin to withstand the pressures when the political climate becomes charged and tensed up. PDP requires someone with a gentle mien and a steely resolve, someone who can stand on his words even if the heavens totters and the earth reels, for the battle is not for the faint of heart.
HON Chris Azubogu
Chris is an experienced politician and a three times representative of his constituency. He commands immense respect in his constituency. Among the crop of House of Reps members from Anambra, Chris is arguably the best performer. He has attracted several federal projects to his constituency and has ably represented them, to the admiration of even his opponents. He is also a ranking house of reps member and commands enormous respect amongst his peers in the National Assembly. However, over the years, Chris popularity and hero status has not gone beyond his primary constituency. Beyond Nnewi, his name doesn’t ring a bell. He is, to a large extent, unknown in the minds of the electorates from other zones. Politics is a game of numbers. It requires spread, influence and network across all the three senatorial zones, in every local government, every town, every ward and every hamlet.
While his financial war chest needed to prosecute the campaign cannot be ascertained, the party hierarchy is also worried about the formidable challenger from his native Nnewi who is also gunning for the same position. A politician is nothing without his base. It makes a better strategic sense to choose from a zone like the old Aguata area where a block vote can be easily guaranteed.
This is the best chance for PDP to regain its pride of place in Anambra’s political firmament. The party in power has obviously lost focus. The people are disenchanted. The PDP can step in and salvage the situation. But the winning starts from the primaries. If they hearken to the voice of reason and present a candidate based on the permutations stated above, the top seat is theirs for the taking.