Anambra guber race, Sheriff’s peace sojourn and PDP’s divided house
Although the meeting was meant for Anambra state chapter of the PDP, Sheriff explained that he decided to move the venue to Enugu to ensure neutrality.Indeed, like the national leadership of the party, the state chapter is bugged down by protracted leadership crises that have factionalised the party.
The crises, which history dates back to 1999 after the party won the election of the state have refused to abate. In fact, some observers traced the origin to the period before former governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju, won the election.
Party proponents had disagreed on the choice of candidates in the election, especially as it concerned the governorship.And when a privileged few muzzled others out and had their way into nominating those they wanted to occupy political offices, the resultant effect was defections, factions among other disagreements that brought the Mbadinuju administration to its knee.
Although Mbadinuju managed to serve out his four years tenure, the cabal that silenced the majority did not allow him to have a return for another four years, as he was pushed out for Senator Chris Ngige, who was eventually removed by the court, after it ruled that he (Ngige) did not win the election. That was in 2004.
Since then, the party has been engulfed in crises. The factions have refused to leave the corridors of the courts. Each group has held strongly in their beliefs and has continued to participate in every election along similar lines.
When the national leadership was intact, various committees were set to reconcile the warring factions and bring normalcy to the party. There was no breakthrough. Various efforts of the South East zonal leadership also ended in a fiasco.
As at the last count, there are three factions of the party presently in the state. One is led by Chief Ejike Oguebego allegedly backed by the self-imposed godfather, Chief Chris Uba and the others; Chief Ken Emeakayi group purportedly supported by members not loyal to Uba; and another faction that enjoys the support of Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu, which many claimed is not as potent as the others but eager to work with any group that receives the blessings of the national leadership.
However, the Emeakayi faction was absent at the Enugu meeting. Former vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme; a one-time presidential adviser, Chief Ben Ndi Obi; erstwhile governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; Chief Arthur Eze; and several others were not in attendance.
Only the faction loyal to Oguebego and a handful of the Ukachukwu group attended the meeting. Different women-groups singing the praise of Uba at the slightest opportunity indicated that it might have been convened and organized specifically for his supporters and a few others he could summon-dominated the meeting.
To buttress this fact, Uba, who is a Board of Trustees (BoT) member, demanded that his faction of the party be accorded recognition in the state, stressing that the genesis of the crisis was the imposition of candidates on the state by the national leadership of the party.
His words: “I have been in PDP since 1999, I have never left PDP for another political party. I am not like all these people who move from one party to another. In 1999, PDP produced the governor of Anambra state; we produced the governor again in 2003. The problem we have is from Abuja, each time we finish working in the grassroots, the Abuja people will hijack the party and this has caused disaffection among the members.
“Anambra state is a PDP state and those of us from the state know that I am saying the correct thing. My politics is beyond Anambra state and includes the entire south East. I can stay in Anambra state and do any mathematics about the politics of the country.
“All I want to ask you is to give us a chance. I want you to give us a test with the governorship election and see if we will not take over Anambra state from APGA. That is all I want to say.”
He was not alone; others who spoke followed the same line of thought. They insisted that Uba had done more for the party than most of the persons allegedly laying claims to the headship of the party in the state. They urged that the Sheriff national leadership should respect their wish.
Chairman of PDP in Oyi local government area, Chief Collins Iloka said that the party was determined to recover the state from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (AGPA), noting that the current leadership crisis at Abuja has become a worrisome one, which should be resolved before the election.
He said that the members have implicit confidence in the ability of Sheriff to move the party out of its present controversy to enable it continue to win elections, adding, “You don’t neglect a winning team no matter the level of resources at your disposal.”
Sheriff, who said the meeting was carefully designed to accommodate all shades of interests in the party in the state, disclosed that notices were put in the mass media for all to attend and that those who failed to attend should have themselves to blame as the rebuilding process had started.
He said that he decided that Anambra should take the lead in the rebuilding process because of the prime position the party holds in the state, adding that the governorship election coming up in November this year was important to the party.
“INEC has written to us and furnishing us with the timetable for the exercise and I feel that, we cannot be talking about peace in the party without meeting with those who should champion the cause. For a long time, peace has eluded Anambra state. We have had situations where our members turned out against us and worked for our opponents. We want to say no to that kind of politics, we want to return Anambra state to PDP. This is crucial because, if we get it right in Anambra, then every other thing will fall in place,” he stated.
Besides, he went further to bind the gathering to what looked like an oath to deliver Anambra to PDP when he said: “Do you promise that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will produce the next governor of Anambra state in the coming election … that nobody among you will vote or work for APGA governor in the coming election?”
With a thunderous affirmation from the crowd, Sheriff promised to do all within his power to grant their request.Although Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state whom Sheriff claimed “footed the bills for the venue and food” and his Ebonyi state counterpart, David Umahi’s presence at the meeting underscored the importance the faction attached to it, what is not clear is how far the move can assuage ill feelings among members of the party in the state.
Pundits still contend that the leadership crisis rocking the party at the centre - a matter now before the apex court - is not yet over, wondering that in the event where the pendulum turns against Sheriff, whether the demand literally granted to them by Sheriff would stand.
Also of note is that members of the party loyal to the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee were not present at the meeting.The Emeakayi group, which shunned the meeting, did not think there was need to speak on the meeting. “I don’t want to comment on it. I want to be left alone as far as the Enugu meeting is concerned,” Emeakayi stated when contacted by The Guardian.
One of Ukachukwu’s supporters who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “I believe you know the history of PDP crises in Anambra state. It started because part of those who gathered in Enugu wanted power at all cost and forgetting that power resides with the masses. So what they are doing and demanding from their factional leader is not new. Until the PDP leadership issue is resolved, such gathering should not be taking seriously.”
He continued: “Have they resolved the issue of rightful candidates for the National Assembly election between members of the Oguebego and Emeakayi faction which has remained a legal contention? The truth is that the problem in the PDP Anambra is beyond the outcome of the meeting called by Sheriff and I doubt whether anything can come out of it.”
Chief Jerome Ikenna, a prominent member of the party, who though was absent at the event, stated, “Sanitizing the Anambra PDP is not by fire brigade approach. Sheriff got it wrong when he started living in the erroneous believe that Chris Uba is the leader of the PDP in Anambra state.”
“We are all stakeholders and the days had gone when anybody can sit in his house and decide what happens in Anambra state politics. If the PDP really want to enthrone peace in itself in Anambra state, then it should come out clean and evolve ways of tackling it than using the governorship election as bait. So I think the party should put her house in order first, before gunning for governorship contest in November this year,” he added.