By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu
Recently, the southeast zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) met in Enugu in what may be a routine conclave off party members and officials who are desirous of returning the party to its regional glory. One of the highlights, and indeed, the most pronounced outcome of the meeting was the decision of the party, not to zone the 2021 governorship election in Anambra state to any particular zone.
Prior to the decision, the ruling, but failed, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), had announced its decision to zone the office to Anambra south. The action, though not unexpected, has made a few politicians from the zone to also canvass that PDP equally zoned the ticket to Anambra South. Those behind this call, had also gone ahead to recruits traditional rulers from the zone, who also, recently, issued a statement calling on all political parties in the state to zone their governorship ticket to Anambra south.
Earlier, the Southeast Zone of the PDP had, during a courtesy call on High Chief Obiora Okonkwo, a party chieftain from Anambra Central at his home in Ogidi, last July, vowed to wrest power from APGA. Speaking on the occasion, southeast zonal chairman of the party, Chief Austin Umahi, said that Government House Awka, was PDP’s next target having successfully won back Imo state. He said the target of his leadership of the zone was to ensure that all five states of the region, were controlled by the PDP. Outcome of the event may have sent cold shivers down the spine of APGA and its leadership forcing it to re-emphasize its decision to zone the next governorship to Anambra South.
The call for the zoning of the next governorship to Anambra south, is, at the moment, the dominant issue in Anambra politics as stalwarts network for the next election. However, the voices of those who are opposed to zoning as a criterion of selecting leaders in Anambra state has been dominant over those who are in its favour. Majority of Anambra indigenes believe zoning has become anachronistic and as such ought not to come within focus as Anambra moves towards the next governorship election.
Those who argue against zoning insist that Anambra state has grown past the idea. They insist that since all politics is local, Anambra state is a single-tribe state and as such every part of the state is interconnected. For them, Anambra is homogenous and zoning will only seek to split the people along political lines, something that is anathema to the political evolution of the state as the leading light of the southeast.
There is every reason to agree with those pushing against zoning. While the Igbo people, among them Anambra people, are pushing for the zone to produce a Nigerian President, it however does not logically follow that any part of Anambra state suffers the sort of political exclusion that the southeast suffers as a region. Therefore, using the quest for zoning at the presidential level to make a case for same in Anambra, suggests that Anambra south suffers political exclusion and marginalization. But facts indicate that the zone has had a fair taste of the office of governor in Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Dame Virgy Etiaba and Andy Uba. In fact, every Anambra politician agrees that it was rather Anambra north which suffered such exclusion until Peter Obi and leaders of APGA, in their wisdom, worked the political pendulum to ensure a sense of equity is enjoyed by the zone through the incumbent.
Logically, the zoning issue in Anambra, though not known to have been agreed to at any convention or meeting of all Anambra sons and daughters, has reached its climax. It can no longer yield to logic. Therefore, simple reason demands that the contest be made open to all who have the credibility, competence and capacity to aspire and seek the votes of Anambra people, to lead. Nothing else would be more elevating of the eminent position of the state as leading light of the southeast.
That is exactly what the PDP has done by throwing open the race and discountenancing zoning. By walking that road, PDP positions itself to win back Anambra. However, there are banana peels that the party must avoid. While zoning is not an issue with the PDP, imposition of candidate is. For the party to win back Anambra as easily as it plans, the first step must be to allow internal democracy to thrive. The delegates must be allowed to elect the candidate of their choice. With that, everything else will be given unto it. Doing otherwise, will return the party to its ignoble past and defer its hopes of returning to power in the state.
This position, as already expressed by many PDP faithful in Anambra state, is accentuated by the party’s performance at the 2019 presidential. PDP had an overwhelming support in Anambra state at the last election. Beyond Peter Obi, an erstwhile governor of the state, being the Vice-Presidential candidate of the party, the conduct of the Presidential primary election in Port Harcourt and the outcome, did more to win back support of the party. PDP came out of the Port Harcourt convention stronger and more united. All the presidential aspirants queued behind the winner, Atiku Abubakar. A repetition of the same feat in Anambra state will easily deliver the Government House Awka to it in 2021. And the signs are already there.
Anambra PDP had registered itself in the consciousness of Nigerians as the most acrimonious. However, it has, since the last governorship election in 2017, worked its way peacefully through all contending issues and coalesced under one umbrella. That umbrella, now being held by Chief Ndubisi Nwobu, is stronger, bigger and more purpose-driven. The unity, sense of purpose and internal democracy now driving the Anambra PDP, is a winning formula which has given party members greater confidence that the next governorship election is fair game, one to be contested from a position of strength.
*Uchegbu is a journalist