*INNONEWS.COM.NG POLITICAL EDITOR, ENWERENJI UZOMA Writes on PDP governorship aspirants in the face of emerging flash-points in the party ahead of 2019*
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Imo State have recovered some steam considering the fiery disposition of the party to capture political power at all levels of government in Imo State in 2019. The loss of the governorship to the ruling All Progressive Congress in 2015 was a blow to the party but it later turned out to be a turning point for it. Recovering from the ashes of that defeat was not easy. Political analysts remember vividly how disillusioned party members were as they resorted to murmuring and blame game.
Two years after, the party seemingly roared back to life but confronted by a monstrous struggle for its soul by its key players. Again, party members became unavoidably polarized along various interest groups in a struggle to capture the soul of the party until the Supreme Court gave a final verdict on the leadership tussle at the centre between Senators Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sherrif.
Before the verdict, stakeholders in Imo PDP divided along the camps of Senator Hope Uzodinma and co pressing for the reinstatement of the Nnamdi Anyaehie group as the authentic state executives. This was resisted by another set of stakeholders made up of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Dr (Mrs) kema Chikwe, Rt Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who all supported the enthronement of the Charles Ezekwem led State Executives
The ruling of the Supreme Court which recognized the Makarfi faction gave impetus to the Ezekwem group which till this day function as the State Executive of Imo PDP. With the successful conduct of the party’s national convention which led to the emergence of Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman of the party, it gave further legitimacy to the executives from the ward to the State levels and indirectly gave a boost to the governorship aspiration of the governorship aspirants.
MANAGING CONTENDING INTERESTS.
With “war” for the party structure over, the intensity of the politicking shifted to declaration of intent for various elective positions particularly the governorship race. There are five governorship aspirants in the party who have officially announced their ambition. They are Rt Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who was the party’s governorship flag-bearer in 2015, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, senator representing Owerri zone, Senator Athan Achonu and Hon. Tony Nwulu, member representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, a native of Eziudo in Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State.
The declarations as expected have indeed opened a floodgate of political scheming and wrangling within the party. Judging from its recent past experiences, there is caution on the part of the party leadership to manage such evolving political variables that trail such declarations. Though the governorship primaries is months away, there are contentious issues around the aspirants that is also provoking alignments and realignments in the party.
Already, certain political dynamics that will shape the outcome of the guber primaries are beginning to unfold months to the exercise. The first knotty issue is the growing apprehension among stakeholders that the party structure in the State has already been tailored to suit the governorship ambition of one of the governorship aspirants for playing a key role in influencing the stay of the current party executives at all levels.
Analysts say the role of Chief Emeka Ihedioha in ensuring and stabilizing the present executives in Imo PDP will give him an upper hand when the scramble for the governorship ticket of the party begins. In a party “structure politics” is key and a decisive factor, there is worrisome concern that since the former Deputy Speaker was visibly instrumental to the coming of the executives at all levels, it will automatically translate to victory for him in the governorship primaries.
This has raised a worrisome dimension for other governorship aspirants and stakeholders who contend that wrestling the soul of Imo PDP from the grip of political buccaneers was not the singular and solo effort of Ihedioha alone. Rather they contend that the battle was a collective one and collectively executed by well meaning members of the party who shared the same vision, channeled their time, energy and resources to save the party from its adversaries. Therefore rewarding any party member with a priceless gift such as the governorship ticket for such role is simply out of place and not tenable. It was observed that the ferocity of such claims and its simmering consequences it will have on the party if not checkmated may have compelled the State Executives to douse this threatening line of division. The State Party Chairman, Charles Ezekwem at a press conference in Owerri doused such concerns and made it clear that the PDP in Imo State does not belong to any individual.
“Our membership is not discriminatory. How then can one man own and monopolize the party” he said. It is unknown how such re assurances by the party chairman will quench this rising suspicion and worry among other stakeholders in the party.
Aside this factor, Ihedioha appears to be also haunted by fears harboured by some party members who say it will be politically incorrect for the PDP to hand over the party’s governorship ticket to him in such quick succession having led the party to the governorship election in 2015. This argument seems to have been punctured by those who contend that such mundane political sentiments should not be a yardstick to choose or influence who should carry the party’s governorship flag.
According to those who share this view, what is paramount is who among the governorship aspirants have considerable followership in the party that will propel it to victory against a powerful incumbent like Rochas Okorocha of the APC who is desperate to foist his son in law as his successor. That Ihedioha failed in his first governorship bid in 2015 does not in any way shut him out from the contest again. There is also no rule in the PDP constitution that stops former governorship aspirants from seeking for the party’s ticket a second time or more.
The entrance of Senator Samuel Anyanwu, senator representing Owerri zone in the senate has also elicited so much commendation in the party on the guise that the more formidable aspirants join the guber race on the PDP platform in Imo State the more trouble for the governing APC. Regardless of this disposition, Anyanwu’s entrance into the race has altered whatever political calculations of other guber aspirants in the party. His coming was unexpected and it came at a time the Senator had declared in December 2017 to seek re election to the senate.
Many party faithful had expressed surprise why he decided to join the governorship contest after getting so much applause and praise for his outstanding performance as a first time senator. Apparently not swayed, Senator Anyanwu appears not to be oblivious of raging issues in the party as enumerated earlier in this piece. He has tried to rub it on party members that Imo PDP is not owned by an individual. His posture is borne out of the growing sentiment that only those who “fought” for the party’s survival and continued existence should get the party’s governorship ticket.
No doubt, his ambition has increased the tempo and intensity of the guber contest in Imo PDP coming at a time it appears there is fear gripping other aspirants from joining the contest. Some watchers of the unfolding political development in Imo PDP contend that Anyanwu’s entrance has become a re- assuring tool for other contestants who had believed that the party’s governorship ticket has been foreclosed for someone on the false pretext that only those who will get nomination tickets are those who went to the war front to fight “enemies” of the party.
However, Senator Anyanwu has a herculean task to douse the allegation that he backed the Sherrif faction nay the Hope Uzodinma backed Nnamdi Anyaehie group in Imo PDP during the leadership tussle in the party in the State. How he navigates away from this real or imaginary propaganda largely depends on his political mastery and deft political touches. Coming from a strong political background and with an expected overwhelming support from his political godfather, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Anyanwu cannot just be a pushover when it comes to a serious political contest like the Imo governorship ticket.
Chief Ikedi Ohakim’s ambition has also elicited mixed reactions as well as he has demonstrated seriousness which point to a fact he is another contender for the PDP governorship ticket. But he has been less visible in the affairs of the party thus swelling speculations that he may go over to another political party to oil his ambition. He has severally denied this allegation . The former Governor is faced by allegations that he was less involved in the party during the leadership crisis. He had announced at that time that he was quitting the PDP nay politics to focus his time on youth mentorship only to rejoin politics after the tussle had ended. That limited his involvement in the party’s affair which has now become a minus to his governorship ambition in Imo PDP.
He has strived to make it clear that he remains in PDP because it is a party he at one time re- built in the State. How Ohakim manages his governorship ambition in a party a lot has changed since he left office in 2011 depends on how he refocuses his ambition within the ambit of the party at a time speculations are rife that he is interested in joining the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.
The entrance of Hon. Tony Nwulu, the Ezinihitte Mbaise born member representing Isolo/ Oshodi Federal Constituency in the House of Reps has also raised some concerns. He has been described as a new
kid on the block with so much adrenaline to dare where the lions path. Political analysts argue that coming from the same sub zone with Emeka Ihedioha could be translated to expressions that the Mbaise nation is poised to capture the Imo governorship this time around.
Nwulu is also faced with the postulations of a tiny few who feel he should leave the race for a much older Ihedioha. This has been countered on the grounds that the governorship race is not the exclusive preserve of anyone.
There is no doubt that Nwulu represents one of the fine and emerging political breeds not only in the PDP but in Imo State. And with the political tilt in the State that youths should take over the reins of governance from 2019, the 39 year old Federal Lawmaker is highly favoured in this regard having also achieved a huge political feat by shattering ethnic barriers to win a House of Reps seat in Yoruba land and in Lagos State where the All Progressive Congress, APC hold sway. But the young politician may be hunted with the bane of “structure politics” in Imo PDP which has become so endemic and perverse.
If “structure politics” is eliminated in the party and if the PDP in Imo State intends to match Governor Okorocha’s latest political mantra to give power to the youths- a smokescreen to foist his 42 year old son in law as his successor, then Nwulu could be PDP’s trump card in this regard.
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