A political time bomb is rapidly ticking away in Anambra State as President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience Jonathan, have moved to unilaterally choose the party’s candidates for three senatorial seats as well as the House of Representatives.
In a series of interviews with SaharaReporters, numerous members of the Anambra State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party complained that Mr. Jonathan and his wife seemed bent to impose their favorite candidates for all the federal legislative seats available in the state. Some of the disaffected members warned that Mr. Jonathan and his wife would ruin the party’s electoral chances in the state by imposing questionable candidates, including Ms. Uche Ekwunife who recently defected from the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) to the PDP. Our sources accused Mrs. Jonathan of ordering oil magnate, Arthur Eze, to adopt the controversial Mrs. Ekwunife as the PDP’s candidate in the Anambra Central zone, the most populous senatorial district in the state.
“Any attempt to impose Uche Ekwunife will produce a tornado of resistance that will sweep away any chance of the People Democratic Party winning the Senate seat come 2015,” said a founding member of the party who asked for anonymity. “Are we slaves that the First Lady can just sit in Abuja and give orders to Chief Arthur Eze on who to represent the PDP in a senatorial race?” the source added.
Other sources told SaharaReporters that President Jonathan had also reportedly asked the party hierarchy to inform aspirants that the two other senatorial seats in the state must be reserved for Andy Uba, the incumbent senator for Anambra South, and a corrupt former minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, an aspirant for the Anambra North senatorial seat.
A source close to another controversial politician, Chuma Nzeribe, told SaharaReporters that Mr. Nzeribe and a few other candidates had picked up the nomination forms, despite Mr. Jonathan’s unambiguous dictation. “Chief Nzeribe and a few others are determined to contest against Chief Andy Uba and Chief Oduah,” said the source. One of the aspirants told SaharaReporters, “We are determined to ensure that Mr. President carries Anambra and the entire southeast in the election of next year. But if he continues to impose people on us, especially people who are not the best for the party and the state, then he should not be surprised if people start working against him. The time of imposing people should be over.”
Some of the sources said there would be sharp factionalization within the party unless all aspirants are allowed to contest in a transparent process and on a level playing field.
“We are demanding an open process that will give room for free and fair election,” another aspirant for a House of Reps seat told SaharaReporters.
Two of the sources said the center of the storm revolves around Ms. Ekwunife. “Her abrupt entry into PDP was always a disaster waiting to happen for the party,” one of the sources said.
Despite the fact that the PDP in Anambra State Central zone is scheduled to hold its primaries on December 7, 2014 our sources said no electoral register of delegates is available. They said the purpose for this absence of a register was to clear the coast for the illicit imposition of Ms. Ekwunife.
“The other contestants discovered the reason for this absence a little too late—that the party ticket has already been zoned to the darling of Aso Rock, Uche Ekwunife,” one irate source said. He added that the deal to award the ticket to Ms. Ekwunife was cemented after the sitting House of Representatives member brought Mrs. Jonathan to appeal to Mr. Arthur Eze to adopt her.
Our investigation revealed that, since that visit, nothing has remained the same in the zone, as Mr. Eze, who used to deride Ms. Ekwunife as “a prostitute” is now solidly backing her.
Some of the aspirants accused some members of the party hierarchy of bad faith, first for not advising the president that it is wrong to impose candidate, and two, for fraudulently collecting huge sums from them for posts that had been awarded to a few favored candidates.
“If the PDP knew it had allotted the ticket to Uche Ekwunife, Andy Uba and Stella Oduah, then why did the party still go ahead to sell forms to us at a whooping N4.5 million per aspirant?” one of the disaffected candidates asked.
SaharaReporters also learned that party’s officials collected N200,000 from each senatorial aspirant and N100,000 from each House of Reps aspirant on the day of the screening. “They just ordered us to give up this fee, without explaining what it was for,” an aspirant for a House of Reps seat told SaharaReporters. “That means the funds were obtained from us based on deceit.”
Ms. Ekwunife, who is the center of much of the simmering crisis, is from Aniocha local government area, an area that has produced the state leadership for the past eight years. The immediate past governor, Peter Obi, and APGA chairman, Victor Umeh, are both from the same local government area. Mr. Obi is believed to be the anointed candidate to become the Secretary to the Government of the Federation should Mr. Jonathan win next year’s presidential election. “If that happens, it will mean that the duo of Peter Obi and his ‘sister,’ Uche Ekwunife, will become the two custodians of the fate of Anambra State, being that Anambra Central zone is the engine room of the state if not the southeast geopolitical zone,” one of the party’s top members in the state said. He added, “This is certainly not desired. And the grouse here is not Peter Obi, but Uche Ekwunife.”
Among the contestants known to be interested in being the PDP’s senatorial candidate in the zone are O.C Ezenwa, a former secretary to the state government (who hails from Abagana in Njikoka LGA), Francis Chike Maduekwe, a well known legal practitioner, from Umudioka in Dunukofia LGA, Mrs. Christie Okoye, a former executive director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, from Ifitedunu in Dunukofia LGA, and Annie Okonkwo, a former senator who hails from Ojoto. Other interested candidates are Sylvester Okonkwo, also from Ojoto, Obiora Okonkwo, a notable corporate figure from Ogidi in Idemili North, and Emma Nweke, a businessman from Awka in Awka South LGA.
The PDP candidate in the zone will square off against such opponents as Chris Ngige, the incumbent senator on the platform of the APC, and Mr. Victor Umeh of APGA.
“It is a shame that a senatorial zone like Anambra Central that has produced the likes of Professors Chinua Achebe and Kenneth Dike, as well as a luminary like Dr. Okechukwu Ikejiani will be represented by a person in the mould of Uche Ekwunife, a woman without an iota of integrity or moral standing,” one of the state’s party chieftains said.
Another disenchanted member added: “This woman just joined the PDP senatorial race a month ago after decamping from APGA, and she is being rewarded and celebrated by the powers-that-be, while the same powers are vilifying [Speaker of the House of Reps] Aminu Tambuwal, who did the same by decamping from the PDP to APC.”
A source who said he was part of the leaders of thought in Anambra State urged Mr. Jonathan to stop meddling in the choice of candidates for the party in Anambra. “Why should Mr. President back Andy Uba who is very vulnerable?” he asked, adding that, although Ms. Oduah is popular, she must be made to run with other contestants.
“Mr. President should also call his wife to order as far as the Central zone is concerned. We respectfully ask the First Lady, Her Excellency, Dame Patience Jonathan, to steer clear from Anambra politics if this is the way she intends to contribute to the political development of our dear state. If she loves Uche Ekwunife so much, then she can give her a party slot in Bayelsa state or even nominate her for a political appointment. Besides, what is chasing Uche Ekwunife away from the House of Representatives where she is, if not her falling reputation?”
Numerous PDP members warned that the imposition of Ms. Ekwunife on the party would most likely drive party supporters to vote for the APC candidate, Mr. Chris Ngige. One of the sources said such a development could also snowball into the presidential election, with disenfranchised voters in the senatorial zone either abstaining from the presidential polls or casting votes against Mr. Jonathan.
Some of the party members also threatened to file a string of lawsuits against the party and any candidates imposed on the party without an open, transparent process.
“There is bound to be an ugly scenario if candidates are imposed from above,” one aspirant vowed. He added: “This can be averted only if the PDP in Anambra does the right thing by producing the electoral register of delegates that were supposed to have been elected on October 28th, but which was forged and given to Uche Ekwunife. A genuine register with names of real delegates will enable the contestants to canvass for votes in a free and fair manner that rewards merit and quality representation.”
The source urged the party to “disclose to all other contestants and their supporters, without delay, the venue of the primaries that is supposed to take place on December 7.”