By Ibrahim Khalil
LET me start by saying this. I am not from southern Nigeria. But I am a strong member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). However, what I say here is about the fate of Ndigbo in the affairs of Nigeria. I deeply sympathize with my friends from the South East each time we sit out and discuss politics and the leadership of Nigeria. I do so because they have some of the brightest human beings that can lead Nigeria successfully, but have very weak political understanding and appreciation. That is why it has been difficult for them to achieve their vision of leading Nigeria. But hope is not lost. I see light at the end of the tunnel; as we get ready for the 2023 polls.
In the 2019 Presidential election, PDP presented Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (Waziri Adamawa) and Mr. Peter Obi (Okwute Ndigbo) to challenge for the ticket. We don’t have to go into details on how it ended. We already know. But the good thing about that decision was that Obi added value to the discourse on Nigeria’s future. He showed himself to be fully prepared and capable both in terms of understanding the economics of governance and leadership in a country like Nigeria. If I must say it, Obi is the only former governor from the South East who has remained untainted by allegation of fraud since he left office. He did so well in Anambra State as governor that even the incumbent is still struggling to come close to his achievements. From what I hear, it is like many people in Anambra are not happy with the sort of governance that the state now has. Anyway, that is not my concern. It is for the people to change their own story.
But without disclosing too much, many people did not know that one of the biggest impediments to Obi becoming Vice President to Atiku in 2019 was because the political leadership of his home state refused to stand by him. The governor is from All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA). Anambra is the only state on APGA’s platform. It had and still have deep implications for Obi. Without the support of the political leadership of his home state, it was difficult to rally support of other state governors to back him. This is because, when other PDP governors gathered to brainstorm on strategies, the governor of Anambra won’t be there to add value. To a very large extent, that negatively affected the Atiku/Obi ticket as while other PDP governors were strategizing for Atiku/Obi, his home state governor was in bed with the All Progressives Congress (APC). But let’s leave that for now.
The issue now is about the future. If PDP returns in 2023 polls with another Atiku/Obi ticket, as many believe it will do, it will become a validation of the need for the South East to return to the center of Nigeria’s leadership. It will also be a re-enactment of the North/South East political alliance that had worked very well in the past. But to achieve that, Anambra must find its way back to PDP through the 2021 governorship election. That is the surest way to convince those of us who support Obi in the North that indeed, Ndigbo are serious about leading Nigeria in 2023 polls. I say this because, if you look at it, the last time a presidential candidate or his deputy emerged from a state that is under the control of another party was in 1999 when Olusegun Obasanjo won though his home state went to Alliance for Democracy (AD). From 2003, the ruling party at the center has always been in control of states where the president and his deputy came from. So, if Igbo people are serious about leading Nigeria as president in the 2023 polls, their first effort will be to ensure that Anambra returns to PDP. That will be a very positive signal for PDP.
As we all know, Obi is well accepted across the length and breadth of this country because of his views and ideas about governance. He is also young and can help lead Nigeria into a new era alongside Waziri. But if his home state remains with APGA, it will be a clear sign that the people do not support him. It will therefore be difficult to convince other people to support him if his state governor is not in the forefront of the campaign. So, I believe that 2021 is a crucial year for the Igbo in determining which way they want to go. If Anambra votes in PDP in 2021, it will signal their resolve to work to ensure that Obi achieves his dream and through it, bring Ndigbo back to political reckon with hope of succeeding Atiku when the time comes.
As a matter of fact, PDP holds three states in the South East, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu. Imo State is with APC. Both PDP and APC are national parties with spreads across the federation. But Anambra stands alone in APGA. The implications are too many. When APC governors gather, Anambra will not be there. When PDP governors gather, Anambra’s name will also be missing. This is a huge loss for Anambra because the governor does not engage in peer review with any one. He is an island. If we look at the role played by Anambra politicians nationally in the past, you will see the missing link with APGA. It does not even have a single person talking for it at the national level. Somehow, APGA has made Anambra an orphan. This makes it imperative that the state realigns with its traditional party and begin to chart a new course for South East ahead of 2023 polls.
So, I believe that 2021 is a crucial year for the Igbo in determining which way they want to go. If Anambra votes in PDP in 2021, it will signal their resolve to work to ensure that Obi achieves his dream and through it, bring Ndigbo back to political reckon with hope of succeeding Atiku when the time comes.
Moreover, being the only APGA state means that it is only Anambra that is currently funding APGA. To fund a political party is not what one state does. There is reason both PDP and APC ‘fight’ to win more states. The more the merrier. The merry here means that it is better for several states to fund a political party than for just one state to do so. I am knowledgeable about party organization and financing. So, I know that one state cannot effectively finance a political party. This is the major reason APGA has not been able to grow or expand beyond Anambra. As it is, APGA cannot effectively capture any other state even in the South East. To do so means spending money to set up structures that could win. That means finance. Anambra alone cannot fund it. I may not have the details but I am sure that funding APGA has left a deep hole in the finances of the state such that it is now struggling to meet some responsibilities. That may account for the reason the governor has not been able to achieve major developments even in his own home zone. I read an article written by one lecturer, which highlighted the underdevelopment in the governor’s home zone. That could be a pointer to what I mean here.
Therefore, if the South East people are seriously desirous of leading Nigeria, they must start thinking of how to bring Anambra, the home state of their brightest hopeful, Obi, back into the PDP family. They can easily do so by working to ensure that PDP wins the governorship election in 2021. Such victory will open the gates for Anambra to lead South East back to the center and from there, work for the presidency. Doing so will also have the double impact of freeing Anambra from the pain of funding APGA alone. It is not an easy experience. I guess that was the reason AD died after the 2003 election when PDP swept South West and left only Lagos State for AD. Those who inherited AD afterwards knew it was not fun to finance the party alone. So, I believe that Anambra people, and indeed, the South East leadership, must ensure that Anambra returns to PDP so that it can play its role for the zone at the center as it used to do. This assignment becomes imperative given that Anambra has two senators and six members of the House of Representatives. I am told that our great party also has seven members in the House of Assembly. That is a positive indicator going into 2021 and 2023 polls.
Khalil is a political commentator in Yola.