PDP Politics: Et Tu, Peter Obi? – By Christopher Nwosu

Peter Obi with Senator Andy Uba
Peter Obi with Senator Andy Uba
Peter Obi with Senator Andy Uba

Let us start this brief conversation with a fact everyone knows but refuses to acknowledge in public: Nigeria has practically become a one-party state. This is because the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has become discredited irretrievably. In the international community it has become a by-word for sleaze. In Northern Nigeria, the PDP is now an anathema. It is unlikely to retain for long the two states it currently governs in the Southwest, especially Ondo. Even in the Southeast and South-South, it will be greatly surprising if it performs 50% as well as it has done in elections in the last 16 years.

The immediate past governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, miscalculated when he joined the PDP just before the 2015 general elections, abandoning the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which he for years marketed as an Igbo party. In a way, he need not be blamed. Like many people in the Southeast and South-South, it did not dawn on him early enough that the incumbency factor wasn’t going to work in the 2015 elections. Nor did he realise that the world and the rest of Nigeria had resolved that President Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP must become history, so that the country could make progress. Mr Obi was confident that Jonathan would make him either the Secretary to the Government of the Federation or a powerful minister. Jonathan had already made him his honorary special adviser on economic affairs and was to appoint the erstwhile governor the Deputy Chairman of the Presidential (Re)Election Campaign.  Obi lost himself.

What is surprising is that Obi, who has done everything possible to be projected as a gentleman, has insisted in almost two years on being more PDP in Anambra State than the older party members.  Let me explain. It is often not pleasant for a politician to be called PDP, particularly in Anambra State. For some reason, the state’s branch of the party has always had the largest concentration of the most difficult and controversial politicians in Nigeria, in perennial war with their fellow members. Whether it is the selection of new members of the executive committee or in the choice of candidates in an election, the story is always the same: various candidates declare themselves winners of the primaries or the congresses, each headed for the courts, with lawyers securing all manner of injunctions.

Once a candidate is finally chosen to represent the party in an election, the other candidates and their supporters mount a spirited opposition, working brazenly with other party candidates to undermine the PDP flag bearer. Take the participation of the former Central Bank governor, Professor Charles Soludo, in the 2008 gubernatorial vote in the state. Fellow PDP members worked strenuously to destroy his candidature, and were supported secretly but effectively by Jonathan’s presidency. They were never disciplined because the sabotage was called “a family affair”.

Let us take the story of “dog-eat-dog” in the Anambra State PDP a little further into history. The greatest opposition which the first PDP government faced in the state following the restoration of democratic rule in 1999 came from within. Before Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju took his oath of office, people like Chris Uba emerged from nowhere and held the governor hostage, reportedly over contracts. They were soon followed by controversial Federal Government contractors like Emeka Offor who formed groups like the Anambra Patriotic Front, with the sole duty to bring down the government by all means possible.

PDP elements rigged the 2003 governorship vote in favour of their man, Dr Chris Ngige. Yet, before Dr Ngige could be sworn in, they had begun to attack him physically, locked him up in a toilet in an attempt to force him to sign away key offices to them, apart from the state treasury. He was forcibly taken to the notorious Okija Shrine in the dead of the night to swear an oath of unquestionable allegiance. When Dr Ngige assumed office and began to show signs of independence, the same fellow PDP members plotted to remove him from office through a coup led by an Assistant Inspector General of Police, Raphael Ige, and Chuma Nzeribe, who was then the most controversial member of the House of Representatives. When the kidnapping failed, the PDP operatives staged mayhem in the state, burning in broad daylight the state House of Assembly, the judiciary, radio and television stations, etc, and even held a news conference in Awka where Nzeribe dared the governor to return to the state to see if he would still be alive!

When Peter Obi eventually regained his stolen mandate from the PDP in 2006 with the assistance of the Supreme Court, the PDP went after him. They plotted him his removal and which culminated in his illegal impeachment. As usual, the hand of The Presidency was in all this desperation, designed to make Anambra a “lawless and bankrupt fiefdom”, as the great Professor Chinua Achebe put it in his famous letter rejecting his nomination for a high national honour in 2007 from the Olusegun Obasanjo government.

Against this background, it is surprising that ex Governor Obi should choose to steep in the PDP tradition of politics which has now made the party the laughing stock of the Nigerian people. It is puzzling why he has relentlessly been fighting his successor, Willie Obiano, whom he played a great part to install. Ironically, only Mr Obi is fighting the current state government as PDP members in the state have suddenly decided to cooperate with the administration which everyone testifies is doing a good, despite the country’s precarious financial situation in the wake of collapsed oil prices.

Obi’s open relentless fight did not come as a great surprise to discerning observers. He left N9bn in the state treasury, a good development considering that many of his counterparts left no money for their successors, but it is curious that the departing governor announced that he was leaving behind “N75bn in cash and investments”. These investments include the state’s share of Nigercem at Nkalagu in Ebonyi State which has been out of production for decades. They also include investments made by former governors Mbadinuju and Ngige in the Orient Petroleum company, as well as the state’s investment in the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP).

There may be a psychological explanation as to why the former governor has been fighting almost everyone who has worked with him in either the party or government. He is not on speaking terms with Chekwas Okorie, the founding APGA national chairman. He does not exchange greetings with Okorie’s successor, Victor Umeh, who stood by him every inch of the way during the trying period. Mr Obi does not speak to his deputy, Mrs Virgy Etiaba. Nor does he get along with Dr Ngige, his predecessor who is now the Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity. And now Obianor, his successor, has joined the list. Obi is the only ex governor of the state who has refused to attend state functions since he left office.

The PDP brand of politics which ex Governor Obi has embraced does no one any good. Our dear Okwute, or Peter the Rock, has to retrace his new steps.

Nwosu, a retired director in the public service, lives in Onitsha GRA.



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