By Jude Atupulazi
The hierarchy of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in Anambra State, must be sweating profusely at the moment. The sweating is as a result of the hard choice staring them in the face as to who to give the nod for the senatorial ticket of the party for Anambra South involving two supposed juggernauts in their respective rights.
In one corner is the very beautiful former Miss Universe and the wife of the party’s eternal leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Bianca. In the other corner is oil magnet and business guru, Ifeanyi Ubah.
In case you don’t know, Bianca is seen as the remaining connection between the party and its leader after the demise of the great Ikemba. A former ambassador, Bianca has been through thick and thin with APGA, weathered many storms and still remains unshakeable. She has been all this without really being conspicuous by way of active contribution.
For Ubah, he has been off and on in APGA, during which time he had been with the Labour Party and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. His flirtations with different parties have been in pursuit of his political ambition, which on two occasions, was to be governor of Anambra State. He lost in both. Now, he has made a full detour back to APGA in search of another opportunity, this time, to be a senator.
In the last governorship election, Ubah played a prominent role, perhaps more than most people in terms of financial contribution, in ensuring the victory of Gov Willie Obiano. He did this majorly through his ”Afa Igbo Efuna” project. He spent millions (supposedly) to promote the ”Igboness” of APGA. Thus, the story of Obiano’s victory will not be complete without a copious mention of the efforts of Ifeanyi Ubah.
For Bianca, all she did during that time was to feature in some of the campaign rallies and be introduced as Ojukwu’s wife. She also spoke at some of those rallies, just like many other people. She obviously did not spend her dime as APGA coasted home to an unbelievable victory.
Today, the two are lining up before the APGA people for them to make a choice as to who goes to the senate. While Ubah is relying on his strong grassroots base, Bianca is only relying on her background of being Ikemba’s wife. She is not known to have any structure and it is understandable, being that she never before now ran for any election.
Probably well aware of her deficiencies in terms of structure, many rich sons of the state are said to be rallying round her to sponsor her election. In fact, last week, a paper’s headline screamed: ”15 Billionaires to Fund Ojukwu’s Widow’s Election”. Some of the people involved in this project are not even from Anambra State. Their argument is that there is need for ”Ojukwu to be in the senate”. And that Ojukwu they are talking about is Bianca, his wife. All well and good.
But this anxiety in some quarters has fuelled suspicion, also in some quarters, that there is a conscious attempt by some people in APGA to ”smuggle” in Bianca by any means; and there lies a potential problem.
Thus APGA is now in a quandary. Should they facilitate victory for Bianca in the primaries to honour Ojukwu but at the same time disappoint Ubah, a man who used his resources to help Obiano win? Or should they honour their friendship with Ubah and disappoint Ojukwu the grand daddy of APGA?
Indeed, I learnt that Ubah told the party that all he needs is a level playing field and nothing more. The import of this, it is generally believed, is that Ubah is sure of his grassroots followership. We all know that if Bianca is left to contest with Ubah in the field without help, Ubah will lick her.
There’s no doubting Ubah’s prowess in Anambra South, especially in Nnewi. At the last local council elections in the state, Nnewi was the only place the ruling APGA could not take because of Ubah. Thus while other local governments had ”elected” councillors and chairmen, it was only in Nnewi North that a transition committee existed.
Again, the Ojukwus have not been all that accepted in Nnewi. In the Second Republic when the late Ojukwu was in the height of his popularity, having just returned from the Ivory Coast, he could not win election in Nnewi as he was floored by one Edwin Onwudiwe of then Nigerian People’s Party, NPP. Ojukwu was of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN.
While it could be argued that Ojukwu lost because he belonged to an ”alien” party which NPN then represented, his son, Emeka Junior, also lost in his bid to represent his people of Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigo Federal Constituency despite belonging to an ”Igbo” party, APGA, in 2015. In both elections, the name ”Ojukwu” failed to work any magic.
It may therefore be that, mindful of these two factors, the party hierarchy may have decided not to throw Bianca to the wolves which will be the case if they fail to protect her. Although the party has variously denied plans to issue anyone an automatic ticket, many people believe it is mere political talk. Without a known structure of any type, it will almost be a walkover for Ifeanyi Ubah in a free and fair contest.
It is certain that if Ubah feels that he will be denied the ticket by APGA, he will promptly leave the party and seek another platform as was the case on previous occasions. This does not do his loyalty to the party any good and many are aware of this. But they also know that just as Ubah deployed all his resources to work for APGA in the last guber election, he may just as easily deploy all in his arsenal to fight the party if he is disappointed. Whether that fight will do any damage is however a topic for another day, but it is believed that it will be easier to contain Bianca’s disappointment than that of Ubah who has a known nuisance value.
But at the moment, I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of the APGA leadership. This is however what should be expected in a one party state which Anambra is fast becoming.
In fact, under Obiano, APGA has become more solid. The reason is simple. While Peter Obi invested in resources, Obiano is investing in human beings. When he was giving many people political appointments, many people had thought he was wasting funds and making a mistake. But today, everyone has seen the wisdom of what Obiano did. Those people he appointed everywhere helped him to win convincingly. They proved that human beings matter and not just infrastructure. Those he appointed and empowered had relations, dependants and friends who benefitted directly or indirectly and they all went out of their way to work for Obiano; and as someone jokingly remarked then, while roads worked for Obi, human beings worked for Obiano.
Thus, Obiano’s investment in human beings made him and his government popular and his party became more attractive and consequently stronger. Today the result is there for all to see. APGA is now about the only visible party in Anambra State and everyone is flocking to it. It is therefore becoming clearer by the day that whoever wins the ticket of the party for any election is almost assured of victory. This has created another problem though.
That problem is how to contain the surge of people. I recall in the early days of the party in 2002/3, people were literally being begged to come and contest on the party’s platform. Then, the fees paid for nomination and other forms were too little to the extent that they were almost free. But today, it is a different story.
That is why many PDP strong men and women are swarming around APGA here and causing the leadership headaches in taking the right decisions. And there are not many tougher decisions than the one on who takes the senatorial ticket for Anambra South between two people of different backgrounds. But it is a decision the party has to take. However it is a tricky one.
A level playing field will almost certainly see Bianca Ojukwu losing, but at least, the party will feel it has done a fair job by not taking sides. But Bianca will still feel betrayed that she was left unprotected, despite knowing the party has done the right thing.
As it stands, the party is left with any of these decisions: smuggle in Bianca to appease the spirit of Ojukwu; favour Ifeanyi Ubah to acknowledge his contribution to Obiano’s victory; or leave both juggernauts to slug it out in the field and damn the consequences.
So which one will the party take? Everybody is certainly watching.