By Osita Okechukwu
In penultimate week’s edition of the widely read Sunday Sun, one Mr Okechukwu Anarado in his lucid essay on the forthcoming Anambra State gubernatorial election harped on the nostalgia of an ethnic card woven around a pan-Igbo political party, which will be the platform to control our region and prudently negotiate for Igbo interest in the national arena.
We all nursed the ethnic card dream of our own party as we transited seamlessly to democracy in 1998. The dream of the ethnic card was the brainchild of Chiefs Chris Okoye, Chekwas Okorie, Onwuka Ukwa, Maxi Okwu and uncountable Ndigbo sons and daughters whose dream gave birth to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
The transition of Ezeigbo Gburugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi from All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to APGA no doubt raised the bar and the eventual victory of Governor Peter Obi became the icing on the cake.
There was jubilation across the region and hope was raised that APGA will before 2011 win all the five states of the South-East and will be a major contender with Alliance for Democracy of the South-West and All Nigeria Peoples Party of the North.
The argument then was that Governor Peter Obi was the arrowhead and the field marshal who will emulate, if not surpass the political prowess of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who covertly reorganized and funded the Alliance for Democracy (AD) which later became Action Congress of Nigeria in the South-West and beyond after AD’s fatal loss of the 2003 governorship election in the South-West.
That dream died a natural death, as Governor Obi, abandoned his troops and the quintessential raison de’tre for establishing APGA. Events proved that he viewed APGA as a mere vehicle to achieve his personal ambition.
Records had it that he never fully funded the party in Anambra State nor bought even a bus for APGA in any of the four South-East states under the hegemony of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In fact, it is on record as well that all efforts made by APGA leadership for Governor Obi to appreciate the imperative of territorial ambition espoused by the great Ezeigbo Gburugburu fell on deaf ears.
He even refused to pay adequate attention to Anambra South Senatorial bye-election in Ikemba’s district and hence lost an election which pundits had awarded to APGA before the 2007 election.
One is at a loss to locate the passionate followership a factionalized APGA has which Mr Anarado cuddles. Otherwise, is there any reason why Governor Obi couldn’t organize one local government council election eight years in office?
It can be said that Governor Obi’s casual and non-committal attitude to APGA affairs more than any other factor led to the exit of Chiefs Chris Okoye, Chekwas Okorie and others, a serious minus exposed by the recent do-or-die battle for the soul of APGA between him and Chief Victor Umeh.
The Obi-Umeh crisis gave graphic details of how Governor Obi factionalized APGA and forgot the big picture of a pan-Igbo platform. Luckily for Governor Obi, the crisis was hurriedly patched up without resolving key questions raised by Umeh.
It must regrettably be admitted that Governor Obi by omission or commission had atrophied the vision and dreams of the founding fathers of APGA, with particular reference to the great Ezeigbo Gburugburu.
We are witnesses to how Governor Obi, instead of presenting a presidential candidate to take over from Ikemba, attended PDP zonal presidential rally, endorsed the party’s candidate, hence fraternizing and more or less reducing his party to a department of the PDP.
Now that APGA has been reduced to Agulu Grand Alliance, manned by Governor Obi from main Agulu town and Chief Victor Umeh from Aguluzigbo, without proper reconciliation with other stakeholders, how can a factionalized APGA achieve the laudable goals set by Mr Anarado? It can’t, for the progressives’ and conservatives’ trains have left the train station.
The truth of the matter is that any hope of APGA as it’s presently constituted advancing the cause of Ndigbo in the present circumstance in Nigeria or creating a 3rd Force is a forlorn hope, misplaced, futile and amounts to shadow boxing.
Ndigbo as a wise, hard working and enterprising people must not because of sentiment lose focus of their inalienable and hard-earned position in the scheme of events at the national level.
Conversely, for the avoidance of doubt, a vote for APGA in the Anambra governorship election is antithetical to the advancement of Ndigbo. It amounts to the return of Godfatherism. Anambra State is one of the leading, if not the leading South Eastern State. Therefore as the great Zik of Africa said, the leader should show the light and in this circumstance,Ndi Anambra should lead Ndigbo to the mainstream.
We must try to avoid re-inventing the wheel or as our elders admonish, to avoid waiting for the rain before we take shelter. Must we wait for Governor Obi to recover lost grounds? No.
Nigerian democracy, no matter the fault lines, challenges and the less than transparent elections, has without equivocation changed gear into the fast lane of all liberal democracies, where two dominant political parties rule the political landscape. In this instance PDP and APC.
The birth of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on 31st July 2013 has ushered in the tonic for a mature democracy, as two major political parties – PDP and APC, from now on have to jostle for every ward, local government area, state and national elections on neck-to-neck and bumper-to-bumper basis.
Ndigbo must think outside the box. As a matter of fact, we are among top leaders and rank and file of the two dominant political parties and a careful analysis reveals that APC victory in the Anambra State gubernatorial election places Ndigbo in a vantage position to secure a presidential or vice presidential ticket. This opportunity is more remote in the case of the PDP, for we cannot be vice president to our brother President Goodluck Jonathan nor do we have the capacity to dislodge him.
It is pertinent to state that the rotation of presidency canvas is North-South located and therefore it is wishful thinking to hope that PDP will zone to the South-East after a South-South presidency. This leaves us with the APC axis as the most rational and viable option to presidency in 2015 or 2019.
So there is little or no room for APGA’s 3rd Force and one cannot find any cogent reason to waste time and resources in building one.
Without being immodest, we must at all times consider strategically the direction of our mobile people who come first in the population of the 5 South-East States and second in the population of 27 states of the federation after counting the indigenes of the 36 states of the nation. It means that by law of proportion we must be reticent in playing the ethnic card.
In actual fact, the two dominant political parties -PDP and APC- in every sense of the word and by any standard are national parties with imprints in all the nooks and crannies of the country. Therefore, it is only mischief-makers that can refer to any of them as tribal or sectional parties.
Consequently, Senator Chris Ngige is our best choice, the main contender, the man to beat, for I am yet to read anyone who faulted his prudent management of resources or ‘the godfather leave-town’ order he issued in Anambra State.
•Mr. Osita Okechukwu belongs to the All Progressives Congress in the South East.