The event that saw to the emergence of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo as the Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) national chairman was a two-horse race between him and the former National Vice Chairman, Mr. Chukwu Ozichukwu. The reform wing of the party had been campaigning for exactly change, as they blamed the rigours in the party on the grip which elected officials have on the party on their power to nominate delegates.
Those that were present at the meeting with Jonathan were Governors Sullivan Chime (Enugu); Ikedi Ohakin (Imo) and Martin Elechi (Ebonyi). Deputy Senate President and leader of the PDP in the South-East, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihediora and Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Michael Ogiadhome were also present. It was gathered that President Jonathan accepted Nwodo’s candidacy since the leadership of the party from the South-East unanimously backed his candidacy. Subsequent outings with Nwodo to the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party at its meeting at the Presidential Villa, as Chairman-designate and subsequently to the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Party were made.
Nwodo said the PDP would see tremendous change as it had not experienced before and that the process for choosing candidates for the 2011 election would be subjected to internal democracy and that his leadership would ensure that the scope of delegates to party primaries is reviewed in order to have more elected delegates than statutory ones. Nwodo also promised to update the party’s manifesto, which he said will be the new face of the PDP.
People and groups began to send congratulatory messages to him. One such group was the Princewill Political Associates (PPA), a group that says it supports the political ideals and vision of Prince Tonye Princewill, the former Rivers State AC leader, but now a PDP scribe. The group's publicity secretary, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze said that the group unanimously endorsed and supports the emergence of Nwodo as the National Chairman of PDP. "This step of tacit endorsement was made in acknowledgement of Nwodo's democratic antecedents, principles and feats as a seasoned administrator and high ranking politician within the polity," Eze had said.
The group admonished Nwodo to bring to bear and hopefully fruition the vision of the founding fathers of PDP as he steers the party to admirable heights. PPA also saluted the courage of Nwodo who after long time service to the party as National Secretary, was unceremoniously hounded out by undemocratic elements within the party and still chooses to accept yet again to serve the party without any ill feelings. PPA saw Nwodo's sterling record during his single tenure stint as Governor of the old Enugu State that it was characterized by his grassroots' revolution where most of the villages where linked with quality roads and electricity which is yet to be surpassed.
PPA explained that during Nwodo's tenure as the National Secretary of PDP, he initiated the creation of Foreign Chapters of PDP to augment foreign embassies to talk about the new dawn in Nigeria and to draw Nigerian professionals in the Diaspora and lure them back home. The group said that Nwodo initiated the establishment of National Democratic Institute, which was aimed at expanding and enhancing the training sessions and human resource base for politicians already in office. So, it fervently praised Nwodo's emergence would prove to be the much sought after panacea that was needed to reposition PDP in line with the vision of its founding fathers. The group commended President Goodluck Jonathan and the BOT members for approving Nwodo's candidature and urged the NEC to support him to bring sanity back to the PDP.
In the same line, the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Emmanuel Ibeshi, described the choice of Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo as the best thing that can happen to PDP just as he stated that the party is on the road to charting a clear roadmap towards a lasting legacy in terms of leadership. In a statement by Ibeshi, he explained that the choice of Nwodo can be attested to by all those who had worked closely with him in the past. Ibeshi called on all the PDP members to give their support for Nwodo and argued that the teeming members who had supported other candidates who failed to emerge as Dr. Nwodo to please sheath their swords and rather join hands to support the new spirit being injected by President Jonathan and the PDP Board of Trustees to move PDP and the nation forward.
But this plea didn't abate anything. Some people were of the opinion that unless the PDP uses politically-motivated victimisation used for the ouster of it former chairman Eze Vincent Ogbulafor, Nwodo’s chance is threatened as, they claimed, he had soiled his hands in the same way Ogbulafor did.
The people argued that the unfinished corruption charge of the National Identity Card Project scam has not proved Nwodo innocent. They said that if President Jonathan is fully in support of Nwodo for the chairmanship of the PDP, then he may unwittingly find himself in a double-standard mess. The people added that PDP should not fall into the same pit left by Ogbulafor.
The people were appalled with the PDP's web of double-standard of how the Ike Nwachukwu-led Peace Committee that was saddled with reconciling divergent camps in many state chapters of the PDP; rather than achieve its set objective left most of the chapters worse than it met them.
The people said that another aspect of PDP’s double-standard was the action of the Ogbulafor-led NWC in the Anambra February 6, 2010 gubernatorial elections (at both PDP primary and proper elections) wherein a candidate was forced on the party. The people regarded the act as undemocratic and that it elicited bad reactions from other contestants. The people noted that there was also the anti-party statements by notable PDP chieftains including Senator Okonkwo, Etiebet and Akpabio, et al; all culminating to PDP loosing the governorship seat of the Anambra State.
However, the people recalled that Nwodo was not the only one involved in the SAGEM’s Identity Card scandal; there were also the former Ministers of Internal Affairs (Dr. Mohammed Shata and late Chief S.M. Afolabi), Labour and Productivity Minister Alhaji Hussaini Akwanga and others. They said that PDP should look towards the direction of other candidates but definitely not including Ozichukwu who, they claimed, was been sponsored by Obasanjo, for its national chairman seat; bringing in Nwodo would wound the status of the party.
Since the emergence of Nwodo as the PDP’s chair, the party seems to not have had the long awaited peace in the PDP. The party is still making troubles from nothing. Nwodo had once thrown salvo on the governors that he does not want them to his house; anything they wanted was supposed to be discussed in the party’s secretariat at Abuja, the nation’s capital. This enraged governors and the rake went down the drain later. Nwodo was seen talking many things at the same time, and many people wanted to tell him to shut-up his mouth if not for his age.
Notwithstanding, it is surprising how it has been alleged that some people want Nwodo removed from office because he is Igbo, the most industrious ethnic nationality in Nigeria. A group that goes by the name “The Turaki Vanguard” made this claim and had decried what it claims as the spate of unwarranted removal of Igbo National/political officeholders from their positions. The group sees the move, as a move that can at the very best be viewed as an attack against the Ndigbo in a systematic attempt to undermine their credibility in the polity.
The group’s National Director, Directorate of Media & Public Affairs, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, who also anchors as the media head of the PPA, in a press release went memory lane by asserting that the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was it who started the ridiculous removal of any Igbo in political positions. Eze hinged his point that Obasanjo started that shameful act with the removal of any Igbo Senate President during his era.
Eze claimed that it was sadly that President Jonathan has adopted the same strategy. The Turaki Vanguard said that some published comments by what it claimed as, some misguided political leaders in the PDP, spur its reaction.
The group says that some people in the PDP want to score cheap publicity, and as a result, steer up sentiments that in their opinion will lead to the removal of Nwodo, just after four months in office.
It was sad to note from the group that Nwodo’s alleged removal was on the ground, because of the waiver Nwodo-led PDP granted Abubakar Atiku, a former vice president of Nigeria. The group advises that such move should stop. It described it as a case of giving a good dog a bad name to hang her.
Eze says that they would not like to drag this matter so much, but reiterated that the waiver that Atiku earned was strictly on merit. He says that Atiku is one of the founding fathers of the PDP. He warns that attributing the waiver granted to Atiku to Nwodo and then attempting to use it as grounds to witch hunt Nwodo should be condemned outright by all progressive minds.
Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Non-Indigenes in Rivers Politics (NIRIVPOL). He writes from Oyibgo, Rivers State. Mobile: 08032552855