Chief Anthony Anenih’s capacity for doing the political impossible is legendary. Last Sunday he got on his marks for the challenging job of selling President Goodluck Jonathan for a second term
With a reputation stretching back twenty years as a political enforcer, Chief Anthony Anenih was certainly in his elements last Sunday at the closed door caucus of the South-South of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Inside one of the halls of the new Government House in Asaba, Delta State were three governors, a deputy governor, a couple of senators and members of the House of Representatives and PDP chairmen all from the South-South gathered for a caucus of the PDP zonal caucus.
At the last meeting of the caucus in Port-Harcourt few weeks ago, the issues of party solidarity and focus were overtaken after one of the governors in an aside, verbally volunteered one million naira to PDP state chairmen after one of the governors expressed the people’s desire for patronage.
But this time with the venue changed and Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State in charge, neither comfort nor carriage was allowed to sidetrack from the burning issues affecting the party and the people.
The South-South which until recently had been regarded as a political orphan having never held the position of president or vice-president of the country, had come around in 2010 when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan emerged as president of the country after serving for two years as vice-president to Alhaji Umar Yar‘adua who passed away in midterm.
The ascension of its son into the country’s highest office and the prospect of him going for his own term in his own accord was fully resisted by the northern establishment stretching the quiet but long standing accord that had existed between the people of the Niger Delta and the core north in prior political dispensations.
With the body language of Dr. Jonathan apparently fixated on a second term, and a section of the north stoutly resisting him through verbal attacks and some through the Boko Haram insurgency, last Sunday’s caucus meeting offered an opportunity for the president’s home people to stand up for him.
Their endorsement of him was unwavering and that was despite mutterings of sectional patronage allegedly dispensed by the president and his inner circle.
Chief Anenih, who was recently appointed as the chairman of the Board of Trustees, BoT of the party led the charge in mounting the offensive for Mr. President.
His charge articulated in a 1,978 word speech was firm. He called on the party faithful to rally behind party and president in the face of what he described as an unprecedented onslaught which according to him has seen opposition parties mount an orchestrated negative profile of the president.
“One major issue which has been of concern to me is the persistent negative profiling of the administration of President Jonathan. A well-oiled wheel of insidious media propaganda has been tirelessly churning out sinister information about the Jonathan Administration for the purpose of destabilizing (eventually replacing) his Government,” Anenih submitted.
Noting how some PDP members from the zone had either consciously or unconsciously given heed to the act of the opposition, Anenih added:
“Unfortunately, some of these political enemies have PDP members as accomplices. What the anti-Jonathan forces are doing is to create tension in a desperate bid to unsettle and disrupt the Administration. Any of our brothers and sisters being used to play mischievous roles should be dissuaded from doing so.”
However, even more pointed was Anenih’s subtle effort in setting the tone for the debate for a change in the party’s mode of selecting its presidential and gubernatorial candidates.
Noting what he said was the rancour that normally shadows the nomination process, Chief Anenih said:
“Our party primaries have, over the years, been the most serious sources of rancour and disunity in our ranks. Almost two years are devoted to pre-election processes for political offices and another two in managing post-primaries/election bitterness and disunity.”
“We invest so much resources and energy fighting ourselves in the primaries that should have gone into the larger battle against our political rivals. We cannot continue this tradition of internal warfare. We must not live under the illusion that we can fight ourselves to the finish and hope that we can continue to have enough energy left to win elections.”
“We must evolve a new system of selecting our flag-bearers at the Presidential and Governorship levels that would preserve our unity and reserve our energy and resources for the greater battle for political power. We must seriously consider this in order to avoid frictions and acrimony in the overall interest of our party and the nation.”
Though he did not out rightly make a suggestion on a rancour free nomination process, his assertion falls in line with the increasing suggestion for the adoption of the principle of affirmation or the right of first refusal that has lately been suggested by elements sympathetic to the presidency.
Under the policy, the incumbent president and governors in the party would be given the opportunity of first rejecting a second term before a replacement would be considered. The policy which invariably would mean automatic second term for president and governors elected by the party is bound to exercise a great lot of debate and possibly heat up the polity.
It would mean good or bad, Nigerians would be stuck with a bad president and bad governors who would only vacate at their own pleasure. Mr. Anenih may have fixed so many things in the past, but fixing the automatic return of a nonperforming governor or president rings like a bad omen. The Esan High chief is remembered for his 2003 admonition that all PDP governors would return. Chief Lucky Igbinedion returned in Edo and gave birth to the Adams Oshiomhole phenomenon which has invariably sullied his national reputation in his birth place!