PDP Primary: Anyim congratulates Atiku, flays voting on primordial sentiments
Anyim

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Since declaring, on October 30 last year, his interest to run for president of Nigeria under the platform of his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), ahead of the 2023 general election, former senate president, Anyim Pius Anyim, has more than proved he means business, and presently looks set to be the man to carry the aspirations of his people to whom the election, one year to go, is one that will define their status in the country.

The Southeast, which is already witnessing spirited and sometimes violent campaign by those who insist that the Igbo have no stake in the entity of Nigeria, will hope that 2023 will be the year the ghost of Biafra is finally laid to rest and more than 50 years since the war ended in 1970, they have been locked out of the power loop, they will be fully reintegrated into the polity by being supported to hold the highest office in the land after other zones had taken their turns.

Indeed, the quest for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023, for many, is both moral obligation and a quest for justice, failure of which they say, could push the quest for separation from the fringes to the mainstream, and Anyim who served as secretary of the government of the federation during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan, looks set to embody that quest.

Although former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, the other prominent PDP figure from the Southeast expected to run for president in 2023, has also gradually begun to make consultations with a view to declaring his interest, Anyim may have taken the wind out of his sails, and has already won support of many party stakeholders as looks set to emerge the broad Igbo consensus candidate for 2023.

Since Anyim, who served as senate president from 2000 to 2003, declared his interest to run for power last year, he has hit the ground running, holding wide consultations and has thus far won broad-based support in the Southeast and beyond.

“Anyim has been consulting well,” said a chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo who preferred anonymity. “He started consulting earlier than the others, and that has given him an advantage. While others were still trying to play the politics in secret, he came out in the open to say, this is what I want and he started walking towards it immediately.

“It is not that other people are not interested. I know for example that Peter Obi started in December to make active moves towards declaring his interest to run, but you know that Peter is the same guy who has been saying that how do you contest for president when a few things are not in place. So, he has not really come out in the open to say that he wants to run.

“Anyim, on the other hand, is consulting widely. He has gone to (Ibrahim) Babangida, he has gone to Abdulsalami Abubakar and to several other people to talk about his ambition, and that has given him a head start.”

Conceding that Anyim has emerged the most likely Igbo presidential candidate, the Ohanaeze chieftain, however, noted that the Igbo sociopolitical group will not be openly endorsing any candidate, but would rather provide the platform for all Igbo who are interested to stand on, but will eventually support parties that present Igbo candidates ahead of the election.

“But it does not indicate that Ohanaeze has chosen Anyim as its candidate,” he said. “What Ohanaeze is doing is to support everybody who is indicating interest and to canvas for the support of other Nigerians for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023. At the end of the day, Ohanaeze will support any party that has an Igbo candidate whether it is PDP or the APC, that is the idea. So, for now we are all keeping our fingers crossed to see the party that will select an Igbo candidate.”

The 2023 polls is almost certain to be a contest between the APC and the PDP, the ruling party and the main opposition party respectively, but it seems unlikely that the former will chose its candidate from the Southeast, given the complexities of the country’s politics. The PDP on the other hand, will be under a moral burden to do so, even if the likes of former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, among others from the North are also in contention, given the support it has gotten from the zone over the years, and the fact that it is justifiably the turn of the Southeast to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor.

And Anyim, a strong stakeholder in the opposition party, is looking more likely than anyone in the zone to emerge candidate.

“When you look at the PDP in the Southeast with respect to who can really be a saleable candidate across the country, you have Peter Obi and Anyim as the two obvious choices,” said Anthony Chidi, Abuja based lawyer and political analyst. “But between the two, Anyim has an obvious edge. Obi, though may seem to be the ideal candidate, but he doesn’t have what it takes to run for an election at the national level. He tends to be quite frugal and cannot mobilize people. This is important, and this is where Anyim stands above him.”

Among the zone’s PDP ranks, Anyim now has a very broad support base. Fortnight ago, in late December, Adolphus Wabara, who succeeded Anyim as senate president in 2003, current Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, and other leading politicians in the Southeast at a civic reception organized by the Obingwa community, the home town of Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, endorsed him for president.

On the occasion that had in attendance all former senate presidents from the six geopolitical zones, as well as relevant Igbo PDP stakeholders, Wabara described him as one of the prominent Igbo men that have the capacity to change the narrative and a very qualified candidate to rule the country.

“Ndigbo still have qualified personalities in Nigeria. Anyim is the only Igbo man to announce his readiness to contest for President of Nigeria come 2023,” Wabara had said.

“We will tell Nigerians, that we have personalities in Igboland. I ask Ndigbo to support the ambition of our brother, Anyim Pius Anyim.”

Abaribe on his part, assured the audience of his resolve to work for Anyim, who according to him, is the only person who had declared intention to contest.

“My brother is the only one that has declared his intention to run for the office of the president, I will give him all the support because he has all it takes to make Nigeria better again. Therefore, I encourage all Nigerians to support this noble intention,” he had said.

The Abia governor, Ikpeazu, subsequently on Sunday, January 2nd, voiced his own endorsement of the former senate president when he visited him at his country home in Umuobiakwa, Obingwa Local Government Area of the state to formally inform him of his intention to contest.

Ikpeazu described Anyim as “a man whose public service credentials and experience are good enough for the Presidency of Nigeria,” noting that what matters now is “just for the Igbo to be given a chance to produce the next Nigerian President.”

Ikpeazu said, “No other tribe in Nigeria has demonstrated practical belief in the Nigerian nation better than the Igbos as can be seen from the fact that our people live and invest heavily in every part of the country,” emphasising that in the Southeast and indeed across the country today, “the credentials of Senator Anyim stand very tall.”

Still on Thursday last week, Southeast PDP leaders in a ten-point resolution issued at the end of their meeting in Enugu and signed by Senator Theodore Orji, former governor of Abia State, who also chaired the session and Chief Duru-Iheoma, SAN, former chairman of PDP in Imo State, also endorsed Anyim’s presidential ambition.

The leaders at the meeting hosted by Anyim, and had in attendance, Senator T.A. Orji; Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; Dr. Ali Odefa, PDP National Vice Chairman, Southeast; Iyom Josephine Anenih, Senator Obinna Ogba; Dr. Frank Nweke; Prof. Elochukwu Amucheazi; Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu; Senator Emma Nwaka; Senator Chuka Utazi, among others, said they were endorsing Anyim after taking “due cognizance of his precious record of distinguished and unblemished service as President of the Senate and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”

They reiterated that the people of the geo-political zone “have earned the right to occupy the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023 on account of their eminent qualifications and overwhelming contributions to the development of all parts of the federation through the years.

They said because of that, “the choice of a South East citizen as presidential candidate of the party in 2023 will guarantee to every Nigerian a sense of equity, justice and inclusion in the management of the affairs of the nation. In our view, this is the best way of ensuring that we build a nation that leaves no one or group behind.”

The resolution further said, “On account of the foregoing, we congratulate Senator Anyim Pius Anyim for the patriotism of his decision to offer himself for national service by aspiring to contest in the 2023 Presidential race.

“We take due cognizance of his precious record of distinguished and unblemished service as President of the Senate and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. In these positions, he distinguished himself as a detribalized statesman, consensus builder and true nationalist.

“We, therefore, unanimously endorse his aspiration with all conviction and enthusiasm and eagerly commend him to the rest of the nation as a worthy leader who will pilot the affairs of the nation towards greater security, unity and prosperity for all citizens.”

Still, the former senate president’s ambition is also said to have the support of Wike, the Rivers state governor, a very influential governor to PDP, who although has presidential ambition of his own, is said to be favourably disposed to his candidacy, even as he is known to have support across the country.

“Anyim is a committed Nigerian; someone I have high regard for,” noted the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, who presented Zik Prize in Leadership Award to the former senate president in November. “He is a very experienced person, and I hope he continues to avail of his experience… ”

But Anyim is stepping into what is for him, an uncharted territory. For Nigeria’s younger generation, he is very much as an unknown quantity. But for those old enough to know, and politically exposed enough to understand, his decision to throw his hat in the ring, could be a game changer. And perhaps the first real indication that a Nigerian president of Southeast extraction is a huge possibility.

Shrewd, calm and calculated, Anyim rarely makes any political move unless he has read his compass well, made his calculations and therefore is fairly certain of the possible outcome. And usually he takes people by surprise. His decision to run for president in 2023, couldn’t have been made hastily, and the populace may need to pay attention.

“People usually don’t see him coming because he is not loud,” said Mr. Sam Nwaobasi, who worked as media advisor to him during his time as secretary to government. “Before he takes a step, he would have thought it through. He is a deep thinker.”

Anyim is a different kind of politician. A deeply religious person, and dedicated member of the Assemblies of God Church, his godliness is something quite atypical in the political scene. But it’s what has guided him through life. He doesn’t take a major step without having thoroughly committed same to God, and as he puts it, heard God’s counsel.

“I act with the belief that the Almighty God is behind me,” Anyim said. “When I won a senate seat in 1998, God made it possible. I heard His voice clearly asking me to contest.”

Regardless, he is daring to do what none from his region and tribe has done before: Become Nigeria’s president. The stakes are even higher today, with Buhari having, in many people’s views, divided the country along ethnic and religious lines in ways never witnessed before with his sectionalism.

But he is as qualified as anyone, and although it may not be obvious to many, he has many things going for him, which could well see him emerge victorious in 2023.

“Anyim is a determined person who does his home work well. This determination; the willpower to fight till the end will be a factor,” said Abia Onyike, chairman, publicity bureau of Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF).

“He is a unique personality, and an ideal candidate for president. He has accomplished many things in his political career. Within few months as a senator, he became the senate president and used the office to set the tone for what the leadership of the senate should be for others coming after him. The respect accorded that office today is as a result of the foundation laid by him.”

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