By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
WEDNESDAY’s decision by the son of Chief Emeka Ojukwu to defect from the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA to the All Progressives Congress, APC was not just a major political episode for Ndigbo. It was a development that struck at the heart of arguably the most popular family in Igbo land.
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr. is the son of the former Biafran leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who turned into a hero when he led the Igbo in the war of emancipation in the sixties. Even in death, he has remained a hero revered among his people.
It is no surprise that before his death his iconic image was used as a magic wand to attract votes. After his return from exile in the early eighties, the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN used him to get a foothold in the East where the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP was the dominating political party.
It, however, was a matter of irony that after using his name to edge itself into the East that the NPN failed to win a Senate seat for Ojukwu in the 1983 general election. There is, however, a conspiracy theory that he was rigged out by his own party whose officials, some alleged, were very apprehensive of what Ojukwu could do if allowed in the Senate.
After the collapse of the Second Republic and the enthronement of the Fourth Republic, Ojukwu’s weight as a political force was brought to bear when he identified with APGA and became the party’s presidential candidate.
Though he did not go far in his own presidential bid in 2003, there is no doubt that his influence helped the then relatively unknown Peter Obi to win the governorship contest in Anambra State in 2003. That victory was not upheld until 2006 when the court ruled that the election was won by Ojukwu’s party, APGA.
Ojukwu’s name and image then turned even more iconic as Mr. Obi who was troubled on every side almost always turned to him at times of political trial.
In 2010 as Mr. Obi sought re-election, a frail Ojukwu sought a last wish from Ndi Anambra, and that was that Obi should be re-elected. The people granted him his desire despite the strong financial and political forces that were marshalled by the opposition.
His death in November 2011, did not in any way diminish his political relevance. In 2013 as Mr. Obi sought to foist his handpicked successor, Willie Obiano on Anambra State, Ojukwu’s name and image was again turned into a magic wand. The APGA campaign machine preached everywhere that Ojukwu’s desire must not be allowed to derail by allowing another political party to get foothold in the state.
Again, the Ojukwu magic wand wasted the opposition and Obiano was elected.
But as internal crisis hit APGA shortly after Obiano’s inauguration and Obi left the party, Obiano’s capacity to use the Ojukwu brand was severely tested.
Ojukwu’s son, Emeka who is named after his father complained that Obiano drifted away from the Ojukwu spirit. In interviews published last weekend he alleged that Obiano did not until this year when election approached organise or participate in any event to give memory to Ojukwu. It is an issue that has also been fanned by some disenchanted APGA apologists, notably Chief Sylvester Nwobu-Alor, a Second Republic member of the Old Anambra State House of Assembly.
On Wednesday as he formally defected to the APC, Ojukwu Jnr. also seemed to look at the bigger picture as he urged that Ndigbo must move away from the periphery to the main stream of party politics in the country.
Ojukwu’s move some argue may have been stirred by the momentum that the APC’s youthful governorship candidate, Dr. Tony Nwoye may have brought to bear in the party in the state..
“It is time to leave the shadows for light. Every now and then, they come out with my father’s shadow to confuse the people,” he said, apparently referring to the repeated allegations that APGA officials have in the past and maybe presently sought to use the father’s name and APGA for political and financial profiteering.
So, when Ojukwu Jnr. uttered the words in the hearing of President Muhammadu Buhari that “Mr President, I am proud to stand here today in support of you and in solidarity with the APC and our candidate, Tony Nwoye,” he inevitably caused a major divide in the Ojukwu brand.
His father’s widow, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, with whom he is in dispute with over family issues is firmly campaigning for APGA and Obiano. The essence of the brand will be seen this Saturday.