For the generation of Nigerians born in the 1990s and 2000s, we look into the history books, mostly for icons of the political leadership of our country.
We hear from our teachers, parents, and elder ones the tales of how leaders of the past like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Herbert Macaulay, Eyo Ita, Alvan Ikoku, Egbert Udo Udoma, Obafemi Awolowo, Margaret Expo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Chuka Okadigbo, Alex Ekwueme and several others demonstrated strength, purpose, and vision.
Of course, there have been flashes of brilliance from time to time – the cases of former President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Peter Obi, who governed Anambra State from 2006 to 2014, come to mind.
Then Anambra 2021 happened, and a young man from Amesi, Aguata Local Government Area, Valentine Ozigbo, whose exploits in the business world we had heard of, stepped into the political space launching his bid for the governorship of Anambra.
The Anambra governorship is one of the most demanding political offices to run for in Nigeria; it is commonly said that it is tougher to run for the governorship of our dear state than to make a play for Aso Rock
To some extent, we agree with this premise. So when Mr Ozigbo, also known by his initials, VCO, declared his intention to run for the governorship of Anambra late in 2019, many of us did not think he stood a chance. We believed that the odds were stacked against him.
He came from the business world; he had never run for office before. Long-time politicians who have played the field for years like Senator Andy Uba, Senator Ifeanyi Uba, Professor Charles Soludo, Senator Uche Ekwunife, Hon Chris Azubogu, and money bags like Dr Godwin Maduka, Dr Obiora Okonkwo, Godwin Ezeemo, Chief Linus Ukachukwu via his brother, Nicholas Ukachukwu, and Chris Uba via his brother, Ugochukwu Uba had declared interest in the office.
When Ozigbo announced that he was running under our party’s platform, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), we thought he had chosen the steepest hill to climb among all the political parties.
The likes of Ekwunife, Azubogu, Maduka, Okonkwo, Ezeemo, Uba, Ukachukwu were all hunting for the same ticket. In some cases, it is believed that these politicians “owned the structures of the party”. For these reasons, added with the fact that VCO was only known to the high society at the time, we thought he stood a zero chance of clinching the PDP’s coveted governorship ticket, which is the first hurdle he had to cross.
What we didn’t know at the time was that Valentine Ozigbo is one of the most brilliant, gifted, and talented leaders in Nigeria.
In his early 40s, he had already cemented his position as a global CEO as the Managing Director/CEO of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, winning several international awards.
Those who had worked with him during his storied career in the corporate world knew his worth, and he had their full backing to take this step by leaving his prestigious job as the President and Group CEO of Transcorp Plc. and make a play for the governorship of our beloved state. Boy, did he demonstrate his quality!
It wasn’t long that the so-called political heavyweights of Anambra State began to consider Val Ozigbo as their most significant threat to getting the PDP’s guber ticket.
In less than a year, VCO had warmed his heart into virtually every demographic that mattered in Anambra politics. PDP leaders at all levels began whispering that they preferred Val as the party’s flag-bearer, women groups, the PDP delegates, voters of all ages, even his fellow aspirants preferred Ozigbo to emerge as the party’s flag bearer.
Mr Valentine Ozigbo made history when he clinched the ticket of the PDP in the most free, fair, and transparent primary ever held in the PDP in June 2021.
He made history again when he took second place in the main election in November, behind Professor Soludo of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who was taking his fourth shot at the governorship seat. Last week, a coalition of PDP youth groups, to which we both belong, declared Valentine Ozigbo the Most Valuable Player of Anambra 2021.
This is a well-deserved title. We wish to expand on why we believe he is the real winner of the election.
*Chris Mmaju is the Co-ordinator of the Federation of PDP Students, Anambra Chapter.
He is a Political Science undergraduate of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka *Olaedo Ezeanyim is a graduate of Educational Management and Policy from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University.
She is an advocate of girl education and gender rights who founded the Gift-a-Pad Initiative that reaches out to secondary school girls with mental health education and resources