‘Auntie’ Dora: The Resignation Of A Minister

The recent announcement by Professor Dora Akunyili that she was resigning as Minister of Information and would contest the Anambra Central Senatorial seat under the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), has generated several headlines and commentaries. Dora Akunyili (DA), affectionately called ‘Auntie Dora’ by her admirers, said she was quitting the Jonathan Goodluck administration to “join my Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, who is doing a great job” in the building of Anambra State as an APGA Senator.

Several issues are raised by Professor Akunyili’s resignation, and declaration for APGA.

One, is the question of her relationship with APGA, the PDP and even President Goodluck Jonathan. It will for instance be interesting to know how long DA has been a closet member of APGA, given allegations by supporters of Chukwuma Soludo, the former CBN Governor, that she played an unspecified role in the defeat of their candidate during the last governorship election in Anambra State. There are also questions about APGA’s relationship with the PDP, given that the President was apparently privy to Dora’s closet membership of APGA, and that Peter Obi is one of the Governors that have purportedly endorsed Jonathan’s candidacy for the 2011 presidential election.

Two, DA’s formal declaration of intent to run for a Senate seat under APGA also has implications for Peter’s public persona. If it turns out that there was a quid pro quo between DA and Governor Peter Obi and that a Senate seat is a ‘thank you’ for helping him win the last Governorship election in Anambra State, then Peter Obi’s image will suffer, because, his greatest asset, in my opinion, has been the ‘moral capital’ he is perceived to have brought to governance. DA’s image will equally suffer as it will accentuate allegations by her critics that she is an ‘egomaniacal opportunist’, willing to do anything for power.

Even more challenging for Peter Obi, will be how to help DA achieve her ambition without alienating APGA’s long-time members who may also be nursing the same ambition. For instance Chief George Ozodinobi, a foundation member of APGA, and the first federal legislator on the platform of the party (2003- 2007) who had already indicated interest in running for Senate in the same Anambra Central constituency, has reportedly accused DA of trying to ‘reap where she did not sow’.

Both ‘auntie’ Dora and Governor Peter Obi will also have to confront a ‘zoning’ challenge. For instance DA comes from the same ward as both Governor Peter Obi and the party’s national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh. Additionally, Mrs Uche Ekwunife, currently a Member of the House of Representatives under PDP but seeking for re-election under APGA, is also from the same constituency. The issues of zoning and potential allegations of domination are therefore likely to become extra hurdles standing between DA and her senatorial ambition.

Three, there is a very strong feeling that the presidency did not manage Dora’s resignation and decampment to APGA well. Even if the presidency had deliberately created the circumstances that forced her to resign, wouldn’t it have been better to persuade her to ‘hibernate’ and delay the announcement until at least after the presidential primaries? On the other hand, if truly DA felt like leaving and the presidency was unable to convince her to hang on for a little while, why was she not fired to blunt any political damage such an announcement will do to the government? The truth is that by announcing her resignation so close to the primaries, DA – whether seen as an opportunist or a woman of courage – seems to have passed a strong, two-in-one vote of no confidence on both the government of President Jonathan and his party, the PDP. Given that DA jumped ship just before the regime of the late Umaru Yaradua finally crumbled, many are wondering if she had seen anything ominous about the Jonathan regime and had decided to leave before the house tumbles.

Four, it is tempting to speculate on the political fate of DA if she either fails to win APGA’s nomination or is defeated in the election proper. Will she still remain a loyal APGA member or will she once again jump ship to where opportunities appear more promising? There are speculations that DA’s main reason for joining APGA is to position herself to run for the Governorship in 2014 – after allegedly lobbying and failing to get the PDP to make her the ‘consensus’ candidate in the last Governorship election. There is certainly nothing wrong with ambitions. However when ambition for power seems too vaulting, it also becomes repulsing. One of the dangers of being in the public glare for too long is the risk that one will suddenly start internalising and believing the hype of invincibility from supporters – making it easy to lose a sense of proportion about one’s real political weight.

Five, DA’s brand of politics – fiery and courageous if you are on her side, or opportunistic and egoistical with a love of drama if you are on the side of her critics – brings back the old question of women in politics. Does politics masculinise women or is it only women of a certain masculine disposition that can get involved in politics and rise to the top? This question is vital because one of the feminist arguments for why more women should get involved in politics is women’s alleged ability to humanise power by bringing their supposed natural compassion and gentleness to bear in what is otherwise a dog-eat-dog game. Unfortunately it will seem that only a few women are truly able to bring their supposed natural sense of motherly love and compassion into politics. And ‘auntie’ Dora does not seem to be among such few women.

Six, it is tempting to suspect that DA is being set up for the Ikemba and Soludo treatments. In the 1983 elections in the Second Republic, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi, who had a year earlier returned from exile in Ivory Coast to a reception by an unprecedented mammoth crowd, was lured to contest for Senate only for his party, the NPN, to allegedly work clandestinely for his defeat and demystification. In the same vein, after failing to be re-appointed as the CBN Governor, Professor Soludo was apparently lured into contesting the Anambra State Governorship election only for his party to allegedly work surreptitiously for his defeat. There is a strong suspicion that DA is being set up for a similar treatment. And like Ikemba and Soludo, ‘auntie’ Dora appears happy to swallow the bait.

By Jideofor Adibe
pcjadibe@yahoo.com

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