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.
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 virtually 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 prefered Val as the party’s flagbearer, women groups, the PDP delegates, voters of all ages, even his fellow aspirants preferred Ozigbo to emerge as the party’s flagbearer.
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.
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.
VCO came into the field with a message of hope and inspiration and articulated his vision for Anambra, Ala Igbo, and Nigeria in a way that we have never seen a politician do in our lifetime. He awakened the consciousness of our people and raised them to a new mind, and he also inspired a new generation of young people into politics.
Ozigbo deployed a never-before-seen use of media, technology, and modern methods of electioneering in running the best campaign we have ever seen. Before now, we only saw American politicians have a voice and a message. We, the youth, and everyone else, were inspired by his brilliance, articulation, content, message, and personality.
In the PDP, Ozigbo demystified those we thought were political heavyweights by defeating them openly at the primary. So what did they do? They worked hard to sabotage his chances at the November 6 election. In a future article, we will articulate the betrayals that cost our party the victory we had won at the grassroots. Today is a celebration of the man we will forever regard as our leader.
Most worthy of mention is how he conducted his campaigns. He focused on his message for Anambra. In the face of hatred, VCO responded with a message of love. When attacked, he responded with a new energy of telling his story. In the face of terror, he offered a message of freedom and hope. Indeed, Val Ozigbo is the inspiring next-generation leader we should be proud of.
Ozigbo’s Ka Anambra Chawapu message is universal. It is a message to accommodate everyone and holds promise for a brighter future. It continues to resonate in the hearts of all Ndi Anambra, especially the youth, even after the election. His Aka Chukwu Di Ya slogan caps it all off and speaks to his essence. Val Ozigbo is a child of grace.
The most endearing quality Ozigbo has, in our viewpoint as young people, is his humility and love for humanity. Many politicians come along, and their disposition toward the youth is to use and dump the youth. They only talk about us and seek to use us only as thugs and social media fighters. VCO was different. He did care about us. He spoke to us as younger brothers and sisters. He wholeheartedly supported our programmes and created multiple spaces for us.
The youth of Anambra see in VCO the champion we have always been yearning for, and we are grateful to him for taking that bold step into politics. Certainly, Anambra will never be the same again because we experienced the remarkable brilliance of Valentine Ozigbo.
Chris Mmaju is the Co-ordinator of the Federation of PDP Students, Anambra Chapter. He is a Political Science undergraduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
Olaedo Ezeanyim is a graduate of Educational Management And Policy From 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.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.