2023: How Peter Obi is changing face of Southeast orientation
Only Enugu State might escape the rampage
With their two states apiece in the Southeast, emerging indicators show that governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would be lucky to sustain their presence after the forthcoming general elections.
APC had to employ political and legal gymnastics to ‘steal’ Ebonyi and Imo States after the 2019 poll from PDP. While Imo had the Supreme Court to thank for the January 14, 2020 judgment that sacked Emeka Ihedioha from office, Governor David Umahi’s decision to shift base gave Ebonyi to APC.
Although not holding at the same time, next year’s gubernatorial polls in the two states would determine whether APC and its rival, PDP would still have a foothold in the Southeast. This is because, not long after the two parties failed to pick their presidential candidates from the Southeast, a new wave of animosity crept into the geopolitical zone.
Interestingly, while Imo State is billed to hold its gubernatorial contest around October 2023, the recalibration of political preferences in the zone seems to have started in the state. PDP believes that it lost the state to APC on the altar of judicial abracadabra and therefore looks forward to the coming poll to claim back its mandate.
Yet, the APC governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, has been doing all in his political power to ensure that he enjoys a second term in office by playing himself into the affairs of the party at the national level.
It was in line with the governor’s plan to ensure that he remains in the good books of the national leadership of the party that he joined in the belated attempt to impose Senate President Ahmad Lawan as the APC presidential candidate.
However, shortly after the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu beat Lawan to the fourth position, Senator Uzodimma opened his arms to receive Tinubu in his Abuja residence, where he pledged to support and loyalty to the presidential hopeful.
In a blatant show of solidarity, Uzodimma was among the APC governors that accompanied Tinubu back to Lagos after his victory at the Special Convention and presidential primary election.
Perhaps, knowing that his fortunes in the next Imo governorship election are tied to the outcome of the February 25, 2023, presidential poll, Uzodimma has pledged to do all things within his power to ensure that Tinubu wins.
Yet, while the Imo State governor is expanding his political tentacles within APC to ensure that he gets back the APC governorship ticket for a second term, his party and its rival, PDP, are being taunted by voters in Southeast for failing to nominate their presidential candidates from the geopolitical zone.
It is this new thinking in the geopolitical zone, especially in Imo State that plans by both Ihedioha and Uzodimma to win the 2023 governorship seem to be under serious threat. Observers said the emergence of former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, as the standard-bearer of Labour Party (LP) has altered the political calculation in the state.
The feeling of disappointment among Southeast voters for APC and PDP, coupled with the growing youth enthusiasm for a New Nigeria, which Obi’s candidacy has come to serve as a rallying point is gradually tilting the political behaviour in the geopolitical zone.
Former Deputy Chief of Staff, Imo State Government House, Mr. Chikwem Onuoha, said the people of Imo people are tired of the misrule of both APC and PDP, stressing that time has come to try new leaders.
Onuoha, who spoke when APC and PDP leaders in Imo North Senatorial District moved their political structures into LP, said from now on their loyalty and support is for LP and its presidential candidate, Obi.
At the reception held at Umuaro Community, Isiala Mbano Local Government Council, the former Deputy Chief of Staff regretted that APC and PDP have subjected citizens to untold hardship, insisting, “We need someone to rescue the country if we must progress as a nation.”
He said the decision by APC and PDP former members to move en mass to LP was informed by the need to ensure that Nigeria was saved from the misrule of the past 23 years by the two political parties.
While remarking that Obi’s vision for a new Nigeria resonates with Imo people, Onuoha declared: “Today, APC and PDP have died in Okigwe zone, we have resolved to collapse our structures in the zone into LP and work for the Obi’s victory. Obi is a symbol of hope for ordinary Nigerians.
The mass defection in Imo North Senatorial District seems to have been propelled by the crossover of the Senator representing Imo East in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly, Ezenwa Onyewuchi from PDP to LP.
Onyewuchi, who became the first and only LP Senator in the country, made history when he wrote to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, intimating him of his desire to join the comparatively smaller party from PDP.
As the wind of change continues to sweep across Imo State, the President General of Okigwe North Youth Progressives Forum (ONYPF), Chidimma Onyenagubo, explained that the forum was mobilising its members and eligible voters in the area to ensure that they register and obtain their permanent voter cards to be able to affect leadership change in the state by voting LP.
TWO developments are working against the governing PDP and opposition APC in Abia State: Both parties are factionalised and troubled by contentious primaries that threw up different candidates.
Former governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state, Dr. Alex Otti, who moved over to APC to contest the 2023 governorship, expressed concern over plots by former Minister of State for Solid Mineral and Steel Development, Dr. Uche Ogah and Chief Ikechi Emenike to appropriate the governorship ticket through underhand methods.
Instead of staying back to waste energy and resources in search of a troubled ticket, the former Managing Director of Diamond Bank rushed his structures and supporters into LP, where he emerged as the party’s gubernatorial standard-bearer.
No sooner had the two APC factions in the state held parallel primaries than some of the members started joining Otti on the LP platform, even as a leader of one of the factions, Emenike, was accused of holding indirect primary against the party’s directives.
Ogah, who claims to have emerged from direct governorship primary, is pushing his case as the authentic APC governorship candidate, while Emenike continues to insist that his own primary was monitored by party officials from Abuja.
Until INEC published the names of governorship standard-bearers, it is not clear whether APC would field a governorship candidate or suffer the fate of Yobe North Senatorial District.
For PDP, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s decision to seek the party’s Senatorial ticket for Abia South, which is being occupied by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, led to the incumbent Senator’s defection to APGA. PDP faithful in the state said they were worried that a similar scenario that played out between former Governor Rochas Okorocha and Senator Hope Uzodimma could happen in the state when Senator Abaribe announced his intention to contest the 2023 governorship.
However, based on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, Senator Abaribe avoided the PDP Senatorial primary, which was won by Governor Ikpeazu, and joined APGA to set up a clash at the main election with the outgoing governor.
How the separation between Ikpeazu and Abaribe would affect the fortunes of Prof. Ikonne, who is the outgoing governor’s preferred PDP governorship candidate, in the general election against Otti, the LP candidate, would be seen.
GOVERNOR David Umahi’s decision to throw up the embattled Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly as his preferred governorship candidate threw the state chapter of APC into huge internal spasms.
Like its neighbour, Abia State, the APC in Ebonyi held parallel governorship primaries that produced two claimants including the former chairman of Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Committee (RMFAC), Engineer Elias Mbam, and the Speaker, Nwifuru.
It would be recalled that the Federal High Court in Abuja sacked the Speaker alongside other 16 members of the state Assembly for their defection from PDP to APC.
Although the lawmakers appealed against the judgment, Governor Umahi penciled Nwifuru for the APC governorship ticket, stressing that the zoning arrangement in the state favoured him. While zoning became an issue within the party, the governor was said to have directed stakeholders from Ezza and Izzi clans to shortlist two governorship aspirants each for his consideration and support.
Cashing in on the challenge, the Ezza clan went into consultations and zeroed in on the former chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Julius Ali Ucha and the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Kenneth Ugballah. And, in a bid to ensure that the opportunity did not pass their clan, the Ezzas went further and selected Ucha as their preferred governorship choice while Ugballah was penciled for the Ebonyi Central Senatorial ticket.
For the Izzi clan, the process of raising two governorship aspirants ran into a hitch. Traditional rulers and appointees of the government from the clan settled for Nwifuru, while other stakeholders led by Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Mexico, Hon Alex Nwofe, insisted on the chairman RMFAC, Engineer Elias Mbam.
Amid the controversies, Governor Umahi stunned everybody present during the burial ceremony of the father of his commissioner for Trade and Investment, Barrister Nweze, when he introduced Nwifuru as the person that would succeed him.
The division that set in was blown open when the two rival candidates from Izzi, Mbam and Nwifuru, emerged as APC governorship standard bearers from parallel primaries. Until INEC makes its stand clear on the dispute, it is yet to be seen who would eventually fly the party’s flag in next year’s Ebonyi State governorship tussle.
It would be recalled that prior to the governor’s defection from PDP to APC, the general impression in Ebonyi was that Umahi would hand over to an Engineer, either Fidelis Nwankwo or Chukwuma Nwandugo from the Izzi clan.
But, when the governor crossed over to APC, speculations were rife that he might be considering Senator Ucha based on the fact that the former Senate Committee chairman opened the call for the chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum to be wooed to strengthen APC in the zone.
However, neither APC nor PDP could boast of a united front seven months to the general election, as both parties are enmeshed in intra-party squabbles to the extent that the two claimants of the PDP guber ticket, Senator Obinna Ogba and Ifeanyi Odii are in court seeking a judicial endorsement of their separate primaries.
Amid the wrangling in the two major parties, APGA threw up the immediate past Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Benard Odoh, as its governorship contender, thus setting itself up as the third force.
In his remarks, while unveiling Dr. Nkata Chuku as his running mate, Odoh disclosed that together with the world acclaimed health system expert, his administration would address human capital development and the welfare of the citizens.
As another Izzi indigene, Engineer Chukwuma Nwandugo, picked the governorship ticket of Action Alliance (AA), there are apprehensions in Ebonyi State that the two big parties, APC and PDP, may not be competitive in the governorship poll.
BUT for the political engineering of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, which saw to the amicable observation of the power rotation arrangement in the emergence of Dr. Peter Mbah and Barrister Ifeanyi Ossai as PDP standard-bearers, Enugu would have been at the mercy of the political recalibration going on in Southeast.
At a time the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, wanted to alter the zoning format by contesting the governorship when it was the turn of Enugu East Senatorial District, Ugwuanyi decided to work with elders and stakeholders from Enugu East Senatorial zone to pick the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited, Dr. Mbah, as the consensus choice of the senatorial district.
Employing his usual ecumenist leadership style, Ugwuanyi had consulted widely and received the unanimous endorsement of stakeholders that it was the turn of Nkanu East Local Government Area to throw up a governor, especially given that Nkanu West and Enugu South and Enugu North had produced previous governors.
Having narrowed the search to Nkanu East through the social science approach, it was easy for the leader of the Senatorial District, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, to nominate Mbah, who served in his administration as Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Finance.
With the issue of governorship candidate settled, the governor recommended Ossai as deputy governorship candidate and his choice was easily accepted, even as stakeholders commended him (Ugwuanyi) for his infectious humility and peace building.
There is no doubt that Uguwanyi would have run into similar trouble as other Southeast governors in their quest to impose candidates of their choice.
PDP stakeholders in Enugu State including Ikemba U.S.A Igwesi, said governor Ugwuanyi was able to unite PDP in the state through the systematic way he involved elders and stakeholders, stressing that the ebeano political grouping remains under one leader.