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Aba North/South By-Election: Aba-made battles made-in-Aba in Enyimba contest

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Mascot

Today, in Aba, the famed Enyimba City, two elephants-the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC)-will fight and the grassroots would not suffer, but be the referee!

Do big names win elections? To what extent can respect for due process help political parties build cohesion and win elections? What is the ratio of candidate to political party rating in quantifying electoral worth? In a contest between Aba-made and Made-in-Aba, which one is more aboriginal?

Those are some of the questions that would be answered by voters today, when they file out in polling units across the length and breadth of Aba North and Aba South Federal Constituency to elect their representative in the House of Representatives. The by-election was scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to elect a replacement for Hon. Ossy Prestige, who died months ago.

The contest has opened a window of opportunity for the two rival mega parties, the governing PDP and opposition APC, to test their strengths against each other, two years to the 2023 general election.

Ordinarily, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which was occupying the House of Representatives (HoR) seat, should have been the party to beat. But, the prime movers of the party, namely Dr. Alex Otti and Dr. David Onuoha-Bourdex, have since turned their backs on the party and pitched tent with APC.

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Yet, APC, which has for some time now been attracting big names, including a former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Azubuike Ihejirika and the 2019 governorship candidate of APGA, Dr. Otti, into the Abia State chapter, does not seem to be having things easy.

Stakeholders accuse the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, of hijacking the process and imposing his younger brother for the bye-election instead of allowing for a fair, credible and transparent primary or generally acceptable consensus approach.

Feasting on the lack of common understanding in the APC camp, the state governor, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, said it would amount to internal colonialism if the people of Aba were not allowed to send their aboriginal citizens to the Green Chamber.

Ikpeazu told a rally in Aba that if nepotism has become a new aspect of Nigeria’s democracy, he would have easily drafted his own younger brother to contest the position on the PDP platform, remarking, “I also have a younger brother,” in allusion to Kalu, whose younger brother, Mascot is on the ballot for the House of Representatives seat.

It is against the background of this impending clash between the governor’s camp and the Senate Whip’s camp that the electoral duel has been reduced to a fight between Aba-made and Made-in-Aba.

Ikpeazu hails from Ngwa, the owners of Aba, while Kalu, who hails from Igbere in Abia North Senatorial District, has his roots in Aba, his family having been entrenched and doing business in the area for a long time.

The Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District, Enyinnaya Abaribe, has also joined the fray on the side of PDP, which is fielding Chimaobi Ebisike as its standard bearer. These are the Aba made. And they are hoisting the entire weight of PDP’s power of incumbency, by unleashing all its grassroots structures for today’s election.

Contest of performance
AWAY from the nativity of the candidates, the surrogates escalated the campaigns to questions about mandate delivery and performance. The APGA candidate, Destiny Nwagwu, promised the electorate quality representation, assuring that if elected, he would “consolidate on the excellent gains made by the late representative, Prestige.”

It was not easy to ascertain how far sympathy votes could help to swing victory towards APGA, based on the consideration of place of origin, because many people in Aba recalled that the late Prestige hailed from Abia North.

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Moreover, residents recall with sadness that APGA endorsed APC during the 2019 election, which they said put the party out of contention, as it is no longer being taken serious.

However, a pointer to the possibility that Nwagwu could spring a surprise was the fact that he polled 658 votes to 16 to defeat incumbent member of state House of Assembly, Hon. Obinna Ichita, who represents Aba South State Constituency, to clinch the APGA ticket.

But, apart from his personal effort and name recognition of the party, the APGA candidate has no big name or giant salesman to market his candidacy to the people of Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency for the coveted seat. He could however, benefit from protest votes against the two giants, PDP and APC, although there is as yet, nothing to suggest that possibility.

The two heavyweights- Ikpeazu and Kalu- are putting their all, to the contest. Kalu, who is a former governor of the state, accused Ikpeazu of doing nothing for his people. Campaigning on behalf of his brother in Aba North ward 1, the Senate Whip said: “The only road the state government is constructing is the 600 meters road in Eziukwu, which they have been doing since last six years, that’s one year 100 meters.

“Compare my village and these people’s villages and you will see how shameless they are. If you can’t build your own village, is it my own you will build?”

Maintaining that the people are on his side, Kalu wondered whether Governor Ikpeazu or Senator Abaribe could stand among the people at such late hour (10pm). “That is why, in leadership, you have to be with the people you are leading.  But, they don’t understand this simple technique, all the projects they claim to be doing are all on radio, nothing on ground,” he stressed.

On the claims that he is disconnected from reality by his six months’ incarceration in prison, Kalu told the crowd at Igwebuike Hall, Aba South: “Joseph went to prison, even Obasanjo went to prison: my going to prison is part of my life script and I am thankful God allowed it.”

He accused Abaribe of being petty minded to refer to his prison experience, saying that the Abia South Senator, is shameless. “The Senator representing you in the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, has been in the Senate for 16 years and has no single project in Abia South. He is busy speaking English as if English language is what you need.

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“You need infrastructure, you need good roads, and you need schools and hospitals. Go to Abia North, just a year in the Senate, I have given them 19 roads, renovated schools, built hospitals with a lot of empowerment.  He is so shameless that he doesn’t even have a road leading to his village in Umuekwensu. It is a big shame,” Kalu stated.

Ebisike

The Senate Whip had earlier disclosed that the APC Federal Government was constructing the N27billion Ngwa Road, wondering how a state government owing workers about N29billion in arrears of salaries and pensions could embark on such a lofty project.

He said Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), World Bank and FG were undertaking all ongoing road construction and infrastructure projects in the area.

But, in their separate remarks, Governor Ikpeazu and Senator Abaribe, dismissed Kalu’s claims on the road projects in Aba, saying that the Senate Chief Whip was “yet to fully recover from the effects of his several months of incarceration at the Kuje prisons or he is just plain ignorant.”

At a mega rally, which held at Etche Road Field, where he handed over the PDP flag to Mr. Ebisike, Governor Ikpeazu reeled out his achievements in office. He reminded the people of Aba that PDP has shown itself as the only party with genuine interest of the people at heart.

The governor pledged to continue in delivering quality and audacious projects and programmes in line with his Kinetic Abia governance style, even as he urged the people to troop out en masse on Saturday March 27, 2021 to elect Ebisike to the House of Representatives.

PDP stalwarts at the event included, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji, Deputy Governor, Mr. Ude Oko Chukwu, state chairman, Allwell Asiforo among others.

The Speaker, who is the son of the immediate past governor and Senator representing Abia Central, Theodore Orji, described the PDP candidate as a young man that will not disappoint the youths.

Noting that he is not recycled, the Speaker told the people to vote for Ebisike assuring that “as one of you, he is somebody I know well and he is somebody you know very well; he will always return to you; he will take care of you; he will not abandon you.”

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Just the ballot
AFTER the campaigns ceases today, the four candidates on the ballot will carry their destiny in their own hands. For the Action Alliance (AA), which is fielding a brother of the deceased former rep, Okey Prestige, it would grapple with scant presence of the party structure and financial wherewithal. If he wins, then the good name of the departed former second term federal lawmaker must have done the magic.

Mascot Uzor Kalu, the APC candidate, has his confidence bolstered by his swashbuckling elder brother and former governor. That impetus could also turn out his undoing, because the absence of such prominent Abia APC leaders, like Chief Ikechi Emenike, Dr. Otti and Hon. Sam Onuigbo, must have given the impression that it was a family affair.

The APGA candidate has his name as only help, because the Cock crows three times only to signal betrayal and abandonment. Destiny Akaraka Nwagwu carries the day, he should commend his chi and not the party platform.

The PDP candidate should blame his god if he fails to show a good account of himself, because with the heavyweights behind him, he may learn that although big names don’t win elections, power comes from the people.

All said, today’s House of Representatives by-election for Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency seat, is a direct fight between PDP (Aba-made) and the APC (Made-in-Aba). The outcome may not give the true strength of the two political parties; rather it would give new insights to the future of identity politics in Abia State and Southeast in general.

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