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Abia State APC, PDP troubled by division, decease

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
02 February 2023   |   4:11 am
Developments within the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and major opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), in Abia State, seem to be preparing grounds for arrival of a third force.

Okezie Ikpeazu

Developments within the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and major opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), in Abia State, seem to be preparing grounds for arrival of a third force.

APC, which parades a lot of big names, was waxing optimistic to reverse PDP’s dominance in the state until internal bickering within the party swelled in the build up to the nomination process.

Then for PDP, misfortune struck when its gubernatorial candidate, Prof. Uche Ikonne, passed away less than two months to the March 11, 2023 governorship ballot. Prior to his sudden demise, the incumbent governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, was being tackled by some PDP stalwarts for picking his successor from his Ngwa clan, despite the fact that Ikonne hails from Abia Central Senatorial District.

Further, Ikpeazu was criticised for settling for an elderly contender not minding that his predecessor, Senator Theodore Orji, propped him up on account of relative youthfulness and vitality.

But, the governor had rebuffed those attacks, stressing that the over all good of Abia State was paramount to him. Ikpeazu had told those who were ready to listen that deconstructing the transactional politics of the state to pave way for technocratic impetus and paradigm shift propelled him to throw his weight behind the Professor of Optometry and former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University.

More over, members of the outgoing governor’s inner caucus said the governor decided to do what Senator T. A. Orji planned to do when Prof. Mkpa Agu was speculated as his possible successor, but for the former Vice Chancellor’s age.

Yet, while the arguments raged, influential PDP chieftains from Abia North, including the former state chairman of the party, Emma Nwankpa, contended that it was the turn of their zone to produce Ikpeazu’s successor in line with the power rotation arrangement in Abia State.

Nwankpa and his group noted that 16 years after Abia North produced the governor through Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, 2023 was ripe for the zone, precisely Isuikwuato axis to throw up the next governor.

Those arguments paled, when Prof. Ikonne was returned as winner of PDP gubernatorial primary, but it continued in the background as potent murmurs for a possible push back during the governorship poll.

It was against the background of the subdued complaints in PDP that APC exulted in optimism that despite the famed population of the Ukwa Ngwa clan, it would rout the governing party for offending the zoning scheme. APC therefore strategically zoned its gubernatorial ticket to Abia North Senatorial District, where the interplay of political brinkmanship and opportunism threw up two rival contenders in the persons of the former Minister for Mining and Steel Development, Dr. Uche Ogah, and High Chief Ikechi Emenike.

That was the delicate setting in the two parties – APC and PDP -until Ikonne’s eldest son announced the death of his father, the PDP guber hopeful after a brief illness at the National Hospital Abuja.


As expected, Ikonne’s death opened up the festering wrangling in PDP, which placed Governor Ikpeazu in the camp of his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, otherwise known as G5. The G5 had been agitating against the continued stay in office of the party’s national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, after a fellow northerner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, emerged as presidential standard bearer.

Consequently, Ikonne’s death threw up concerns about how Ikpeazu could navigate his succession plan through his loyalty to the G5 and need to court Ayu’s understanding as national chairman, to ensure that a fresh gubernatorial primary throws up his preferred candidate.

The Electoral Act 2022 stipulates that in the event that a nominated candidate of a political party dies before election, the election will be rescheduled and the affected party will conduct a fresh straw poll to nominate his/her replacement within 14 days.

As the governorship poll is yet to hold, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given PDP 14 days to organise another straw poll to nominate a replacement.

Although a source within the Integrity Group, of which the G5 is a nucleus, stated that the group intends to meet to resolve the seeming dilemma, Ikpeazu’s absence from a major presidential campaign stop in Ebonyi State fed speculations that the governor was proving obstinate.

However, it could be recalled that while announcing the demise of the former Abia PDP guber candidate, Ikpeazu, had urged “all PDP leaders and members to remain calm as we navigate through this difficult period together.”

The governor had also directed that “all flags in Abia State PDP offices be lowered and flown at half mast, while all campaign activities for the party at all levels be suspended until Monday, 30th January, 2023.” as a mark of honour to the departed.

As the opposition elements in the state began to make heavy whether of his absence from the Atiku rally in Abakaliki, Ikpeazu regretted the attempt to pitch him against the PDP NWC and Ayu, stressing that he was still mourning the loss of a citizen and acolyte.

Also, in a statement, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, Director of Strategic Engagement, Abia PDP Campaign Council, explained that Governor Ikpeazu was not at the PDP campaign event in Enugu “as a mark of honour to our dear departed brother.”

Kalu recalled how the governor directed that all flags in Abia State PDP offices be lowered and flown at half mast while all campaign activities for the party at all levels be suspended until Monday, 30th January, 2023.


He stated: “Take note that the Enugu event qualifies as a campaign activity, but Governor Ikpeazu is still a principled member of the G5 and a leader in the PDP. He will continue to attend programmes, within and outside the state, that are not campaign related.

“Governor Ikpeazu in particular, every well meaning member of our political family (PDP) and, indeed, Abians in general are not in any mood for any political gathering at this point in time. However, the governor and government officials are free to attend other events that are not campaign related.”

The NWC has already released guidelines for participation in the planned fresh gubernatorial primary. It would be seen how the exercise would go to uphold the ascendancy of Ayu or resolve of the G5 to stonewall the Ayu-led executive.

But, while the PDP is facing its fresh challenge, Abia APC is grappling with the intricate litigations against its parallel governorship primary, which produced two candidates.

Although the apex court last Friday resolved the attempt to impose Chief Emeka Atuma as the party’s candidate for Abia Central Senatorial District, the gubernatorial disputation lingers. Emenike and Ogah hang onto lower court pronouncements to espouse their candidacies.

With the big names associated with Abia State chapter of APC, observers say the party is better placed to wage a successful challenge against the entrenched governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

There are insinuations that on account of the confused state of APC in the state, the younger brother to the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Mascot Uzor Kalu, decided to pursue his gubernatorial ambition on the platform of Action Peoples Party (APP).

Chief Mascot Uzor Kalu was the Chief of Staff, Government House, Umuahia, during the administration of Senator T. A. Orji, the incumbent Senator representing Abia Central District. Senator Orji announced his decision to retire from active politics to pave way for the younger ones.

And so, with T. A. Orji out of the way and Governor Okezie Ikpeazu serving out his second term in office, gladiators saw a level playing ground for APC and the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to settle old scores and prove which party has the upper hand in the state.

However, parading a long list of political heavyweights, APC was only able to return one Senator and member of the House of Representatives in the last general elections. But, the stature of the party increased when the member representing Ikwuano Umuahia North/Umuahia South federal constituency, Chief Samuel Ifeanyi Onuigbo, defected from PDP to APC.

Announcing his defection via a letter to the Speaker of House of Representatives on Thursday December 17, 2020, Hon. Onuigbo cited division and crisis in his Local Government Area. Onuigbo hails from the same constituency as former PDP National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (retd) and T. A. Orji.

Surprised at the lawmaker’s success story, Akobundu was said to have constricted the political space against Onuigbo by denying him representation in the party structure. In obvious response to that political high handedness, Onuigbo switched to APC.

Unlike Onuigbo, the current Deputy Chief Whip of House of Representatives, Hon. Nkeiruka Chidube Onyejeocha left PDP for APC shortly before the 2019 general elections. Onyejeocha was able to defeat Chief Amobi Ogah in the APC primary election for Isuikwuato/Umunneochi federal constituency and eventually won the election to the Green Chamber, where she contested unsuccessfully for the office of Speaker.

Ikechi Emenike

Onyejeocha served as Abia State Commissioner for Resource Management and Manpower Development in Orji Uzor Kalu’s first term. As part of Orji Kalu’s allies, Onyejeocha has been visible in the contestation of power within APC, where President Muhammadu Buhari’s long-term political ally, High Chief Ikechi Emenike, craved the elevated stage.

It was therefore this interplay between old Buharists and new APC joiners that defines the build up to the 2023 general election, leading to the polarization of the state party structure. Dropping the name of President Buhari with an air of a supremo, Emenike aspired for the governorship ticket alongside Ogah.

But, while Ogah, who resigned his membership of the federal cabinet to contest the governorship, won the APC primary conducted through the direct methodology, Emenike, who waved a spurious letter from the national headquarters of the party, won the parallel primary conducted under indirect mode.
To regularize their nominations, both Emenike and Ogah held unto disparate letters from the national headquarters of the party, which variously directed direct and indirect models, even as the state was named alongside Osun and Benue as states penciled for direct mode.

While there is every possibility that some Abia APC chieftains are working in cahoots with some national leaders of the party, the silent war between the Emenike and Ogah factions is having its toll on the party’s cohesion in the state.

Senator Nkechi Justina Nwaogu seems to be vindicated by the ongoing disputations over the Abia Central Senatorial District. In her letter of withdrawal from the Senatorial contest dated May 27, 2022, Senator Nwaogu, regretted the factionalisation of the party, saying the emergence of two governorship candidates in the persons of High Chief Ikechi Emenike and Dr Sampson Uche Ogah, did not sit well with her.

The letter was titled, “Withdrawal from APC Senatorial Primary for Abia Central Senatorial District.” Announcing her decision to withdraw from the primary, in which she had earlier been screened and cleared to contest, Nwaogu stated: “I Senator Nkechi J. Nwaogu, PhD, CON; hereby withdraw my participation in the forthcoming Senatorial primary election slated for May 28, 2022. I will still remain an active member of our great party, APC, and ever ready to serve the party in any capacity, where my services may be required.”

She said she found it very difficult to participate in the Senatorial contest due to the state of uncertainty created by two parallel factions. “I write to express my total disappointment in the ongoing, protracted division in our Abia State chapter of APC.

Uchechukwu Ogah

“The undemocratic manner of the emergence of the purported delegates has further fueled the division in the party. As a result, this has led to two different primaries in the same election-one group using direct mode of primary and the other using indirect mode of primary,” she noted.

It is obvious that the female lawmaker espied the duplicity and shenanigans of some of the party stalwarts, especially as accusations and counter accusations of forgery continue to feature in the arguments.

On Thursday December 8, 2022, a magistrate’s court in the state convicted the former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Ogah, for forgery and ordered the police to arrest and detain the former minister at any nearest Correctional Centre.

The Magistrate ruled followed a criminal complaint in suit No. UMSC/362/2022 by the APC against Ogah, contending that while he did not participate in the party’s gubernatorial primary, the former minister decided to forge the APC direct primary result sheet, which he parades as genuine.

The complaint disclosed that Ogah “committed an offence contrary to Section 465 of the Criminal Code and punishable under section 467,” stressing that the act is prejudicial to APC and its authentic governorship candidate, High Chief Ikechi Emenike.

Although the Magistrate, Ngozi N. Nwangwu, stated that she was convinced that the defendant had no defence and ruled that he is guilty as charged, Ogah had petitioned the state Chief Judge, alleging bias and compromise.

Ogah, whose petition was also copied to the state Attorney-General, continued to absent from the court proceedings, even as his supporters claimed that it was those who rushed to court to complain of forgery that actually forged a letter from APC national headquarters.

A source close to the former minister told The Guardian that after the APC National Working Committee announced that Osun, Abia and Benue States should conduct direct primaries to nominate candidates, some overzealous politicians from Abia suddenly produced another letter purporting that Abia was erroneously included among states billed for direct primary.

He said: “Is it not intriguing that every other primary election held in Abia State in May 2022 was through direct method except the parallel primary conducted by those who were suspended from the party?”

It could be recalled that an Abuja Federal High Court, declared the governorship primary that threw up High Chief Emenike as null and void. That judgment held that the former Minister, Ogah, was the duly nominated governorship candidate of APC for the March 11, 2023 poll.

Barely 30 days to the Presidential and National Assembly elections, poor internal party management and litigations are at the root of APC’s disjointed plans for the election in Southeast.

Going by the Electoral Act 2022, the courts are expected to dispense all pending pre-election matters before the election. But, until the Election Offences Bill is passed and signed into law, desperate politicians would continue to hamper the electoral process through frivolous litigation and false claims.