APC and harvest of ‘big names’ in the Southeast
One political party which fortune has improved since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections is the All Progressives Congress (APC). The APC which took the political landscape by storm following the successful merger of various political parties upstaged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), thus ending 16 years uninterrupted rule.
Attention has suddenly shifted to the ruling party as politicians, especially from crisis-torn PDP, jostle to pick the APC membership cards in what many analysts likened to a mass defection.
In the Southeast geo-political zone, which rejected the party during the 2015 general elections and voted massively for the ousted PDP, the tide seems to have changed. APC has harvested more in the zone than in any other part of the country.
In many states of the Southeast, it has been mass harvest of politicians who decided to dump their political parties for one reason or the other to pitch tent with the APC, which they have described as a “veritable party.”
Investigation by The Guardian showed that many top politicians including former governors under whose guide the APC lost elections in the zone have suddenly embraced the party. Sources close to the leadership of the party in the zone said that at least four million new members have joined the party since the conclusion of the 2015 elections.
A peep into the composition of the party in the zone in two years showed that in Enugu State, top politicians that included former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former governors Jim Nwobodo, Sullivan Chime, former Military administrator Group Capt. Joe Orji (rtd), former Speaker Eugene Odoh, Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, former Commissioner Joe Mammel and several others have joined the
In Anambra state, former governorship candidate and House of Representatives member, Tony Nwoye, Uche Ekwunife, Senator Andy Uba, Chike Obidigbo, Ifeanyi Uba, Obinna Uzor, have all crossed to the APC.
In Ebonyi, although the party is factionalized between two headships of Pastor Eze Nwachukwu and Ben Nwaobasi, the situation did not deter APC’s membership drive as people have continued to troop in. For instance, the Nwachukwu group which has the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu as their leader, has received Labour Party (LP) defectors led by the 2015 governorship candidate of the party, Sir Edward Nkwoagu.
Others who joined the group are former Senator Chris Nwankwo and all local government chairmen who served under the former governor, Martin Elechi. The Nwaobasi faction which is led by former senator Julius Ucha and which recently got recognition of the national leadership of the party, has received former governor, Martin Elechi, former Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, former House of Representatives member, Peter Ede, former PDP youth leader, Chinedu Ogar and Commissioners who served under Elechi.
In Abia, former governor, Orji Kalu, former Minister Emeka Nwogu, former senator Nkechi Nworgu are among the big wigs that have joined the APC since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections.
But while the defection gale is high in the four states, it is not so in Imo which became the first place where the party established presence in the zone before the general elections two years ago.
Observers say the influx of notable politicians should have been more in Imo state, adding that many may have refrained from the APC even after the injustices meted to them by their various political parties, especially in the course of elective positions, because of their lack of confidence in the party.
They insist that opposition political party activities were more active in Imo compared to other states in the zone. Investigations by The Guardian however show that the likes of Chief Jerry Chukwueke, a former governorship aspirant of PDP and Emma Ojinere have joined APC. It was also revealed that Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, who entered a pre-election deal with Okorocha that enabled him work against the PDP in the 2015 elections in his Okigwe zone, has also joined the party.
Ararume was said to have moved against the PDP after he was denied the party’s 2015 ticket, which incidentally was given to former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, who vied and lost.
It was reliably gathered that identifying with the APC was part of the bargain, which they entered to enable him play a leading role in the politics of the state, especially in the 2019 general election where he is hoping to fly the party’s flag in the governorship election.
However, he seems to have been disappointed with the posturing of the governor, who recently said at a public gathering that his successor must be somebody “not above the age of 50”. Ararume is above fifty and his zone –Okigwe zone does not feature in the list of those being positioned to succeed Okorocha.
So far, Okigwe zone has produced Ikedi Ohakim, who ruled for four years but the Orlu zone where Okorocha hails from, has produced Achike Udenwa, who completed his eight years before the incumbent’s on-going two terms.
The Owerri zone is said to have had only two years under late former senate President, Evan Enwerem, whose administration was truncated by the military. Okorocha is said to be working to ensure that his successor comes from the zone which boasts of the likes of his in-law, Uche Nwosu, who is the Chief of Staff and Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere.
Although Okorocha has built infrastructure and promoted welfare programmes like comprehensive free education, which helped him win his election two years ago, the disharmony between him and workers as well as pensioners, is said to have affected the rate of movement of politicians from other parties to the APC.
“He does not think that workers deserve a better welfare. Our relationship with him has not been that cordial. Imagine the way he churned out forms for pensioners to sign that they have collected their pension to free him from the burden. Then look at his infrastructure development programme. He has told those who wish to defect that if it is to look for money, they should remain where they are,” Jude Nworgu, an activist, said.
A chieftain of the PDP in the state, Sir Kennedy Ugorji however said there was “nothing in APC that should warrant any politician who has a programme for the people to join the party,” adding that “Imo electorate are matured people who have always not believed in power of money but ideology.”
He stated that as far as Imo was concerned, “PDP is the party of choice for the people. Despite the crisis at the national level, many Imo politicians are defecting to the PDP and are interested in building a strong party because they know that the incumbent administration of the state has not offered any hope.”
There are other schools of thought in the state that believe that jumping parties was not in the character of real politicians. Those who hold this view insist that every average politician with the right attitude would always receive the support of the masses irrespective of party.
“You could see that Achike Udenwa became governor through the PDP. But Ohakim became governor through an unknown Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA); Okorocha came to power through All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and now APC. So Imo does not vote party but individual, otherwise, Emeka Ihedioha would have won the governorship election due to the popularity of his party.
“If you notice in 2011, Okorocha beat the incumbent governor because he was accepted by the people and it was the same popularity that he rode on to become governor in 2015. In 2019, no matter how hard he may try, if the Imo electorate say they are not with him, nothing can make his party win election. So party does not win election in Imo state, but individual. If his party APC is not witnessing mass movement of people from other political parties, then he should ask himself some questions about his style of administration,” Ugorji stated.
But Imo APC said the party has achieved more since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections. Zonal spokesman of the party, Hyacinth Ngwu told The Guardian, “Imo alone has registered over 2 million new members since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections.”
He attributed the feat to good governance stressing, “we don’t like to make noise about the movement of people in Imo because we have a governor there. The governor feels that such occasion should not be celebrated but we celebrate it in other states because, it is part of our strategy for membership drive.
“Since the last elections, we have registered 1.2 million new members in Anambra; 800 in Enugu; 1.5 million in Ebonyi and hitting almost 1 million in Abia.
That is the way it is. APC surely will take over Southeast in 2019 beginning from Anambra this year.”