How winning Imo will impact PDP in Southeast
Until last Saturday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled only three out of the five Southeastern states – Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu. But at the conclusion of the 2019 general elections, PDP improved on its political dominance and presence in the zone by adding Imo State, which it lost in 2007, due to a crisis that engulfed the state chapter.
Before now, the party controlled the political machinery in the Southeast. Indeed, at the conclusion of elections in 1999, PDP won in the five states. However, the landscape changed and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) took over Anambra, while the All Progressives Congress (APC) gained control of Imo.
There is a general belief that PDP has learnt the hard way, and is willing to correct its past mistakes. What this means is that the party would like to consolidate on the victory in the zone. Sources close to party leadership said there is a consolation in the fact that PDP is a strong brand in the zone, going by the plethora of crisis it had survived in the southeast and is still standing.
The argument is that almost every chapter of the party in the zone had experienced one form of crisis or another and had come out stronger.
“What we should be thinking now is using this opportunity to build a more united party. If we are still here and are acceptable to the people, then the future holds brighter prospects,” a source said.Another source said no other political party has survived or prospered like PDP in the zone. It explained that APGA, which came with the appeal of being an “Igbo party” with the support of then Biafra warlord, Ikemba Chukwuemeka Ojukwu has failed to fly in the zone, adding that in the over 10 years of APGA’s existence, it had failed to expand its horizon beyond the shores of Anambra State, and that the last elections showed that a well coordinated party can win election in Anambra in 2022, when another governorship election will hold.
The source pointed to the likes of Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) founded by former Abia State governor, Orji Uzo Kalu, saying the party only showed signs of promise, when Ikedi Ohakim used its platform to win in 2007, but that the tempo couldn’t be sustained, to the extent that even Ohakim dumped the party for PDP.The source also noted that Orji Kalu, who founded the party, had since moved on to other political parties, until recently, when he won the senatorial election in APC.
Indeed, Southeast is saturated with notable politicians that have plied their trade on PDP platform. The success story of certain politicians in the zone could be attributed to their membership of the party. These politicians junket from the party to other parties and still return to it.
The party’s victory in Imo State is, however a morale booster, as its strong showing in the zone at the recently concluded election means it cannot leave anything to chance in the bid to recapture Anambra in the next election.Intra-party squabble between then self-acclaimed godfather, Chris Uba and former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju contributed hugely to the party losing in 2011. Many insist that that crisis is still having a bearing on the party, even after the several elections.
A PDP stalwart, John Ikechukwu, who contested in the last primaries, said despite losing to APGA, the party still enjoys the people’s support in Anambra State. He said the fact that those that started the party are still there is an advantage.Chief Austin Umahi, the party’s National Vice Chairman in the zone, said his mission was to restore southeast to PDP. He stated at a meeting in Enugu, few days to the general elections that he was sure the party would win in Imo, and that there would be a collective effort to do the same in Anambra in 2022.
Umahi noted that machinery had been put in place to reconcile aggrieved members, stressing, “Anambra remains PDP’s heartbeat in Igboland.”He charged the state party chieftains to go “preach the gospel of the new hope, which is the quest to ensure we return what rightly belongs to us.”
The challenge the party might face is how to dislodge APGA, which has continued to entrench itself and deepen its roots in every election.Since it took over in 2003, the party has not relinquished the position. Incumbent governor, Willie Obiano is in his second term in office. Although, he failed to retain Anambra central Senatorial zone, he, however, captured enough seats in the State House of Assembly and at the House of Representatives to keep the party’s hope alive.
Ifeatu Obi Okoye, the party’s National Publicity Secretary told The Guardian that the losses notwithstanding, the party was still waxing strong, and would not relinquish electoral victories. He said the party’s plan was to sustain its fortunes in the state.
A source noted that the heated contention that usually comes up, whenever there was election or public position to be filled, had marred the party’s collective goal.
“Because of the party’s dominance in the zone, the desire to excel is always dwarfed by primordial sentiments of those in the leadership.”Chief Jerry Uwanna said the PDP in the zone “has become a mass movement. Its members do not believe in the spirit of competition because of the conviction that the party will always win elections.”He explained that it has become difficult for other parties to survive in the zone because of the level of indoctrination in PDP.
He said: “There is nobody in the southeast that has not got one thing or the other to do with PDP. The party’s victory in Imo would impact on the zone and its politics by quickening the desire to position the region for greater opportunities, in terms of development and good governance.
In an interview, Governor Dave Umahi, who is the chairman of Southeast, said winning Imo for PDP would fast track the works of governors in the zone.He said: “Ihedioha is a young man that desires development. He will also bring his wealth of experience to bear on the job and in service to the zone. We will use the opportunity of his presence to explore how we can improve our people’s welfare,” he said.
Umahi explained that there are several projects, such as the Ring Road linking states in the zone and the rail line project, among others, which would benefit the people, if the governors work at the same pace.The Southeast Governors’ meeting, which began several years ago, has always remained on the drawing board. There is no project on ground to showcase their effort to improve the region’s economic fortunes. This has affected the level of youths migrating out of the zone in search of greener pastures.
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