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Implications of ‘oriental brothers’ embrace of APC

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, (Abuja)
07 August 2021   |   4:16 am
The sequence of events, especially the movement of pivotal actors across political party divides, show that realignments are in the offing in the polity, especially for Southeast.

Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi

• As Umahi Emerges ‘Star Of The East’
The sequence of events, especially the movement of pivotal actors across political party divides, show that realignments are in the offing in the polity, especially for Southeast. It is too early in the day to determine who would be where in the build up to the 2023 general election cycle.
But for the Southeast geopolitical zone, where one of the states would be heading to the polls later this year, what happens during the forthcoming Anambra State governorship poll, as well as how they shape the outcome of the election would provide readable indicators of how the journey to 2023 would be.
At a time when state governors were dominating the headlines over their defection from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), what happened last Tuesday in Abuja, was both surprising and unexpected.
She is about the first Board of Trustee (BoT) member to cross over from PDP to APC. But the re-emergence of Senator Joy Emordi into the political row and eventual defection to APC, shows that either the governing party is working so hard to enlarge its coast, or that something similar to the 2013 fiasco was brewing in the former governing party, PDP.

Was Emordi’s migration informed by unfolding realities in the build up to the November 6, Anambra State governorship poll? That may not be so, because as the golden girl of the Senate crosses over, in Enugu State, the ‘star boy of grassroots politics’, Chief Ugo Agballah, took the broom to flag-off his membership of APC.
There is no way to examine these recent political developments without pitching them against the background of Anambra governorship and the prediction by Ebonyi State governor, Chief David Nweze Umahi that Southeast will vote APC in 2023.

Between Ebonyi And Anambra
Not long ago, there was a tiny rumble between the two Southeast states of Ebonyi and Anambra, following the decision of Anambra State government to change a street name in Awka, the capital city. Abakaliki Road, Awka, gained popularity and acclaim due to the myriad of clubs, entertainment spots and social joints that dot the street.
The administration of Governor Willie Obiano decided to change the name from Abakaliki to Club Road as, according to it, a way of reflecting its social status as a ‘happening place’. But, the flipside of the reason that informed the name change was not lost on the people of Ebonyi State, who threatened to reciprocate by changing the name of Awka.
At the end of the day, wiser counsel prevailed and the status quo was maintained. Prior to their creation, both states were within the same old Anambra State with Enugu as capital. While Anambra was created as a separate state in 1991, parts of old Enugu and Abia States were brought together as Ebonyi State in October 1, 1996.

People from both states constitute significant populations in Abakaliki and Afikpo, Ebonyi State and Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha in Anambra State. Given the significant presence of voters in both states, politicians have been mindful of the possible backlash from any untoward policies or discriminatory pronouncements. That may have informed the cessation of the emergent hostilities in addition to the proactive intervention of Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo.
Perhaps, it is in line with this sentiment that a lot of people believe that developments in Ebonyi State would impact on the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State. That may also explain why one of the major contenders for the governorship ticket of APC, Dr. George Moghalu, travelled to Uburu, the country town of Governor Umahi to seek his endorsement.
Apart from being the Chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum (SEGF), Umahi is accorded some measure respect in the zone owing to what many people, including Ohanaeze, describe as his superlative performance as governor of Ebonyi State in the past six years.
Within his state and Anambra, even in the entire Southeast, APC members believe that the Ebonyi State governor is the party’s mascot for electoral triumph of the party in the zone. Some stakeholders claim that the same way the name of former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, was being bandied about during the 2015 general election by APC, the Southeast APC would wave Umahi’s achievements as evidence of the party’s winning ways and responsible governance.

Although members of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) made efforts to present him as an ingrate after winning the governorship on two occasions, serving as deputy governor and state chairman of the party, Umahi disclosed that his personal achievements pale into insignificance when compared to record of PDP’s gestures to Southeast.
It would be recalled that in November 2020, when he defected from PDP to APC, Governor Umahi pointed at the defects in PDP’s achievements as ruling party in Southeast and style of opposition after losing to APC as grounds for his decision.
The Ebonyi State governor explained that he moved over to APC to protest the grave injustice meted to Southeast by PDP, especially given the quantum of support the party received from the zone since 1998. He regretted that despite the blind loyalty of the zone to PDP, the party does not consider the zone to run for the Presidency.
He further asserted that his cross over to APC was to take Nd’Igbo back into the national political centre, since according to him, “the Southeast had always been in alliance with the north. This is what we are fighting for and you need to be informed,” he stated.
Umahi regretted the resort to name-calling by the opposition, stressing that while in PDP he never approved the style of bandying insults at President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking last February when he visited Governor Muhammad Badaru in Jigawa State, the Ebonyi chief executive reiterated that “politics of bitterness and anger” made him quit PDP.
“My major problem in the PDP was that I was expected to be castigating President Muhammadu Buhari. As governor, my only boss is my wife; and President Buhari is the overall boss of all. If you were brought up well, you will know that you don’t have to insult an elder and your boss.
“The unity of Nigeria is very important. I urge the leaders of this country to come together and stop bitter politics. Stop bitterness and anger, let us stop sending provocative messages and comments in trying to pull down the ruling party.”

Umahi Model
WILL the Southeast APC actually apply the Umahi model? The potent argument in political circles in the zone is that alliances, especially needed to actualise the ambition of Nd’Igbo to throw up a President for the country.
Umahi’s demand for issues-based electioneering and track record of performance could be winning APC new converts. That fact was advanced by the recent defection of a former member of PDP’s BoT, Senator Emordi
Speaking shortly after she presented herself to the chairman of APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Governor Mai Mala Buni, Senator Emordi said her conviction that “the future of a prosperous and united Nigeria lies in the APC, with its sincere leadership and genuine commitment to a united Nigeria.”

Andy Uba

Responding, CECPC chairman, Buni, noted that the fact that the Federal Government is working for the Southeast is attracting more PDP members to APC, stressing, “The South-east is a strong political block and very crucial to the unity of the country. This will, no doubt, add to national cohesion.”
Buni’s assertions were supported by the sudden crossover from PDP to APC by the 2003, 2007 Enugu State governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Accord Party (AP), Chief Ugochukwu Agballah.
There was nothing to suggest that Agballah, who moved days before the APC ward congress, was reacting to the crisis that ensued in PDP or as part of the new thinking in Southeast that the way forward for the zone is in APC as Governor Umahi predicted.
Having become the political pathfinder for the Southeast APC, how Umahi helps to propel voter preferences in Anambra governorship would give an indication of the nature of the new realignment.
Although his preferred aspirant, Moghalu, did not make it to the finish line for the governorship contest, sources disclosed that the Ebonyi State governor has aligned with the position of the national leadership to field Senator Andy Uba as the APC standard bearer for the November 6, poll.

It is left to be seen how Governor Umahi’s exit from PDP would open the door for more entrants to APC and remediation of the short shrift he complaint against PDP. Ebonyi State chapter of APC believes that winning the Anambra State governorship would further burnish the chances of their governor to pick the 2023 Presidential ticket of the party.
The choice of Uba as APC candidate, despite complaints from Moghalu and others, was said to be based on two major considerations; capacity to fund the governorship campaign and need to indemnify the former Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Domestic Matters, for his tangential loss of the governorship in 2007.
Uba was sacked as governor in 2007 after 17 days in office following Supreme Court’s ruling that the then Governor Peter Obi was yet to round off his four years term. Obi had after three years in court reclaimed his mandate from Governor Chris Ngige, then of PDP in 2006.
Like Uba, Senator Emordi also suffered political misfortune, when Senator Alphonus Igbeke cut her second term mandate short, through a controversial court judgment that relied on a disputed security report.
If APC continues with its programme of political indemnity up to the 2023 election year, especially regarding the Presidential ticket, Governor Umahi must have earned his plaudits as the Star of the East.