PDP charts new path to recover Bende federal constituency seat from APC
There was no mistaking the signs. But, what transpired last Wednesday at the premises of Bende Local Government Council of Abia State exposed how the state chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) plans to recover the Bende Constituency seat in the House of Representatives.
It would be recalled that PDP lost to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 election although PDP occupied the position for three terms of 12 years through Hon Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, until February 28, 2019 when the party lost out in the National Assembly poll.
Climbing at the back of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, the APC candidate, Hon Benjamin Kalu, who is presently Chairman of House Committee on Information, was returned as winner of the election.
Regardless of her long stay in the House of Representatives, Hon. Elendu-Ukeje made a fresh move to contest the position for a fourth term like her counterpart from Umunneochi, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who crossed over to APC to berth a fourth term.
But, Elendu-Ukeje’s bid was truncated at the party primaries, when a relatively unknown political force, Mr. Chima Anyaso, from same Igbere community as Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, the Senate Chief Whip, beat her to the PDP ticket.
Not long after the poll, there were insinuations in some quarters, particularly with both PDP and the constituency that Elendu-Ukeje felt aggrieved with the way Anyaso emerged as the party candidate and consequently distanced herself from the party immediately Anyaso was handed the PDP ticket for the 2019 poll.
As expected, Anyaso lost the election to APC’s Ben Kalu, just ase Senator Orji Kalu of APC won the Abia North Senatorial seat, which comprise Bende Federal Constituency.
Sources disclosed that Hon Elendu-Ukeje saw the emergence of Anyaso as a well planned coup against her, because she insists that under a free, fair and transparent primary there was no way she could have lost to a rookie. As such, believing that there was an underhand deal to ditch her, the former representative declined to support Anyaso.
In a statement, a stakeholder, Lady Linda Ozochi, recalled the events that surrounded the 2019 poll, saying: “I must say without any fear or favour that the defeat of PDP in Bende in the last election was a function of internal conspiracy organized against Hon Nnenna Ukeje to lose the party primary.
“Honestly, it became too clear then that the APC would be contesting against itself in that election. Today, that grand conspiracy organized against the Ada Bende has turned out a blessing to the opposition.”
It was also gathered that PDP’s selection exercise for the House of Representatives candidate, Anyaso, fractionalized the party between Ukeje’s supporters and the party leadership that allegedly imposed, not only a new-entrant into PDP, but also a greenhorn, who however reportedly made humongous contributions to the party.
Charting a new path
AT the last Wednesday’s event, which was tagged “Grand Civic Reception,” which was organized under the auspices of Bende Youth Forum in conjunction with Abia Democratic Initiative, it was obvious that the entire event was to exhume Elendu-Ukeje’s perceived effective and inclusive representation, when she was at the Green Chamber.
PDP stalwarts at all levels in the state, including Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, his deputy, Dr. Ude Oko Chukwu, Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Hon Chinedum Orji, the state chairman, Hon Asiforo Okere, among many others were in attendance.
Bende traditional rulers also turned up in their numbers and were led by their Chairman, Eze Uwakwe Ukaegbu, who invested Elendu-Ukeje as “Ada Ukwu Bende” (Eminent Daughter of Bende), commended her for the effective representation she delivered to the constituency.
However, The Guardian gathered that although the grand event was sold as a reception, it was actually programmed as a forum to apologize to the aggrieved ex-lawmaker (Ukeje) and welcome her back to the PDP fold. It was also gathered that the party had earlier assured her of the party’s ticket for an undisclosed office in 2023, which might not be outside the same House of Representatives seat.
An inside source told The Guardian that PDP having seen the mistakes of the past was determined to recover the seat from APC. It was gathered that Hon Elendu-Ukeje was considered the most viable candidate to recover the mandate from strangers. The source disclosed that even Elendu-Ukeje herself boasted that if PDP gifts her the ticket to re-contest, she would win and recover the seat to make the party see the mistake of supplanting her in 2019.
Public show of remorse
A PDP chieftain confided in The Guardian that Hon Elendu-Ukeje had insisted on the public reception event, where all the stakeholders from the wards in the constituency, party members and leaders at constituency and state levels will be in attendance, as the only way to convince her to return to the fold.
Nobody was prepared to disclose whether there was an outside connivance in the scheme that robbed Ukeje of the ticket in 2019, but PDP has been bemoaning the loss of the Bende federal constituency seat. Moreover, the circumstances the loss, not only split the party structure but also rendered PDP weak in the constituency and to some extent the state level.
Also, it was discovered that PDP was determined to assuage all frayed nerves as it plans to retain Abia State in the 2023 governorship poll. The party was therefore very disturbed by the unsuccessful attempts to assuage Elendu-Ukeje and reconcile other aggrieved party faithful, having realised that the losing the constituency seat in 2019 was traceable to the ill treatment meted to Elendu-Ukeje.
That thinking must have informed Lady Ozochi’s public acknowledgement that the defeat of PDP in Bende was a function of internal conspiracy against Hon Nnenna Ukeje during the party primary. “That conspiracy became clear when APC rejoiced that it was contesting against itself in the 2019 National Assembly election.
“Today, that grand conspiracy against Ada Bende (Ukeje) has turned out a blessing to the opposition,” Ozochi had stated during the election.
Chairman of the reception organizing Organizing Committee and Deputy Chairman of Bende Council, Hon. Promise Uzoma Okoro, said it was imperative to celebrate Hon. Elendu-Ukeje for her contributions in Bende Federal Constituency, even as he described her as the Commander of the First Eleven in Bende politics.
Okoro assured that the youths would continue to support Elendu-Ukeje to bring about the needed greater development.
In her remarks at the occasion, Hon. Elendu-Ukeje said she was overwhelmed by the honour done her by both the governor and the people of Bende, noting that PDP has bounced back in Bende.
While stressing that she would collaborate with the people to discharge responsibility of re-building PDP in Bende, the former Rep assured the people of her commitment to re-solidify PDP in the Bende LGA. She thanked the people for their kind words and gestures, reiterating the general perception of Bende as the gateway to success in Abia North.
Earlier, PDP leader and state governor, Dr. Ikpeazu, praised Bende people for honouring their former representative, stressing that the reception would serve as a tonic to propel her to do more in uplifting the constituency in particular, Abia and Nigeria in general
Governor Ikpeazu vowed to sustain his PDP membership, noting that the party has favoured Nd’Igbo greatly. His words: “It was the PDP that gave the Southeast the Senate Presidency, made an Igbo man the Chief of Army Staff, Inspector General of Police, among others, unlike the APC that has created little or no space for the Igbo man.
“Hosting the former federal lawmaker showed that the people of Bende were knowledgeable and strategic, I urged them to rally round her. This event has significant importance, including the fact that Bende LGA is the gateway to Abia North and it proves that Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje places Abia State above her personal interests.
“I salute youths of Bende Local Government Area for recognizing the good works of Hon Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, a priceless Jewel of Abia politics.”
Ikpeazu’s deputy, Hon Ude Oko Chukwu, who testified that the absence of Hon. Elendu-Ukeje in the party negatively affected the party, said her return will restore it’s full glory.
“Abia North PDP cannot be strong if Bende is weak, if Bende becomes strong again, Abia North will be stronger,” the deputy governor declared.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji who urged governor Ikpeazu to rebuild Bende PDP around Hon. Elendu-Ukeje, said she has the capacity to regain the confidence of the party in the LGA adding that she was even duty-bound to rebuild the PDP in Bende”.
State PDP Chairman Rt. Hon. Asiforo Okere who said that Hon Elendu-Ukeje had carved a niche for herself in Bende Politics, announced her appointment as his Special Adviser on Re-buildung Bende and Abia North PDP.
Various stakeholders in Bende LGA including Hon. Emmanuel Ndubuisi of the State House of Assembly, Barrister James Okpara, Chief Gabriel Okereke Elendu and Chief Ben Meregini who corroborated that Hon Elendu-Ukeje did her best, gave the Bende people a humble service and deserved to be rewarded, described her as an exceptional Bende politician.
It was gathered that following the directive of governor Ikpeazu as the state Leader, the PDP has commenced the state-wide process of identifying it’s members who felt aggrieved with the party one way or other and decided either to decamp or stay aloof.
The reconciliation and return of Hon Elendu-Ukeje was said to be in line with Ikpeazu’s directive which is with the view to doing the needful to pacify and woo aggrieved members back to the partyfold as 2023 approaches.