Quest for endorsement overshadows governance in Southeast
If the endorsements for reelection that are currently saturating the local airwaves and the time being spent on them are anything to go by, then the governors in the Southeast seeking a return to office in the coming 2019 election would gladly go to sleep.
Although, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is yet to formerly announce the start of campaigns; several endorsements for incumbents, meetings and others subterranean moves to woo electorate have begun in earnest in the Southeast.
But the direction over the conduct of the 2019 general elections would, however, be clearer when the current controversy surrounding the reordered election timetable is settled. Notwithstanding, governors in the southeast region are already busy clearing way for their re-election by seeking public endorsement.
In fact, the quest for public endorsement through various interest groups seems to have been elevated over governance as governors daily receive different interest groups that pledge support for their re-election.
The governors are also capitalizing on the ongoing Voter’s Registration Exercise (VRE) to launch subtle campaigns with their embossed photographs on posters asking the people to register. Also dotting the city centers are billboards announcing their achievements in office and nocturnal meetings to align forces against perceived common ‘enemies’.
Although, these governors have created the impression of excelling in their mandate given their peculiar situations, undertaking what appears like early campaigns are unsettling the polity and clearly betrays the assumption.
In Enugu, Governor Ugwuanyi has thrived in human empowerment and has proven that governance could be done with ease, especially by being accessible to the people. He has also not reneged in payment of workers’ salaries. He has done some projects that have changed the landscape, especially around his Nsukka area. His mien has endeared him to residents of the state.
It appears there is no serious challenge to his post yet. This is due to the power rotation arrangement in the state, which has allowed each of the three senatorial zones two terms of four years each for governorship position. Currently, Ugwuanyi, who is the occupant of the office, is serving the turn of Enugu north senatorial zone, after Enugu East held it for eight years.
Going by this general belief, opposition can only come from his senatorial zone. This appears to be what the Nollywood actor; Kenneth Okonkwo tries to prove when he recently declared his intention to contest the governorship election next year on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Okonkwo is Ugwuanyi’s kinsman. He has on several occasions criticized the governor’s style as lacking human face and bereft of performance. He had mounted the podium severally to condemn the number of billboards of the governor in the state and had on one occasion said: “The cost of the billboards was enough to do capital projects in the state.”
Indeed, Ugwuanyi has saturated Enugu with billboards and portraits of his campaigns. Many road junctions bore all manner of messages lauding his performance and indicating “No vacancy” in 2019. As if these were not enough, residents woke up on the New Year day to be greeted by campaign posters of the governor allegedly placed by a group, “Mbakwe gburugburu for continuity 2019” in nooks and crannies of the state.
Although the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in the state, Augustine Nnamani disowned the group but his denial did not put an end to other emerging posters.
Unhappy about the development, the APC has accused the Enugu PDP of violating the Electoral Act, insisting that the party’s desperation may mar the 2019 general elections in the state.
The APC Chairman, Ben Nwoye, had berated the governor for allowing his supporters to act in a “manner that will not impact positively on the election”, stressing that: “if another political party had posted these campaign posters, probably by now, the ruling party would have mobilized its supporters to remove them. But in this case, nobody has cared to do so, even when the action runs contrary to electoral rules.”
However, since the release of the contentious election timetable, attention of his government has shifted from posters to currying endorsement from individuals and groups. No day has passed without Ugwuanyi receiving people coming to endorse him or he moving to one community to receive one.
To further cement the flurry of endorsements, Enugu State government last week approved the cleaning, repainting and rehabilitation of bus stands built by the immediate past administration, a development many commended due to the decrepit state of the stands. But many raised questions about the portrait of the governor boldly inscribed on the repainted bus stands.
Opposition see the latest move as desperate and condemned it as needless.
Querying the motive behind the inclusion of the portrait, an official of the APC in the state, Jerry Ugwu, said: “You cannot put something on nothing and think that it would stand. Enugu knows that Sullivan Chime built these stands, fitted with electricity and seats for comfort. But negligence of the present administration to maintain the stands is responsible for the decay. Now you are repainting them and putting your portrait. Should this also be counted as part of your achievements? Let the governor develop infrastructure and place his portraits on them, not the ones built by his predecessor.”
Governor Dave Umahi appeared to at first have dwarfed the oppositions with some of his landmark projects. The political parties have shown signs that could suggest they are not willing to battle with him. Bu that impression may have changed with the defection and declaration last Monday of Chief Adol Awam to run for the governorship office in 2019.
Awam from Ebonyi North moved to APC from PDP, and the development has given credence to speculations that many would soon join the race.
Umahi has not given anything to chance, as his aides have been busy coordinating every unit to endorse him for the second term. Umahi has personally visited various local governments in the state to receive endorsement as their sole candidate in next year’s election.
He is said to be using his Akubaraoha 2019 (that the wealth is distributed to all) campaign slogan to tour the state. One of such tours that gave birth to another endorsement held over the weekend when his Ebonyi south senatorial zone endorsed him for a second term. At the occasion also was the National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus.
A reliable source told The Guardian that the governor’s wife, Rachael, is also beating path to villages on the similar mission as her spouse.
To ward off a looming challenge over his aspiration, Umahi had few weeks ago announced a blanket endorsement for second term in office for all those elected from the PDP in the state. He said the gesture was a way to appreciate them for their support to his administration.
Although he had put the caveat when he told them to ensure they worked out their acceptance by the people, it is however, generally believed that the decision for the blanket endorsement must have arisen from fear based on the plethora of defection by known politicians in the state to the APC and the probability of alignment of forces to oust him from office.
Notwithstanding, the governor has frosty relationship with some of the elected politicians in the state to the extent that he had allegedly told some of them to forget their second tenure ambition. Of note are the likes of two-term senator, Sunny Ogbuoji , who has abandoned PDP for APC because of the tense relationship between him and the governor
There is also Senator Obinna Ogba who represents Ebonyi Central. Sources who are close to the two told The Guardian that the senator is on the verge of quitting PDP over alleged irreconcilable differences with the governor.
Ogba, has stopped attending functions organised by the party or government in the state despite the fact that he is seen as one of the backbones of the party in the state.
Observers believe that his possible defection would spell doom for the PDP in the coming elections.
This aside, there are insinuations that many more would be angling for the governor’s seat from other political parties. The former Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, who has also joined APC from PDP is being rumoured to be eyeing the office. There are several others, said to have left PDP for the APC and who though may not be running for governorship office but has what it takes to cause problems for the governor and they include the former governor, Martin Elechi and the Leader of Youth for Buhari, Chinedu Ogar.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state though completing his eight years term in next year, the battered image he has attracted since he anointed his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor, put the chances of his party at great disadvantage.
Many have described his decision as being shaped by “nepotism” which they consider dangerous to the politics of the state.
Yet Okorocha continues to drum support for Nwosu at any given opportunity and criticizes those who oppose his plan.
But the challenge is that his promptings may not have sunk well into the ears of his opponents, who are bent on giving him a run for his money. Sources told The Guardian that the governor has activated his ‘Rescue Mission’ group and expanded its membership to ensure that no part of the state is left out in the move to ensure the acceptability of Nwosu.
To deflate the arguments against his choice, Okorocha has shunned every meetings and gatherings of the ruling party where the matter could possibly be discussed.
Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State on his part has been striving to convince the people of Abia that he has not wasted the first four years and why his second term in office is not negotiable. He has risen in defense of his administration against those accusing him of non-performance by showcasing the giant strides of his government in education, roads, healthcare, and empowerment as well as boosting the revenue sources of the state. The airwave is abuzz with groups queuing up to offer their endorsements.
Likewise, various organizations have been conducted round the state on tour of the governor’s projects. His earlier callers on this were the national leadership of the PDP, the clergy in the state among other stakeholders. The visitors always come out with the verdict that the governor has done more than what the people are made to believe.
With the sustained campaigns, Ikpeazu’s acceptance appears to be on the rise. Endorsements for his second term have picked with several groups struggling to identify with him.
Even at that, there are many aspirants angling to supplant the governor in the next election. There is growing consensus among politicians in the state on why he should not be allowed to continue in office. They insist that the governor has not made any headway in the last four years in critical areas.
With the preliminary campaigns and quest for endorsements by the incumbent governors of the Southeast, it is certain that real governance can only resume in the zone after the general elections in 2019.
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