Tattered umbrella and new political order in Southeast
For the erstwhile largest political party in Africa that also has the botched ambition to rule for 100 years, the loss of five out of six states in the Southeast reveals not only its emaciation, but also the beginning of its end in the region, LAWRENCE NJOKU reports.
Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the November 11 election in Imo State, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, last Thursday drew attention of the leadership of the party to its precarious state in the southeast region when he declared that Enugu State was the only state controlled by the party in the five states of the zone.
He quickly added that, “even other political parties are struggling seriously to snatch the state away from us.”
Explaining that the development was part of the reasons PDP must work hard to win the November 11, governorship election in Imo State, Senator Anyanwu, added that the victory for the party in the state “will be strategic to the party’s return to dominance in the region.”
“If we don’t bring back PDP, there will be problems for the party. We must do all that is necessary to win Imo State. I won’t let the party down when elected”, he added.
Indeed, the PDP fortunes have dwindled in the southeast region. After 16 years on the national saddle, it cannot be said that the party may return to dominance anytime soon.
After six elections since 1999, the PDP, which was the dominant party in the zone, has continued to slide downward, and reclining into a political platform that lacks capacity to win elections.
When the current dispensation began in 1999, PDP took political stage by storm and won in the five states of the southeast including Abia, Enugu, Imo, Anambra and Ebonyi. At the moment, the reverse has become the case.
Except in Enugu where the party’s governorship win is still being contested in court, the party has lost control of the four other states in the zone. While Imo and Ebonyi states have gone to the All Progressives Congress (APC); Anambra politics had been dominated by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party (LP), is now in control of Abia State.
Statistics also show that currently, of the129 seats in the House of Assembly in the zone, PDP got only 25 with APC leading with 45 seats and followed newly formed Labour Party (LP) 32.
The Guardian recalled that the dwindling fortunes of the PDP started with Anambra State after it won the election in 1999 in the state. The crisis that set in over control of the party structure among the gladiators and in the long run the government of the state led by Chinwoke Mbadinuju was carried into the 2003 general elections.
The gladiators led by a self-acclaimed godfather, Chris Ubah, allegedly relied on national leadership support to refuse Mbadinuju return ticket of the party in 2003. In the stead of Mbadinuju, then Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige was drafted to run.
Ngige was declared winner of the controversial election by the INEC that he hotly contested with Peter Obi of the then APGA. Obi, who did not agree with the INEC’s declaration, took the matter to court.
Few years later, the court upturned the victory of Ngige and declared Obi the rightful winner of the election. Obi was therefore, sworn in as a governor from the APGA for the state. That was the beginning of PDP’s sad end in the state.
In 2007, the party adopted Chief Andy Ubah as its governorship candidate to redeem its sliding image. Uba won the election and was sworn into office. Obi however, approached court to seek interpretation of his tenure. Again, the court ruled in his favour and held that the election that brought Ubah to office shouldn’t have happened, as there was no vacancy for the office of the governor. Ubah had only spent 17 days in office when the ruling came.
Since then, PDP has not recovered and getting access to power in the state. As of the moment, it has no member at the National Assembly and can only boast of two out of the 30 House of Assembly seats in the state.
In similar vein, PDP held power from 1999 to 2007 in Imo State. But inability to resolve its crisis for a successor for Chief Achike Udenwa, who was serving out his second term in office that crept in, has continued to hunt the party and its return in the state. The effort it put up in 2019 leading to the victory of Emeka Ihedioha was cut short less than one year following the declaration of incumbent governor, Hope Uzodimma of the APC as the actual winner of the election.
In the just concluded elections for the State and National Assembly, of the eight House of Reps seat declared so far, PDP secured three while it lost the senate seats to the APC and LP. The 27 House of Assembly seats so far declared went to the APC.
The party started losing ground in Ebonyi State when Governor Dave Umahi who won his reelection through PDP ran into the APC in 2020. Umahi did not move alone. He took all the members of the state House of Assembly alongside, as well as willing chieftains of the PDP. The 2023 election provided opportunity for the PDP to reclaim the state, but it lost in the governorship contest to the APC. The party also lost the three senatorial seats of the state, while it has secured only two seats from the 22 out of the 24 House of Assembly seats so far declared in the state.
In Abia State, the party had since 1999 held control until the last election, which it lost to the LP. With the last election also, it lost the three senatorial seats to the LP, APC and APGA, it had occupied two before the elections. In the same vein, the party won only one out of the eight House of Reps seats and eleven State House of Assembly seats from the state’s 24 seats.
Sources had attributed the abysmal failure of the party in the election to crisis that arose from the conduct of its primary, attempt to alter the zoning arrangement, as well as the alleged poor performance of previous governments produced by the party in the state.
For Enugu State, providence and luck have enabled PDP to continue to hold sway after the last elections. It won in the keenly contested governorship election that set it against the LP, APC and APGA. For the first time since 1999, however, it lost two out of the three senatorial seats and six of House of Reps seats in the state. Of the 24 House of Assembly seats, it garnered only 10, losing 14 to the LP. The party is however, in court challenging some of the results declared by INEC in the state and also faced with defending results in her favour including governorship.
Amid the changing political landscape, with emerging new political actors, can the PDP ever return to dominance again in the southeast region? There seems to be a paradigm shift and alignment in the zone to either the government in power or the LP, which has effortlessly acquired the sobriety of “mass party.”
One disadvantage the 2023 general elections brought on the party was the massive defection of her members to other political parties, following streams of internal crises raging from imposition of candidates and leadership issues.
As it is, majority of those who made the PDP tick in the region have either left the party or not interested about its fortunes any longer. The zone is also said to be holding the party in contempt for allegedly failing to reciprocate the support it received from it during its 16 years in government.
The former national auditor of the party, Chief Ray Nnaji told The Guardian that “I believe that PDP has the capacity to rise again if we do it right or correct our mistakes of which we believe that our governor should do something; but from the steps he has taken so far, I am afraid, I am highly apprehensive if he has the capacity to bring our party back”, he stated.
Imo State Chairman of the party, Dr Charles Ugwu stated that efforts should be made to resolve internal crisis in the party to enable it win elections, especially on November 11, adding that the PDP should desire to restore its fading glory.
Ugwu, who was contributing to the plans to restore the party, stated that PDP remains a household name for the people of the region but required honest efforts of the members to galvanize support for future elections.
Another chieftain of the party, Chief Casmir Ndukwe, stated that the changing political dynamics in the region should not have affected the party, if it had insisted on its rules and returned the presidential ticket to the southeast region during the 2023 elections.
He said: “That mistake has been made; but what we should do now is to go back to the drawing board and call for honest truce. A lot of injustices have been served but we can begin all over again. It will be disastrous if we neglect the cases we have in court and allow other political parties to take them. We need to embark on confidence building. We need to ascertain areas where we still have strength. Those who have been suspended or expelled need to be brought back.
“Now that we have tasted elections in the zone and not doing well since 2007 in the southeast, we should come down from our utopian heights and ask the people questions about this loss of confidence. If we must get it right again, we should be able to tell the people something and stand by it,” he stated.
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