Stakeholders in Ebonyi State appear to be getting set for a keen contest which will determine the political party that will occupy the Government House in Abakaliki in 2023, writes EDWARD NNACHI
The Chairman, South-East Governors’ Forum and Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, on November 19, 2020, defected to ruling All Progressives Congress from the Peoples Democratic Party after several months of speculation by political watchers and other stakeholders within and outside the state.
Recall that Umahi was at a time the Chairman of the PDP in the state; deputy governor under his predecessor, Chief Martin Elechi, and is currently in the third year of his second term in office. Before his exit from the PDP, Umahi had on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, alleged that he was leaving because of injustice, unfair treatment and what he described as the absence of equity in the main opposition party.
The governor had said, “Why am I moving to the APC? Some people said I was promised this and that; there was no such discussion. The APC never promised me any position. They never promised the South-East any position and there was no such discussion. However, I offered this movement as a protest against injustice being done to the South-East zone by the PDP. Since 1999, the people of the South-East have supported the PDP in all elections and at a time, the five states in the zone were all PDP and one of the founding fathers of the PDP, the late Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme, was from the South-East.”
However, as the power game ahead of the 2023 general elections hots up, both political pundits and actors in the state differ on the chances of the APC winning the governorship polls in the state, even though the governor is of the ruling party. While some are of the opinion that the governor’s journey into the APC will automatically turn Ebonyi into an APC state, others say Umahi’s exit from the PDP will not in any way change the state from its die-hard support for the current main opposition party. To the people in this school of thought, “Ebonyi is PDP and the PDP is Ebonyi.”
Umahi and the APC, it is believed would be coming up against some heavyweight members of the opposition party in the state to successfully market the ruling political party to the point of winning elections across the 13 local government areas of the state. Umahi’s APC will battle the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; a former governor of Ebonyi State and Senator representing Ebonyi North Zone, Dr Sam Egwu; the Chairman, Senate Committee on Sports and Senator representing Ebonyi Central Zone, Chief Obinna Ogba; and Senator representing Ebonyi South Zone, Dr Micheal Amah-Nnachi.
Others are a former federal lawmaker and Secretary of the PDP National Reconciliation Committee, Linus Okorie; member representing Afikpo North/South Federal Constituency, Idume Igariwey; member representing Ezza North/Ishielu Federal Constituency, Edwin Nwonu; member representing Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituency, Sylvester Ogbaga; member representing Ebonyi/Ohaukwu Federal Constituency, Chukwuma Nwazunku; the immediate past Chairman of the PDP in the state, Elder Fred Udeogu, among others.
These aforementioned politicians, until Umahi’s exit from the PDP to the ruling APC wined and dined with the governor. But, things, however, fell apart since the governor’s journey to the APC and they are poised to battle Umahi in the next election.
Commenting on the matter, a chieftain of the APC in the state, Eni-Uduma Chima, said the governor’s achievements and performance had endeared him to the people of the state. He further stressed that the governor had become a political institution and that Ebonyi people would always move en masse with him to any political party he pitched his tent.
Chima, who is the Chairman of Afikpo South Local Government Area of the state, said, “The chances of the APC winning Ebonyi State governorship election come 2023 is very high and that is because of the achievements and performance of the governor. He has surpassed every expectation; he has shattered barriers and exceeded the expectations of everybody. In infrastructure, among other governors in the country, you should count him among the very best. And because of what he did at the grass roots level, it’s one thing to have achievements and another thing to have a sense of judgement in the distribution of these achievements.
“It is not all about party; even if the governor moves to APGA, then APGA becomes the party of Ebonyi people. Everywhere he goes, the party becomes the political party of the people and his political ideology becomes that of the state. No other party has a chance in the state other than the APC. The opposition political parties in the state would have done well if they could combine and get up to a quarter of the votes in the state.
“Where would those we hear are planning to leave the APC go? Now, do you leave where there is celebration to where people are mourning? Do you leave where they are performing Ozo coronation to where they are making divination? The thing (saying APC cannot win in 2023) is cheap propaganda concocted by the opposition to sustain the little followership it has. That’s cheap propaganda, giving them consolation that magic will happen at a time in the future; that everybody will leave en masse to the PDP. It is people that win election.”
Also speaking on the possibilities of the APC winning the gubernatorial elections in the state, come 2023, the Leader of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Victor Chukwu, told our correspondent that the chances of the ruling political party winning the polls were high, adding that the APC was the political party to beat. Arguing that the human factor wins elections and not political parties, Chukwu observed that the main opposition party (the PDP) was once popular because people made it popular.
“The APC winning Ebonyi State come 2023 is surely going to happen and we are 100 per cent sure of that. Remember, politics is a game of number and political party for me, is like a vehicle. By this, I mean it’s a vehicle conveying your ideas and dreams to your political destinations. Yes, we were all in PDP before and the PDP didn’t become popular on its own. We were the ones that made it popular by our vigorous campaigns. I was a foundational member of the PDP before pitching my tent with the APC. If I deploy the same energy and resources to the APC, nothing will stop us from winning. It’s human beings that make a political party popular and as we are in the APC currently, victory is assured come 2023.
“Nobody has the mindset of the PDP in the state again. Outside the current Minister of Science and Technology Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, there is nobody who has not been a member of one political party or the other in the state. The PDP is just an alphabet and it was the human factor that once made it popular and it was in the past. Did the PDP win all the states in 2019? It didn’t. It’s the human factor that makes political party to win in an election and if you are lazy and dull, believing that because you are in the PDP, you will win, you must be a joker. Even we in the APC, if we fail to do what we are supposed to do, we won’t make any headway politically,” Chukwu added.
Lending his voice to the matter, the South-East Coordinator of the APC Youth League, Okenwa Uka, boasted that it was not possible for the PDP to win in Ebonyi State again with Umahi’s move to the APC. According to him, the few persons in the PDP are those that failed to win their polling units in the past.
He said, “The APC is going to win elections here in Ebonyi State, come 2023. There is no doubt about that. In fact, we are now looking at the Presidency, where our governor is going to be the President. If it’s in the case of winning Ebonyi State governorship election, it’s a walkover. I say so because everybody who matters in Ebonyi politics is in the APC. The grassroots are in the APC and the governor has touched and changed the face of the state with his numerous achievements in the area of infrastructure. There is no ward, village or community in the state that you can’t find the infrastructural magic wand of the governor. The APC is surely going to win Ebonyi State and nothing will change it.”
But there are others who are averse to the APC winning the governorship polls in the state in the next political dispensation. Those who maintain this view observed that the governor had not treated the citizenry fairly to warrant the current ruling political party to win the governorship election. They boasted that not only that the ruling party would not win in the state, it would never win elections in any state of the South-East geopolitical zone in a free and fair contest.
A PDP stalwart and a former commissioner for Information in the state, Chief Abia Onyike, said the APC in Ebonyi State under Umahi did not have what it would take to win any election in the state. He maintained that the political party (APC) had never won in any free and fair contest in the South-East geo-political zone.
Onyike said, “APC cannot win any election in Igbo land. That’s number one. It has never won any election in Igbo land. Again, the case of Ebonyi State is even more dangerous. This is because of the atrocities of David Umahi. He has destroyed the state and the people of the state are waiting for him so dearly, come 2023, to pay him back in his own coin. Also, any candidate he (Umahi) brings out in 2023 as the governorship candidate in the APC will fail woefully. That is the truth.”
Similarly, the immediate past Chairman of the Ebonyi Chapter of the PDP, Elder Fred Udeogu, alleged that the APC was more into playing politics of bitterness, hate and propaganda than working towards winning the 2023 poll in Ebonyi State. He said, “The APC is not popular in this state and so, it cannot win election in Ebonyi State. With their attitude and the way they do things here, they are unnecessarily being antagonistic. And for me, this is not politics and so, Ebonyi people see them as jokers and do not take them serious.
“What they are doing is nothing rather than propagation of hate, division, backbiting, bitterness, propaganda and all what you have. And that is not politics. You cannot compare what happens here politically with what happens in places like Enugu, Anambra, Abia and others. APC members here are rough and pretty petty. Forget the noise about infrastructure; it’s a mirage. The government only centres the road projects in few urban towns in the state. Go to the villages; where are the roads? I have been in the village for the past two weeks; I did not see any road in my village. No road links you to the hinterlands apart from the charades they call the Ring road.
“I don’t know how the APC plans to win the elections in 2023 in Ebonyi State. The state government has too many enemies it doesn’t see. The worst enemies are those you don’t see. However, those of us who they say are not with them are better. They have people following them around, but I am sure those people are not with them. They can’t win here in Ebonyi State because the level of internal wrangling in the APC is not what you can mend before elections in 2023. Again, is the governor a member of the APC? Soon, the real politics will be played.”
A former federal lawmaker, who represented Ohaozara, Onicha, Ivo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Linus Okorie, said the APC had no chance of winning elections in the state. According to Okorie, who is currently the Secretary of the PDP National Reconciliation Committee, even though the sitting governor is of the ruling party, the APC is billed for same level of abysmal outing it recorded in the just concluded Anambra governorship election in Ebonyi in the next election.
Whichever way the pendulum swings, there is certainly going to be a serious political battle between the APC and the PDP over who controls the Government House in Abakaliki in 2023. This time, the power brokers are currently in two different camps, a complete departure from what played out in 2015 and 2019 where almost all the big shots were in the PDP