Two major political parties in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) and ten others will file out on Friday in Abia State, to seek votes from Abians and to prove their popularity in the State during the Local Government and Councillorship elections to be conducted by the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC).
From the data obtained by News Echo from ABSIEC headquarters, Library Avenue, Umuahia, the elections will take place in 293 electoral wards while 12 parties submitted their readiness to participate in the polls.
It is an election that would be used to know the preparedness, popularity and acceptability of different political parties participating in the polls, but in this case, the battle is going to be between the candidates of the major political parties, PDP and APC.
Ordinarily, the December 18 elections would have been better dismissed with a wave of the hand as a “walk over” for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party in Abia based on the antecedent of several State Independent Electoral Commissions which usually conducted elections in various states that were adjudged unfair in outcome by losers.
It would also have been seen as a smooth sail for the PDP based on the fact that the ruling party has enjoyed a 21-unbroken years in power in the God’s own State. But the participation of APC in the contest has given the poll a sparkling outlook, a game to watch and this is equally made interesting by the caliber of personalities queuing behind the PDP and APC candidates.
The defections, alignment and realignment recorded in some political parties before the elections are some of the factors that would equally produce a unique colour in the polls, as the electorate pick their choice leaders.
PDP’s grassroots foothold may work in its favour
Having been in the leadership of the State since 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) enjoys a spread and stronghold in Abia State as the party’s structure is functional both in the rural and urban areas, with several members of the party remaining in the party since 1999.
This means that the ability of the party to retain such members till date would help it with the experience of such leaders or members expected to be at work during the polls. Also, the fact that the State is controlled by the PDP would also add an advantage to the PDP as all political appointees are expected to ‘deliver’ their various political wards to the PDP, failing which they may lose their relevance in government.
Speaking at an event centre, Okpara Square Umuahia during the flag of PDP campaigns last week, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was sure that his party would sweep the polls as according to him, his achievements in nooks and crannies of Abia would ensure victory for PDP candidates.
He went on to urge Abians to give their votes to all PDP candidates, even with Ikpeazu’s Deputy, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu declaring that ” Abia is PDP and PDP is Abia. As the party in power, we are not looking for what to tell the people” declared Oko Chukwu.
We will shock PDP if… – APC
Meanwhile, the All Progressive Congress,(APC) which is the main opposition challenging the PDP in the local government and councilorship polls has maintained that it would sweep the elections but only if it is free and credible .
The party, speaking on different occasions through the immediate-past State Chairman, Chief Donatus Nwankpa, the Senator, Orji Uzor Kalu and the party’s publicity secretary, Benedict Godson has continued to drum it loud that it was not afraid of facing the PDP.
In fact, the broom party exudes the confidence that it would leave the field on Friday evening singing the songs of victory, but only if the play ground is not laced with weapons of unfairness.
According to Nwankpa, “We are going into this election well-prepared. We will sweep the polls. All we demand from ABSIEC is a credible election. They should conduct s credible polls. We will feed tested, popular and credible candidates. We are not afraid of them, rather they are afraid of our participation” Nwankpa told the APC faithful at Onitsha Hall, Kaduna Street, Umuahia recently.
Not even the recent sacking of the Nwankpa-led exco of APC by the national headquarters of the APC, according to party source, would affect the chances of the APC.
2023 as a game changer in the contest
Several political heavyweights in Abia State have relocated to the State to be present during the LGA polls holding on Friday and this brings the issue of 2023 general elections into play. Since the time of Orji Uzor Kalu as the Governor of the State, no local government election has generated so much interest as this one.
But the involvement and interest of top political class in the State, especially those from the PDP and APC makes the contest an interesting one.
The game is also seen as a two-party affair, as the former main opposition party in the State, All Progressive Congress Grand Alliance (APGA) having lost their former number 9 striker, Dr Alex Otti to APC, may not put up a strong challenge except in Aba, while the presence of the other 9 parties are not yet felt around the State.
Therefore, the ability of any political strongman to deliver his area to his party means the person has gained ground and better positioned in the scale of relevance among other party chieftains who fail to shine.
This brings up the issue of big names whose influence will shape the polls.
(1) Governor Okezie Ikpeazu , PDP (Obingwa)
He is the Governor of the State, from Umuobiakwa community, Obingwa LGA. His LGA , Obingwa ,is known in as Abia’s political power house since 1999. Obingwa has produced the a Governor, (Ikpeazu) three deputy governors namely Enyinnaya Abaribe , Eric Acho Nwakanma (Dr) and Chris Akomas.
While Akomas is now in the All Progressive Congress (APC) and serving as Abia State representative in National Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Agency, the others, including Governor Okezie Ikpeazu are all in PDP and this means that the PDP will do well in several areas of Abia South zone, taking off from Obingwa.
However, Aba may turn out be a tough battle ground in the Abia South Senatorial zone. This postulation is derived from the performance of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the Enyimba city since 2015 elections, House of Representatives seat in 2015 and 2019 and some seats in Abia State House of Assembly contents.
Therefore, Aba is expected to be a tough ground for both APC and the PDP to penetrate as the metropolitan nature of the city has been helping the Cock party to remain relevant.
(2) Deputy Governor Ude Oko Chukwu/Ukpai Agwu
PDP, (Ohafia) Deputy Governor is from Nkporo, a populated clan in Ohafia LGA of the State while Chief Ukpai Agwu Ukpai, the Deputy Chief of Staff, office of the Governor is from Asaga, also a densely populated area of core Ohafia clan.
They have been in governance for many years and have also been political maestros for the PDP, judging by the harvest of large results from their area during every election season and are expected to re-enact their strategy, for their party’s success.
(3) Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Hon Nkeiru Onyejiocha, Dr Uche Ogah, APC Bende, Umunneochi, Isukwuato
The presence of the Senate Chief Whip, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, Deputy Chief Whip of House of Representatives, Hon Nkeiru Onyejiocha and the Minister of State for Mines and Steels, Dr Uche Oga during may be a major boost for APC candidates from Bende, Umunneochi and Isukwuato councils.
With the three men drumming support for their party’s candidates, it may no longer look like a one-sided game for the PDP in these parts of Abia North Senatorial zone.
(4) Senator Theodore Orji, Hon Chinedum Orji PDP Abia Central
Senator Theodore Ahamefula Orji , the two-term Governor of Abia State understood to be a master strategists when it comes to winning elections. He is soft spoken but always a sage in planning and execution of electoral victories.
Ochendo, as he is popularly known is among the top brass his party, PDP, is counting on, to sweep the polls. Also, Hon Chinedum Orji, the Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly and the son to Senator Orji is another asset PDP is counting on, for victory on Friday as his popularity among the youths and the ordinary people can swing the pendulum of choice in the favour of the PDP.
(5) Chief Alex Otti APC, Isiala Ngwa South, Arochukwu
Otti is from Isiala Ngwa South but is very popular in Arochukwu, the ancestral home of his grandfather, no wonder his former political party, and APGA has been making waves in Arochukwu since 2015 when Otti contested the first Governorship polls.
APGA clinched 11 seats in the State House of Assembly in 2015 and won 2 seats in 2019, including that of Arochukwu (2015 &2019) with Otti’s name doing the magic. Otti equally came 2nd behind Okezie Ikpeazu in 2015 and, 3rd behind Dr Uche Ogah in 2019. But now, he is in APC, so will he shine for his new party as he did for APGA? Friday will tell.
Expect a credible election – ABSIEC
The electoral umpire in the December 18 Elections speaking on the modalities for the exercise, assured the general public, especially the participating political parties and their candidates of a level-playing ground as according to ABSIEC’s Chairman, Prof Mkpa Agu Mkpa, this year’s elections would become the best ever witnessed in the State.
Also, the Abia State Police Command, in a release signed by Mr Geoffrey Ogbonna, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) warned that the Command would clamp down on any group or individual who would try to foment trouble during the polls, urging parents to caution their children against being used by anyone.
Ikpeazu’s democratic style and the challenge of performance as another factor
The ability of the Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu to conduct LG electronics in 2016, with another one taking place this week stands him out as a man in love with quality governance in rural areas. Recall that some state governors rules their States with appointed Chairmen of LGAs, preferring not to conduct elections in such councils but the same is not the same with Ikpeazu who has so far demonstrated his commitment to entrenching development in the hinterlands.
However, the opposition parties, especially the APC may build their campaigns around some poor state of roads or failed infrastructure in the rural areas like dilapidated school structures, to win the hearts of the people. Many people who live in the village don’t know the difference between s Federal Government road and State Government road so long such road exists in that State.
Do the PDP or Ikpeazu have an answer to the challenge?
The governor himself maintained during his party’s campaign flag off, last week that his party would cost home to victory, based on his performances.