It is no longer news that Engr Dave Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State has thrown away the umbrella of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and picked the broom of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The focus now is on the assertion by Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, who has on several occasions recently, maintained that top individuals from the South East, especially governors would soon join his party, the APC.
Ordinarily, defections have become an accepted culture in Nigeria’s political landscape as it has traversed the decades, right from the Awolowo -Azikiwe-era.
But now, the frenzy in the minds of some political juggernauts in Abia, God’s own State is about the confidence with which Governor Hope Uzodinma has expressed his assurance that the entire South East geopolitical zone would soon be in the ruling national party, the APC.
Will Ikpeazu dump APC?
It is not true – CPS
As the rumours became strong in Abia State on the alleged interest of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in following his friend Dave Umahi to APC, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ikpeazu, Barr Onyebuchi Ememanka has trashed the rumours, saying that his principal has and will remain a PDP member.
In a reply he sent to this reporter through a text message, the CPS simply described the planned defection gist as “Not true”. The CPS further showed an image of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in a recent picture where he was in a crowd of PDP faithful. The CPS captioned the picture “You get the point”, buttressing the fact that his principal remained a committed PDP man.
He equally showed a picture of Governor Ikpeazu where he hosted a group of PDP top shots from the South East in a meeting at Abia State Government Lodge, Abuja. The meeting as shown in the picture was attended by top PDP men from the South East including Hon Emeka Ihedioha, ex-Governor of Imo State, Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu, ex-Deputy Senate President, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the present minority leader of the Senate .
But beyond the assurances given by the image maker to the Governor, the smoke of stories of the Governor’s interest in joining the APC has continued to smoulder in political quarters of the State, refusing to be completely doused.
Our doors are open, the south east should be in APC – APC Abia chapter
During a recent town hall meeting for APC stakeholders at old Onitsha Hall, 47 Kaduna Street Umuahia, Chief Donatus Nwankpa, Chairman of All Progressive Congress, Abia State chapter told the mammoth crowd in attendance that his party was ready to receive any one who was interested in joining the broom party. He went on to advise that the South East must be in the centre to fully reap the dividends of democracy.
According to Chief Nwankpa, his party was ready to take over the State in 2023, stressing that all mistakes the APC made in the past had been identified and corrected , thus positioning the party for victory in 2023.
Nwankpa said “We are ready to receive more people into our party. Our doors are open to receive people from the other parties. The entire South East should be in APC to fully gain from the center.”
He continued, ” We will sweep elections in 2023, 5 over 5. All elective positions will be won by APC. This is because we are more strategized than ever, and we have identified some areas where we went wrong in the previous polls. In 2023, APC will win the President, Senate, House of Representatives, Governorship and House of Assembly making it five over five”, Nwankpa said to the crowd.
Nyesom wike’s claims
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike in reaction to Dave Umahi’s defection to the APC lambasted and condemned the decision of Umahi to dump the PDP.
But the fresh salvo from Wike in a press briefing on Wednesday with journalists, two days after Umahi’s defection has left many questions unanswered, especially as it concerns the alleged plans by another Governor to defect to APC. According to Wike, a certain Governor of PDP fold had concluded plans to leave PDP.
According to the Rivers Governor, “I can tell you there is one PDP Governor that will leave. He is not leaving because of anything but will come up with an excuse. “The point is that these are the people who have been playing anti-party, who have been romancing with the APC in the night and come to PDP in the daytime.”
“My problem is that when you speak the truth, they will want to crucify you” he explained. But when challenged to unveil the identity of the Governor interested in joining APC, Wike declined, simply saying, ” I won’t tell you that, but you journalists should know”
Ikpeazu, others should join APC – Apugo
Reacting to the raging debate over Dave Umahi’s movement to APC, a chieftain of All Progressive Congress in Abia State, Chief Benjamin Apugo (BB) called on the remaining Governors from the South East who are still in other political parties, to follow Umahi into APC.
He reasoned that 21 years of South East’s romance with PDP had not yielded any meaningful dividend to the zone.
According to Apugo, “Everybody in APC in the South East and beyond should be happy that Umahi has joined our great party because he has a lot he is bringing on board. I am calling on the remaining PDP Governors and other prominent men from the South East to join the APC”, Apugo told newsmen in Umuahia.
Beyond the political godfather’s charge, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s presence at the burial of the wife of Chief Apugo, Mrs Nkechinyere Apugo, on 14th November, 2020 was interpreted as a ‘get close’ attendance and understood by some political watchers as a good step towards preparing the ground for a ‘future adventure’
Ikpeazu, together with his Deputy Governor, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu and top officials of his administration were in attendance during the burial ceremony of Mrs Apugo, held at Nkata Primary school, Bende road, Umuahia.
The presence of the governor during the burial ceremony increased glamour at the high octane event, bringing Ikpeazu together again with Hon Martins, some years after they worked as heads of Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA).
Apugo remains one of the three political godfathers in Abia State after Senators Orji Uzor Kalu and Theodore Orji, haven sponsored Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, a university don but a political rookie (then), to become the first elected Governor of old Abia State comprising of part of current Ebonyi State.
It is an established fact in Abia politics that whoever seeks to succeed in the politics of the State needs the support of these three men, Orji Uzor Kalu, T. A. Orji and B.B.Apugo. Out of the three men, two of them Orji Kalu and Apugo are in APC while Chief T.A. Orji (Ochendo) is in PDP.
The Enyinnaya Abaribe factor
Okezie Ikpeazu is from Obingwa LGA, same with Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senate’s minority leader. Abaribe is a four-time member in the senate and one of the most experienced in the red chambers and still has his eyes on returning to the senate in 2023.
He is also positioning himself for the office of the Senate President or Deputy Senate President, should his party, PDP win the presidency.
But his biggest challenge is, if the incumbent Governor of Abia, Okezie Ikpeazu would run for Senate in 2023. The calculation is that Ikpeazu running for Abia South Senatorial district would ultimately alter the game for Abaribe as he would have to battle for the senate ticket in a primary election.
But those who know Abaribe’s political sagacity understand him as a man who is not afraid to go into a battle, no matter the height of his opponent. This postulation was vivid in his battle against his former boss, Orji Uzor Kalu, the then governor of Abia State and now Senator representing Abia North in the national assembly.
So, the question is: if Abaribe and Ikpeazu are contesting for Abia South Senate seat in 2023, who will step down for the other. And this is where the APC option becomes relevant for both the governor and the senator.
So far, the governor has not indicated any interest to run for any political office when he serves out his second term as governor but as inherent in current Nigeria’s political culture, many governors are desirous of ‘continuing’ their political growth at the red chambers of the senate.
The Senate according to many political observers have been dubbed as the retiring benefit or haven of the governors. And this phenomenon further presents the governor the lure of either achieving that in his party, the PDP or elsewhere.
However, the governor has been a committed member of the PDP, a party that thrust him to power in 2015 and 2019 respectively, against the expectations of political forecasts judging by the calibre of men in the PDP then who were dropped to pave way for Ikpeazu’s choice as PDP’s standard bearer.
And the governor has always acknowledged before everyone that his choice as Abia Governor is by God’s grace, not just by own making. So, will the allure of party in the centre (APC) make him to jump ship? Time will tell.
It must also be pointed out that Ikpeazu has a hidden APC spot on him. For instance, in 2015 and 2019 when his elections ran into troubled waters, he cleverly ran to the deputy president, Prof Yemi Osibanjo for deliverance and he was saved. Within those periods, Osibanjo became a regular visitor to Abia State in the guise of commissioning one project or the other. So, it might not be totally out of calculation if it is insinuated that he is APC bound.
How will South East fare in APC?
In as much as sterling opportunities are said to lie ahead for the Igbo nation of South East extraction, there is no total assurance that any eventual coalition into APC would guarantee success for the zone.
This is emerging from the points being dished out by some respected and veteran politicians from the North West including Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Junaid Mohammed etc.
These two Northern leaders, though viewed as political gadflies because of their explosive utterances on the pages of national newspapers and on electronic media, have always used every chance to speak in defence of their zone especially on important national issues.
And in the last few days, they have again come out to maintain that the arrival of Chief Dave Umahi in All Progressive Congress (APC) was not a guarantee that power would shift to the South East zone. Junaid Mohammed in his submission made it clear that Umahi’s ambition of achieving a higher political position would meet a barren end if it was his sole reason for dumping his former party, the PDP.
So, if Junaid Mohammed is speaking the minds of the Northerners, as he had done in the past, where do the APC promises lead the South East to?
If the 2023 Presidential ticket is denied the South East by APC, where lays our hope? If given the South East, would the South-South brothers reciprocate the love of the South Easterners for former President, Goodluck Jonathan.
That is why the South East zone must be wise in the choice they make to ensure that it does not lose out and fade into irrelevance after 2023 polls. Recall that the South-South Governors during their meeting held last week to work and protect the interests of their zone.
The South-South Governors also used the meeting to warn anyone who was against the interest of the zone to return to his or her own zone.
No name was mentioned by the Governors during the meeting but it was understood that it was in reaction to the litany of condemnations Governor Nyesom Wike received for the manner he allegedly mishandled the alleged killings and maiming of civilians by soldiers at Oyigbo part of Rivers State during the End SARS crises.
Another pointer from the South-South meeting stated that it was convened to position the South-South zone to inherit the structure of PDP, should the South East eventually move into APC and from there, form a formidable alliance with other zones to run for the 2023 President.
Also recall that some Governors of All Progressive Congress recently paid a visit to the former President of the country, Goodluck Jonathan, in a romance seen as unusual by some interest groups, including Jonathan’s party, PDP.
Jonathan, it is learnt, is still a popular candidate in the North till date, as he is seen as a better manager of the country’s economy and security, especially the Boko Haram carnage.
Also, the peaceful manner he handed over power to President Muhamadu Buhari in 2015 after his defeat makes him popular and a good leader among the Northern people, especially among the elites. So, will Jonathan regain the groove, as Obasanjo who returned to power in 1999, after handing over to Shehu Shagari in 1979, exactly 20 years after.
Should the North go for Jonathan ahead of Igbos of the South East in 2023, where will the South East be?
A political analyst and management expert in Abia State, Mr Kingsley Ogba Nwokoro in his contribution, maintained that development of the South East zone or every other part of the country should be the task of leaders and not necessarily the political party of choice.
He observed that records had shown that the country had produced good leaders and sound achievers cut across different political parties, adding that a leader who is committed to the development of his people and place did so, not because of his party membership but his desire to change the story of his people for the better.
Nwokoro used Chief Sam Mbakwe of blessed memory as metaphor for what a leader could achieve, even while still belonging to an opposition party
The ball is now in the court of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and all interest groups from the South East to fine-tune strategies for the political future of the South East, so that the zone does not commit an incalculable blunder in 2023.
And for Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma’s who sees himself as a sentinel of Igbo political relevance; he should be study the coast well before taking the Igbo across the sea.