The defection of some politicians to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is causing some rumblings in the Abia State chapter of the party ahead of the 2010 governorship primaries
By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
By the time political activities heat up next year, the contest for the gubernatorial ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for Abia State will be intense. Two political heavyweights: – Chief Ikechi Emenike and Chief Uzodinma Okpara defected to the party. Emenike, a major financier of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, was the party's governorship candidate in 2007 while Okpara, son of the former Premier of the then eastern region, Dr. Michael Okpara was the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA. Their defection is believed to enable them pick the 2011 gubernatorial ticket on the PDP platform.
This magazine gathered that what prompted their defection is the strong rumour that PDP might not re-nominate Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, the party's governorship candidate in 2007 to fly its flag in 2011. A chieftain of the party who craved anonymity cited Ugochukwu's inability to win the 2007 election despite the resources at his disposal as the likely reason.
“He had everything to clinch the position at his disposal but he could not deliver; the party's leadership is not disposed to use him the second time lest we may fail the second time,” the source volunteered.
Another factor which might have influenced Okpara and Emenike to join PDP is the party's plan to still pick its governorship candidate in 2011 from Umuahia in Abia central. This was reinforced by the likelihood of the Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA, to field Governor Theodore Orji who is also from the area as its candidate in 2011. It was also calculated that if Chief Ugochukwu is denied the PDP ticket, replacing him with another Umuahia compatriot would soothe frayed nerves.
Political pundits are however, of the view that the calculations might upset the apple cart and cost PDP the gubernatorial election in 2011. This is informed by reactions, which have already trailed Emenike and Okpara's defection.
Shortly after their defection, a group which called itself Abia Equity Forum sprang up. The group accused them of serving the interests of some people from Ngwa who are in PDP. This is based on a letter addressed to the PDP chairman, Chief Ndidi Okereke by the group. The group in the letter requested the party to nominate a candidate from the Ngwa divide in the 2011 gubernatorial election.
“The present political calculation is that Abia central senatorial zone will produce our candidate for 2011. The zone is made up of six LGAs namely: Umuahia South, Umuahia North, Ikwuano Umuahia, Isiala Ngwa North,Isiala South and Osisioma Ngwa. There are however, two sides of the divide: Umuahia and Ngwa. We believe that since the other zone has produced a governorship candidate (Chief Onyema Ugochukwu) in 2007, equity, justice and fair play demands that the other side of the divide (Ngwa) should now produce a candidate for 2011,” the group stated in the letter.
It argued that the Ukwa-Ngwa has a homogenous voting pattern and as well command a more superior voting strength than any other divide in Abia State. Again, according to the group, the Ngwa divide is a PDP stronghold having PDP candidates in the previous elections such as Martins Azubuike, Darlington Nwokocha, Dr. Ikechukwu Nwabeke, Young Onyike, Sir Chinenye Ike and Senator Nkechi Nwaorgu, and contended that the ticket would excite the opposition parties to the age long agitation of the people for a governor of Ngwa extraction. “It will create a new political road map. They (the political parties) will abandon their various political parties to achieve one goal. Ukwa-Ngwa people both old and young will identify with PDP and indeed all Abians. From the analysis above, this calculation when fully accepted and implemented by the executive will minimise friction and bitterness that normally arise after gubernatorial primaries,” the group concluded.
Mr. Festus Chiemela Nwachukwu, however, disagrees with the Equity Group. According to him, the group's calculation could only work if the sitting governor, Theodore Orji does not pick a re-nomination in PPA. But if PPA in its wisdom returns Governor Orji as its gubernatorial candidate in the 2011 election, that would settle the problem because the governor has the machinery to upset any PDP incursion in Abia State.
Outside the above factor, numerous other factors are weighing against PDP. One of the factors is the friction and bitterness that may arise from the gubernatorial primaries.
Investigations reveal that Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, representing Abia south senatorial zone is interested in the governorship of Abia State. Abaribe was deputy governor under Orji Uzor Kalu. He is a force to reckon with as far as Abia politics is concerned and any arrangement that would not accommodate his interest may suffer a hitch.
Senator Abaribe contested the 2003 gubernatorial election and lost to former Governor Orji Kalu. In 2007, he was instrumental to the emergence of Chief Onyema Ugochukwu as the PDP candidate, an action which his Ngwa kinsmen are not comfortable with. According to sources, any attempt to concede the nomination to another person other than him might prove disastrous for PDP.
On the other hand, both Chief Okpara and Chief Emenike have a large followership and if they are eventually unable to succeed in securing the nomination, they might defect to another party to actualise their ambition. John Ekekwe Egu, a former PDP chieftain who later defected to PPA noted that the inability of PDP to carry out genuine post-primaries reconciliation cost the party the 2007 gubernatorial election. “As an insider, I knew that the attempts at reconciliation were insincere and superficial, and advised that a more genuine effort be made. But those around feared that genuine reconciliation will jeopardise their chances, and so came charging like bulldogs,” Egu reminded Chief Onyema Ugochukwu on the eve of his departure to PPA.
The situation led to defection of major politicians from PDP to PPA on the eve of the 2007 elections. PDP could have fought as a united army if the likes of Chief Okezie Orji, a former aspirant who was on the fringe of picking the nomination had remained in the fold. The indifference of other aggrieved members who decided to remain in the fold did not help issues either.