After losing Anambra, APC eyes Enugu, Abia, Ebonyi for 2019
From a poor outing in the last November Anambra governorship poll despite its high expectation of victory, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has shifted attention to other states in the quest to have a firm foothold in the Southeast geo-political zone as 2019 general elections approach.
Those who attended the mega rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC) held in Umuahia, the Abia State capital last Tuesday, would readily attest to the untiring effort of the party to make strong political presence in the Southeast geo-political zone as the 2019 general elections approaches.
At the well-attended rally held at the township stadium, chieftains of the party vowed to stop at nothing in winning the state to signpost the claim that incumbent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration has failed the people of Abia.
To lead the battle for the soul of Abia State are politicians who defected from their political parties to the APC including a former governor, Chief Orji Uzo Kalu, who has also assumed the leadership of the party in the state; former governorship candidate, Dr Uche Ogar; former Managing Director of Hallmark Bank, Dr Marc Wabara; Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, Chief Benjamin Apugo, former Speaker; Stanley Ohajuruka and Chief Azubuike Uda.
Others whose presence could boost the chances of the party in realizing the dream are the four serving members of the Abia State House of Assembly which includes immediate past Speaker, Martin Azubuike; Majority leader, Chief Solomon Okogbuo; former Minority leader, Ikedi Ezekwesiri and the representative from Ikwuano State Constituency, Theophilus Ugboaja. They formerly joined the APC at the rally.
If the attendance and speeches at the rally could swing victory, then the APC should beat its chest that one more state is sure and waiting for the take in the 2019 elections. This is because, against the predictions of bookmakers, the people turned out in large number for the occasion.
As early as 7.00 a.m, people from all walks of life had started trooping the stadium. While the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led members of the National Working Committee (NWC) to the event, Chief Emma Enukwu, the National Vice President (Southeast) led members of the zone’s executive to the occasion.
Although there were earlier speeches, Kalu, had set the ball rolling when he declared that “I will put in everything I have to make sure APC takes over Abia State in 2019,” stressing that it was the only thing that could return the state to the path of democracy, which according to him, took a flight in 2007 when he left office.
Given some insights on how democracy had left the state, Kalu said that during his eight years in office, he ensured that Abia State University, Abia State Polytechnic, College of Education and College of Health among others, were getting subvention, stressing however, that payment of salaries has become a problem in the state not to talk of subventions.
“When APC takes over the state in 2019, we shall bring back free education which this government has scrapped. The APC is the only party that can restore hope and we will not disappoint the people,” he assured.
Chief Donatus Nwankpa, the state chairman of the party, had enthused that “Abia state has suffered a lot of degradation, assuring that “APC is for proper performance at all times.”
According to him, “We cannot continue to take the back seat; we are determined to make Abia a truly God’s own state, and we shall say no to any form of rigging and shall not be drawn into any form of hate speeches.”
Other speakers at the rally including former Enugu governor, Sullivan Chime, noted that Ndigbo have decided to join the APC as it “remains the only party that can tell the truth at all time,” adding that his membership of PDP for 16 years and eight years as governor had thought him to agree that “PDP never worked for Igbo interests.”
But how far can APC go in Abia and the two other states in the Southeast- Enugu and Ebonyi, in the 2019 general elections, especially after losing Anambra to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the November 18, 2017 governorship election? Can the APC, as presently constituted in the zone, upturn the run of the PDP in these states in 2019?
The APC has since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections in which it won Imo out of the five states in the zone, continued to deepen its search for new members from the five states. It has not been a fruitless exercise as several bigwigs, especially from the PDP, have joined the party.
In Enugu, the likes of former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former governors Jim Nwobodo and Chime; former Speaker Eugene Odo; Business Moguls Sam Onyishi and Benwood Ibeh among others, joined the party. From Ebonyi, former governor Martin Elechi; former Minister of health, Onyebuchi Chukwu; serving member of the National Assembly representing Ebonyi South Senatorial District, Sunny Ogborji and former governorship candidate of the Labour Party in the 2015 elections, Edward Nkwoagu among others also joined. The trio of Uche Ekwunife, Tony Nwoye and Andy Uba among others also moved into the APC in Anambra State.
Ordinarily, the array of politicians and big names from the zone presently in the APC is such that could give any political party challenging it in any election cause to worry. But this seems far from reality, as the party is yet to prove that it has what it takes to win election in the zone after 2015.
Of note is the outcome of the governorship election in Anambra where it came second after elaborate campaign, which involved the presidency and national leadership of the party. APC before the election was loquacious in the claim that it would win the election as a sign of its readiness to take over the Southeast in 2019.
Before the Anambra poll, other elections had held for councils in Ebonyi and Enugu States as opportunity that could have showcased the reality in the claim by the new entrants that they had what it takes to win votes for the party, but they faltered; thereby sending signals that irrespective of their “big” names, they no longer matter to the people.
Those close to power still believe that the APC needs to do more. The impression being created in the zone is that despite the political muscle being flexed by those who have joined the party; it would remain a tall dream for it to win election in the zone in 2019.
Many still see the APC as a difficult product for anybody can buy into in the zone, creating the general notion that Southeast has not received its due share from the party.
The problem is that many who joined the party from the zone did not do so to further contribute to its development. They did so to protect their business and political interests. Majority of them can only shout APC in Abuja and not in their homes states. That is the situation of APC even in Enugu where majority of the members are said to be on state payroll and nominate people for appointments into the PDP administration.
For instance, although the Umuahia rally became a huge success because of crowd attendance, sources said it was meant to re-launch the members behind it and not to reposition the party after the abysmal performance in the state in the 2015 poll.
Result from that elections indicated that APC was nowhere near victory as it was a straight fight between the PDP and APGA and while the two parties have continued to dominate proceedings in the state since then, the APC was yet to find its feet.
It was gathered that the backers decided to “put up the show as a guise that they are doing something or have started doing something while hoping for federal recognition. It is not to win any election”
Many who reasoned along this line said they capitalized on the growing feelings of disenchantment over Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s leadership in the state to woo the masses to the rally, explaining that with the alleged “non-payment of salaries of workers and pensioners as well as snail speed which had followed awarded government projects, why will the people not respond to any call to attend a rally?”
The source alleged that the Ikpeazu administration had not made significant improvement on the lives of the people and on the state of infrastructure beyond what he inherited from the previous administration, adding that governance had not been given due attention following the series of litigations over the outcome of the 2015 governorship election.
“The result is under development and poor development of the state. Ikpeazu has refused to be disentangled from those who allocated power to him at the detriment of the state,” he disclosed.
But Nnanna Nwachukwu, a political analyst from the state said, “Abia people cannot be taken for granted. We will not allow a man who has lost his electoral value to impose a party on us. Since he had the rare privilege to govern the state for eight years and messed up the opportunity, he cannot have it back because there is need for Abia to move forward, irrespective of what he is promising us now using the APC.”
Kalu, who is leading the APC onslaught, appears to many as one who enjoys jumping from one political party to another, having left the PDP to form the Progressive People Alliance (PPA) and now the APC. Since leaving the Government House in 2007, he is said to have ran three unsuccessful elections, an indication that he may be losing political relevance by the day.
Those however sympathetic with his political maneuvers insist that he remains the man to beat in any election conducted freely in the state, pointing out that his inability to win elections since leaving office was due to the support the state government had always shown to his opponents.
On the other hand however, there are still growing feelings of pains among the people of the state over the recently held Operation Python Dance that had its base in Umuahia. Many believe that the APC should account for the number of deaths and destruction of property that characterized the exercise.
There are strong signals that it will not be an easy game for the APC in Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi where the serving governors have used appointments to deepen their acceptance as well as weaken the base of their opponents.
If the APC must swing surprises in 2019 in these states, it will need to go beyond what the people now know about the government and leadership of the party.