The political landscape of the South-East is fast taking a new shape. The zone was under the total control of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when Nigeria restored civil rule on May 29, 1999. The situation remained so until the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) led by ate Chief EmekaOdumegwu-Ojukwu and the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) were formed to challenge the status quo ante.
Since then, the politics of the entire South-East has continued to witness different forms of alliance and alignment, but which had little impact on the influence of the PDP even in the 2015 general election. Perhaps, the most striking change was the consolidation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in its hold on the political lever of Imo State, one of the five states making up the zone.
Lately, the battle for the soul of the zone is assuming a new pattern, with visible show of a gradual shift in political paradigm in the zone. The verdicts of the various election petition tribunals have turned out to be a mixture of the good and the bad for the PDP and some of its gladiators, especially candidates during the last general election. The body language of some of the major political actors indicates their readiness to seek new political alliances. The tendencies in the camp of others suggest their readiness for political compromise.
The PDP has been in control of Abia State since 1999 except for three years (between 2007 and 2010) when the PPA won the state. The feat was achieved by the party through the efforts of a former governor of the state, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. Though a founding member of PDP, he left the party to form PPA, due to irreconcilable differences between him and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
To some political observers, the control of Abia State that prides itself as God’s Own State, by the PDP was circumstantial. According to them, the 1999 gubernatorial election in the state was perceived to have been won by Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, the candidate of the then All Peoples Party (APP).
It will be recalled that after the declaration of Dr Kalu as winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief Ogbulaor went to the governorship Election Tribunal to challenge Kalu’s election. Apparently to save the state from looming political crisis, some elders and the political elite, who as it were, were privy to what transpired during the poll were said to have appealed to Ogbulafor to withdraw his suit from the Tribunal, which he did. How Ogbulafor later joined PDP and was compensated with the position of national secretary, which he held for sometime before bowing out due to intrigues within the corridors of power.
Today, PDP has lost many of its supporters and sympathisers in Abia due to what the critics of the immediate past state governor, Theodore Orji described as alleged poor performance by his administration. He is currently a Senator in the National Assembly. His critics alleged that his administration could not fix the major road leading to the commercial hub of the East, Aba, as well as failed to resuscitate industries established by the defunct Eastern Regional government..
The growing popularity of APGA is deemed as reflection of Senator Orji’s poor outing as a governor, as the agitation by many Abians for a change has continued to grow.
What is happening in the state is that some opposition political parties led by APGA have teamed up to wrest power from the PDP using Dr Alex Oti an astute banker as an arrow-head for a change.
Be that as it may, the political atmosphere in Abia is considered a bit foggy on account of the pendency of the governorship election petition before the Apex Court, following the nullification of Dr Ikpeazu’s election by the Appellate Court.
Anambra politics is as fierce as ever. In 1999, the state wasunder the PDP led by ex-governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju. However, Dr Mbadinuju lost power to the Ubas who brought in Dr Chris Ngige of thedefunct Action Congress. Dr Andy Uba, a one-time special aide to ex-President Obasanjo, was briefly as governor before he was sent packing by the court.
With the dramatic entry of Peter Obi of APGA as a governor, PDP became an opposition party in the state and ever since APGA has beenin control. The control of political structure by APGA at the statelevel, however, defeats the argument that Anambra is predominantly a PDP state, the presence of prominent politicians in PDP in the state notwithstanding.
The current travail of the PDP national spokesman, Chief Olisa Metuh in the hands of Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) is not in the best interest of the party in the state, as some loyalists are rumoured to be contemplating renegotiating their loyalty to the PDP brand.
As it is, the former national chairman of APGA and candidate forAnambra Central Senatorial District in the 2015 general election,Chief Victor Umeh, believes that his party is on the ground. Umeh had boasted of victory in the Anambra Central Senatorial poll over his rival, Senator UcheEkwunife of the PDP.
The Court of Appeal in Enugu had ruled that a fresh electionbe held within 90 days in the senatorial district. Ekwunife, the candidate of the PDP, had secured victory at the Anambra State Election Petition tribunal. But Umeh had gone ahead to contest the decision at the Court of Appeal.
The Tribunal declared Ekwunife the validly elected representative of the district. In the lead judgement delivered by Justice Danjo Yahaya, the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu said the election of Ekwunife did not meet the prescription of the Electoral Act.
In Enugu State, PDP has held sway since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, with the party producing governors and almost all the National and State Assembly members.
The only time the opposition party like Alliance for Democracy (AD) produced a Senator was in 2003. But the alteration did not last as the Senator Fidelis Okoro went back to PDP shortly after he was elected into office then. It will be recalled also that Igboeze North and Oji-River Local Governments had at one time or the other produced council chairman and state assembly member, respectively, in the thenAPP which metamorphosed into All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
Investigation by Nigerian Tribune indicates that the political fortune of PDP seems to be under serious threat as the opposition parties in the state, led by the APC, are making in-roads into the enclave of the ruling party in the state. For instance, there are strong speculations that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi might move his tent to the APC.
Already, political big wigs in the state such as Senator Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo and Senator Fidelis Okoro have swelled the ranks of APC in the state. Nwobodo, who was fingered in the Boko Haram arms saga, explained that he was not looking for a job but peace, stressing that he wanted his people to be part of the government at the centre. He recalled his travails as an opposition governor in the Second Republic.
Also in January this year, over 100 people who claimed to be members of the PDP in the state decamped to APC. The event, which took place at Eke inUdi Local Government Area of the state, attracted high profile people including leaders of the APC in the state.
Leading the decampees, Mr Emeka Udeh, said that he was able to convince his friends to join APC because he realised that APC truly stood for positive change, adding that it was high time more people embraced APC in Igbo land. Udeh noted that they were not being affected by the bandwagonsyndrome, stressing that their action was based on reality on theground.
Spokesman of the South-East APC Caucus, Osita Okechukwu, described the exodus of the ex-PDP faithful to APC as historic and memorable. Okechukwu said, “For me today is historic and memorable, as it has signaled the exodus from the PDP and other political parties in Enugu State to APC. Whereas, we do not want a one-party state in Nigeria; however we welcome you for your humility and candour in joining the party from the grass root – Eke Ward. The Ward is the primary unit and the soul of the party.”
“We are also happy that you’re not among those PDP stalwarts who ignobly utilised the Dasukigate-Bazaar to allocate paltry 14,175 votes to Buhari in the presidential election in Enugu State and paradoxically today are joining the APC through the backdoor. For those double-faced Janus, we say Holy Ghost Fire!”
Further finding showed that political parties such as APGA and Labour Party (LP) had gone under in the state as many their members are either in PDP or APC.
The state of political parties in Ebonyi State is unique asGovernor Dave Umahi of the PDP, although is in-charge, APC has gotmore faithful than before despite the berserk in the opposition partyin the state.
It was gathered that there has been exodus of PDP members to APC in the state. The reasons are obvious. Both Governor Umahi andthe immediate governor of the state, Chief Martin Elechi were in thethen APP. Secondly, Governor Umahi and Dr OgbonnayaOnu share thesame country home, Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of EbonyiState.
Although Governor Umahi has officially denied attempting to move to APC, his body language suggests otherwise. For instance, Umahi was one of the first governors from the South-East geo-political zone to pay solidarity visit to President Buhari.
Another thing that fueled the Umahi’s planned movement to APC was that during the last Id-Al-Maulud celebration, the governor Umahi sent gifts tosome prominent northern leaders in addition to his visit to Maiduguri where he donated relief materials to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
With the present political development that has jerked Dr Ogbonnaya Onu from opposition flank to ministerial position, he has become the rallying point in the Salt of Nation state, hence Governor Umahi may not like to distance himself from a politician he had helped financially as far back as in 1999.
In Imo, Governor Rochas Okorocha of APC is in the saddle calling the shots. The PDP was in control of the state from 1999 to 2011 when Chief Okorocha took over the mantle of leadership.
As it is, APC won the governorship election while PDP was declared winner in three senatorial zones namely; Imo-East, Imo-West and Imo- North.
But recent events tend to favour APC if political tempo in the state is not altered.
Last month, the Court of Appeal nullified the senatorial election won by Chief Athan Achanu of PDP.
Feelers also showed that the formerSpeaker of Imo State House of Assembly (IMSHA), Honourable Benjamin Uwajumobi might take the advantage of the suit of the Accord Party (AP) candidate, Rita Ibeleme, at the Election Tribunal to over-run allthe senatorial candidates as the Tribunal has ordered for a fresh poll within 90 days. Ibeleme had gone to seek redress in the Tribunal because herparty’s logo was missing in the ballot papers during the senatorial election. All pleas to make her withdraw the case met a brick wall.
Also in Isiala Mbano, a House of Assembly election was nullified by the Election Tribunal and fresh election is expected in the area.It was said that one person signed the result sheets of 12 wards that make up the constituency. It was learnt that one of the reasons APC may take over theconstituency is that Senator Ifeanyi Ararume is going to bring influence to bear during the election and he is now in alliance with Governor Okorocha.
Further checks showed that APGA just exists on paper unlike in2011 when the party produced a governor in person of Okorocha. The fortunes of the Labour Party and Accord Party have since dwindled in the state.