John Alechenu, PunchNG
The All Progressives Congress has stepped up moves to persuade more governors from the South-East region to join it following the decision of the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, to dump the Peoples Democratic Party.
The PUNCH gathered on Monday that the APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee led by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, had directed the party’s leaders in the South-East to reach out to more governors and National Assembly members in the region.
It was learnt that among those being targeted by the APC leaders were the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu; his Enugu State counterpart, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; and Willy Obiano of Anambra State.
But the PDP, the party on whose platform both the Abia and Enugu State governors were elected, told The PUNCH that it was not disturbed by the APC’s moves.
The PDP insisted that the country’s constitution guaranteed freedom of association, adding that a gale of defection would soon hit the APC.
It noted that it had not reached a time when zoning of the presidency and other political offices would be decided.
Recall that Umahi, at a meeting held with the PDP National Working Committee in Abuja last week, reportedly told the leaders that he could only remain in the party if the 2023 presidential ticket was zoned to the South-East, a condition that the party leaders could not agree to.
But on Monday, a top-ranking member of the APC confided in one of our correspondents, “Apart from Umahi, who is coming in a matter of days, we are preparing to receive more governors from the South-East. Our people are discussing with more governors from the South-East.
“For now, we are reaching out to the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, and the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, as well as their Enugu State counterpart, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Our leaders in the South-East, including Hope Uzodimma, Uzor Kalu and Rochas Okorocha, are also talking to people in the zone.
“Apart from the governors, we are also expecting members of the state and National Assemblies to also come on board.”
Uzodinma, South-East APC chairmen, ministers in crucial meeting
Ahead of the planned defection of Umahi, Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, APC state chairmen from the South-East zone and some serving ministers held a crucial meeting with the Ebonyi State governor, at the Imo State Governors’ Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, on Monday.
The meeting, which started around 8pm, had in attendance the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; and former APC National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, among others.
Onu, who addressed journalists after the meeting said, “We are here as leaders of the APC in the South-East; we have representatives from all the states in the South-East we met to review the situation of the party in the South-East. We have one governor now and we are working so that by 2023, we will have five.”
In response to a question on Umahi’s defection, a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani said, “I think it is work in progress; we are not definitive about what’s going to happen; we are trying to say that our party is a very large one. Like Dr Ogbonaya Onu said, we are trying to rebuild our party; our gate is wide open. We are expecting many more people.”
After Umahi, more opposition governors’ll join APC, says Uzodimma
Speaking to journalists at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja on Monday, Uzodinma said the party was prepared to receive Umahi “within a few hours.”
He spoke after a closed-door meeting with Buni and other members of the committee.
According to him, apart from Umahi, more governors from the South-East are being expected to join the APC.
He, however, declined to name the governors involved.
Uzodinma said, “If you recall when I addressed you here a couple of months ago, I told you that the moment I resumed office in Imo State as the governor that the impression and perception of our party in the South-East would change and the resultant effect would be that more credible individuals and governors would even join the party.
“Today, I am being vindicated because we are hearing it and I’m sure that in a few hours from now, we will get confirmation that one of our best will be joining the party and is the governor of Ebonyi State. Of course, I will be very glad and it will be my joy to welcome a governor and more governors, not only him, we are still talking about more governors to join.
“The APC is the ruling party and for the interest of national integration and cohesion, Imo and the South-East need to become part and parcel of the ruling party to make the Nigerian project a complete project.”
Speaking on the reason for his visit to the APC secretariat, Uzodinma stated, “I’m at the headquarters of our great party to meet with the critical stakeholders and officers of our party as to the status and ongoing events in our great party, and I had a private audience with the National Chairman and some members of the NWC (caretaker) and also touched base on our preparedness for the upcoming bye-election.
“Of course, you know that any moment from now, there will be a senatorial bye-election in Imo State for the Imo North Senatorial District, and I think our party is prepared. The APC is the party to beat in Imo State.
“The most important thing is for the APC to win the election. The party has an internal mechanism of confirming who the candidate is. The Supreme Court has said it; the Electoral Act has said it. Every party has the right and it is only the party that sponsors a candidate. Of course, we have our candidate; there are some few legal issues going on. I don’t want to go into that now because the matter pending in court is sub judice, but at the end of the day, we have a candidate.”
More Nigerians are joining us – APC
When contacted, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, said, “The defection of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State is just the beginning; more high-profiled Nigerians from across the board have indicated interest in joining our great party. Nigerians have now seen that the APC is a moving train and the PDP is a sinking ship. Don’t forget that the governor is a governor, who is on the ground and is not coming in alone; he is coming with people.
“More and more people are coming in because they have seen the progress being made by the APC under the leadership of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee.”
We’re not worried by APC’s plot in South-East, says PDP
In response to a question on if the PDP was worried that its traditional stronghold in the South-East was being decimated, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbodiyan, told The PUNCH, “We are not worried; as a democratic party, we respect the democratic right of Nigerians to freedom of association. We are also aware that some people, who are unhappy about happenings in the ruling party, will be joining us as time goes on.
“Our main focus is to strengthen our party and rebuild our brand. We met with the governor of Ebonyi State and he told us his concerns; as a party, we are looking into those concerns. The PDP, under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus, is determined to ensure that our processes and procedures are respected in decision making. The issue of zoning for 2023 has not come in any of our official discussions yet; we have not reached that stage.”
Ugwuanyi might dump PDP, says ex-Enugu gov
In Enugu State, sources told one of our correspondents that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi might dump the PDP if the leadership of the party fails to address the concerns of the South-East zone and allow Umahi to defect to the APC.
A former governor of the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ugwuanyi had been nursing the ambition of dumping the PDP after the 2019 elections, but he was being prevailed upon by stakeholders not to dump the party for whatever issue he might have had with it.
He stated, “My brother, if not because our people, especially the young men, have passionate hatred for the APC stemming from the marginalisation of the zone by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), Ugwuanyi would have defected to the APC long ago.
“Although I don’t know his plans now since some stakeholders advised him against dumping the PDP, but looking back, all the governors in the South-East are at their terminal terms in office and naturally, it is expected that some, who are not sure of their next political journey, will start making plans and forming alliances.”
But, when the state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mrs Kate Offor, was contacted on the development, she said it would be unkind of her to start commenting on what the national leadership of the party was hatching.
“For me and the APC in Enugu State, we are not aware of this development, but it is possible. But like I said, I am not aware of such a move for the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to defect to my party.”
When the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Chidi Aroh, was contacted on the telephone on the alleged plan of the governor to defect to the APC, he said, “We don’t talk about that. The government doesn’t comment on rumours.”
‘Ikpeazu joining APC will be good for Abia’
Commenting on the alleged move by Ikpeazu, to join the APC, the Abia State Chairman of the party, Donatus Nwakpa, said the doors of the APC were open for anyone, who wanted to join it.
“That (Ikpeazu’s defection) will be good and there is the need (for it) so that Abians will reap the dividend of democracy”.
But the state Commissioner for Information, John Okiyi, said the governor did not have such a plan.
“He has no such plans. People should allow him to deliver the dividend of democracy to Abians,” Okiyi said.
Obiano has no plans to leave APGA – Aide
The Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, has no plans to leave the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
The Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C-Don Adinuba, described the rumour of the planned defection as “arrant nonsense.”
He described those circulating the rumour as self-seeking.
“There is nothing like that, and there can never be something like that. It’s just arrant nonsense and self-seeking propaganda,” he stated.