Published On: Sun, Jun 3rd, 2018

2019 elections: Abia PDP takes reconciliation to the grassroots

 From PETER OKORE, Umuahia

As preparations for the 2019 elections gather momentum, the Abia state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has determined not to allow any regrets again after the 2015 experience. It has vowed to prevent the crack  rocking the National body of the party , which has led to the formation of the  Alhaji  Kawu Baraje-led  New Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, from  entering  Abia. At home, the state chapter would not want the situation that led to the build-up  to the 2015 general elections, which posed as leeway  for many PDP stalwarts  to defect to other parties and given the un-expected hot chase PDP passed through in the last elections, to re-occur.

To this effect the State Working committee of the PDP has undertaken and  competed a state-wide tour of all the 17  Local Government Areas of the state to reconcile aggrieved persons and warring factions of the party, all in the bid to heal old wounds.

In each of the LGA’s visited by the state EXCO, the Chairman,Chief Johnson Onuigbo, without mincing words, called for all hands to be on deck to  keep Abia intact for PDP and to sustain the peace that has  returned to the state chapter of the party.  He said that  the state PDP has learnt from the mistakes  of the past and has taken pains to correct them. In his words: “impunity kills a party”. He assured all of contestants in the forthcoming general elections of equal opportunities and a level playing ground to sell themselves to their constituents. He affirmed that there would not be any imposition of candidates in the 2019 elections.

 Speaking to party members  at Arochukwu , where some members of the party had taken covers under the Social media to express their grievances, Onuigbo called for caution, loyalty to the Party and respect to seniority  and positions.

On the long- drawn social media comments involving Senator Mao Ohuabunwa(member representing Abia –North senatorial district), Hon. Uko Nkole(member representing Arochukwu/Ohafia state constituency in the House of Representatives) and Dr. Philip Nto(Provost, Abia state College of Education, Technical, Arochukwu), the Party-boss called for an abrupt end to such actions. He hinted that such were calculated to divide, rather than unite the party and giving the opposition   opportunity to wed into party affairs. He, however, solicited for love, humility and mutual respect  as well as  for them to be loyal and humble, irrespective of provocations.  He noted that  all of them were performing their duties well in their  respective areas of assignments ,but implored them to give peace the chance to reign. The chairman described the peace move in PDP as  divine and called for unity of purpose for the party to move ahead. He prayed for God’s intervention in the problems confronting Nigeria at moment.

Both Ohuabunwa and Nkole used the forum to enumerate what they have achieved for their constituents within the past few years in the National Assembly, including the flagging-off of work on the life- threatening  narrow OMENUKO bridge.

In his moody remarks, Sen. Ohuabunwa drew attention to the pitiable situation of  those people affected in the border clashes between Abia and Cross Rivers States communities, respectively. He called on both the Federal and State Governments to come to the aid of the affected communities as well as leave up to their responsibilities of protecting the lives and properties of their citizens.

Moreover, a one minute silence was observed for the  numerous souls so far lost  in the on-going one month- old protracted border clash between the people of Iheosu-Isu, in Arochukwu LGA of Abia State with their Utuma and Umong  neighboughs of Biase LGA of Cross Rivers State over mineral deposits in the lands they have  shared in common over years. Reports say the Utuma and Umong  people had , without notice, chased away the people of Iheosu community from their land, looted their properties, killed many, including a Pastor who was allegedly beheaded in his farm  and set the entire community ablaze. At the moment, two other communities in Abia state have fled their legitimate villages, where they have lived at their own comfort over the decades . Meanwhile, no help, in terms of aids or security have allegedly reached the scene of the incident.

 However, responding to the issue, Onuigbo condemned border clashes in all forms and called on Governments  to show presence in the disputed areas. On the misunderstandings within the party, Onuigbo declared:” Using the  social media to address issues tantamount to washing dirty linins in the public. Henceforth anybody who goes contrary to Party decisions,guidelines and expectations  will be sanctioned. Those (contestants) now  running round the Government House, Umuahia, soliciting support to contest one position or  another in  the  2019 general  elections, are wasting their time and resources. They should desist from such actions as they contravene the party guidelines. Rather, such interested persons should go to the field and test their capabilities and popularities so that the people can choose who they want to serve them. Neither Abuja, Government House nor Governor can give Ticket to contest election.   As  far as the PDP is concerned now, the era of imposition of candidates on the electorate is gone, pointing out that the party will only present her First eleven contestants at the elections. Every candidate will workout his/her political destiny. Every prospective contestant must face the party  primaries and subsequent elections”.

 Indeed, Onuigbo was referring to experiences the Party passed through in the 2015  elections in the state. Such impunities included lack of internal democracy, imposition of candidates, godfatherism, money-bag syndrome and a lot more. These issues fragmented the PDP and  compelled many PDP top-notchers  to abandon the PDP for other political parties, like the All  Progressives  Grand Alliance(APGA), All Progressives Congress, APC, Labour Party,LP,etc and canvassed for votes under  such platforms.  Though they eventually lost (some through the judicial process), PDP was fragmented and remained in crisis throughout the 2015 elections.

 In the effort to mend fences, the state Working Committee(SWC) of the PDP in Abia  initiated a peace and reconciliatory move  to woe  some of the lost members back to the party. The move saw the return  of the likes of former this-and former-that in various administrations of Abia State ;Government and Party. They include Chiefs  Tonny Ukasanya, Johny Ukpabi, Reagan Ufomba,Enyinna Ubani, Sunday Okor.Hon. Damian Ozurumba, Sylvanus Nwaji, Uche Akwukwaegbu(BAWAS), Kelechi Nwankpa, Emma Ibegbulam, Lady Duruoha, Onyeukwu Nwogu and the rest of them.

 Still, for effective blending and cohesion among the rank and file as well as giving  every  returnee  a sense of belonging, informed the recent  working tour of the 17 LGA’s by the state Working Committee of the PDP. Tagged:” Good Governance tour”, the tour  was designed to reconcile warring factions of the party, especially those who were nursing the feeling of joining the New PDP(nPDP) as well as  some aggrieved individuals. The tour was to assure them(returnees) of being carried along by the Party.  In the words of the state Party chairman, Onuigbo: “The state EXCO is here in the  respective LGA’s to see how the newly elected LGA chairmen  were  faring  with the process of mending fences at the grassroots. To determine what the chairmen ( elected about 19 months ago) were doing with the mandate the Party gave them. To ascertain whether  the chairmen were actually providing the dividends of democracy to the grassroots, as anticipated by the party”.

 Having gone round the state, Onuigbo summerized  his experiences this way: “We have seen that the LGA’s are on top of Party expectations/manifestos. We have been there to unite; rather than divide the party”.

He lamented the plights of Nigerians under the present leadership of the

APC at the center, saying that  the  Nigerian electorate is fed- up with it and is earnestly yearning for a change of government  for effective governance.

In virtually all the LGA’s visited by the state PDP working committee, there were  some decampees from other parties to the PDP  presented before the chairman for  warm welcome. Addressing them at each spot, Onuigbo implored party leaders, at all levels, to receive the new members  and never discriminate against them. Said he:” Invite them to all your meetings. Involve them in all you do. They are now full members of the Party. Their membership cards from their former political parties   have been turned onto us and were torn into pieces publically.

Other highlights of the tour to the LGA’s were inspection of completed and on-going projects being executed by the various elected  LGA chairmen, presentation of new members who declared for the Party and Motions of solidarity for the incumbent state government. Most of the chairmen were found to have concentrated their projects on improving existing infrastructure, provision of basic amenities like water, light,  building and equipment of  Primary Health and Skill Acquisition centres.

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