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Published On: Mon, May 15th, 2017

South East PDP rattled by defections

Obinna Ezugwu

 

On March 16, former governor of Enugu State, Bar. Sullivan Chime announced his intention to dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party under whose platform he ruled for eight years, describing it as “dead and cremated.” Few days later, he declared his intention to join the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). And indeed on May 6, he formally registered as a member of the ruling party.

 

Chime is the latest of high profile politicians to join the APC from PDP in the zone. Before him were former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzo Kalu; governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo; Senator representing Anambra South Zone, Andy Uba; one time senator representing Enugu North Senatorial zone, Mr Fidelis Okoro and many others.

 

Yet, there are feelers to the effect that the serving PDP governors, including Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and David Umahi of Ebonyi State are nursing intentions of switching to the ruling party, a situation that could mark the death of PDP in the zone.

 

Prior to, and during the 2015 general election, it was almost a taboo to mention the All Progressive Congress (APC) in most states of the South East Geopolitical Zone, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) with former president, Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate, had unassailable support; the only APC governor, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State had to go the extra mile to retain his seat. For many, the only alternative to the PDP was the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA)

 

In Abia State where the alleged poor performance of the two previous governors: Mr. Kalu who was in charge from 1999 to 2007 and Senator T.A Orji who succeeded him and was at the helm till 2015 ensured that the PDP remained unpopular, and nearly lost to APGA’s candidate, Dr. Alex Otti. In fact, in the opinion of many, Otti actually won, but was outmaneuvered by the PDP. Yet, for presidency, not even Chief Chekwas Okorie, an indigene of the state who was running under the platform of the United Progressive Party (UPP) could pose a challenge to Jonathan.

 

Surprisingly however, two years after the party lost power at centre, there is mass exodus of key political leaders to the APC and, PDP’s future in a zone it held sway since 1999 is very much uncertain. According to Chief Goddy Uwazurike, president emeritus of Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga, the defectors are marabou politicians and not men of substance.

 

“I can only call those who are abandoning their party to join the APC marabou politicians or sojourners or trespassers,” he said

 

“They are not men of substance, in the sense that an elder does not leave his family in the house and pack into the house of his neighbour because the food there is more sumptuous. No, an elder can visit, but will come back and maintain his dignity.

 

“I understand their reasoning that they want to bring the Igbo into main stream politics. I really don’t know what that one means, the Yoruba were for many years, on the other side, they didn’t bulge; they didn’t have people telling them to come and ‘chop.’ So, let us be realistic, we must take ourselves serious before other people take us serious.”

 

 

There are a number motivating factors for the defectors: The urge to escape the beaming searchlight of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), known to go hard on members of opposition parties, but soft on APC members; the intention to get a share of appointments and other favours from the federal government as aptly stated by Nwobodo who explained that he was joining the APC because he “never got appointment from PDP even as a founder.”

 

According to him, “Looters came and drove all of us away. I belonged to a party that brought about the death of Savanna Bank but things will change for good. I have no regret joining APC because all my progressive friends are there.”

 

Another motivation seems to be the prospect of the APC fielding an Igbo presidential candidate in 2023, but for some, it is simply because PDP had failed the South East, and Ndigbo cannot afford to play opposition politics.

 

“The point is that we cannot play opposition politics because of the way the county is structured. The country is structured to put Ndigbo nowhere, and therefore we are incapacitated,” said Chief Anselm Njoku, leader South East APC Forum, Lagos who himself was originally in PDP.

 

“We cannot play opposition as long as the Nigerian federation as it is today is concerned,” he continued. “The Igbo should embrace APC, not only because we cannot play opposition but also because APC has the best manifesto among all the parties.

 

“We tried the PDP and it failed us woefully. We were not only marginalized in human capital development, we were also marginalized in infrastructural development. The 16 years of PDP rule was a disappointment to Ndigbo. Look at our federal roads, our support for PDP has been in vain. The Igbo should embrace APC, it has a better manifesto and can cater to the interest of Ndigbo,” he concluded.

 

Another defector, the immediate past speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly who lost out to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in the PDP primary in 2014, Hon Eugene Odo, said he found succour in the APC, which according to him, is striving to encourage people from the South East to join.

 

“The beauty of democracy is the ventilation of ideas and we have found succour in the APC,” he said. “Part of the attraction is the fact that APC is striving hard to encourage our people in the South-East to join the party.”

 

To be sure, the APC remains largely unpopular among the generality of the people in the South East, especially given the perceived dislike of the Igbo by President Muhammadu Buhari as evident in the neglect of the zone in key appointments, but more particularly, the prolonged incarceration of Mr Nnamdi Kanu, the acclaimed leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), such that any elected official who joins the APC today, faces a huge odd of losing in subsequent elections if it were to be strictly free and fair, but in Nigeria, a lot depends on federal might and the power of incumbency.

 

Hence, despite its unpopularity with the masses, the party is oozing out confidence and are optimistic of dismantling the PDP in 2019

 

“I can assure you that before the end of June this year, it will be difficult to recognise PDP anywhere in Enugu state,” stated Hon Odo. The PDP has created a big burden to local politicians and what we now have in Enugu state PDP are temporal landlords,” he boasted.

 

Speaking in similar manner, Hon Hycenth Ngwu, the spokesperson for the APC in Enugu said the party had what it takes to dismantle the PDP in the South East in 2019.

 

“When it comes to politics, APC has the capacity to take over the South East in 2019 and perform better.”

 

Ngwu had explained that the APC were mobilizing massively and that the turnout had been good, while expressing happiness that people like Nwobodo, whom he said was a great mobilizer had joined. the insisted that the APC will, in no time, take over the state and indeed the South East.

 

“Since 1999, no politician has ever become anything in Enugu State without assistance from Nwobodo. Jim coming into the party is a big plus, many people are now moving with him because they see him as a good mobiliser.

 

“In Amechi where we are doing registration, there are over three hundred people waiting in queues to register.” Asked how the party hopes to excel in the zone despite its seeming poor performance at the national level, Ugwu insisted that the party has not failed.

 

“It depends on perception,” he said. “For mature minds, they believe that the APC has done well. Nigeria was almost dead in the hands of PDP, so they are coming to the APC to help salvage Nigeria.

 

The upcoming 2018 governorship election in Anambra State will be critical to APC’s quest. The incumbent APGA governor, Chief Willie Obiano will be up against the APC which now parades Senator Uba, Senator Uche Ekwunife, Mr Tony Nwoye, Dr Chris Ngige, Labour Minister and a host of others, and the PDP with former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka as its front line candidate.

 

Judging by testimonies of people across the state, Obiano remains favorite to retain his seat, but if the APC can cause an upset, it will not only mark the beginning of the end for APGA, but also signal a gradual demise of the PDP.

 

The PDP is equally confident, nonetheless. A Chieftain of the party in Ebonyi State, Chief Abia Onyike insisted that with Buhari as president, the APC will not make any headway in the South East.

 

“APC cannot make an inroad into Igbo land with Buhari as the president because of his sectarian mentality and fundamentalist posturing,” he said, noting that he was at a loss as to why Nnamani left the party.

 

“Nwobodo reason is that he never got any appointment since he joined the party, and his bank (Savannah Bank) was grounded under Obasanjo. But in the case of Nnamani, I don’t know why he did it.”

 

Another member of the party, Mr John Eze shares similar views. “The APC is not a threat, they don’t have followers, the youths are more aware than before,” he said. “The fact that Nnamani and others are joining the party (APC) does not have any effect on the PDP.”

 

“APC is not making any impact in the state, which has more to do with the way the governor is handling the state, continued Mr Eze.There is no serious opposition yet. The APC is still trying to organize themselves at the state and local government levels,  but at the ward level, no way.”

 

Meanwhile, the zone’s chapter of the opposition party has told Chime and former Ebonyi State governor, Chief Martin Elechi, who had also defected to the APC that he won’t be missed, describing their decision as wild goose chase predicated on selfish interests and ingratitude to the party on whose platform they won elections and served their people for eight years.

 

Mr Austin Umahi, the South East zonal chairman of the party said this while addressing journalists at the party’s Secretariat in Enugu

 

“We are not deterred by the defection within the party. It is not a serious issue of discourse. I have traversed all the states within the zone and it is now clear that the PDP has taken over the South East,” he said.

 

“The governors within the zone are performing, democracy has been rebranded as it is no longer cock and bull story. If you go to Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia states, you will discover massive road construction works that are ongoing. Ebonyi is gradually becoming like the Dubai of the South East. In Abia 25 roads construction work are ongoing.

 

 

“Igbo are being marginalised and that issue must be addressed. South east have no regret for voting PDP in 2015, Aso rock is our possession and we will repossess it. Will Imo people ever boast with the type of government in Imo?

 

“The answer is no, people want to see what’s on ground and not propaganda. Anambra people will spring surprises; that type of political marriage is over in Anambra, we are positioned and strategized to move the country forward,” he concluded.

 

 

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