Magnus Eze, Enugu
Ahead of 2023 general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East has started preparations and even boasted that it would clinch three of the five governorship seats in the zone.
The party at its first enlarged stakeholders’ meeting this year, held at the Uburu, Ohaozara country home of Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, in Ebonyi State on January 2, sounded it clearly that it was not leaving anything to chance any longer.
Speakers after speaker dwelt on the prospects of the APC in the zone being given what they described as their wonderful showing in the last general election.
Notable APC chieftains at the Uburu meeting were Minister of State for Education, Chief Emeka Nwajiuba, his Mines and Steel Development counterpart, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah, former Enugu state Governor, Sullivan Chime, Deputy Whip of House of Representatives, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha and member representing Ezza South/Ikwo Federal Constituency, Ebonyi State; Chinedu Ogah.
Others were Senator Ayogu Eze, Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Chief George Moghalu, former Labour and Productivity Minister, Dr. Emeka Wogu, Chief Sam Nkire, former Managing Director of Hallmark Bank, Chief Marc Wabara, Chairman, Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Chief Elias Mbam and National Organising Secretary of APC, Chief Emma Ibediro.
Onu who said that the party would govern the country for a long time, noted that it has the potential of producing three governors, controlling State Houses of Assembly in at least three states in the zone and winning a majority of the National assembly seats, if it puts its house in order and do away with factions.
He said though the zone recorded the least number of votes in the last general election for the President, that it however, had the highest percentage increase when compared to the votes of 2015.
The APC last year lost Imo State, the only state it controlled in the region, to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the general elections.
Four of the five states in the region; Abia, Ebonyi, Imo and Enugu, are controlled by the PDP while Anambra is in the kitty of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
The minister said for the target to be achieved, the party leaders in the zone must come together to strategically reposition it, ahead of 2023 general elections.
He, therefore, urged aggrieved members to forgive one another in the spirit of Christianity so as to forge a common front ahead of the next general elections.
“I will like to appeal to all our members in the South East, please no matter how the party offended you, no matter what any person may have done against you, please try and forgive because all of us are Christians. We believe very strongly when offended if we forgive that we are lifting even a great burden from ourselves.
“We no longer want to have factions, we have seen that in Nigeria, the APC is the governing party and this party is very strong and will keep governing Nigeria for a long time to come.
“But in the South East geo-political zone, we are the only zone without a governor elected on the platform of APC.
“So, we want a change. We have our best people representing us at the National Working Committee of our great party; they have been giving us good leadership and we believe very strongly that if we keep supporting them, with what I have seen, by 2023, we should be aiming at a minimum of three governors elected on the platform of the APC.
“We will have majority of the seats in the National Assembly from the South East. We will also have majority of the seats at the state assemblies in our various states so that we will be producing a minimum of three speakers. Once we do this, it will help us, nobody will ever say that the South East does not make contributions to the party,” Onu said.
The meeting agreed that one other way of burrowing deeper in the region is by trumpeting the achievements of the President Muhammadu Buhari government in the area.
The leaders alleged that some PDP governors in the zone were taking the glory for achievements of the Buhari administration, citing recent inspection of ongoing reconstruction work at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu by Enugu State governor and some PDP House of Representatives members.
Informing that there was low publicity in the media for programmes, projects and policies carried out in the zone by the APC-led Federal Government; they added that people in the South East believed that the PDP leaders were the ones executing the projects.
“Our achievements are not known by the people. There are so many things the Buhari regime has achieved, but our people know little or nothing about them. This is why it is appears the current Federal Government under Buhari has done nothing in Igbo land. This must not continue.
“Think of the Enugu International Airport, that the President released N10 billion for its repair. We may not know the importance of this project until it is fully completed. The Minister of Aviation has given us his words that by Easter this year, the airport will be up and running. This will boost the economy of the South-east region, among other benefits.
“Think about the Second Niger Bridge. The president said he is not going to play politics with that project like the PDP government did in 16 years. So, let’s continue to sing our praises and let our people know what the government is doing for us in this zone. This is important so that the opposition party (the PDP) will not take our glory,” the minister stated.
In the same manner, a former governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, blamed leaders of the party in the zone for not adequately flaunting the landmark projects of the party across the region.
Chime said: “What excites me is what comes to South East in terms of developmental projects; not what positions come to us. A lot is happening under this Federal Government, but our people don’t know about them. There was a surprise in this festive period. As a matter of fact, one can drive from Enugu to Aba, hitch-free without some traffic hurdles. Although there are some portions of the road that are still bad, but it’s better than what we had before.
“The PDP is taking glory for the achievements of the APC government. Something they could not do in 16 years, now those things are being done and they are now posing as if they are the ones doing them. We need to create a lot of awareness to let our people know what is going on.
“Take the case of Akanu Ibiam International airport; it is being reconstructed by the APC Government. So, I want us even during this period to visit there. I had seen where PDP people had gone to the airport to inspect work there, they took photographs and out there people are thinking that the project is being done by the PDP. Even in my area (Enugu West), there is a federal road project going on that people argue that it is state government project.”
For the National Vice Chairman, South East, Chief Emma Eneukwu, the only solution to the problems of the party in the zone is peace and unity.
He was upbeat that the zone could make demand on the party for the presidency as the time approached but warned that the whole thing would amount to naught if their house was not in order. He called for more work, diplomacy, unity, fence mending, in-house reflections; and above all, “we position ourselves for that.”
Although they deferred the issue of 2023 presidency to a later date but Deputy Whip, Nkeiru Onyejeocha asked that they began to build alliances with other zones, ahead of time since the zone cannot do it alone.
Interestingly, the 5th World Igbo Summit which came on the heels of the APC zonal meeting harped on the need for the Igbo to push harder for the 2023 presidency.
Igbo leaders rose from the crucial meeting at Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State January 2nd – 4th, with a resolve to pursue both restructuring of Nigeria and the emergence of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction as they were not mutually exclusive.
They also asked other ethnic nationalities and zones, to as a matter of justice, equity and fairness support the emergence of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023.
The event was attended by eminent Igbo sons and daughters including President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, former Chief of General Staff, Navy Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (Rtd), former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the United States of America, Prof. George Obiozor, and former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
Others were former Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, former Minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nebo and President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, and so on.
The summit noted that there were three options left for Nigeria’s survival, which the country has to choose from, namely; to retain the dysfunctional status quo, to balkanize the country through a rash of successions and to reset or restructure the country to its federal origin.
It said the Igbo have cause to lead the campaign for a restructured Nigeria, stressing that the process should start with the restructuring of the social, cultural, political and economic systems of Alaigbo.
The summit further noted that the Igbo as one of the tripods of the country have not produced a President and hence identified the urgent need to resume the outreach programme to other ethnic nationalities and zones of the country with a view to achieving support for the Nigerian President of Igbo extraction and restructuring of Nigeria.
Therefore, the leadership of Ohanaeze was mandated to constitute a high-powered lobby group for the project.
According to the communiqué by Prof. George Obiozor, National Coordinator, and Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, Director General, of the summit group, the President-General of Ohanaeze should in consultation with Ime-Obi constitute a Pan-Igbo organizing committee to develop and pursue a sustainable strategic plan of action for the “handshake outreach” across Nigeria.
Meanwhile, one other issue that dominated deliberations at the APC stakeholders’ zonal meeting was the party’s reward system.
Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah said henceforth, that appointments should not go to outsiders or bystanders. “This time around, for any persons to be appointed, the National Vice Chairman should ensure that such persons get endorsement letters from the ward Chairmen,” he advised.
APC’s senatorial candidate for Abia South in the last election, Chief Marc Wabara could not agree less, even as he noted that the party needed discipline to win handsomely in the South East as being projected.
Wabara urged that instead of the intrigues and the quarrels, “We need peace in the APC. Even in the last election, unfortunately some of the so called chieftains in Abia State worked against the party and at the end of the day, any organization that does not sanction such attitude cannot make progress and that is what we talk about discipline. If somebody has breached the oath of office or his membership of the party, they should be bold enough to sanction them. Even spiritually, if you sin, there are consequences for that. But if you want to be forgiven at the end of the day, you must repent. So, we must have a system in the South East where we reward those who have performed and sanction those who have betrayed the party.”
Highpoint of the meeting was the reaffirmation of Onu as the national leader, South East Caucus of APC as well as readopting of Chief Emma Ibediro as National Organising Secretary of the party.
Chief Sam Nkire moved the motion reaffirming Ogbonnaya Onu as the zone’s national leader, while Amb. Fidel Ayogu seconded before it was publicly adopted by the House.
While the permutations go on, Daily Sun observed that several chieftains of the party shunned the meeting even though some of them sent apologies. Those conspicuously absent were former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani; Senator Rochas Okorocha, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chief Chris Ngige, his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of State for Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, as well as Senator Andy Uba.