From Magnus Eze (Enugu), Okey Sampson (Umuahia), George Onyejiuwa (Owerri) and Chijioke Agwu (Abakaliki)
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated the states in the Southeast since 1999. The coming of the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not really make much impact, though the party controlled Imo State under Rochas Okorocha.
The APC may not have done very well in the 2019 presidential election in the zone, but its candidate managed to secure 25 per cent in Abia, Ebonyi and Imo states, but failed woefully in Anambra and Enugu states.
However, that was in 2019. Ahead of the 2023 general election, where a son of the soil, Mr Peter Obi is a major presidential candidate, a bill the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, says the former Anambra State governor clearly fits, the people of the zone believe that in Obi, they would produce a president for Nigeria.
The implication is that Obi’s platform, the Labour Party, has become an albatross, for the APC and PDP in the presidential election in the Southeast.
In Abia State, the PDP, despite being the ruling party in the state, does not constitute any impediment to Obi’s presidential bid.
Abia residents said that they are Obi-dients as they are seriously routing for the Labour Party’s presidential candidate.
The Obidients’ wave in Abia is such that even some politicians contesting election on the platform of the PDP, want to be part of the Peter Obi Movement because they believe that could be the only way to have their way at the polls.
The popularity of the LP in Abia, outside the Obi factor, is made more pronounced by the emergence of Dr Alex Otti, as its governorship candidate.
Otti, in many quarters, is believed to be the man that won the 2015 governorship election in the state, but could not be declared winner as a result of circumstances of that time.
Before the ex-bank chief joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2014, the party was in tatters in the state, but Otti turned things around, so much that after the 2015 election, APGA won 11 out of the 24 seats in the state House of Assembly.
There is no doubt that Otti has brought the same magic wand he took to APGA to Labour Party.
There are also other political heavyweights in the PDP in the state who are now in Labour Party. They have sworn to deliver the state to the Labour Party. Some of them include Darlington Nwokeocha of the House of Representatives, and Ginger Onwusibe of Abia State House of Assembly.
The fortunes of LP in the presidential poll may be buoyed by the faceoff between the PDP standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar and the G-5 Governors of the party.
In this case, if the Abia governor, Okezie Ikpeazu and his Enugu State counterpart, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, sustain the position not to work for Atiku, Mr Obi might become the ultimate beneficiary.
The situation in Enugu is 70-30 for Obi and other contestants. If the ballot holds today, Obi of LP will grab not less than 70 per cent of votes in Enugu State.
Ebonyi is unpredictable
As at today, no one can confidently predict where the pendulum will swing because of the attempt by Governor David Umahi to close the state for APC candidate, Bola Tinubu. For Governor Umahi, the people of Ebonyi State are only obedient to Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the APC.
However, before now, Ebonyi had always been a strong PDP state, where all its candidates, won elections, from Presidency to House of Assembly with little efforts to the chagrin of other political parties.
The trend had remained unchallenged from 1999 to 2019 when the last round of general elections held.
This was so mainly because the sitting governor and all principal political office holders in the state had always been of the PDP, but the trend appears to be changing with the defection of Governor Umahi from the PDP to the APC.
The defection, which took place in 2020 came as a serious shock to many citizens of the state and followers of the politics of the state.
Giving reasons for his defection, Umahi cited his former party’s long marginalization of the Southeast and other sundry issues.
Notably, since that defection, the politics of Ebonyi took a different outlook. For the first time since 1999, PDP became an opposition party in the state.
As things stand, the PDP, APC and LP look forward to a titanic battle in Ebonyi. This is because findings showed that Ebonyi voting population is far from being independent-minded as the majority of them still pander to financial inducement, party loyalty or stakeholders’ influence. And this is where the LP will have serious challenge.
Umahi during Tinubu’s campaign in Abakaliki on November 24, boasted that there was no other party in Ebonyi except APC.
In Imo, the political complexion of the state has been significantly altered with Mr Obi’s emergence as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party.
Some of the aspirants of the PDP, and those who were “harmonised” out in the ruling APC, in the state, moved over to Labour Party to realise their aspirations.
The Obi phenomenon has energized not only the party, but the youths in the state as some of the prominent politicians and businessmen in the state have thrown their weight behind Peter Obi.
The likes of Mr Frank Nneji of ABC Transport, General Jack Ogunewe (rtd), Dr David Mbaram, Chief Ike Ibe, Chief Chuks Ololo, Mike Ejiogu, Charles Onyirimba, among others, have all joined the Obi-dient Movement to ensure the success of Mr Peter Obi in the presidential election in the state.
A group, Save Imo Movement, led by Innocent Amadi as part of the “Obi-dient’’ Movement has established coordinators in all 27 councils of the state, to protect the votes of the Labour Party candidates during the presidential and National Assembly polls in the state.
However, the gains of LP have been the loss of APC. Many aspirants and stakeholders, including the likes of Dr Kemdi Opara, Chief Jerry Chukwueke, Chief Sylvester Ugochukwu, Chief Kingsley Ononuju, Fabian Ihekweme, Dr Vitalis Ajumbe and even the wife of the Ondo State Governor, Betty Anyanwu- have all left the APC in the state.
In fact, Chief Charles Ahize, an ally of Governor Uzodimma, who was initially the Orlu Senatorial District aspirant under the APC, is now the LP candidate.
Also, with the exception of Chike Okafor and Princess Mariam Onuoha, both members of House of Representatives, all other serving National Assembly members elected on the platform of the APC in 2019 have abandoned the party.
Similarly, other chieftains like Chief Martins Agbaso also dumped APC for Labour Party. It is also noteworthy that former Governor Rochas Okorocha, and and his supporters have been shut out of the APC in the state. The same for Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, who Governor Uzodimma was alleged to have torpedoed his appointment as the board chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Truth is that the APC candidate, Tinubu will be a hard sell in Imo, just as the dogfight between former Governor Emeka Ihedioha group and supporters of the PDP National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, will also affect the chances of Atiku Abubakar in the state.
A chieftain of the APC in the state who does not want his name on print said:
“As it is today, if an election is conducted, the APC will not win because those who have the political clout in their areas to influence the voters have abandoned the party.
“So, the biggest threat we have is the Labour Party. Now, you can’t wish away the likes of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, who has a firm grip of Okigwe zone. The governor has also fallen out with the likes of Chief Sylvester Ugochukwu (Ugo Sly), Chief Jerry Chukwueke, Dr Kemdi Opara, Chief Martins Agbaso and many others. So, how would the party fare in the state especially with the elections fast approaching?”
Obi not invincible in Anambra – PDP
Ordinarily, Anambra State is the home of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), but that is not for the presidential election.
In 2023, Peter Obi is expected to have a very wonderful showing in his home state of Anambra. Unfortunately, the state governor, Chukwuma Soludo, recently predicted that Obi might not win the election.
Soludo in a letter to the LP standard bearer indicated that he was not even reckoning with the presidential candidate of his party, APGA, Prof Peter Umeadi, who also hails from the state.
The governor instead tipped either PDP or APC to win the presidency.
Dispassionate opinion in Anambra showed that the electorate would vote massively for Obi, even as several political chieftains in the state belong to the PDP.
Attempt by the Director General of the Presidential Campaign Council of the PDP in the state, Prof Obiora Okonkwo and his team to market Atiku Abubakar, has not been widely embraced in the state.
Okonkwo is upbeat that an Atiku president would pave way for a person of Southeast origin to be come president after 2023.
However, the likes of Senator Ben Obi, Senator Uche Ekwunife, Prof ABC Nwosu, Mrs Josephine Anenih, Chief Chris Uba, and Senator Stella Oduah, among others, believe that their influence would still garner votes for Atiku.
The truth is that Atiku has brighter chances in Anambra than Tinubu of the APC, as the latter will struggle into the election in the state.
Be that as it may, findings showed that Anambra people would not abandon their son, Peter Obi. Many say that it will be an opportunity to show him love for his sterling performance as governor of the state for eight years.