Magnus Eze, Enugu, George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly polls will be fiercely contested in the South East because of the level of interest generated in the region.
Although the presidential contest is a straight fight between President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the battle for the National Assembly seats; particularly the senate, would be more or less determined by the credentials; stature and character of the candidates.
People are keen to know how senators for some of the senatorial districts would emerge. In Anambra South, two brothers-Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (APC) and Chris Ubah (PDP) are expected to slug it out; Nicholas Ukachukwu of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and billionaire businessman, Dr. Ifeanyi Uba of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), are slugging it out.
Other senatorial districts of interest are those involving former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu of APC (Abia North); Governor Rochas Okorocha of APC (Imo West) as well as Deputy President of the Senate; Ike Ekweremadu of PDP (Enugu West).
The APC, PDP and APGA, just like in most South East states are strong in Abia State. The focus would be on Abia North where former governor, Kalu; the incumbent senator, Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP) and Chief David Onuoha (APGA) are poised for war.
The trio contested for the position in 2015; then, Kalu was candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). But the political dynamics are no more the same especially with the strong presence of the ruling APC in the state today.
Kalu who has run a very robust campaign in all the five Local Government Areas of Isikwuato, Umunneochi, Bende, Arochukwu and Ohafia is tipped to win the race.
A recently conducted opinion poll by a civil society organisation, “Selfless Project,” favoured Kalu whose strength is his track record while in office as governor of the state.
The research gave Kalu 55 percent followed by Onuoha, who scored 25 percent and the candidate of the PDP; Ohuabunwa ranked third, polling 20 percent.
Coordinator of the research group, Mr. Daniel Agwu after explaining the research methodology said: “The APC candidate’s general acceptability across Abia North senatorial zone is remarkable. Most of the people could not hide their love for Kalu as they recalled his achievements as governor including free education, free medical scheme and sports development (victory of Enyimba FC in CAF Champions League).”
He added that Kalu’s political followership at the grassroots brightens his chances of winning the election. According to the poll, whereas the APGA candidate has massive support in his homestead, Abariba, and his party in Arochukwu where Alex Otti, the governorship candidate of the party has his root; but these factors are not enough to give him victory.
It was gathered that Ohuabunwa’s four years in the senate has not been remarkable. In fact, the poll stated that “he is not popular because he has failed to deliver the dividends of democracy to his constituents and coupled with the unpopular policies of the PDP-led Abia State government, Abians are wary of PDP candidates across the state.”
In Abia Central; former senator of the area, Nkechi Nwogu (APC); Senator Theodore Orji (PDP) and Chief Chidi Ajaegbu (APGA) are the candidates to watch.
Chief T.A. Orji’s abysmal representation coupled with his uneventful years as governor has become his albatross. Nwogu who boasts of a rich political history beginning from her years in the House of Representatives looks good to emerge victorious.
The Chairman of the University of Calabar Governing Council is also hoping to garner large number of votes from the women.
The situation in Abia South is also interesting with Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP) who is gunning for a fourth term in the red chamber facing former Managing Director of the defunct Hallmark Bank, Chief Marc Wabara (APC) and Chief Chris Nkwonta (APGA).
Ukwa has two Local Government Areas while Ngwa has four in the zone; Wabara and Nkwonta both hail from Ukwa East Local Government Area while Abaribe is from Obingwa.
On paper, it is a done deal for Abaribe but the issue of equity will come to play in the election. Besides, while the candidate of APC for the House of Representatives seat in Aba, Mascot Kalu is expected to buoy Wabara’s votes there; Nkwonta would be counting on the performance of the incumbent; Ossy Prestige; widely believed to have done well.
The leading contenders for Anambra Central are Senator Victor Umeh (APGA); Senator Uche Ekwunife (PDP) and Chief Sylvester Okonkwo (APC); while those for Anambra North are: Senator Stella Oduah (PDP); Prince Chinedu Emeka (APGA) and Senator Margery Okadigbo (APC).
There would definitely be a repeat of the 2015 epic battle between Umeh and Ekwunife. However, how Anambra people vote in the presidential election, where former governor, Peter Obi is running mate to Atiku Abubakar of PDP may influence the results.
But all eyes would be on Anambra South where Ifeanyi Uba, his brother, Chris; Ukachukwu and Ifeanyi Ubah are on the ballot. The YPP is expected to pull some surprises in the zone particularly in Nnewi where Ifeanyi Ubah and the presidential candidate of the party; Prof. Kingsley Moghalu come from. It would sure be a titanic one for the gladiators.
Ebonyi politics is totally different from other South-East sates; it is strictly a two horse race between PDP and APC. Before now; it would have been a one-party show for the PDP which has controlled politics there for 20 years. But in this year’s elections, it will be a different ball game.
It will take some miracle for former governor and senator representing Ebonyi North, Dr. Sam Egwu to return to the red chamber. He is from Ohaukwu Local Government Area; a minority clan in the state; but his main opponent, Chief Mathias Adum (APC) would aside other factors be flying on the sentiment that his Izzi clan that constitutes the Abakaliki, Ebonyi and Izzi Local Government Areas, deserved representation in the senate.
Similarly, the chairman, Senate Committee on Sports, Senator Obinna Ogba (PDP) may also suffer the same fate as the Ezza clan who have the numbers in Ebonyi Central insist that one of their own should occupy the seat. Erstwhile Chairman, Senate Committee on Works; Julius Ucha of the APC sure has some advantage here.
However, the situation is clearly different in Ebonyi South where Governor David Umahi and his APC rival, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji hail from. Incidentally, the senatorial candidate of the PDP, Michael Nnachi comes from Edda, Afikpo South; same council as Ogbuoji; while the APC candidate; Prince Onu Nwaeze comes from Uburu, Ohaozara as Umahi.
The respective strengths of Umahi and Ogbuoji as well as the capacity of other National Assembly candidates in the zone will determine the results of the national legislature elections there.
It was actually a dicey one for the PDP in Enugu East until its candidate; former governor, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani returned to the country late last year. His return after a long stay abroad automatically changed the political equation of the state.
Many people believe that the candidate of the APC, Prince Lawrence Ezeh, popularly called Prince of Mburumbu, who vied for the PDP ticket but lost and quickly switched over to his current party is no match to the leader of Ebeano political group. The recent return to the PDP by former governor of Old Anambra state, Chief Jim Nwobodo is also a big plus for the party.
Enugu North, where former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Eugene Odo (APC) will be slugging it out with the incumbent; Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP); is also the senatorial district of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and the APC governorship hopeful, Senator Ayogu Eze. Their presence will make it a tough battle there but the odds seem to favour Utazi.
In Enugu West, Ekweremadu who is seeking a fifth term is facing a fierce duel with an amazon; Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu (APC). He also has a political war horse, Chief Gbazueagu Nweke Gbazueagu (GNG) of APGA to contend with. While the deputy senate president, from the Greater Awgu bloc of the senatorial district flaunts his scorecard; Ibekaku-Nwagwu who until recently was Special Assistant to the President on Justice Sector Reform, insists that he has not done well.
But Ekweremadu believes he has given a good account of himself. Speaking when the people presented him with a nomination form last year, he said “I reflected on my past engagements with the people of Enugu West and I was satisfied that, by the grace of God, we were able to make so many improvements in the lives of our people. I reflected on my next move and the available options. One option is to come back to you in Enugu and run my Foundation, which will give me opportunity to mentor young men and women in leadership. The second is probably to go to a university and take a fulltime academic job and also try to mentor young people in school. And behold my people came calling. My people, my primary employers have spoken. I have no choice than to humbly accept to run for the Senate again.
Tension in Imo has reached a feverish pitch as political observers in the state see Saturday’s poll as precursor to the governorship election.
Imo West (Orlu) senatorial district where Governor Rochas Okorocha, the APC governorship candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma and Senator Osita Izunaso (APGA) come from, offers a spectacular scenario.
Okorocha’s son-in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu, who is the flag bearer of Action Alliance (AA) in the state, is also from Orlu zone. There is serious confusion there as Uzodinma is not supporting his party’s candidate (Okorocha) even as the latter is not backing the former’s gubernatorial bid.
What is not known is whether Uzodinma has a secret pact with Izunaso since both of them belonged to the same political coalition in Imo APC before Izunaso headed to APGA.
Regardless, two-time member of House of Representatives; Jones Onyeriri of the PDP has shown that he is not a pushover. He would be relying on his well-oiled political structure across the zone and achievements in the Green Chamber to possibly swing the votes in his favour. Most importantly, he is a man with deep pocket.
For Okorocha, with all the levers of power; losing the senatorial seat would be a big blow to him and Nwosu’s governorship quest. The two other zones-Owerri and Okigwe may not be as competitive as the forgoing but the influence of the governorship candidates of PDP and APGA; Emeka Ihedioha and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, respectively, are very visible there.
Political watchers are wont to believe that the PDP candidate, Ezenwa Onyewuchi would win the zone. Currently a two-term member of the House of Representatives for Owerri Federal constituency, he can boast of substantial votes from Owerri Municipal, Owerri West and Owerri North. He has clear advantage over Mike Nwachukwu (APGA) and Emmanuel Ojinere (APC), who was commissioner in Okorocha’s cabinet, from Mbaise, Ihedioha’s place.
Those jostling for the Okigwe senatorial seat are Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu (APC), Charles Oyirimba (APGA) and Patrick Ndubueze (PDP).
Ordinarily, it should be an easy one for Uwajumogu but the crisis in his party which led to the emergence of AA in the state would definitely affect him since he is no more on the same page with the governor. Okorocha’s backing enabled him defeat Senator Athan Achonu of the PDP after a rerun in 2016. But now, he would have to battle with the candidates of APGA and the PDP if he is to return to the upper legislative chamber in June.