From Magnus Eze, Enugu
As next year’s general elections draw closer, there are permutations on where the pendulum will swing for the elective positions.
In Enugu State, the Presidential poll is a straight fight between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that is in control of the state and the Labour Party (LP). However, it might not be the same for the governorship race as the All Progressives Congress (APC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) are also making some effort.
It is understandable why things look up there for the Labour Party’s standard bearer, Mr. Peter Obi. He is from the South East where the people have longed for the post of president of Nigeria and campaigned for it at the highest political level. Virtually all Igbo groups joined the campaign led by Ohanaeze Ndigbo for a person from the zone to emerge president.
Though the aspiration was not realised in the two major parties; PDP and APC, the emergence of Obi as standard bearer of the Labour Party has no doubt rekindled their spirit and given vent to the clamour for a president of Nigeria from the South East. The national acclaim that came with the Obi’s candidacy in LP has been unprecedented in Nigeria’s recent political history.
Truth, is that the APC has no significant footing in Enugu State, so, its Presidential candidate; Bola Tinubu, will be a hard sell, not minding that the likes of former governor Chimaroke Nnamani and Josef Onoh, son of Chief Christian Onoh, former governor of Old Anambra State, have lined up behind the ex-Lagos State governor.
Indications are that even the abysmal performance of President Muhammadu Buhari in the state in 2015 and 2019, may be far better than Tinubu’s in 2023. Already, the APC is in tatters in the state with many of their chieftains not identifying with the Ugochukwu Agballah-led executives.
Notables like Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, former Governor Sullivan Chime, Senator Ayogu Eze, Juliet Ibekaku, former Gombe State military administrator, Group Capt. Joe Orji (Rtd), and many others, would treat the party leadership in the state with long spoon.
Governorship candidate of the LP in Enugu State, Chijioke Edeoga, explained that Obi’s popularity was occasioned by the national calamity that has arisen in the course of the reigns of the PDP and APC since 1999. According to him, this has made it inevitable that a new order must be created or else Nigeria will collapse.
“And the consensus is that new order is revolving around Peter Obi; the presidency of Peter Obi, the vitality of Peter Obi, the energy of Peter Obi, the enthusiasm of Peter Obi, the brilliance of Peter Obi. The national consensus is that the PDP has failed, the APC has failed and Enugu is part of this national consensus,” Edeoga stated.
But, the Director General of Capt. Evarest Nnaji’s Odengene Governorship Campaign Organisation, whose principal is challenging Edeoga’s gubernatorial ticket in court, said the crisis in the party would be of grave implications to Obi’s electoral fortunes in the state.
Explaining the issue, Ezirigwe said that it has the tendency of rubbing off on “our fortunes going forward because the undeniable fact is that in every family, there are persons referred to as black sheep of the family,” and the activities of these people “can expose your family to public opprobrium and ridicule and stigma. That’s what we are currently witnessing in the Labour Party in Enugu State.”
Even as many said that Enugu is not isolated from the national consensus for a new Nigeria, dispassionate political commentators are of the opinion that the state remains a traditional base of the PDP. For them, no other party has posed a threat to the PDP in Enugu State in the past 23 years.
Aside being the home of PDP, there is a strong belief that Enugu State Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi actually holds the ace when it comes to how the presidential poll will go in the state.
Ugwuanyi belongs to the group of five aggrieved governors of the PDP led by Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike. The G-5 as the group is called and their supporters have made some demands, one of which being that they would not back the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar unless the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, resigned.
The G-5’s insistence on having its way has really thrown spanner in the works for Atiku as he is likely to be trounced in Abia, Benue, Enugu, Oyo and Rivers, if these governors make good their threat. Painfully, the PDP had before this period, been invincible in Abia, Enugu and Rivers States.
Regarding the situation in Enugu State; the people seem to be sold for the PDP governorship and several other positions including the Enugu North Senatorial District, where Ugwuanyi is the party’s candidate.
Not a few strongly believe that the PDP winning machine is still potent in the state. Some people also said that the governor’s scorecard will be a big asset to the party and would invariably boost its chances in the state.
Secretary General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezeugwu said Gov. Ugwuanyi’s track record of performance will speak for him.
He insisted that the people of the state, particularly Enugu North zone where the governor is vying to become their senator will not forget in a haste his achievements in office as governor.
He said: “The truth is that because of certain political interests, one or two individuals may not want to support you. But when it comes to performance as a governor based on available resources, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has done well in education, infrastructure, health, rural development, and so on. His commitment to workers’ welfare was significant as a governor who paid thirteen months’ salaries as a bonus to motivate workers. So, to answer your question directly, the governor will win. He has no rival in the Enugu North Senatorial election in 2023.
“So, anyone blinded by certain political convenience and does not want to see that Governor Ugwuanyi has done well for the Nsukka zone can suit himself or herself. The majority who are standing with Governor Ugwuanyi in Nsukka zone will have their way while the minority will have their say in 2023.”
A PDP chieftain who preferred not to be named expressed concern over the lingering face-off between the G-5 and the party’s presidential candidate. He, however, noted that Ugwuanyi is the leader of the party in the South East, and for that reason, his influence will determine a lot for the party in not just Enugu State, but the zone as a whole.