Since 1999, when the country returned to participatory democracy, no election year has been so blistering and defying in Abia State as now. In previous election years apart from, perhaps, 2015 when the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) took Abia’s political firmament by the storm and gave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a good run for its money, it has been so hushed year-in year-out as one political party has always taken the centre stage with little or no opposition.
The ruling PDP has, in any other year, cruised to “victory” almost effortlessly. But from the look of things, 2019 is presenting a different picture. The 2019 election in Abia is looking like a three horse race game involving PDP, All Progressives Congress (APC) and APGA. However, the APC challenge is strong. With the caliber of candidates APC is fielding in various elective positions, many political watchers say the party is in good reckoning, better prepared for an upset in the elections.
In 2015, the governorship election in Abia was principally between the PDP and APGA. Notwithstanding APC, PPA and other political parties presented governorship candidates and participated in the election, but they, nevertheless, made little or no impact thereby making the race to be between PDP’s Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and APGA’s Dr. Alex Otti. At the end, Ikpeazu was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a result Otti contested to the Supreme Court where he eventually lost. He has not relented till date in telling anybody who cares to listen that he was robbed of victory in that election.
However, 2019 is presenting something poles apart. Not only that opposition in the state have grown bigger and stronger, but a party like APC that merely participated in the 2015 election in Abia, is now a strong contender, making the election a three horse race involving Gov. Ikpeazu (PDP), Dr. Otti (APGA) and Dr. Uche Sampson Ogah (APC).
Gov Ikpeazu (PDP)
Ikpeazu could be said to be a child of circumstance. His emergence as governor of Abia State in 2015 twigged from the massive year-long agitation of his Ukwa/Ngwa people over the Abia governorship slot. This made his election in 2015 to be seen as Ukwa/Ngwa project and they voted in masse for him. It is a known fact that it was votes from two local governments from that part of the state that gave him victory over his main rival, Otti, although it is believed that the result was padded.
However, whether that unity of purpose and the massive support he got from the axis in 2015 are still intact, is what is not yet clear as there appears to be discontentment even from his Obingwa Local Government and how effectual this is, will be known on March 2.
Ikpeazu’s supporters believe he has performed creditably, particularly when compared with his predecessor and that “his works will speak for him.” It is their thinking that he deserves a second term.
However, his opponents have a different view. They see his administration as one that has not only failed to provide basic infrastructure to the people of the state, but has also failed to pay workers salaries and pensions. They point to bad roads in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state. They cite the filthy environment occasioned by non-evacuation of refuse. They point to what people termed the “Ngwanisation” of government as the government has many Ngwa prople in his government.
Also now the Ukwa people want to take their destiny in their hands. They accused the Ngwa clan as cheating them, taking all the positions as yet claiming that there is Ukwa/Ngwa concord. They cite the fact that Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who represents Abia South Senatorial District and Governor Ikpeazu are from the same area, but they holding position for Ukwa/Ngwa. The Ukwa people no longer believe in the Ukwa/Ngwa affinity. This is why Chief Marc Wabara from Ukwa is vying for the Abia South Senatorial District, in an attempt to affirm the Ukwa claim to positions in the zone. Wabara is the senatorial candidate of the APC. The Ukwa people are therefore in support of APC in the coming elections.
Dr. Alex Otti, the consummate ex-banker, is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). In 2015, Otti contested the governorship seat against the incumbent and proved many bookmakers wrong. His supporters believed he won that election, but was rigged out. He brought novel impulsion to opposition in the state and fought the PDP to a stand still.
This time round, the APGA governorship candidate is in the governorship race with a great deal of vigour and appears prepared more than in 2015 when he was new-fangled in the Abia political turf. Otti is adopting new strategy in his campaign, which some people believe is paying off. He has continued wherever he goes on campaign to tell everybody who cares to listen that he has come to take back the mandate given to him in 2015, which he said was stolen by the PDP. Whether he will be able to achieve this will be known on March 2.
However, people say that he lost his chance in 2015 when there was massive opposition to the ex-Governor TA Orji and candidates he sponsored. That was why Otti got the massive support in 2015. This year, the factors that favoured Otti in 2015 are no longer there. For instance, there is no anti-TA Orji sentiment again in Abia election since the former governor is not seen as the sponsor of Governor Ikpeazu and therefore the APGA momentum is non-existence. Abia voters think the governorship race is between PDP and APC.
Uche Sampson Ogah (APC)
Dr. Uche Sampson Ogah who hails from Uturu in Isiukwuato Local Government is the President of Masters Energy Group. He is an eminent businessman who forayed into politics in 2014.
Ogah contested the 2014 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) contentious primaries where he was said to have come second. After contesting the result of the primaries and the consequent election result up to the Supreme Court, Ogah left the PDP for the All Progressives Congress (APC) where he clinched the party’s governorship ticket last year.
Ogah has a cult-like followership among the Abia electorate. Last year when the Court of Appeal ordered that he should be given Certificate of Return and sworn in as governor, following his case against Governor Ikpeazu, there was jubilation in Abia. At that time, Abia people were enthusiastic, which they showed when a mammoth crowd received him at Umuahia when he returned. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court eventual upturned the verdict, Ogah still enjoys tremendous support across the state. Many Abians believe that he is a good candidate, against the incumbent Governor Ikpeazu.
Ogah, who is from Abia North Senatorial District has given APC momentum in the guber race. Also the fact that former governor of Abia State and Abia North senatorial district candidate for APC, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, gives APC hope. In the race, APC has strong presence in Abia North, part of Abia South, with Ukwa support, and part of Abia Central, with the membership of people like Senator Nkechi Nwogu, Chief Benjamin B. Apugo and many others.
The senatorial race
As the governorship campaign in Abia is sweltering across the state and the chances of the frontrunner unfolding by the day, so also is that of candidates for the National Assembly in the three senatorial zones.
Abia South zone Senate seat is predominately among the APC’s Chief Marc Wabara, APGA’s Chief Chris Nkwonta and Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of the PDP.
Abaribe, the serving senator of the zone, has represented the area for 12 years and if equity being orchestrated by the zone, including the senator himself, should be respected, then PDP should have no chance at the polls. Abia South is made up of Ngwa and Ukwa blocs and Abaribe is from the former. The Ukwa people believe their Ngwa brothers having been in the Senate for straight 12 years should allow their people to go this time round. If this happens, it should then be a direct fight between Wabara and Nkwonta, both of who are from Ukwa East Local Government.
Filters from the area indicated that Wabara, an ex-banker, is not leaving any stone unturned at clinching the seat. He has visited many political leaders and traditional rulers from the area ,who gave him their blessings. Among the traditional rulers he visited is His Majesty, Eze Isaac Ikonne, who not only supported his course and gave him royal blessings, but also bestowed chieftaincy title on him.
Wabara appear to be the man of the people in the area. Giving cause for this, John Ekeato, who hails from Ukwa East, said apart from the former banker’s integrity, he touched many lives when he was the Managing Director of Hallmark Bank. This is a great plus for Wabara.
Nkwonta contested the zone’s Senate seat in 2015 with Abaribe and lost, claiming the election was rigged in his opponent’s favour. Although not much has been heard of him since the 2019 electioneering began, those close to him said he is coming with a bang. Whether that could rattle Wabara and Abaribe is a question for another day.
Abiribe has been in the Senate for 12 years and people believe he should quit the scene for an Ukwa man, at least for the sake of equity. He has not done much in terms of campaigning, but he is banking on the numerical potency of his Obingwa Local Government. It is a done deal that those who believe in equity that made the local government to produce the first governor of Ngwa extraction will support their Ukwa brothers and if this happens, Wabara may be cruising to the Senate.
Another interesting front in Abia South is Aba, where three parties are jostling for the House of Representatives seat. They are the present member, Hon Ossy Prestige of APGA; Mascot Uzor Kalu of APC and PDP’s Hon Uzo Azubuike, a former Reps member who was defeated in 2015 by the APGA candidate. Some of the constituents who spoke to this writer were of the view that having tested the PDP candidate as a Reps member and commissioner in Abia State government, he should better remain a commissioner. This has narrowed the race between Prestige and Kalu popularly known as “Nwa Aba.” While Prestige is believed to have done well in the past four years, Kalu is popular among the youths thereby making the race to be dicey.
Like in Abia South, Abia Central senatorial zone will see candidates of the APC, APGA and PDP slugging it out on February 16. APC has Senator (Mrs.) Nkechi Nwogu, APGA’s candidate is Chief Chidi Ajaegbu, a former ICAN president, while the candidate of PDP is the immediate past governor of the state, Chief T.A Orji who is the incumbent senator.
TA Orji lost his Umuahia axis of the zone, including in his own ward, in 2015. In that election, Ahamdi Nweke of APGA was cruising to victory, when sudden ‘miraculous’ votes brought in from Osisioma Local Government upturned his victory.
Regardless of the fact Orji is from Umuahia, magic votes from Ngwa axis sent him to the Senate. Presently, two prominent Ngwa people are in the race and one wonders if he will be able to bulldoze his way back to the senate the way he did in 2015.
Ajaegbu, the candidate of APGA is from Osisioma Ngwa, the local government that made it possible for Orji to go to the Senate in 2015. A political neophyte, as some people in the area said of the man, he should not be seen as all that new in the political circle, having headed ICAN for years. Ajaegbu has given APGA, which many believed won the zone in 2015, another hope in the area.
Senator Nwogu, described as the political Amazon of Abia Central, is one person people of the area believe is giving Orji sleepless nights ever since she won APC ticket. Nwogu has been in the Senate before. In fact, she was the one Orji replaced under circumstances that indicated she was forced not to re-contest. But now in a different party, she has vowed to go back to the Senate to, as she has always said, complete the good works she started. The iron lady has told Orji severally that she is going to use APC broom to sweep him out of the Senate chambers. As far as she is concerned, with Orji, the zone is not well represented in the Senate and she is doing everything to actualise her ambition. With the affirmation of her candidacy by the constituents interviewed, the pendulum is swinging on her side.
For the House of Representatives seat, Ikwuano/Umuahia federal constituency where the scion of the Prince of Ibeku and APC BoT member, Prince Benjamin Apugo, Chief Ikechukwu Apugo (APC) is challenging the incumbent PDP man, Hon Sam Onuigbo.
Information obtained from the area has it that it is the turn of Ibeku people to go to the House, Ikwuano having taken their turn. If this should be, coupled with the popularity of his father, the junior Apugo who is said to enjoy the support of the youths is sure of victory.
Abia North is the senatorial zone of the former governor of Abia State and a chieftain of APC, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who in 2015 contested the senatorial seat with APGA’s David Ogba and Mao Ohuabunwa of PDP. After the tribunal nullified the result of that election due to massive irregularities and ordered for a rerun, the manner in which Ohuabunwa was declared winner of the rerun, remains alien in the nation’s political Lexicon, it was to say the least, absurd.
The trio are at it again this year. With a table field presenting itself which had not been in the past and Kalu, judging from the massive support he is getting from the zone, is about many kilometres above the sea level over his opponents. His popularity in the area and beyond is infectious; he indeed buoyed by his past and present achievements in the zone, enjoys cult followership.
Kalu Ikpo is from Arocukwu, in Arochukwu Local Government. He has this to say about Kalu: “It is since Kalu joined APC that Abia North started having federal presence, including the road that passed through the house of Ohuabunwa, which he attracted.”
Ahamefula Mba, a native of Abia in Ohafia, said they are supporting Kalu for what he did for them when he was governor of the state.
Although Kalu is not yet in the Senate, he has attracted over 30 roads for rehabilitation in the area, some of which have been completed. This has made the people vow to vote for him to replace their present senator who they accused of poor representation. To cap victory for Kalu, he has received endorsements from almost all the traditional rulers from the zone. However, the former governor is not taking anything to chance as he has continued to campaign vigorously in all the political wards of the zone to the delight of the people. Some political pundits said with the level of support Kalu is getting, his going to the Senate is a done deal.
Those in this line of thought reasoned that despite the way Ohuabunwa was pushed to the Senate in 2015, he is no match to Kalu. His four years stay in the House of Representatives said he has been a colossal failure as there is absolutely nothing to show for it. As he embarks on the voyage of mandate renewal, he may have no tangible score card to present and the people of Abia North are definitely not looking his way.
Ogba of APGA is an Aba-based businessman, contested the Abia North Senate seat in 2015. He only joined politics in 2015, which makes people say he needs political tutelage first before venturing into the big league, like the Senate. According to them, going to the Senate is not a game for the “boys.”
The hot bed for the House of Representatives contest in Abia North is Bende federal constituency where Ben Kalu of APC is having a direct battle with Chima Anyaso of PDP. The House of Reps seat is rotated between the Umunna and Ikwuisii blocs. Hon Nnenna Ukeje, from Umunna, has been on the seat for 12 years running and going by the sharing formula, it is the turn of Ikwuisii, the people say.
With this, political permutations from the area point to the fact that Kalu who is from Ikwuisii may carry the day. Apart from the sharing formula that favours Kalu, coupled with his performance in a recent media political debate, the seeming support he enjoys from ex-governor Kalu himself has giving him a robust edge over his opponent.