BY NNAMDI MBAWIKE
……Can the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hold up its dominance in Enugu State following the recent defection of some of its Influential members to the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
Although, many political parties exist in Enugu State, recent happenings in the political atmosphere of the state shows that the 2019 gubernatorial election might be a two horse race between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC).
It is widely believed that one of the two parties will decide the occupant of government house popularly known as Lion Building come 2019.
Already, the two political parties have begun open and subterranean moves in the wards, local government councils and state levels with a view to capturing the government house in the future election.
In last 2015 general election in the state, the ruling PDP won the governorship seat, all the senatorial seats, eight House of Representatives seat as well as 24 House of Assembly seats.
Nevertheless, with the ongoing mass defection of notable PDP members including former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former Governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo and former Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Eugene Odo, a former PDP National Secretary, Rex Onyeabor, former military administrator of Gombe State, Group Captain Antony Aneke (rtd), Sam Onyishi, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Peace Mass Transit to the APC, pundits believe the journey to government house might be tough for the PDP.
Unfortunately, while the PDP was still mourning the exit of it’s bigwigs, the immediate past governor of the state, Sullivan Chime added salt to the party’s injury and defected to the APC during a mother of all rallies that took place in his Udi country home earlier this month.
But, big wigs of the PDP have continued to claim that there was no cause for alarm, insisting that PDP remained a party to beat come 2019.
When asked to react to the mass defection of PDP members to APC, the State Chairman of PDP, Augustine Nnamani insisted that the party has lost nothing despite the defection of some stalwarts.
Nnamani, who spoke with journalists after hosting Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) recently, stated that his party was not aware that anybody defected to another party.
“PDP in Enugu is not aware that anybody defected. No government official or elected official of the party left. The days of reckoning are not yet within the corner. When elections are held, we will know who is on ground” he stated.
But the State Chairman of APC, Dr Ben Nwoye who had consistently described the PDP as a dead party in Enugu State, disagreed with the PDP chairman, saying he was optimistic and happy to be part of the ongoing political revolution in the State.
“Since 1999, Enugu state was without opposition. It required people like this to make it happen. Politics is like soccer. You recruit your best. Year after year, you are gathering political eggheads. He is a technocrat. Technocrats know how party works. We will rely on him to make our party, APCbetter in Enugu State” Nwoye maintained after the event.
Apart from the defection of its bigwigs to the APC, perhaps what might have been giving the PDP a sleepless night was the speech the former governor of the state, Sullivan Chime made after dumping the PDP.
Chime had in his speech after confirming that he was no longer a member of the party, said it was unfortunate that the PDP they used to be members of, was dead.
He maintained that the party he joined in 1999 and had the opportunity of leading in the state for eight years was no longer existing, explaining that his decision to quit the PDP was because the party was “no longer in existence in the true sense of it’’.
He pointed out that his decision to dump PDP had nothing to do with his alleged corruption case with the EFCC, adding “The PDP, we used to be members of is dead. The party I joined in 1999 and had the opportunity of leading in the state for eight years is no longer in existence.
“We have two groups claiming to be in charge of the party as chairman. These two, none of them can actually lay claim to the chairmanship of the party.
“There is no provision in PDP’s Constitution for interim caretaker committee led by Sen. Ahmed Makarfi.
“The PDP convention has no power to set up a caretaker committee and did not seek to amend the party’s constitution,” he stated.
Chime averred that Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff on his own was brought in to serve out the tenure of former PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, adding that the tenure had long elapsed.
He said that it was obvious that the real founding fathers of the PDP had left, noting that no one would play active politics and succeed in the party.
“The party no longer exists as a political party. It was so badly run down; mismanaged,abandoned its constitution and is now dead. It has two chairmen and it is now a party without leadership. So it’s no longer a functional party, it’s now moribund.
“People have said all kinds of things about me but I had the privilege of handing over to my successor. At the end of my tenure, other people, not only party members, gathered from the three senatorial zones in Enugu State in my village to say thank you for a job well done.
” He recalled that his successor, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, also attended all the ceremonies. “They prayed that my successor continued the way I governed but since I announced my exit from the PDP, I’ve been branded a total failure because people think I want to go to the Senate and they feel it’s best to bring me down. Nobody now says how well I governed the state.”
Earlier a former President of the Nigerian Senate, Ken Nnamani had after announcing his defection to APC said he had to do what his constituents demanded by joining the APC at ward level.”
“I do not believe I should continue to be a member of the PDP as it is defined today,” Mr. Nnamani said at the time. “This is certainly not the party I joined years ago to help change my country.” He stated
Also making his declaration speech, Nwobodo urged members of the APC in Enugu State not to be deterred by the electoral losses they have suffered in the State in the past.
“You must always lose. What matters is the ability to rise again. I must condemn our former party, PDP. I know we had problems. I told our former chairman, how come did we allow five Governors to leave the party?
“I am not looking for a job. I am talking because I want peace. I want our people to be part of the Federal Government at the centre. I had a problem being an opposition governor. I am not coming into APC because I want anything. I want our people to reintegrate and have our own share of the Federal Government resources”, Nwobodo said.
Nwobodo recalled that while he was in PDP, his wife had always been an active member of the APC, just as he pointed out that the slogan “change” did not start now but started in 1983 when he was an opposition governor.
As the mass defection of PDP stalwarts in the state to APC in Enugu State continues unabated, many people are afraid that this political tsunami might sweep off the PDP if it does sit up.
However it appears that some cherry news might be in the offing for PDP in the state, if the speculation that former governor of state, Chimaroke Nnamani is planning to return to the party is anything to go by.
The former governor had defected from the PDP following his clash with his estranged godson and immediate past governor, Chime. While he won a senate seat shortly after he left office, he was however unable to secure another term despite forming a new party, Peoples Democratic Congress (PDC). It is unclear what remains of his political base which took a huge hit during his clash with Chime.
Yet, PDP heavy weights have held the party’s banners high in the state. From the likes of deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, former national chairman of the party, Dr John Nwodo, to the bulk of elective office holders in the state, then the APC has its work cut out ahead of 2019.