As the Zonal Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party embarks on reconciliatory and inspection visits to states in the South East zone, watched carefully by the rival All Progressives Grand Alliance, ONYEKAOZULU OFOMA writes that the strategy in reality ultimately targets the recapture of states of the zone currently outside PDP’s clutch
In 1999, at the emergence of new democratic dispensation in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which became the leading party in the country, having won the presidency, also captured the five states of the South East geo-political zone of the country.
While Dr. Sam Egwu, for instance, became the governor of Ebonyi State under the PDP platform, Chief Achike Udenwa coasted to victory in Imo, just as Chief Orji Uzor Kalu emerged in Abaia State. In Enugu, a US-trained foetal surgeon, Dr. Chimaroke Nnnamani took charge of the state and Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju was entrenched in Anambra State Government House Awka.
As at that time, Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu was the South East zonal Chairman of the party. During that time under review, PDP was also dominant in the South-South and parts of the North; particularly North Central, while the other two major political parties- the Alliance for Democracy (AD) dominated the South West and All Peoples Party (APP) shared the dominance of the North with PDP, as it captured about nine states in the North.
However by 2003 general election, the influence of PDP in the South East was whittled as the party lost Anambra to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) after a protracted legal battle.
Dr. Chris Ngige of PDP was initially declared winner of the Anambra guber election but he was eventually sacked by the Supreme Court which enthroned Mr. Peter Obi of APGA, after more than two years of legal fight.
But it was actually in 2007 general elections that PDP suffered the greatest defeat in the zone, as it initially lost both Abia and Imo states to then Orji Uzor Kalu’s Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), although the respective governors Theodore Orji and Ikedi Ohakim later decamped to the PDP.
But again even the emergence of Chief Olisa Metuh as the Vice Chairman South East could not change the tide, because in 2011 general elections, PDP lost Imo again to APGA, as Governor Rochas Okorocha holds way presently. In all PDP presently occupies Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia states, while APGA is in charge of Imo and Anambra states.
With the emergence of new crop of leadership of PDP in the zone, particularly the new Vice Chairman, Chief Augustine Akobundu, a retired Colonel, expectations are that he would bring his wealth of experience in public and private endeavours, particularly his military discipline to bear on the running of the party in the zone.
This will in turn help the party overcome her internal squabbles and divisive tendencies in order to fully bounce back in the zone.
This appears to be the challenge of the new leadership in the zone and Akobundu during his recent working visit to Ebonyi State admitted as much.
At Ebonyi, the zonal vice chairman declared that the priority of his executive was to reclaim Anambra and Imo states during the next governorship elections in those states.He regretted that PDP which was in control of government in the five states of the zone in 1999 gradually lost control of two states due to in-fighting and lack of cohesion.
Akobundu who led the zonal working committee of the party for an inspection of projects in the state, stated that the zonal leadership has commenced the process of reconciling with all aggrieved members who have left the party as well as winning new ones to strengthen the party in the zone.
He said that the decision to embark on project inspection in all the PDP-controlled states in the zone starting with Ebonyi was part of the strategy to market and shore up people’s confidence in the party.
“Ebonyi is one of the states in the South East that has witnessed monumental development… We want to take a tour of these project sites so that we can showcase what you have been able to achieve within this period you have been governor to the outside world.
“I think it’s the duty of the party to showcase what our elected officials are doing. PDP is not a party that is asleep; it’s a party that is working… so we have taken up as a responsibility to appreciate our elected officers who are doing very well, especially the headships of the states, our governors,” he said.
The PDP South East leaders visited multi-billion naira Oferekpe Water Scheme at Ikwo, the new State Secretariat at Ocho-Udo estate, the international market with 5,683 stalls, the Rice processing plant at Igboji Ikwo and the ultra-modern state television and radio station, Abakaliki. The Vice-President said that the projects are impressive and such that would impact positively on the lives of the people.
“There is also an interface between the urban development and the rural development in the executed projects; some of the infrastructures have direct linkages with one another, community to community and village to village. Such policy would fast-track the transformation of the rural areas, and check urban migration.
“Ebonyi is one of the states in the South East that has witnessed monumental development, in fact giant strides. I want to very specially and warmly commend you and member of your team for doing us proud.
We want to take a tour of these project sites so that we can showcase what you have been able to achieve within this period you have been governor to the outside world. I’m particularly proud of what is going on here; it’s going on silently but I think it’s the duty of the party to showcase what our elected officials are doing,” he said.
Ebonyi state governor, Chief martin Elechi on his part expressed happiness for the visit saying it will help to expose the good works of the state government to the world.
“Mr. Chairman sir, by the time you were elected, that was the time of my bereavement so I was not physically present at Enugu during the congress but like you said we mid-wifed, we had by our own consensus, the governors arranged who should be who, who should be in what position and so it happened.
We wish you well. The party you are leading is a very dynamic one and it is the envy of the nation today, that being the case it will receive bullets, sticks, all manner of arsenals from the opposition parties. That is the price we have to pay for having the mandate of the people and in doing so, we do it with utmost tolerance and Christian spirit of forgiveness,” he said.
Governor Elechi said that the maiden visit by the zonal leadership of the party would avail them the opportunity to see how the people they mandated to serve are getting on. “In order words you are also here on an oversight function as the legislators do.
We will appreciate whatever short-comings you observed will be pointed out to us because as dancers we do not know the movement of our bodies; it is the on-lookers that will say how we are dancing.
We have great challenges because the expectations are high and over the years the spirit of self-help has dwindled; everybody looks up to government. If there is a bad weather it is blamed on government, if there is flood it is blamed on government. Government becomes the scape-goat of every ill that takes place in the country.
However, we believe that today is better than yesterday; everywhere there are signs of development, signs of progress and signs of commitment to improve on our past; that gives us a lot of joy.
This period up to 2015 will be a build up to the next elections and so we expect that you will mid-wife again the processes so that things will move smoothly. I know in some quarters the gladiators are already aligning and re-aligning, planning and strategizing but then the party is supreme.
The party must at all times discharge its responsibilities without fear or favour and in doing that I assure you my maximum cooperation,” Elechi pledged.
The chairman of the party in Ebonyi, Chief Ugorji Ama-Oti said that the visit by the working committee would encourage the party and government of Ebonyi to deliver more dividends of democracy to the people.
The PDP zonal publicity secretary, Ali Odefa, who is from Ebonyi State, expressed satisfaction with the number and quality of projects being executed by the state government.