The dominance of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South East has become a focal issue following the recent defection of the Ebonyi State governor, Engr Dave Umahi. CHIBUZO UKAIBE captures the intrigues
The defection of the Ebonyi State governor, Engr Dave Umahi, sparked a heated debate over the place of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South East.
Umahi’s defection to All Progressives Congress (APC) which came on the back of his claim of injustice against South East by the PDP, seems to have also raised the debate over whether the opposition party which considers the geopolitical zone as its stronghold has been fair to them in light of appointment and development.
With the Ebonyi governor’s defection, the APC and PDP now control two states in the South-East region while the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) controls one. This scenario has widened the inroads made by APC into the geo-political zones some analysts would opine.
Efforts by the PDP leadership to convince Umahi to remain within its fold failed following agitation by the governor that the party should zone its presidential ticket of South East zone ahead of the 2023 election.
But Umahi, who was chairman of the PDP governors in the South East, dismissed insinuations that he defected to the APC PDP has not zoned the Presidency to him as being speculated in some quarters.
The governor who made the disclosure during a media chat with journalists at the New Government House Abakaliki insisted that he will continue to agitate for the interest of the South East in or out of office, adding that he has decided to become the sacrificial lamb that would be crucified for the interest and good of the South East as a zone.
By his position, the governor depicted PDP as being ungrateful to the zone despite all the years the zone has supported the party through bloc votes during general elections.
But while some have tackled the governor for being the wrong person to raise such issues since he and his family members have benefitted massive from the party.
Reacting to Umahi’s defection, the national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, had said, “Our party thanks Governor Umahi for services rendered to the people of Ebonyi state, as the State Chairman of Ebonyi PDP (2003 to 2007); deputy governor of Ebonyi state (2007 to 2015) and two term governor of Ebonyi (2015 till date), all elected on the platform of the PDP.”
He further pointed out that the governor’s younger brothers were members of the party leadership in the zone and the state, until they were sacked after his defection.
To drive his point home, he added “If you watch his defection yesterday, the only thing you have for Umahi is pity because he was empty. Look at the people around him. If he was fighting because of the South East, how come the people around him are all APC members from a particular side of our country.
“How come you cannot find Ohanaeze people, how come you cannot find the egalitarian and educated-minded people of the South East standing with him on the podium. We are not going to engage him on whether he has left the party or not. He has crossed the bridge and burned that particular bridge and there is no coming back for him. What we have for him in PDP is just pity.”
But there is more. PDP supporters have argued that the party has never been unfair to the zone. They argue that PDP produced five Senate Presidents from the South East, Deputy Senate President for 12 years; Deputy speaker of the House of Representatives for four years and speaker; national chairmen of the party.
They also listed that PDP afforded the zone the opportunity to also produce, Central Bank governor, minister for finance, INEC chairman and secretary got the PDP-Anyim Pius Anyim, SGF.
However, while the like of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike believe that Umahi’s defection was personal and had nothing to do with perceived injustice meted on the South East by the PDP, his Imo State counterpart, Governor Hope Uzodimma argues that Umahi’s defection has further broadened APC’s horizon in the zone.
Even a PDP chieftain in Abia State, Elder Stanley Uchegbulam warned that PDP leadership should consider the stand of the South East region and zone the presidency of the party to the zone ahead of the 2023 general elections.
But the party while standing its ground that it won’t be blackmailed into making hasty decisions over zoning has maintained that its place in the South East remains solid.
This much was also echoed by some party leaders from the region and Ebonyi State in particular.
Addressing leaders and Elders from Ebonyi State in Abuja, the national leadership of the PDP said plans fo displace it in the South East ahead of the 2023 will fail.
The national chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus who stated this while inaugurating the newly constituted caretaker committee of the party for the Ebonyi State chapter at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.
Represented by the deputy national chairman, Senator Suleiman Nasif, Secondus said the Ebonyi State governor, Engr Dave Umahi was deceived into joining the APC.
He said “What the powers in Abuja are trying to do is to edge out PDP from the South East. They cannot do that. The people of the South East are people that we love. People that we admire. People who have contributed to the development of this country. You have a safe haven in PDP.
“You are known in the PDP. PDP is a household name in the South East. PDP will continue to be a household in Ebonyi. Let us not be deceived that because they technically took out our governor in Imo, we will allow them do the same thing they have done again in Ebonyi. We will work extremely hard. A tree cannot make a forest. And let them know that.
“Even in governance there are people behind governors, they are people behind leaders. And those people will continue to remain in PDP. And this is a party that will continue to give you opportunities. This is a party that has given you opportunities in the past. The party will continue to give the Igbo people a sense of belonging.”
He called reconciliation and unity, adding that they must work very hard to ensure the fortunes of PDP in the South.
Meanwhile, PDP elders and stakeholders in Ebonyi chapter said Umahi jumped the gun in his claims that he dumped the PDP because the party was unwilling to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the Southeast zone.
The stakeholders said the desire of the average Igbo person is to have the ticket zoned to the Southeast.
They however maintained that such decision can only be taken in consultation with the other five geopolitical zones on terms agreeable to all.
In an address read by Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu, on behalf of the party leaders, affirmed the position of the Southeast on the 2023 presidency, adding however, that the zone had not met to discuss or take a resolution on the matter.
The position of the PDP leaders comes against the backdrop of the debate over whether or not the APC, since it assumed power in 2015, has shown as much inclusive tendencies towards the South East.
Those who share this school of thought argue that the absence of the South East from the security hierarchy remains a key indicator of how poorly the party perceives the zone.
They believe that for a party desirous of swaying the South East to its side ahead of 2023, it would have started to make adjustments to the make up of its appointments to include the zone more.
This argument is in spite the claims by the APC administration that it has given the zone a lot of attention including senior ministerial positions, like Foreign Affairs, Labour, Science and Technology, Mines and Steel, and the minister of state for Education.
A political analyst, Mike Ibekwe, said “the dynamics is very clear, the political realignment has started and the APC wants to break new grounds and the South East seems to be the target now. The challenge however is that the South East zones does not consider the party has having captured its interests.
“The seeming distancing of the zone from top appointments, the impact of government policies on the zone who are mainly entrepreneurs and businessmen as well as the security situation, even though it is a national issue, makes the South East quite weary of the governing party.
“We could see the intrigues that led to the party‘s return in Imo State and the impact that had on the judiciary. I think these are indicators of how tough it is for the party to make impact in the zone,” he said.