By Anayo Okoli
Umuahia – This is not the best of times for the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, as a disagreement between the leadership and its only remaining governor climaxed with the defection of the governor.
The rank of the already battered opposition to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seems to have beenÂ further depleted with the defection, last week, of the partyâ€™s remaining state governor, Theodore Orji of AbiaÂ State, to the rival APGA.
The partyâ€™s only elected senator, Comrade Uche Chukwumerieje,Â has also abandoned the party which he dismissed as a business outfit of the founder, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, the immediate past governor of Abia State.
The partyâ€™s other state governor, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo, abandoned the ship some months back, and pitching his tent with the PDP with which the PPA has a working accord.
The founder of the PPA himself,Â Kalu, was originally in the PDP and left only in the run up to the 2007 electionsÂ on account of his disagreement withÂ former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
But the joy did not last long in Imo State as Ohakim defected afterÂ two years of beingÂ PPA governor. This generated a lot of altercation between the governor and Kalu who is alsoÂ the partyâ€™s BoT chairman. Two of them traded accusation and counter accusation, alleging one fraud against each other. But when the dust settled, Ohakim had gone and PPA lost one of its states. Abia State therefore remainedÂ as the only PPA state. Following this development, the responsibility of funding the party fell squarely on the governor of Abia State. The party concentrated its leadership and activities in Abia State, where the PDP turned opposition.
However, the story has changed for bad for the party following the current crisis which sawÂ Orji leaving the party for APGA. The party now has no power base, apart from the law makers in bothÂ federal and state legislatures. The impact of the governorâ€™s exit must no doubt be felt in the party more so now that 2011 general elections are approaching. It is obvious that the bulk of the fund for keeping the partyâ€™s flag flying was coming from the governorÂ and perhaps with complimentary contributions from the law makers and other political office holders. Funding of political party, especially in election year,Â is not a childâ€™sÂ Â play. And for a party that has been in control of two states andÂ expected to grow bigger, the exit of the two governors has become a sad and tragic story. To the people of the state, the exit of the governor from the partyÂ isÂ liberation from bondage. Perhaps, the party did not envisage that Orji could muster the courage to leave the party going by the long relationship between him a
ndÂ Kalu who is his political mentor.
ToÂ the party leadership, it was like it would never ever happenÂ thatÂ OrjiÂ wouldÂ Â part ways with the PPAÂ and by extension his political mentor, the founder and BOT chairman of the party.Â They were seen as being too close, having worked closely for long and shared a lot of confidence.
This belief is held because the relationship between the governor, his party andÂ Kalu had been very cordial till sometime last year when some political groups emerged within the party, clamouring for the governorâ€™s second term bid. This did not go down well with the party and the BOT chairman. In fact, this led to the unceremonious removal of the former chairman of the party, Chief Kalu Eke Kalu, and replacedÂ with the current chairman, Ezeogo Emeka Onuoha, a kinsman of the former governor. The groups were seen as trying to shore the governorâ€™s popularity and give him the leverage to be independent. The matter was however resolved and the relationship continued but on shaky ground, whileÂ both parties consistently denied that any rift existed.
But the public started noticing clear rift following some level of mistrust between the governor and his deputy, Comrade Chris Akomas, believed to be very close to the BOT chairman. First was when the deputy chief of staff, Chief Charles Ogbonnaya, a kinsman of the governor who works with the deputy governor, was said to have reduced the security personnel attached to the deputy governor, an action said to be beyond his power. Reason was that it was speculated that Akomas was nursing the ambition to contest the 2011 polls. Even though this was resolved, the relationship between Orji and Akoma had been strained.
The exit ofÂ Â Orji from the party mayÂ lead to the total collapse of the party. This is because since he announced his exit, the stateÂ radio, Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State [BCA], has been airingÂ announcements ofÂ groupsÂ commending the governor for leaving the party and declaring their intention to join him in APGA. Even traditional rulers have been praising OrjiÂ for his courage to jettison PPA which they see as the liberation of the state.
Indeed, the exit of the governor already hasÂ negative impact on the party.Â Ditto the defection of the PPA onlyÂ senator, Chukwumerije.