By Anayo Okoli
Unlike the governorship position which has few aspirants from the visible political parties in the state, the legislative seats-Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly, have scores of aspirants jostling to get the tickets of the main parties.
Posters of aspirants are struggling for space in the major streets and public places in the state.
But even from their posters, it is easily deduced that many of them are not serious as they seem to be looking at the serious contenders to settle them. It is common to see an aspirant in one party logo today and the next day the same “aspirant” is dressed in another party logo.
The calibre of aspirants in the Senate race is, however, higher as a number of Abia politicians seem bent on battling with the incumbents. All three serving senators have all indicated interest to go back. Their posters are all over their districts and they have been campaigning seriously.
They are Chief Uche Chukwumereije for Abia North; Chief Enyinnaya Abaribe; Abia South, and Mrs. Nkechi Nwaogu, Abia Central. Incidentally, it seems that only PDP aspirants are visibly jostling for the senate seats in the state.
Both APGA and PPA which have reasonable presence in the state have not shown keen interest as only few of their members have indicated interest for the senate seats.
This zone is currently being represented by Senator Uche Chukwumereije. He was elected in 2003 on the ticket of the PDP and got re-elected in 2007 under PPA and is now trying to return in 2010 via PDP.
An astute politician, who until now was seen as an untouchable politician in the zone, Chukwumereije’s seat is today being struggled for by at least seven persons. They are a former member of the House of Representatives, Chief Mao Ohuabunwa, a cleric, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, Mrs. Carol Okoroafor, Chief Chima Uba and Chidia Maduekwe, younger brother of former minister, Ojo Maduekwe, all on the platform of PDP. Chief Iboko Imo Iboko is vying for the seat on the platform of PPA.
Chukwumereije seems to be facing the greatest opposition of all three incumbent senators. He is from Isuochi in Umunneochi council area while most of the other contestants are from Bende divide of the zone who are saying that Chukwumerije has had enough.
They argue that it is time for the position to move to their area. Besides, they are accusing Chukwumereije of non-performance in his last eight years. For example, supporters of these aspirants will easily confront you with a litany of abandoned projects which they claim were not diligently pursued by the senator.
But Chukwumerije, on his own had in the course of his interactive tours of his zone been reeling out projects he claimed to have executed which qualify him to go back and get more.
As the fight rages, one factor will play a major role in the selection of who runs, and that factor is the new realignment and peace in Abia politics, which recently saw Governor Orji return to PDP.
The return has reconciled him with all his erstwhile political enemies, and they are now working together. Unconfirmed report has it that in the spirit of the reconciliation, an unwritten agreement was brokered which gives all the incumbent legislators automatic return tickets.
Though the party leadership in the state has insisted that it would conduct primary election to choose who runs, it is doubtful in the spirit of the new found love in the state PDP.
So if this is upheld, Chukwumereije the famed anti-third term Senator will get a ticket to return for a third term!
This seat is presently occupied by Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, who heads the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions. She was elected in 2007 on the ticket of the PDP. Presently, she is being challenged for the PDP ticket by two prominent politicians in the zone.
They are Chief Emeka Atuma a former member of the House of Representatives and Ugochukwu Okeugo. There is however indication that the other political parties will present candidates at the appropriate time.
The case of this zone is historical in that there is an outstanding agreement among the people that nobody stays beyond one term. The people are ready to tell you that Senators Bob Nwanunu and Adighije each stayed for only one term. Therefore, they are arguing that Nwaogu should serve one term and go.
But the way things are now in the state, the political arrangement may likely change. With the rapport between Nwaogu and Governor Orji on one hand and the senator and the presidency on the other, it is becoming clearer that the arrangement may not be respected this time around.
In fact, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, the first Lady, during her visit to Umuahia literally campaigned for Nwaogu and other women politicians as party of her pet project, Women for Change Initiative which was launched in the state penultimate week.
As things stand, despite the promise by the party of its readiness to conduct credible primary elections to select its candidates, there may not be any primary election in the state. Perhaps those queuing up to challenge the incumbent legislators may only realize their ambition from other parties, not from PDP.
The trajectory of Senator Abaribe was until recently headed towards the Abia State Government House. He was as such a vicious opponent of Governor Theodore Orji and perhaps the administration’s greatest nemesis.
The governor’s alleged poor performance while he was under the political custody of the Kalu dynasty was a weapon that Abaribe used to taunt the Governor. That Senator Abaribe was uncomfortable with the entry of Governor Orji into the PDP would be an understatement.
Following the forced recruitment of the Governor into the PDP, Abaribe, whose gubernatorial ambition was allegedly being fanned by President Goodluck Jonathan and his Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Oghiadome, has now surrendered and is now tracing his way back to fight for his Senate seat.
Waiting for him are Chris Nkonta, a PDP chieftain said to be rich and capable of matching Abaribe’s influence and Chief Chinenye Anyim, popularly known as Nyerere.
There is strong indication that other parties, especially PPA and APGA will present candidates to contest the seat. Days ahead will tell.
Sen. Abaribe’s big minus is the allegation from his opponents that he did not do anything remarkable in the zone in his four years sitting at the senate.
They also accuse him of not visiting his constituency to know what is happening there and that he neglected the welfare of the people of the zone. But Abaribe has disagreed claiming to have achieved much for the zone through infrastructural development and federal appointments for constituents.