Since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, opposition parties in Abia state have been identified with cameo appearances particularly during elections. The status of Abia as a state where the winner takes all has changed with the result of the 2015 general elections.
By Ugochukwu Alaribe
THE political atmosphere in Abia state is assuming an interesting dimension as the opposition parties in the state appear set to take the game to the ruling PDP in the governance of the state.
Abia has been a state where the presence of opposition parties are mostly felt during electioneering and disappears after, but the situation have changed with the results of the 2015 general elections in which the opposition All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) nearly outwitted the ruling PDP in the state.
While nothing is being heard from the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and Labour Party (LP) the APGA and All Progressives Congress (APC) are threatening to take over power in the state. There has been this belief that Abia State is always there for the PDP to take in every election and before now, the PDP had all seats in the 24-member House of Assembly. However, the situation has changed. Now, PDP has 13 seats in the House while APGA won 11.
Except for the period between May 2007 to July 2010 when the PPA ruled the state during the first tenure of former Governor Theodore Orji; the PDP has held sway in the governance of Abia state since the return of democracy in 1999.
Return of democracy
There was a time in Abia when 99 per cent of politicians in the state belonged to the PDP. Many chieftains of APGA and APC such as Chief Tony Ukasanya who was the first Abia PDP chairman; former PDP BoT member, Chief Ben Apugo; former Speaker, Sir Stanley Ohajuruka; Dr. Nyerere Anyim; former SSG, Ralph Egbu, Chief Ikechi Emenike , Hon. Acho Obioma, a former PDP member of the House of Representatives, were members of the PDP.
At the 2015 polls, many PDP chieftains, including the state chairman of the party, Senator Emma Nwaka, lost their state constituencies to the opposition. The list include former Minister of Labour of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu; former minister of State, Defence, Col. Austin Akobundu (Ikwuano); Prince Vincent Ogbulafor (Umuahia South); Chief Uzo Azubuike (Aba North); Chief Onyema Ugochukwu (Umuahia North); Chief Ukpai Agwu Ukpai (Ohafia South); Hon. Agwu U. Agwu (Arochukwu) and Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (Umunneochi) among others.
Thus, the opposition parties seem to have realized the need to exert their influence. While the APC in the state has been swimming in the euphoria of being the new ruling party at the federal level, the PDP seems bent consolidating its hold on power in the state.
APC’ll take over in 2019 –Ohajuruka
Said an APC chieftain and former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Sir Stanley Ohajuruka, “Our party is in power at the federal level, nobody should be afraid of anyone in Abia state. APC is the main opposition party in Abia state. The APC has all it takes to win the governorship seat in 2019; PDP is occupying the position temporarily. If not for what they did at the elections, APC would have won the governorship seat and majority seats in the House of Assembly. We will take over power in the state in 2019.
State chairman of the APC, Donatus Nwankpa who explained that his party now has the right calibre of persons to win elections in the state, insisted that APC would only be engaged in constructive criticisms and calling the government to order when it goes wrong.
We doubt Ikpeazu’s sincerity –APGA
His APGA counterpart, Rev. Augustine Ehiemere, has carpeted the Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu’s government saying it doubts the vision, seriousness and sincerity of the administration in most of the actions, policies, and programmes it has embarked upon.
Ehiemere, who addressed a press conference in Umuahia, said his party is appalled by the refusal of the PDP-led government to disclose the true financial position of the state to the people, particularly the amount owed to banks and other financial institutions by the out-gone Theodore Orji ‘s administration. “If Abia’s financial state is healthy, why are Abia workers still been owed months of accumulated salary arrears while pensioners have been completely ignored and forgotten? Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu reneged on his campaign promise and disappointed Abians by refusing to pay Abia workers on or before 24th June as he pledged, and has continued to make unholy claims on the radio as if the welfare of the suffering Abia workers does not matter. The claim by the governor that he has slashed his salary which is not up to one million naira, and yet refuses to talk about his security vote which stands at a whopping N750 million monthly is a huge betrayal of Abians, especially the highly indebted and suffering Abia workers. “
Opposition to weak to dislodge PDP – Chukwu, Dep gov
Reacting to the claims of the opposition parties, Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Ude Oko Chukwu told Vanguard: “We don’t have any opposition capable of dislodging the PDP in Abia State. I don’t want to mention names but which of the parties can stand the PDP? Abia is a PDP state; there is no other party here. In Abia, opposition parties only exist to make up the numbers; don’t mind the noise they have been making.
They came back for the elections and very soon, you won’t hear them again till the next elections. Some of these people who are making noise in other parties are members of the PDP who left as a result of the fallout of the party’s primaries. They took their decision in the heat of anger and men who take such decisions are bound to always make mistakes. PDP is still one big family with its structures intact and firmly rooted across the 17 local councils of the state.”
State Legislature: With the nature of the state legislature where PDP has 13 members to APGA’s 11, pundits who expected that the election of the Speaker would have been a tough battle between the two parties, were proved wrong as Hon. Martin Azubuike (PDP/Isiala Ngwa North State Constituency), emerged unopposed as Speaker. Efforts by Hon. Ikedi Ezekwesiri (APGA/Umunneochi state constituency) to emerge Deputy Speaker, failed as he was defeated by Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe (PDP/Bende North state constituency).
Fears that the state may witness a turbulent Assembly as the ruling PDP has no clear majority in the House, cannot be overlooked. Political analysts opine that the situation may affect the governor’s programmes.
Commenting on the situation in a telephone chat with Vanguard, Speaker of the State Assembly, Hon. Martin Azubuike, said that the legislature is an institution where members cooperate to perform their duties to ensure good governance of the state as anything less would be a disappointment to the people.
As the opposition parties struggle with the ruling PDP for the control of the politics of the state, it remains to be seen who gets the upper hand at the end of the day, but it is clear that the face of politics in the state has changed.