By Olayinka Ajayi
The stage is set for what could turn out to be the most eventful political contest in Abia State. Though famed as God’s Own State, the political gladiators in the state are apparently not leaving God to decide the political direction of the state especially in the 2019 contest.
Abia had for long been the home of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with the party having an unfettered hold to nearly all the political offices in the state. The only political movement was in 2007 when the political mainstream in the state led by the first civilian governor of the state in the Fourth Republic, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu caused a movement to the Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA, the platform that produced his successor, Senator Theodore Orji.
Orji, however, subsequently returned to the PDP and is today the incumbent senator for Abia Central and is now seeking a second term on the platform of the PDP after a major fallout with his one time principal, Kalu.
Orji’s opponent in the APC is a former senator, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu who was in the Senate between 2007 and 2015 and was stopped from a second term by Orji who as incumbent governor in 2015 was able to muster his way. Now, both politicians are trading tackles from across party lines and using their different records in office to bet.
Mrs. Nwaogu had in the past boasted of her electoral prowess after she in 2007 trounced two former senators, Chris Adighije and Bob Nwanunu in the Senate contest.
The penultimate governor, Kalu who has himself defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, seeking his own opportunity to enter the Senate to represent the Abia North Senatorial District on the platform of the APC.
His PDP opponent is the incumbent, Senator Mao Ohabunwa who is now serving his second term.
Kalu had in the past while the PDP was in power tried to go to the Senate but was unsuccessful. The obstacles to his ascension to the Senate were said to have been formidable. In one case on the day of the election, he was reportedly not allowed out of his Igbere residence to come out to cast his vote after soldiers in armoured tanks took position around the house.
The former governor was said to have for the interest of peace called on his supporters to avoid confrontation and hence the election passed on smoothly with Ohabunwa being returned to the Senate.
His determination to return to the Senate this time it is being helped by the popularity he garnered in the area when he served as governor.
The contest in Anambra South is no less ferocious with the three term incumbent, Senator Enyinnanya Abaribe slugging it out with the accomplished financier and former banker, Marc Wabara who is the APC candidate.
Abaribe has going for him the fact that the incumbent PDP governor is from the senatorial district.
Meanwhile, recent reports of multiple registration of voters in Etitiama, Nkporo in Ohafia Local Government Area, the base of the incumbent PDP governor of the state, Chief Ude Okochukwu.
The report has propelled a chieftain of the APC in the area Ojisi Agbaja drag the Independent National Electoral Commission ,INEC, to court over the issue.
While the APC Senate candidate, Kalu has called for calm on the issue, he has nevertheless called for urgent investigation to unravel the truth of the matter.
In the suit with case number FHC/UM/CS/06/19 instituted at Federal High Court, Umuahia, Ogbaja alleged that there was visible evidence of ghost registration and registration of persons not resident in the constituency for the election. Those joined in the suit by the APC chieftain include the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Abia State and the Electoral Officer of INEC in Ohafia Local Government.
He accused some agents purportedly working for the commission in the suit of trying to rig the election through the manipulation of the voters’ registration base.
According to him, “In 2015, the number of registered voters in the area was 4000, but after 2018 revalidation exercise by INEC, the number of voters shot up to 11,000. A close and thorough scrutiny of the register shows over 90 percent of registered voters were images from still pictures with fake names and addresses.
“It is disheartening to find the names of Eze K.K. Ogbu, paramount ruler of Abiriba, Hon. Chief Kingsley Imaga; Abia State Commissioner for Transport,from Elu Ohafia and Ben Kalu; APC candidate for Bende Federal Constituency, who is a native of Bende Local Government Area and lots of others on the said voters’ register of Etitiama ward.
“The manipulation of the voters register is a strategic pre-condition to rig the general election, in flagrant violation of the Constitution, the Electoral Act, as amended and guidelines for the conduct of the elections in the state.”
Remarkably, the camp of Kalu while welcoming the case has expressed concern that the inflation of the voters’ register may be a ploy by a concerned political party to inflate its votes during the forthcoming election.