THOSE who have followed political developments in the country since the conclusion of the April 2011 general elections would readily agree that opposition political parties have evolved to challenge the dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The successful merger of leading opposition political parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its acceptability by interests from many parts of the country makes it a real threat to the ruling party.
However, if the APC can be said to have gain foothold in other zones of the country, its fortunes in the South East geo-political zone appears to be in doubt. It does not seem that the APC has planned to win any election in the South East next year. So far, the party does not seem in a hurry to be a major player in the zone.
At inception, Governor Okorocha tried to lure his executive and State Assembly members into the party; others like erstwhile governor Chief Achike Udenwa, chief Ifeanyi Ararume, Senator Osita Izunaso, Uche Onyeaguocha had been there, having followed the party from the ACN.
In Ebonyi, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, erstwhile national chairman of the ANPP and Senator Julius Ucha, chief Ugo Chima were part of the ANPP crowd that went into the coalition, while in Enugu, the likes of chief Okey Ezea, Osita Okechukwu, JOJ Okoroagu, a retired Major General among others also joined. In Anambra Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Annie Okonkwo, Hon Charles Odedo, representing Idemili north/south federal constituency were prominent names in the party, as well as chief Ikechukwu Emenike, former Speaker, Stanley Ohajuruka among others joined from Abia State. The configuration made the APC thick.
With the promise of rewriting the ills allegedly inflicted on Nigerians by the PDP, especially the prospect that it would be the shortest cut for Ndigbo to ascend to presidency, majority of Igbo people developed passion for party.
Gradually, the passion is waning and the hopes, which heralded its inception seems to have evaporated, leaving the APC to look like a mere paper tiger.
Since it was formed, the party has not won election in any of the states in the Southeast. For instance, it participated in the Anambra State governorship and council elections and lost. The same goes in Enugu where council election took place recently.
APC in the Southeast seems to be infested with crisis. Defections have become the order of the day and those who engage in the act have alluded to different reasons, ranging from individual differences, lack of capacity to provide the needed change as well as the perception that the party is a ‘Yoruba or Muslim party,’
It is noteworthy that when other zones in the country were reaping from defection of members of the National Assembly, as well as other Nigerians to the APC from other political parties recently, only in the Southeast did the party fail to win any converts.
But one thing that is not disputable, however, is that even before the merger, none of the legacy parties had a strong foot hold in the politics of the Southeast. They had never been in the reckoning of the people of the zone and those who use the platform to vie for elections had always done so in protest against the ruling party. Therefore those who joined the party are seen to have done so in their individual capacity to draw people to join the party.
Most of these politicians who have embraced the party are deemed to have done so in their individual interests. It has not been uhuru yet for the APC as the contentions within the various parties that formed he mega opposition have been brought into it and have continued to hold sway since the arrangement was concluded. Each of the five states in the zone has had her fair share of the troubles in the new formation. While some states have not allowed their trouble to escalate, others are losing grip.
After the merger, Okorocha, based on his position became the leader of the party in the zone. However no sooner had he stepped into the party than other notable leaders from Imo State commenced an exit walk from the party.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in March this year held a rally in Owerri where it received returnees like Ararume, Udenwa and even some appointees of Okorocha, such as the former Attorney General, chief Soronnadi Njoku.
Apart from Udenwa and Ararume, the party state chairman and Woman Leader Prince Marshall Okaforanyanwu and Mrs. Chidimma Akasike also defected, alleging frustration and high-handedness. Imo did not hold any congress at the time other APC states held theirs.
In Anambra State, Senator Annie Okonkwo, who also worked hard to entrench the party, was after the merger appointed the interim deputy national chairman of the party (South). Okonkwo was to work with the likes of Ngige and House of Reps member, Charles Odedo, in Anambra State.
However, when the race for the 2013 governorship election began in Anambra, Okonkwo was asked to step down in the primaries for Ngige. Although he did, the development became the genesis of the crisis in the party, as he was appointed the director general of Ngige campaign organisation, but later resigned and allegedly worked to ensure that the APC did not win the election.
Okonkwo was not the only member that felt unsatisfied with the process of the primaries of the party; chief Godwin Ezemuo also did. In his own case, he went into primaries of the party and failed and feeling he was rigged out dumped the party and moved to the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) to vie the election.
If Ezemuo left following his dissatisfaction with the way his election was treated, the exit of Odedo, who worked with Ngige during the election took many by surprise. This is because of his closeness with Ngige.
Odedo, who is the member representing Idemili North/South Federal Constituency defected to PDP, on the ground that the party was being arrogated to an individual, stressing further that his return ticket was being threatened.
Those who watched developments in his constituency insists that the APC would not guarantee him a return ticket following the outcome of the governorship election won by APGA in the constituency and the fact he did not win his election in the first place using the APC.
Another school of thought said that though he would have by 2015 served for eight years, he would like to either continue or should the nomination elude him remain relevant in politics, reasoning that the only platform that could offer that to him was the PDP.
Meanwhile, the party suspended Okonkwo for alleged anti-party activities. That became a sour point and played out during the congresses of the party as two factions, one backed by him and another by Ngige held parallel congresses in the state.
Okonkwo’s move to control the structures of the party through the congress could not materialize as the national leadership seemed disposed to the faction produced by Ngige. Subsequently, Okonkwo last week dumped the APC and rejoined the PDP thus decapitating the party once again.
Giving reasons for his action, Okonkwo accused the APC of having no good intentions for the Southeast, stressing that he resigned because of the party’s “scruffy promises, lack of internal party democracy and clannish and sectional disposition of the leadership.”
Okonkwo, who was suspended on January 6 over his alleged role in the Anambra governorship election by the NEC of the party added: “My suspension was investigated by Senator Kabiru Gaya’s Committee and they exonerated me from all allegations. I stepped down my gubernatorial ambition for peace to be in the party but instead of being hailed for this sacrifice, I was hunted and hounded, which orchestrated my suspension from deputy national chairman (South) on a trumped up petition of anti-party activities.
The national chairman of the party is aware of my involvement in the formation of this party from the onset, when all members were given the onerous task of setting up a party to epitomise change.”
He stated that in all the assignments given to him, he committed himself financially, mentally and socially in the firm belief in the lofty ideal they had jointly and severally set for the party.
He continued: “The conviviality and comrade spirit I had hoped for among the progressives in the formation of this party has taken flight. What I see now is a gathering of non progressives that do not have the interest of the party at heart hence my decision to quit the party.”
In Ebonyi State, the presence of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the former governor and former ANPP’s national chairman as well as that of Senator Julius Ucha notwithstanding, the party has not been able to gather its acts together as a formidable force due to crisis.
The Guardian gathered that the party, which has two seats in the State House of Assembly and another in the House of Representatives, has been fragmented into three factions, namely the Senator Julius Ucha faction, the Ogbonnaya Onu faction and Ugo Chima faction.
It was gathered that what is tearing the party apart is that members coming from the defunct parties still bear affinity to their former platforms. The recently held congresses produced factions and while those it favoured are asking that the outcome be respected, others are calling for its cancellation on the ground that it did not meet the guidelines specified by the national leadership.
In Enugu State, though the party has been relatively calm and has held congresses where it produced her officials, what seems to be the major challenge is paucity of funds to conduct the affairs of the party and entrench its programmes in the grassroots.
For instance, the only presence the party has maintained in the state is the secretariat that it acquired through chief Sam Onyishi, who wanted to use the platform to vie for the governorship election of the state next year.
The offices in the building are still empty, without tables, chairs and other appurtenances. Sources close to the party said that members rely on few individuals at the state level to fund the activities of the party, stressing that such has drastically weighed down morale of the supporters.
Another thorny issue is how tickets of the party in the forthcoming governorship elections will be allocated. Some in the merger feel the sharing should be decided based on the contribution of legacy parties to the formation of the party.
The party has also failed to make the necessary impact expected of it as her candidates were disqualified in the last council election over what Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) described as “inconsistencies” in the submissions made to it for the election.
Unlike in some other states of the zone where the party could boast of serving officials in government, state or National Assembly, no member of the party in the state presently holds elective or appointive position.
In Abia state, the party is divided between chief Ikechi Emenike and Dr Nyerere Anyim. The issue is that party members accuse Emenike of hijacking the party to feather his nest. This was what came to play at the state congress of the party recently that produced the Fabian Okonkwo-led executive.
Interim state chairman of the party, Donatus Nwankpa and his group have refused to accept the outcome of the exercise, describing it as illegal and unconstitutional, stressing that it fell short of the stipulations of the national leadership. They stated that no single individual could dump his party to dictate the pace at the APC.
Many Nigerians believe that the unfolding intrigues and squabbles in the Southeast APC would not allow it settle down for the 2015 election, even as the outcome of the recently held national convention of the party appears to have compounded the issue.
For instance, some politicians in the zone who went into the merger on the ground that it could address the woe meted to them in the PDP have become disillusioned since the national convention was concluded, with little or nothing for the zone to show for it.
Those who have watched the trend of things at the national leadership of the party have come up with the conclusion that the party is tailoring towards a ‘Muslim and Yoruba’ party. They insist that there is no future for Ndigbo in the party.
Chief Damian Ozor, an analyst told the Guardian in Enugu: “In a two horse race between the PDP and APC, the Igbos have no business in a party that has not made any attempt to include them in the formation of the party. The disregard is obvious and future neglect is certain. No ethnic nationality will ever win Nigerian presidency without the support of others and the Igbos will never win the Presidency without the support of others. The way the administration of the APC is structured, you will agree with me that it has not made any provision for Ndigbo to come on board. If you look at the convention held, you will agree that plump positions were reserved for Yoruba and Muslim members, an indication that it is not an Igbo affair. Therefore anybody telling you that they will in future allow the Southeast produce a president is not telling you the truth.
“So I think the best option is still the PDP and to continue to support Jonathan. By supporting President Jonathan we have demonstrated to our South-South neighbours, our natural allies that we are capable of building friendly bridges across our borders. Ndigbo cannot afford to back a party that has already declared them irrelevant and in any case likely to lose.”
But the former national vice chairman (Southeast), Dr Nyerere Anyim, does not believe that the APC, on account of the national convention has become a Muslim party.
“Such views are baseless. For the first time in Nigeria, a major political party gave eight sensitive positions to Ndigbo. What else would you expect? No party has given Ndigbo an opportunity than the APC. You can check the records. APC is not a party for the Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo. It is not a party of the Muslims or Christians. If you check the APC structure, it is balanced; the Southeast is duly represented. A good number of Christians are also there. It is not a party that promotes tribe or religion. It is about the change that Nigerians desire, which APC is set to give them,” he said.
Southeast Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Osita Okechukwu said that APC holds great promises and would play the beautiful bride in the 2015 general elections, stressing that whatever has happened to the party was part of the initial challenges it must undergo in the march to stardom.
He told the Guardian: “There is enormous hope for our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East, when you locate the millions who are hungry, unemployed, uneducated, unsheltered and insecure.”
On the decampment of some top members of the party to the PDP, Okechukwu said the development should be analyzed based on who is defecting and what prompted the defection, explaining that somebody like Sen. Annie Okonkwo had been one leg in and one leg out of the party. He said that APC in the Southeast was not perturbed about the development and did not receive the news with any iota of surprise as he, Okonkwo had been more or less playing the PDP card.(Guardian)