Posted by News Express | 20 October 2021 | 733 times
ANAYO EZUGWU reports that though the All Progressives Congress (APC) is gradually taking over the South-East political landscape with the continued defection of prominent politicians from the zone to the ruling party, the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State is a litmus test for it.
The deputy governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke, surprised political watchers in the country on October 13, when he dumped the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
His defection was considered a huge political blow against the ruling APGA in the state ahead of the governorship election scheduled for November 6. Okeke was received at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He was led to the Presidential Villa by the APC Caretaker Committee Chairman and Yobe State governor, Mala Buni and the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma. A photo of the meeting at the villa showed Buhari, Uzodinma, and Okeke jointly holding a large-size flag of the APC.
Before now, there was a rumour about Okeke’s defection to the APC, but the deputy governor did not publicly react to the rumour then. Apart from Okeke, there are other prominent politicians in the region, who have joined the ruling party. They include six lawmakers from the Anambra State House of Assembly.
On August 4, a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Joy Emordi, defected from the party to APC. Emordi described the APC leadership as sincerely and genuinely committed to a united Nigeria that has plans for the future generation.
She assured the party of her loyalty and that of her supporters, sayin: “I assure the party of my loyalty and support and to work for the success of the party.
The APC-led federal government is working for the South-East and this is attracting more PDP members into APC.” A former Minister of Aviation and senator representing Anambra North Senatorial District, Senator Stella Oduah, had on August 26 dumped the PDP for the APC to be part of the process of changing the political narrative in the South-East.
The lawmaker said she joined the APC family along with her multitude of supporters. Before the defection of Senators Oduah and Emordi, APC chairman in Anambra State, Chief Basil Ejidike had hinted at the impending defection of two serving senators in the state. He also said party now has a registered membership of 500,000 following the party’s registration and revalidation exercise that took place between February and May 2021.
His words: “Before the exercise, APC membership was about 200,000, but after the exercise, I am proud and confident to announce that we now have about 500,000 members of APC in Anambra State. What it means is that the party has progressed from a little above 200,000 to above 500,000. I am talking of real active party members, which shows that we are on course. Although the exercise is still ongoing we had a break during the governorship primary and since the primary is over, the exercise will continue.
But the fact remains that before we went for that break, we had a total registered members of above 500,000.” No doubt, the recent defections show that APC has greatly improved its fortune in the zone since the conclusion of the 2015 general election, when it took the political landscape by storm following the successful merger of various political parties to upstage the PDP, thereby ending 16 years of uninterrupted rule of the main opposition party.
In the South-East, which rejected APC during the 2015 general election and voted massively for the PDP, attention has suddenly shifted to the ruling party as politicians from the zone jostle to pick the APC membership cards in what many likened to a mass defection in the zone.
So far, the party is in control of two states out of the five states in the zone. In many states of the South- East, it has been a mass harvest of politicians who have dumped their political parties over one reason or the other to pitch tent with the APC, which they have described as a move to link the region to the centre.
Many top politicians including former governors under whose guide the APC lost elections in the region have suddenly embraced the party. For instance, the composition of the party in the zone in six years showed that in Enugu State, top politicians including former Senate President, Ken Nnaman; former Governors Jim Nwobodo and Sullivan Chime; former Military administrator, Group Capt. Joe Orji (rtd); former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh; Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu; former Commissioner, Joe Mammel and several others have joined the ruling party.
In Anambra State, those who have joined the ruling party include the incumbent deputy governor, Okeke; Senators Andy Uba, Emordi and Oduah as well as former gov ernorship candidate of the PDP, Chike Obidigbo and some members of the state House of Assembly. In Ebonyi, the defection of Governor Dave Umahi automatically made the state an APC controlled state, with a majority of members of the State House of Assembly, commissioners, governor’s appointees joining the ruling party.
Others are former Senator Chris Nwankwo and all local government chairmen who served under former Governor Martin Elechi; former Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu; former House of Representatives member, Peter Ede, former PDP youth leader, Chinedu Ogar and commissioners who served under Elechi. In Abia State, former Minister of Labour, Emeka Nwogu and former Senator Nkechi Nworgu are among the bigwigs, who have joined the APC since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections.
Before the recent defections in the South-East, the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu had revealed that the party hopes to win more states in the zone. He said the party is targeting at least three speakership positions in the state assemblies in the zone and also hopes to have its members win majority of the National Assembly seats for the zone.
According to Onu, for the target to be achieved, the party leaders in the zone must come together to strategically reposition it in the region, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“I will like to appeal to all our members in the South-East, please no matter how the party offended you, no matter what any person may have done against you, please try and forgive because all of us are Christians. We believe very strongly when offended if we forgive that we are lifting even a great burden from ourselves.
“We no longer want to have factions, we have seen that in Nigeria, the APC is the governing party and this party is very strong and will keep governing Nigeria for a long time to come. But in the southeast geo-political zone, we are the only zone without a governor elected on the platform of APC.
“So, we want a change. We have our best people representing us at the National Working Committee of our great party, they have been giving us good leadership and we believe very strongly that if we keep supporting them, with what have seen, by 2023 we should be aiming at a minimum of three governors elected on the platform of the APC.
“We will have the majority of the seats in the National Assembly from the South- East. We will also have the majority of the seats at the state assemblies in our various states so that we will be producing a minimum of three speakers. Once we do this, it will help us, nobody will ever say that the southeast does not make contributions to the party,” he said.
Likewise, Governor Uzodimma boosted that the South-East has great benefits and reward mechanisms lined up for the zone in APC.
He said it was time the APC took over the zone now that the South-East leaders have joined the party, adding that a massive registration into the party should be encouraged along with a reconciliatory move amongst the members. Uzodimma said the National Convention of the party will give the South-East leaders the chance to make their stance known about the APC which he says was blackmailed and insulted in the past.
According to a statement issued by the Imo State government, Uzodinma’s style of leadership has made the APC attractive to the zone. The statement read in part: “You may recall that Governor Hope Uzodimma was the only APC governor in the South-East and through his dogged and exemplary style of leadership attracted his Ebonyi State counterpart to dump the PDP for APC to compliment the vision of South- East for APC, and since then, Uzodimma has not rested on his oars to make South East an APC zone.
By this recent move of the South-East APC leaders, the zone is set to benefit a lot from the party.”
Also the chairman of the APC Caretaker committee and governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni on Monday, October 11 boosted that the party has eroded the stronghold and decapitated the opposition parties in the South-East with the glee of defections of their members.
Speaking at the inauguration of the nine-man National Reconciliation Committee (NRC) of the party led by former Nasarawa governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Buni said the development was a manifestation of his November 24, 2020 projection that APC will shock the political space with massive and unprecedented defections ever witnessed in the political history of this great country. He said:
“Today, the South-East geopolitical zone, hitherto referred to as the stronghold of opposition parties, is gradually melting into the APC and increasing the fortunes of APC to remain Nigeria’s leading political party.”
Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani said the mass participation and comportment of APC faithful at the recent Ward Congress of the party was an indication that the people believed and have confidence in the party.
He advised the party faithful to continue in the same spirit to ensure that the party took its rightful place in the South-East. “The major target is for APC to be the most dominant political party in the South- East. Gradually we are getting there, especially, with the solid foundation we have laid at the ward levels of the party now,” he said.
Notwithstanding the defections of prominent South-East politicians to APC, the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State would be a litmus test for the ruling party in the zone.
How the party will overcome grassroots support for APGA and APC in the November 6 elections is yet to be seen
(Adopted from New Telegraph)
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