South East as battle ground for PDP, others

| January 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

THE 2014 governorship race in Anambra State will offer yet another opportunity to measure the status of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the South East.

The South East presents as a testy battleground for the PDP and other political parties and ahead of the 2015 elections, Anambra will be a veritable test run for the parties to examine how they can control the geo-political zone.

On the surface, the scenario points to a straight fight between the PDP and the other parties, especially the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) and the Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN).

The PDP knows that the South East is becoming a difficult pond to fish in especially when its intra-party squabbles in most of the states it controls are factored in.

The challenge initially came from APGA when it snatched Anambra from the PDP. Then the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) snatched Abia and Imo states, before the PDP recovered. APGA has struck again in Imo.

The emergence of the United Progressives Party (UPP) is looking like another option that could further irritate the PDP. By zoning the presidential slot to the South East, the UPP, appears to have raised the stakes higher.

In the meantime, the ACN, APGA, UPP and the Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) stand out as the bastion of challenge to PDP’s control of the zone. But because of protracted internal bickering, APGA’s fortunes is inclined on a plane.

The PDP National Vice-Chairman (South East), Col. Austine Akobundu, told The Guardian that his party has embarked on various programs to ensure that it recovers Anambra and Imo, presently held by APGA. While admitting the challenges posed by other parties, Akobundu said it was erroneous to give the impression that PDP is folding its hands and looks forward to being pushed out of control of the South East.

He said: “We have been on the road undertaking various activities. The activities are all geared towards strengthening our party in the first place and ensuring that PDP is energised to take the other states, which I have pledged to recover.”

The Publicity Secretary of Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, (CNPP) Mr. Osita Okechukwu, believes that another party will write the political agenda of the zone.  He said: “The other parties have good opportunities in the South East in the 2015 elections, if the election remains a referendum on the incumbents and anchored on a process that is free, fair and transparent.”

Okechukwu said that the “position is predicated on the truism that the PDP has serially betrayed the South East in terms of the yawning deficit in delivery of campaign promises.” He cited the worsening state of federal, state and council roads, abandoned social services, unemployment, failure to fix neither the Niger Bridge and build the so- much trumpeted second bridge across the Niger in Onitsha, the Coal-Fired-Power-Plant, as some of the poor records that should contribute to diminish PDP’s chances.

While dismissing the majority holding of PDP in the zone, Okechukwu blamed Nigeria’s dubious electoral system more than the laissez faire attitude of South East voters for the present control structure. According to him, “the problem the other parties had at the return of the country to civil rule, especially in the South East, far from the much orchestrated mercantilism of Ndigbo, is the less than transparent nature of our elections and most importantly, the role played by Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President in the formation of the PDP. His quest for the presidency had a near 100 per cent support in the South East and in spite of the manner he was shoved aside, the South East still emotionally regard PDP as their party. This is in spite of the in-roads of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, (APGA) in the zone. The APGA made a huge impression during the 2007 presidential elections, when APGA came third.”

He argued that the mercantilism of Nigerian politics is general and can no more be located to one region.

One area where the PDP has an obvious advantage over other political parties is funding. But the founding National Chairman of UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said moneybags stand no chance in dictating the direction of votes any longer. He pointed out that when democracy runs its course in the selection of candidates, the people would protect their interests under the policy of “one- man, one-vote.”

Dousing the impact of PDP’s acclaimed financial muscle, Okechukwu said: “The philosophy of the PDP is ‘Share the Money’ and its motto is ‘Food is Ready’ anchored on the nebulous dictum that government has no business in business; which has monetised Nigerian politics and consequently pauperised the people. It is also the anti-climax that the poorer the people the easier it is to manipulate them. We are not saying that money is not used in other political climes; however the important question is what is it used for? For instance, in the just concluded presidential election the US, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent over $5 billion, essentially on pure logistics and advertorial, not sharing raw cash.”

“The future of other parties in the South East and indeed Nigeria is very bright, especially with the subsisting national consensus that the PDP has failed Nigerians. Their philosophy of share the money, lacks the capacity for change and it is only a mater of time before the people begin the instalmental dismantling of the party.”

Okechukwu noted that the merger talks among ACN, CPC and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) is a milestone and the only option left to salvage the dangerous slide of Nigeria into a one party state.

“Unlike the previous merger talks, the promoters of the granite coalition are aware that going it alone will deny Nigerians their quest for regime change. It is clear to the ACN, CPC, ANPP and indeed all progressive forces that none of them can go it alone and at the stage the talks are, the chances of another miscarriage is very remote. No matter how hard the PDP tries to subvert the granite coalition,” he said. Okechukwu, who is also the leader of CPC in Enugu State, expressed the hope that South East will reap the fruits of regime change. “Regime change is the credo of 2015 elections; most Nigerians agree that there cannot be true democracy without regime change. Regime change is the core ingredient of democracy, without regime change, it becomes a one party state. It is regime change that countries like Ghana are celebrating, we are warming up to celebrate this festival of regime change in 2015,” he noted.

Unlike APGA that is enmeshed in intra party crisis, which it is trying to contain, the ACN, priding itself as the most disciplined party in the country, has penciled down three states -Anambra, Ebonyi and Imo – for maximum impact. The party had in the last three months been engrossed in aggressive membership drive and registration.

The leader of the party in the zone, former governor of Imo State, Chief Achike Udenwa, boasted that the ACN would be the party to beat in South East, come 2015.  He argued that the lack of internal democracy and garrison political style of PDP has geared to push the people of South East to the fringes of political irrelevance in the country.

However, as the parties scheme, a key issue that would affect the battle for geopolitical supremacy in the South East is the level of crises in virtually all the parties. In Abia, PDP leaders said it was in a bid to avert possible crisis that it moved against the return of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu to PDP. But if Abia PDP claims to be running away from internal crisis, Anambra and Enugu chapters cannot hide from theirs. In Ebonyi, the fear of possible backlash was said to have necessitated the re-election of members of the State Working Committee led by Prince Ugorji Ama-Oti.

The state Governor Martin Elechi is aware of the sharp divisions in the party alongside the fractionalisation of his cabinet members. Though in the case of Ebonyi, PDP has no overt threat to peace, the situation in Anambra, where a governorship election is around the corner is acute. Some prominent members of the party with appointive and elective posts in Abuja recently mobilised to torpedo the Ken Emeakayi-led State Working Committee.

Akobundu said that PDP has evolved a process aimed at solving the Anambra problem. “You do not expect that a party as big as PDP not to have diverse interests and intra squabbles. As a party we have the machinery to ameliorate the problems in such a way that whatever the problems are do not impact negatively on the party, our political and electoral fortunes.”

Akobundu added: “We have proved that we are working hard. We have won two bye-elections in Imo. It is like dragging something from the lion’s jaw. Under the watch of the APGA governor, we won two elections – Ahiazu/Mbaise/Ezinihite federal constituency. We won Oguta state constituency. As a party that is not in power, this certainly sends a message.”

Akobundu dismissed the zoning of presidency to the South East by the UPP and other vote winning strategies saying that since elections are a competitive process, any other party reserves its right to strategise for victory. “Mine is to tell you what my party is determined to achieve. We are running a multi-party democracy, so I am not going to speak for other parties but just to make sure that my party becomes the dominant party in the zone,” he said.

The National Vice Chairman noted that there is no party that does not have challenges in a multi-party democracy adding that if there were no challenges, “there is no democracy and there is no multi-party system.” He contended that if there were no opposition, the ruling party would be on auto drive. He acknowledged the coming battle for control of South East and noted that, “my job is to run the PDP effectively so that it wins in the five states.”

Culled from :Here

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