Party unperturbed, says it’s all a facade
The battle for the soul of Enugu ahead of the 2019 elections may have begun in earnest as the ongoing re-registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state .
Early indicators of the exercise have seen some prominent members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fearing for APC in what the party described as great political harvest and a boost to it.
But the PDP, which seemed unperturbed by the happenings in the state, said it was all a façade that is far from the reality on ground as to the party is in charge of the state.
It insisted that nothing has happened that could threaten the dominance the PDP in Enugu.
APC maintained that what is unfolding in Enugu is the harvest of “progressive minds aimed at wrestling power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 elections in the state as well as consolidating the hold of the party in the South East zone.”
APC’s ongoing re-registration exercise, observers argued is putting the PDP on the edge in the state, as the political dominance that PDP has exercised since 1999 appears to be threatened with the defection of some of its members.
In the past two weeks, APC has made strong inroads into PDP despite the party’s control of the state executive, legislative arms as well as the 17 local government councils where caretaker committees drawn from PDP are in charge.
The big names that made the PDP tick such as Senator Jim Nwobodo; ex- Senate President, Ken Nnamani; veteran politician, Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu; former Senator Fidelis Okoro; immediate past speaker of state House of Assembly, Eugene Odoh; former House of Representatives members, Uchenna Ekwe and Anayo Ede; wife of former national chairman of PDP, Mrs. Dorothy Nwodo; among several others have joined the APC.
State chairman of the APC, Ben Nwoye, said the party would stop at nothing in winning elections in Enugu in 2019. Basking in the euphoria of the party’s present level of acceptance, he had asked the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to begin preparations in earnest to quit the Government House, insisting that the party was prepared for the task.
Briefing newsmen at the end of the stakeholders meeting with officials of the party’s national committee on the ongoing members’ re-registration exercise in Enugu, Nwoye said PDP is “dead in the state and living only in name.”
He noted that with the influx of political bigwigs that had continued to dump PDP for APC in the three senatorial districts of the state, “it is now obvious and clear that it is all over for the PDP.”
The PDP on the other hand has insisted that nothing has happened that could threaten the dominance of the party in the state, emphasizing that it had so far delivered on the promises to the people since 1999.
Immediate past publicity secretary of the party, Dr. Okey Ezea averred that the firm control of the apparatus of governance in the state was not a fluke.
“Enugu is PDP and PDP is Enugu state. What we hold with the people is like a social contract and because we have continued to fulfill our obligations, they will continue to trust us.
“For years, the PDP continued to delight Enugu people because through it they were made to know how a party should function. Majority in Enugu politics including those now in the APC learnt politics through the PDP. We have entrenched a very strong party that can win election any day and anytime. It was not a feat that started in a day,” he said.
But of particular interest in the unfolding scenario, observers ask, is what will become of Ugwuanyi and perhaps his party by extension as events and attention shifts gradually to the 2019 general elections? Can the governor and the PDP muster enough political goodwill to match the APC, which appears to be moving like a hurricane wind in the state? What if the answer is in the negative, will Ugwuanyi dump the umbrella and clutch to the broom regime?
It is argued that the party under the governor has not utilized opportunities to further deepen its hold on the state, especially with the failure to conduct council elections when it was due in December 2015. Many still hold the governor in contempt over the development, insisting that conducting the polls would have afforded the party opportunity to test its popularity after the exit of the last administration in the state.
The Guardian gathered that the purported imposition in the state’s party congress held last year where nominations of the privileged few were taken as officials of the party, further widened the gulf within; with some others members deciding to quit over not being given the opportunity to contribute their quota to the growth of the party.
Besides, sources maintained that members have not been happy with the leadership style of the party’s headship, Chief Augustine Nnamani since his emergence last year. In particular, aggrieved members alleged that since the party was pushed out of the Abakaliki road secretariat belonging to the family of the immediate past governor, Sullivan Chime, it has met only once at its new rented apartment on Charles street (GRA), Enugu.
Similarly, Nnamani was accused of disregard for people; that he does not respond to text messages and telephone calls as well as agree to appointments for one on one meeting. For instance, he is said not to have made a public (press) statement since he became chairman; and till date, he has not commented on the exodus PDP members to APC.
The state governor whose seat may be hotly contested in 2019 elections with the connivance of the members now leaving for the APC, from a distance, appears unruffled by the development. Close watchers contend that the reality about the ‘hopeless’ situation of the PDP in the state may have been deliberately allowed by him so as to justify any move that might eventually see him joining another political party.
According to them, the general notion is that the former senate president and Nwobodo could not have joined the APC without his knowledge and concurring going by the closeness that exists between him and the duo particularly since he became governor.
For instance, apart from nominating people into the councils’ caretaker committees, they contributed to the membership of the various boards appointed by the governor in the state.
The state chairman of PDP feigned ignorance of accusations of being snobbish, insisting that that the party is intact as no influential member has left it.
“No government official, no elected official of the party in Enugu state has defected to any other political party though it is the right of anybody to move from the party to another. We are hoping towards 2019 and when 2019 comes and elections are held, we will know who is on ground or not”.
In the same vein, the governor said he remains a “beautiful bride in Enugu politics,” avowing that he could still win election in the state in 2019 if he chooses to “run on zero party basis”. Ugwuanyi who spoke through his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Mr. Emeka Madu said he does not need to embrace APC or any other political party to retain his seat in 2019.
“The governor is too busy to be distracted with issues over defection. He is a gentleman loved by his people. Ugwuanyi is working and his major concern now is how to link the over 40 communities in the state with projects. He flagged off simultaneously projects in the 17 local government councils, which are ongoing at the moment. He has continued to pay salaries and the third state in the country that is not owed to workers among others. These qualities could endear him to any political party,” Madu told The Guardian.
He said that the allegation that Nwobodo and Nnamani moved into the APC to prepare grounds for Ugwuanyi was not true, saying: “These people are gentlemen who cannot front for anybody. As I speak with you, I am on my way to Ovoko my ward. We are on ground with our people. Ugwuanyi is a home groom politician and when the chips are down, we will know who is at home with the people. There could be rumours but he does not need to run from one party to another to actualize his dreams because, he has really impacted on lives and that is why the people will always support him.”