On May 29, 2023, the governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu will be handing over power to the fourth democratically elected governor to pilot the affairs of the state for the next 4-8 years. The issue of zoning, among other factors, will shape the political future of the state among political parties. Over the last few months, political activities in Abia State have gradually started gathering steam with various political parties especially, the opposition parties, eyeing to oust the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the seat that they have occupied in the last 14 years.
For the PDP, it is a period of consolidating on their continued dominance of Abia politics after it took the Supreme Court to save the incumbent Governor of the state, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu from being hounded out of office in 2015 by the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Alex Otti and in 2019 by the candidate of the All progressives Congress (APC), Uche Ogah, who is the incumbent Minister of State for Mines.
Just as it has become traditional in every election year in Nigeria, there have been open and secret talks/meetings between political parties and those seeking various elective positions in the state. A lot of aspirants across party lines are still holding several consultations with stakeholders in their respective electoral wards and local government areas seeking their support over their political aspirations.
With the uncertainty surrounding the ruling of the Umuahia Federal High Court on section 84(12) of the new Electoral Act; which the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly said that they would be challenging, some political appointees (of PDP stock) in the state who do not want to be caught in the web of the new Electoral Act have begin to tender their resignations and have also gone ahead to declare their interest to contest for various political positions in the state.
While opposition parties including the major opposition parties in the state; All Progressives Congress (APC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state were yet to put their houses in order, it has been a beehive of political activities at the state party secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party on Finbarrs road in Umuahia, the Abia State capital with various individuals, especially governorship aspirants coming to formally declare their intention to run for the office of the governor of the state under the PDP.
Some of the governorship aspirants that have visited the PDP secretariat and declared their interest to run for the governorship position in the state so far, include Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; Senate Minority Leader who is from Abia South Senatorial District, Senator Emma Nwaka; former PDP State Chairman from Abia North Senatorial District, Nnanna Nwafor; son of former Deputy Governor of the state from Abia Central Senatorial District, Greg Ibe; Pro-Chancellor Gregory University from Abia North Senatorial District.
Others who have equally bought their governorship forms include the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Rt.Hon. Udo Okochukwu, from Abia North Senatorial District, Ncheta Omerekpe; a PDP stalwart in Isiala Ngwa North local government area of the state from Abia Central, Hon. Sampson Orji from Arochukwu LGA, Abia North, Professor Uche Ikonne, from Isiala Ngwa North LGA in Abia Central and a few other aspirants who were yet to make their intentions open including the Speaker Abia State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji who many have in the past few weeks being persuaded to run for the office of the governor of Abia State.
Prominent aspirants for 2023 governorship position from other political parties who are yet to pick their expression of interest form include Sir Chikwe Udensi, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Arochukwu LGA, Dr. Alex Otti, All Progressives Congress (APC), Abia Central, Isiala Ngwa South LGA, Barr. Friday Nwosu, APC, Abia South, Obingwa LGA, Dr. Uche Ogah, (APC), Abia North, Isuikwuato, LGA, High Chief Ikechi Emenike, Abia Central, Umuahia North LGA and among others.
But beyond the promises of the aspirants to the party Executive and would be delegates in the upcoming primaries of the party, is the issue of zoning (power rotation by PDP arrangement), which is almost tearing the PDP apart. Many watchers and observers of political developments in the state have opined that the issue of zoning will either make or mar the PDP in the 2023 polls.
The Peoples Democratic Party in Abia State, at the moment is divided because of zoning. It is important to note that this is the first time that the party is witnessing such level of acrimony, animosity and division within them over which zone that would produce the next governor of the state.
The Abia North Senatorial District of the PDP is claiming that it is their turn to produce the next governor of the state since according to them, power has gone round the three senatorial districts (of Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South Senatorial Districts respectively) in the state according to the provisions of the Abia Charter of Equity.
The People of Abia Central Senatorial District, who are equally clamouring for the Abia No.1 seat however, disagreed with the Abia North stakeholders, stressing that it was their turn as well to produce the next governor of the state. According to the Abia Central stakeholders, Abia has two major political blocks of Old Bende; made up of 8 LGAs and Old Aba zone; which comprises of 9 local government areas.
Some of the political actors in Abia Central Senatorial District, who stated that it was their turn to produce the next governor of the state, warned that the party may be heading for doom if they fail to zone the governorship slot to the area. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe whom at the moment is the only PDP aspirant from the Abia South Senatorial District who recalled how the party narrowly lost the governorship seat in 2015, warned that the party may be heading into serious political crisis if it decides to shut the doors against candidates from the Abia South and called for open contest.
Senator Abaribe who has insisted that he is the right aspirant to fly the flag of the party in 2023 warned against protest votes from Abians if they fail to give room for a credible and transparent primary. Despite names such as Nnanna Nwafor, Prof. Uche Ikonne, Rt. Hon. Udo Okochukwu, Ncheta Omerepke etc being rumoured as possible anointed successors of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu which many claimed was the reason the PDP leadership has zoned the governorship position to Abia North and Abia Central respectively, the likes of Abaribe said that they are not perturbed, but called for a credible governorship primary. With the current leadership crisis rocking the APC and APGA in the state, Abians are doubtful on the possibility of these two possible alternative parties in the state to challenge the PDP dominance of the Abia polity, even though that the people have continued to blame the PDP in Abia State for under performance at least, in the past 16 years.
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