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ANALYSIS: Igbo Defections To APC; 2019 And Corruption

A realignment of political forces has begun in the South-east geo-political zone ahead of the 2019 general elections.
       Ken Nnamani

In the last few months, some prominent politicians in the zone have quit the Peoples Democratic Party to join the All Progressives Congress.

Among the defectors are a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu; a former governor of the old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo; and a former Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Eugene Odo.

Others are a serving senator, Andy Uba; former Senators Ifeanyi Ararume, John Nwanunu, Nkechi Nwaogu, Fidelis Okoro, Chris Agboti; and a member of the House of Representatives, Tony Nwoye.
Businessmen, Emeka Offor and Ifeanyi Uba as well as the owner of Peace Mass Transit, Sam Onyishi, have also identified with the APC.

For the APC, the biggest catch has so far is Mr. Nnamani. Imo State’s Rochas Okorocha, the lone APC governor in the zone, was so excited at the defection of the former senate president that he declared him the leader of the party in the zone.

Ben Nwoye, who chairs the party in Enugu State, Mr. Nnamani’s home state, said with the defection of the former senate president to the party, “change” had begun to manifest.

Mr. Nnamani’s journey to the APC on January 22 had long been predicted. He left PDP in February 2016, claiming the party had abandoned “the path of its noble vision and values”. He did not state his next destination.

In 2007, Mr. Kalu, who was rounding off his second governorship term in Abia, floated the Progressives Peoples Alliance, PPA, on whose platform his successor, Theodore Orji, won the election. Mr. Orji, now a senator, later defected to the PDP.

His Imo state counterpart then, Ikedi Ohakim, who had won on the same platform also joined the PDP, thus giving PDP control of four of the South Eastern states. Ebonyi and Enugu have been ruled by the PDP since 1999.

In 2011, Mr. Okorocha won the governorship election on the ticket of APGA but later took a section of the party to join the opposition parties that formed APC.

The PDP has also won virtually all the National Assembly seats in the zone since 1999.

For instance, in 1999, except the senatorial seat of Imo West won by Arthur Nzeribe, Enugu North, won by Hyde Onuaguluchi and Abia Central won by John Nwanunu, all of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, the remaining 12 senatorial seats in the zone were won by the PDP.

However, midway into his tenure, the court sacked Mr. Onuaguluchi, a catholic reverend, and installed Ben Collins Ndu of the PDP as the senator for the district.

In 2015, all the 15 senatorial seats were initially won by the PDP. The APC was later to clinch the Imo North senatorial seat when a bye-election was conducted in that district last year.

Of the 41 House of Representatives seats, the PDP won 38 leaving only three for the APC. The main opposition party also swept majority of the seats in the five state Houses of Assembly.

The PDP also swept the presidential election in the zone. Its candidate, former President Goodluck Jonathan, polled a total of 2,464,906 votes in the zone. His main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, got a paltry 208,248 votes.

A repeating pattern

The current gale of defections is hardly strange.

At the formation of political parties in 1998, the PDP ran neck and neck in the South-east with the APP, which later became All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP.

Prominent Igbo politicians in the APP then were Ken Nnamani, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu; former Imo Governor, Sam Mbakwe; Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; Arthur Nzeribe, Ben Obi; former Minister, Ihechukwu Maduibuike; Joy Emordi; Max Ndaguibe; Josiah Odunna (the party’s national secretary); Prince Arthur Eze; and Gbazuagu Gbazuagu.

Others were former Senate President, Evan Enwerem; Hyde Onuaguluchi; Ezekiel Izuogu; and current Science and Technology minister, Ogbonnaya Onu.

But steadily, many began turned to the PDP after the December 1998 council polls.
Except notably Messrs. Onu, Ojukwu and Mbakwe, many defected to the PDP, thus making it the dominant party in the zone.

Mr. Ojukwu moved to the newly-formed APGA while Mr. Onu remained in the ANPP until it fused into the APC.

In the Alliance for Democracy, AD, were Third Republic Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Arthur Nwankwo, and Udenta Udenta.

Former senator, Offia Nwali, was in the Movement for Democracy and Justice.

After the 1999 elections, the PDP members from the zone at the outset were former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, Chuba Okadigbo, Mr. Nwobodo, Sylvester Ugoh, Christian Onoh, Polycarp Nwite, Orji Uzor Kalu, Achike Udenwa, Chimaroke Nnamani, Sam Egwu, Ojo Maduekwe, and Edwin Ume-Ezeoke.

Mr. Ume-Ezeoke decamped to the ANPP where he became the national chairman. Mr. Okadigbo also went to the ANPP and became the party’s vice presidential candidate in 2003. Mr. Kalu formed the PPA in 2006.

More to defection

While the defection in those years could be attributed to the desire of the politicians to pick up appointments and remain politically relevant, the current one, ahead of 2019, may go beyond that.

Many believe it is a move by some defector to escape the anti-corruption hammer of the APC-led federal administration.

Ifeanacho Oguejiofor, the Director of Publicity of APGA, believes so.

“Some of those people defecting are federal government contractors and political harlots,” Mr. Oguejiofor told PREMIUM TIMES.

“They are people who want to use the federal might to rig elections. They are not politically relevant. They are people who rig elections every time. The people are not with them.

“They want to be in any party that is in power because they want to loot and embezzle the people’s money. They move to the government in power so that EFCC will not come after them.”

For a regime that has been repeatedly accused of lopsided prosecution of the corruption war, this may not be far from the truth.

For instance, Mr. Nwobodo, who was also a senator, is currently under investigation by the EFCC for receiving N100 million from the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki, who allegedly diverted $2.1 billion meant for arms purchase, to politicians.

But Osita Okechukwu, the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, says it is strictly about APC’s appeal.

“I think the surge of eminent sons and daughters of Ndigbo into our great party, the APC is worth celebrating; worth celebrating in the sense that it gazettes the indomitable and entrepreneurial spirit of our people,” Mr. Okechukwu told this newspaper.

“It shows that my people appreciate the infrastructural development element in the cardinal programme of President Muhammadu Buhari regime. We are aware that in the fullness of time Nigeria is going to overcome the current hardship, despair and despondency.”

The VON DG further said the president has promised to address the imbalance in the federal appointments and provision of infrastructure, which he claimed would also favour the Igbo.

“Secondly, we are looking ahead on how best to harvest the age-long aspiration for president of Igbo extraction in 2023.

“Indeed, some of us reason that going by the zoning convention, it is faster and better assured to produce a president of Igbo extraction if President Buhari is to do two terms of eight years.”

What’s for 2019

Mr. Eneukwu said with the caliber of people joining his party, the electoral fortunes of the party is assured, beginning with the November governorship election in Anambra State.

“Obviously, we are winning more states. Mind you, some of the governors are definitely coming into the APC. At the end of the day, the little structure remaining in the PDP will be insignificant and that will be the end of the PDP.”

Mr. Eneukwu said the victory of the APC will begin in Anambra.

“We’re winning Anambra. All the strong people in the PDP are moving into the APC. APGA cannot win in Anambra again.”

Reminded that some of those politicians do not share APC’s philosophy, Mr. Eneukwu said “Politics is about power and service to the people and therefore when they get into power they will implement the party’s policies.”

But Mr. Oguejifor disagrees. “It (defection) will not affect anything in Anambra State. Anambra is APGA. They cannot change the electoral outcome in November,” he said.

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