2015: Abia’s plethora of governorship aspirants

By admin on 30/10/2014

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What has unfolded in Abia State, since early October, was the bold and daring entrance into governorship race in the state by a plethora of aspirants.

Some political pundits explained it as an attestation that the people have not lost their age-long republican nature, where everybody is free to aspire to the highest position of leadership, knowing that it is only the people that have the right to determine who leads them.

Yet others think that it was due mainly to a declaration made by the state Governor, Theodore Orji, in Aba the economic capital of the state, that his government has not endorsed any candidate.  Part of the Governor’s words were: “We are here to celebrate Honourable Uzo Azubuike with his people. I didn’t come here to anoint anybody for 2015. When the time comes for 2015, all the stakeholders will gather and decide. It is not what Ochendo will do alone”.

The governorship race seems to be generating enough tension across the state, and appears to be a straight fight between Old Bende (Abia-North Senatorial District) and the Ukwa/ Ngwa political bloc found mainly in the south and central Senatorial districts of Abia State. It has not however deterred contestants from other senatorial districts from joining the race. While many observers of Abia politics and history believe that this is the time for Ukwa/Ngwa axis to produce the governor of the state, contestants from Old Bende insist that in all previous contests both blocs fielded candidates.

The recent pronouncement by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, that it has zoned its governorship ticket to the Abia-South Senatorial District has sparked off controversy. Before now the Ukwa/Ngwa region, comprising of six local government areas from Abia South and three of their kinsmen-councils in Abia Central zone, had jointly pursued the agitation for power shift in 2015. But the insistence of the PDP that Abia-South and not Ukwa/Ngwa nation would produce the next governor has since put the hitherto united kinsmen at loggerheads.

All three Ngwa councils in Abia Central – Isi-alangwa North, Isi-alangwa South and Osisioma claim that they were the traditional head of the Ngwa nation, and should not be excluded from the race, while their kinsmen in Abia South argue that since the incumbent is from the same Abia-Central senatorial district, though from the Umuahia/Ikwuano divide, allowing them to join the fray negates the principle of equity and justice. They readily point to Senatorial zones as recognized basis for power rotation at the state level.

 

It is on record that since the creation of Abia State, power has always domiciled in Abia North and Abia Central zones. At the beginning of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, ex- Governor Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia North came on board and held sway for eight years. In 2007, the incumbent governor from Abia Central succeeded him, and Abia South now insists that it should be allowed to take its turn in 2015 in the spirit of equity, a postulation the leadership of the ruling PDP in the state has endorsed.

However, political observers and analysts are of the view that zoning is capable of destroying the PDP if not properly handled. Already it seems to have polarized the party as the anti-zoning forces in the PDP are seen as rebels in certain quarters.

The audacity of the PDP aspirants outside Abia South who insist on contesting contrary to the party’s decision is interpreted by some as disloyalty both to the Governor and the party’s hierarchy. But the affected aspirants do not seem to be jolted. They readily brandish "merit" as the overriding consideration while those from the favored zone point to the Anambra 2010 experience where Anambra North was delibrately favored to produce the governor as a good example. Even the recent declaration by Enugu state governor, Sullivan Chime, that his successor will come from Nsuka zone is being brandished as in line with the need to ensure equitable distribution of power at the state level.

 

Instructively, the greatest number of those jostling for the position are PDP members. There are few of other parties and their members making noise about the election. Abia is firmly a PDP state and the chances of other political parties winning in the state is seen as near zero. None of the aspirants appear ready to make the massive investment required to build winning grassroot structures that can beat PDP within the available time before February 2015.

 

The Candidates:

 

Uche Ogah

Factnewsonline interaction with the people on Uche Ogah revealed him as a masses man. This he was said to have achieved through employment opportunities he made available to teaming youths. He is generally known as Master Energy, the name of his petroleum product marketing business. He operates in the down-stream petroleum sector and is reportedly the highest recipient of petroleum product import subsidy in Nigeria.

He hails from Uturu in Isuikwuato Local Government area, and he is said to have always provided a hand of fellowship to the government, and as a result, a friend of the government. There are those who believe that if government and its functionaries would take sides, that their choice will not be very far away from Ogah. But then, Ogah is not from Abia South, and the party and government are looking towards that area for their candidate.

He is equally said to have been a bulwark for the people in times of crisis, like energy crisis because he was never with others who easily increase kerosene prices each time there is hiccup in the supply of the product.

However, his major weakness might come from people of Ukwa/Ngwa axis, who are insisting that the next governor of the state must come from their part. He also has little name recognition at Aba. But his supporters and sympathisers have always discountenanced with such arguments, countering it with the argument that the zoning claims was not from the national office of the party, and as such must not be respected. They have argued further that in past elections people from other Ukwa/Ngwa also participated and were defeated, that they did not freeze their candidates for others to run. For this reason, they did not see why candidates from other areas should be asked not to run.

 

 

 

Alex Otti

Like the supporters of Uche Ogah, Alex Otti is also against zoning.  He is a governorship aspirant that hails from Umuru, Umuehim village in Abia Central. He is another PDP aspirant, who described the recent clamour for zoning as undemocratic. He expressed the belief that it would not allow the best candidate to emerge.

Otti went as far as making his rejection of the zoning formal when he insisted, at his party’s secretariat in Umuahia, during a consultation visit to the leaders of the party, that meritocracy should be the watch-word, and that zoning would only end-up installing mediocrity in the system if allowed as some people were advocating.

“I don’t believe in zoning’ he said’ but what I understand by zoning is that it represents equity, but, when you put it into practice, you will observe that it will fail. The problem with equity is that it will bring confusion, even as the party has supported zoning, there will be no end to it. What I believe is that we need the best”.

However, if being successful in ones chosen career is to be used as a measure for who becomes successful in his party’s primaries and the governorship position, then Otti would be the man, in terms of merit. By all standards, he was a huge success in his career as a banker. Otti rose in his career to become Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Diamond Bank Plc.

 

Dr. Alex Otti graduated from the University of Port Harcourt with a First class honors degree in Economics in 1988 and an MBA from University of Lagos in 1994. He started his career in Nigeria International Bank Limited, a subsidiary of Citibank New York. Then he joined Nigerian Intercontinental Merchant Bank’s Treasury and Financial Services and Corporate Banking Divisions. After several twists and turns in the industry, he finally rose to become an Assistant General Manager at Diamond Bank Plc, before becoming the Group Managing Director/CEO.

What he will have going for him in his governorship quest will be the fact that he is independent minded and would not easily become a prey to godfathers. But that also has its drawbacks and may work against him. Even now, there are fears in some quarters that he could easily rebel against any godfather who supports his ambition. He is also seen as an outsider to Abia politics who want to benefit from the effort of others who built PDP in Abia.

 

 

 

Nwanozie Nwosu

 

Nwanozie Friday Nwosu hails from Ikwuano, Umuahia area of the state. He has often shown what his admirers hailed as political maturity and magnanimity. That he has done by insisting that politics should not be a “do or die” affair, and that he was ready to step down for any better candidate, especially from the Ukwa/Ngwa area of the state.

But his critics have often described his stance differently, as sheer politicking, because "he knows he stands no chance because he hails from Umuahia, the same area with the incumbent governor". They accuse him of being ready to make concessions to attract compensation after the battle was won and lost.

 

 

Nkechi Nwaogu

Senator Nkechi Nwaogu is another aspirant whose ambition has been dogged by the Ukwa/Ngwa zoning controversy. She graduated from Brunel University in 1984 with an MSc degree in Management (Finance). The first five years of her career where spent in England. Then, she returned home to Nigeria in 1988 and later held various positions in the Banking Sector.

Nwaogu began her political career in 1998 when she contested for Abia State Governorship primaries on the platforms of UNCP and All Peoples Party (APP) respectively Abia Central. In 2003 she was elected to the Federal House of Representatives as a member representing  OsisiomaNgwa/Ugwunagbo/ObingwaFederalConstituencies. While at the House of Representatives, she served in various committees of the House.

She was later elected as Senator representing Abia Central Senatorial District at the upper legislative arm of the National Assembly where she is currently the Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions.

She is not entirely against zoning, but disagreed with the way some party members were configuring it, to which a group have warned her. The group, Ukwa/ Ngwa Interest Group, reportedly warned her to drop her ambition or be disgraced out.

Chairman of the group, Okey Paul Nwankwo maintained that justice demands that Abia South senatorial zone should produce the next governor of the state. He said Nwaogu hails from the same senatorial zone as the outgoing governor and as such should not aspire to succeed him. “We are calling on our sister, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu to drop her governorship ambition because it is not in the interest of Abia state and Ukwa/ Ngwa land in particular. Her ambition will set Abia State backwards. She cannot succeed the governor having come from the same zone” he said.

 

But she explained her position: “In Abia State, what we have that determines where somebody comes from for governorship purpose is either the old Bende, comprising of eight local governments and these eight local governments are Umuahia South, Umuahia North, Ikwuano, Umunneochi, Isuikwuato, Bende, Ohafia and Arochukwu. For Ukwa Ngwa, they are made of nine local governments. They are Isiala Ngwa South, Isiala Ngwa North, Osisioma Ngwa North, Aba North, Aba South, Obi Ngwa, Ugwunagbo, Ukwa West, and Ukwa East. These are the people from Ukwa Ngwa and we have always been together, undivided, inseparable and one people. We have always been called Ukwa/Ngwa. And these nine local governments are the ones agitating for a new state called Aba State. We believe that by God’s grace, we will get it. The state of Aba in anticipation is for Ukwa/Ngwa people. Never a time in the history of Abia did we have what we call senatorial zoning for governorship seat allocation?”

She wondered why anybody would say that Isiala Ngwa North and South, and Osisioma Ngwa should be excluded from the governorship race “just because the three fall within the Abia Central Senatorial District. It is borne out of political selfishness”.

She said her aim was to add value to the state, and that that should be the basis of assessing her, and not zoning.

 

 

Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika

Leutenant General Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd.) is the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS). He is from Ovim in Isiukwuato, Abia North. He is among those believed to be angling for the PDP ticket but yet to pick nomination form. It is also rumoured that his instrumentality to the crushing of kidnappers who once held Abia to ransom will be rewarded with the governorship seat. Those wooing him for the race believe he has the experience and contacts, both locally, nationally and internationally, to attract influential supporters for his ambition, as well as the ability to reposition state.

But two things appear to be thawing at his ambition. The first is that being a soldier, whether he would have the geniality to work with civilians, which is what democracy, is all about. The second is the presence of Ogah from the same local council, which poses a threat to his ambition.

 

 

Enyinnaya Abaribe

The Ngwa, Abia South-born senator was born on of March 1, 1955. He attended Government College Umuahia, where he obtained his WASC certificate in the year, 1974. Senator Abaribe holds both B.SC and Msc in Economics from the University of Benin, 1979 and 1982 respectively.

He secured appointment with NICON Plc as Senior Manager, Investment in the year 1991 to 1993. He then left to head and manage Integrated Mortgage Company Ltd as the MD/CEO, a position he held till 1995.

He became the Deputy Governor of Abia State in 1999 -2003. He equally served as a Senator at the sixth National Assembly from 2007 to 2011 and was a one-time chairman, media affairs. He is currently one of the three Senators representing Abia State at the federal level, thus, making him a second term serving Senator. His legislative interests span across Public Finance, Education, Human Rights, Minorities and Constitutional amendment.

Abaribe was also a Deputy Governor to Kalu who was later impeached when he took exception to Kalu’s style of leadership. He later contested for the Senate in 2007 and has served for two terms.

But to hell with beautifully crafted resume, his critics contend. Among such critics is a group known as “Abians United”, which queried: "how has your impact been felt by the poor masses, the ordinary Abian on the street that sent you to represent and advocate for their welfare?"

 

The group called on him to be kind enough to account for his stewardship to the people. “We are not unmindful of the reasons behind your support for raping those you should represent both at the state and federal levels” they declared this year.

Interestingly too, the zoning arrangement is an added advantage to his ambition. He also has the federal connection, experience, and strong will to deliver if elected. He commands enormous followership among youths in his zone but not across the state. Abians from old Bende bloc perceive him as a divisive politician who founded the "otu onu" movement that is said to have later metarmorphosized to the kidnap gangs that raveged Abia recently.

 

 Okey Emuchay

He is the immediate – past Nigeria Consular General to South Africa. Okey Emuchay hails from Ukwa. He is a strong member of the PDP. His career as a diplomat spans a long time of 31 years.

He has promised that if elected, he would build on the legacies of his late father Dick Emuchay, who is former Chairman, Civil Service Commission of the defunct Eastern Region. His very wealthy family background, sound education, and diplomatic experience put him at advantage. He also has a number of kingmakers and political heavy weights in the Abia politics behind him.

 

Many sources in Abia told Factnews that Amb Emuchay is by far the most matured of the aspirants with an unmatched people's skills. His doors are said to be open to the poor and needy every time of the day.

 

Okezie Ikpeazu

As many concede to the argument that the next governor of Abia State should come from the Ukwa/Ngwa area of the state, aspirants like Okezie Ikpeazu, stand the chance of clinching the position.

He hails from Obingwa, but was little known in the political landscape until early last year when he was appointed by Orji as the Deputy General Manager of the Abia State Environmental Sanitation Agency. Shortly after his appointment, the rumour mills had it that he was the anointed successor.

A renowned biochemist, teacher and a highly acknowledged Public Servant, Okezie was born on October 18, 1964, to the family of late Pa Ishmael and Deaconess Bessie Ikpeazu of Umuebere in Umuobiakwa village, Isialaukwu, Mbato Autonomous Community in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State, Nigeria. He is credited with revolutionalizing proper waste management at Aba using a novel approach that created jobs for the unemployed while ensuring that Aba streets were for months kept clean.

Dr Ikpeazu who was a former head of biochemistry department at Enugu State University of science and technology is seen by many as an authentic "Aba boy" who will take Aba to the next level. He is also a strong grassroot man who started his political career as transition local government chairman and later special adviser to two different governors in Abia state. A devout christian and leader of many social-cultural organizations in Aba, Okezie is seen by many as the man to beat in the race for the new Abia government house at Oguibe layout Umuahia.

 

 

Chukwuemeka Wogu

Chukwuemeka Wogu may well be described as a successful politician when it comes to national politics because he is said to know his way around in Abuja circles. But as a local politician, he may not be considered as successful, if the past four or six years is anything to go by. But the latter is considered by many to be of utmost importance when it comes to him becoming a likely successor for the incumbent governor.

He is not as close to the incumbent governor as some other aspirants gunning for the position are but Nwadiala is not one of those considered as opponents of the incumbent. He was recently pictured with the incumbent on tour of new projects executed by the TA Orji led government in Umuahia. Wogu, the recently resigned Minister of Labour and Productivity once won a seat to the House of Representatives in 1998 and worked briefly in former governor Kalu’s government as a political adviser. That most certainly makes him a candidate that may not attract the current government’s strong sympathy or support.

He hails from, Ohanku in Aba, the commercial city of the state, and economic honey pot of the people. Even though he has long been rumoured to be nursing the governorship ambition on the platform of the PDP, his recent declaration at Aba did not attract enough enthusiasm from the residents who claim that he couldn't even attract federal attention to the poor state of roads at Aba and Abia state. He is also blamed for the poor state of Ohanku road that leads to his country home.

 

 

 

Gregory Ibe(Phd)

Chief Gregory Ibe, PhD, is seen by some people as a legendary Nigerian Business Executive, an entrepreneur par excellence, the moving spirit of educational transformation in Nigeria, a philanthropist and humanitarian.

 

He was born on December 10, 1963 in Kaduna were his parents, natives of Uturu in Isuikwuato Local Government Area, lived and worked. Although born and brought up outside his parents nativity, Chief Greg Ibe never ceased to be the quintessence of an Igbo son who is in perfect harmony with the rest of mankind world over. He adores his home place, Uturu and have endeavoured to make it adorable to the world.

Ibe has gone further to establish a Private University in his home town called Gregory University, Uturu with a focus on applied research, entrepreneurship and a work-based University education. His University has the mantra “Knowledge for Tomorrow”.

Chief Gregory Ibe has also established Gregory Iyke Foundation as a humanitarian medium to reach out to the poor and the helpless in the country. The Foundation is in affiliation with World Medical Relief Inc. and Global Medical Relief Inc., in the United States for execution of medical aid to Nigeria and Nigerians.

But many still view his rumored ambitions as mere rumours that will not materialize. He is yet to pick up the PDP expression of interest and nomination form.

The above-named are PDP members and aspirants. Many of the opposition parties are yet to effectively commence political activities in Abia. They appear to be waiting to see what happens in PDP with the expectation that some of those who will lose out of the crowded PDP field will find their way to other parties to contest the election.

Perhaps Reagan Ofomba, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) appears to be the only making appearances, and have been acting the opposition act.

However, speaking on the issue of candidates from other parties, Oche Onu Eme, a political pundit, told Factnewsonline that he had the belief that the “firepower of the PDP in Abia State is first, very intimidating and capable of cowing a lily livered politician into early submission. Then he said of Ofomba “for Ochiagha to make an appreciable impact in the guber race, then he needs to put in 5 times more efforts than any PDP opponent.”

What is most likely is that whichever candidate becomes PDP standard bearer in the state will most likely be the next governor of Abia state. But that will not be without the incumbent governor having a huge say. Known as Ochendo by his admirers, the Abia State Governor has very tight control of the party structure in the state and it’s almost given that his anointed candidate will get the party's ticket.

He is very close to the Presidency and is in the presidential re-election committee recently named by the President himself. Though the Governor has not named any preferred candidate, but scanning through his public statements since 2011, it is likely he will prefer someone from Ngwa axis to succeed him.

 

Across the state it has all been speculations as to who he will support, but he has so far kept public sealed lips on his choice, unlike Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime. But rumour mills have it that Okezie Ikpeazu is the likeliest. Still many point to his good relationship with Nwadiala Emeka Wogu and Ambassador Emuchay as factors that will make it a tough task for him to announce a candidate before the November 29th primaries. Pressure is also expected to be brought to bear on him from Abuja in favour of Emeka Wogu and Alex Otti.

 

Many also expect high wire political intrigues to play a role in determining who leads Abia from May 29th 2015. Some of the aspirants with strong Abuja connections are expected to use the national executive of PDP to ensure that favorable delegates emerge for the primaries. Already an FCT high court headed by Justice A. B. Muhammed has issued an order stopping the conduct of Abia PDP congress following a motion filed by two Abia politicians, igwe Chukwu and Eche James. Also the 3 senators representing Abia at the national assembly have petitioned the national working committee of PDP on the constitution of the PDP election committee in Abia.  

 

Posted on October, 31 2014

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