â€ŽAlthough the Peoples Democratic Party in Enugu State and the opposition All Progressives Congress are locked in a fierce battle ahead of the November 4 council elections in the state, no one expects the opposition to make any impact in the polls, writes Christopher Isiguzo.
Since the inception of the present democratic governance in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has remained the dominant political platform in Enugu state.
From 1999 when Dr Chimaraoke Nnamani clinched the governorship of the state, to 2007 when he handed the baton to his Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Sullivan Chime and in 2015 when a three-term member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi took over the mantle of leadership in the state, it has always been PDP all the way.
Apart from few occasions where opposition parties made slight inroads in election into the National Assembly, the story had never changed. However, it is trite trite to state that within these periods under review, the party had equally dominated the nation’s body politics especially at the national level.
The story however changed in 2015 when the PDP was upstaged at the national level by the All Progressives Congress (APC). This is now a major tonic that has encouraged the opposition party in the state to begin to dare to alter the apple-cart.
The strength of the two major parties will be tested in the coal city state on November 4, this year as the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) under the chairmanship of a renowned legal practitioner and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ajogwu declared its readiness to conduct council election in the state.
The ENSIEC had consistently pledged its readiness to conduct a credible election but the fear remains that the trend whereby ruling parties clear all the seats in states where they are in control might still repeat itself in Enugu.
At inception of his administration, Ugwuanyi had set up caretaker committees to pilot the affairs of the 17 councils in the state pending the conduct of elections. Though, initially, the option was opposed by opposition parties who were of the view that constituting caretaker committees to run councils was at variance with the provisions of the constitution, but as time went on, nothing much was heard about their opposition as it was gathered that some leaders of the APC even nominated their loyalists to be part of the committees.
With the conclusion of primaries by the two main parties, electioneering campaigns have taken over the entire state with each party making efforts to outdo the other.
Unlike in the past when most PDP chairmanship and councillorship candidates were returned unopposed following the inability of opposition parties to field candidates, the APC will field candidates in all the 17 chairmanship seats and 260 councillorship slots.
Other fringe parties like All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party will also field candidates in some areas.
At the moment, Ugwuanyi is leading the PDP campaign tours to all the councils bearing in mind that the outcome of the election would to a large extent give a clear picture of what to expect in the state during the 2019 elections when the governor will be seeking a second term.
The PDP believes that the performance of the governor in the past two years will ensure victory for the party. The governor also enjoys an overwhelming support across the state. The governor has recorded achievements across all the sectors especially prompt payment of workers’ salaries, massive road rehabilitation, construction of classroom blocks, healthcare delivery among others.
It is also believed that the incumbency factor would play a huge role in the election as those presently in charge of the councils are members of PDP.
The PDP campaign tour had also witnessed a massive turnout of enthusiastic party members and teeming supporters, as the governor continued to appeal to politicians to eschew any form of bickering and divisive rhetoric during the campaign and the elections for the party to enjoy a landslide victory.
The governor urged party faithful and supporters to go to every household to canvass for votes saying that the people would be receptive to their message because they are already at home with the PDP and its government in the state.
Ugwuanyi while presenting flags to the party’s candidates, entrusted their candidacy to the hands of God and urged the people of the state to come out en masse on November 4 to vote for candidates of the PDP in all the councils and 260 electoral wards of the state.
He preached peace, harmony and a united Enugu State, stressing that the state remained essentially one family, admired for its inclusive style of leadership.
Also speaking, the state chairman of the PDP, Hon. Augustine Nnamani thanked party leaders and supporters for coming out in large numbers to grace the campaign, saying that it was a clear indication that the party was popular and acceptable in the state.
He applauded the governor for entrenching peace and good governance with the meager resources at his disposal, saying that the unprecedented achievements recorded and the governor’s uncommon leadership style, had enhanced the PDP’s chances of winning all the elective positions in the forthcoming council elections.
The APC on its part is mainly relying on the support base of notable chieftains of the PDP that joined its fold. They include the immediate past governor of the state, Sullivan Chime, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former governor of old Anambra state, Senator Jim Nwabodo, former Speaker, Eugene Odoh, National Secretary of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), Chief Gbazuagu Nweke Gbazuagu, former National Secretary of the PDP, Chief Rex Onyeabor, among others.
Though, the party is battling with internal wrangling which has pitched the home front against some of the party leaders in Abuja especially the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeamah and Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reforms, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku, the chairman of the party in the state, Ben Nwoye has vowed to lead the APC to victory.
At the moment, none of the federal appointees has joined the party’s campaigns. Many believe this may eventually affect the party’s chances in the election.
Apparently undaunted, leaders of the APC in the state have warned that on no account should the local government election be rigged by anybody.
The APC stalwarts who gave the warning at the flag-off of the partyâ€™s campaigns at Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area, Ogrute and Agbani in Nkanu West Local Government advised those planning to rig the election to retrace their steps. They vowed that they would resist any attempt to manipulate the polls.
The state chairman of the party said that the APC had mapped out good strategies, as well as commenced grass roots mobilization of the people to show it was on ground and everywhere.
He noted that the large crowd of people at the APC campaign flag-off at Igboeze North LGA, and Udenu, which is Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyiâ€™s home council, showed that the people are tired of the PDP and its failed promises in the state.
Nwoye, therefore, declared that the APC â€œwill not accept anything short of a free, fair, credible and transparent election, devoid of any form of manipulation or rigging by PDP or ENSIEC.â€
The Enugu APC boss said that the PDP lacked strategy and only relying on propaganda by telling the people not to come out on November 4 to vote on grounds that the results have already been written in favour of the PDP candidates.
Nwoye said that the APC would be holding Ugwuanyi to his words as he had promised that he would not interfere in the election in favour of any PDP candidates.
â€œI am happy that Ugwuanyi told his PDP candidates to go and campaign. We believe every word from his mouth. If he has written results, he will not be campaigning. I believe he is a democrat, I believe he will not interfere,â€ Nwoye said.
Similarly, a former governorship candidate of the APC in the state, Chief Okey Ezea in his speech at Igbo-eze North maintained that the elections must follow the rules according to the Electoral Act, beginning â€œfrom distribution of electoral materials at ENSIEC to the polling stations, collation of results to the point where the results would be declared.
â€œIf they do not want to hold the election, let them not hold it. But if they want to hold it, it must comply with the Electoral Act.â€
Also the Chairman of the APC in Rivers State, Dr Davies Ibiamu, who represented the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun at the Nkanu West rally advised the people of Enugu State to reject the PDP and vote for the APC.
He urged them to vote for everybody on the ticket of APC, saying this would ensure that when they come back, they would say their journey was not in vain.
No doubt, the two dominant parties though working hard to make serious impacts during the council election, clearly have their eyes on the 2019 elections believing that the outcome of the November 4 outing will give direction on the way forward. As the expected date draws closer, political actors are clearly looking forward to something positive but how far their expectations will be met is left in the hands of time. Ends
APC would be holding Ugwuanyi to his words as he had promised that he would not interfere in the election in favour of any PDP candidates.