In Ebonyi 2019, Your Record Must Speak for You

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The elections of 2019 are not a walkover for the current public office holders as the people have resolved that anyone seeking re-election must do so on their performance record. Benjamin Nworie reports

In Ebonyi State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has always held sway in all elections into public offices. This feat has lasted with the enthronement of democratic rule as well as the creation of the state in 1996. The PDP has always dictated the political direction of the state and the people have seen it also as the “household” party, heavily popularised and acceptable by its logo, the “umbrella”.

The seeming political monopoly enjoyed by the party in the state may still not be far from the support of the federal government, , controlled by the PDP. Now, that PDP is bereaved at the center, other component states controlled by the party are now left at its own mercy, either to be submerged or battle for survival from the forces of the APC controlled federal government.
This situation has furthermore created room for more accountability and transparency from political officer holders. The alternative platform has created confidence in the minds of the people to vote out any visionless leader or perceived poor performer in the forthcoming election.

Interestingly, debate about performance has continued to strewn the state’s political landscape. In the minds of the people, some poorly performed persons are already being awaited back home immediately after their tenure to give room for fresh hands. The burden of works awaits the PDP members in the National Assembly both Senate and House of Representatives occupiers.
There is a lot of side talks going on amongst the electorate, which seem to suggest that many of their national assembly members have performed abysmally low and must be shown way back home, albeit some are victims of zoning and political witch-hunt.

As a result, the seat of the Ebonyi South Senator, Senator Sunny Ogbuorji has long been declared “vacant” in 2019 by the PDP hierarchy and actors in the state. In a projection, it’s certain in some quarters that Ogbuorji may not smell the red chambers in 2019 unless he puts his fate in the hands of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which his body movement had long confirmed.

And whether true or misconstrued, Ogbuorji is seen as a threat to future permutations in the state. Analysts have therefore argued that this is the time to whittle or decimate his glowing influence and affluence before he grows too “big” to be controlled or tamed.
Ogbuorji’s palaver is slightly different from his colleague in Ebonyi North, Senator Sam Egwu, although the latter’s seat has been declared vacant too by certain influences in some quarters. Egwu has the combine challenges of alleged underperformance and the conspiracy of the Izzi clan.

His candidature is also seen as a threat to the zoning principle, equity, justice and fairness which fine-tune the political system in the state. Many don’t wish Egwu back to the Senate and there are overwhelming indications some forces are aggregating to pull him down, chief of which is lack of followership and lack of grassroots supports. Some have even said Egwu sees his senatorial election as honour done to his people.
But it may be very difficult for the state governor, David Umahi to “sacrifice” Egwu in respect of the clamour for the charter of equity, which the Izzi people have been agitating since the creation of the state. When things were tough in the 2015 governorship election in the state, Egwu played a prominent role to ensure the victory of the governor.

As the first governor of Ebonyi, Egwu laid solid foundation for the take-off of the state, especially with his educational policy and programmes. His free and compulsory education actually assuaged the backward story of the Ebonyi people. All things being equally, the footprint made in the education sector has remained Egwu’s political unique selling point.
But such selling point and influence diminished and disappeared into the thin air after his successor, Martin Elechi, forcefully pushed him into oblivion and rendered him politically irrelevant in the state for eight years, only to be resuscitated by Umahi with the senatorial position.

Rather than consolidating and making new friends, he has allegedly divided the Izzi clans with divided interest groups, which according to observers, almost marred his empowerment programmes last year.
Various lists from different camps created tensions that the materials were deferred and secretly disbursed at an unpublicised date. It was envisage, however, that the crisis may have been politically motivated to blight the exercise, and register grievances in the minds of the people. Observers also claimed that Izzi people are already divided at his instance.
If the division is true, it could make or mar his reelection. First, if the Izzi people are divided, the hope of a replacement from the clan may be a mirage, because the Izzi people will lock themselves into clannish battle, while Egwu may utilize the opportunity and strategize his machinery for reelection.

It could however undo him if the Izzi people unite themselves to fight him as common “enemy” but for the seeming intractable clannish battle between the two clans – Igbojima and Umuera. To this effect, Umahi has given him much prominence to the extent of naming the governor’s lodge after him based on what Umahi described as “laudable foundation in the progress and development of the state” as the first executive governor for eight years.

But as the saying goes that in politics, what is permanent is interest. Umahi too believes in internal democracy and accountability. It may not be business as usual, especially as it was in 2015, for any public office seeker to ride on the back of Umahi to emerge victorious. Pundits hinted that there would not be “sacred cows” in the next election as the electorate are wiser now to detect and choose who they want.

Sources in the zone alleged that Egwu has not shown any meaningful impact since he went to the National assembly, while a majority of Izzi people claimed that he’s holding the position in “error”, after it was snatched from their kinsman, Senator Chris Nwankwo in 2015. The Izzi clan still claims that it was their birthright to occupy the position. Izzi controls three local government areas of Abakaliki, Ebonyi and Izzi as against Egwu’s Ohaukwu local government area.

The jostle for Egwu’s replacement has also put the clan in disarray over who is legitimate enough to occupy the seat. This internal crisis may illuminate Egwu’s chances, when the Izzi people become heavily divided among themselves. If Izzi people are determined to unseat Egwu, observers advised that they should eschew internal and personal wrangling and mudslinging and forge a common front to form a formidable strong voice at the poll.

This feat may be difficult if not impossible because political heavy weights from the clan across the two political parties are battle ready for any political show of shame, if their candidate is threatened. Besides, the APC may still be basking on the euphoria of “federal might” to snatch the seat from the PDP, no matter who the candidate maybe.
The APC is already threatening to sack the PDP senator in the zone, just as they threatened to occupy other positions. The vision of the APC may suffer setbacks if its leadership crisis is not promptly resolved. The crisis has degenerated in recent times, with a third faction emerging and clamouring for the sack of the other two factions led by Hon. Ben Nwobasi and Hon. Eze Nwachukwu respectively.

Already, the people of Ebonyi council area have lodged a “genuine” clamour for equity and zoning in the zone to occupy the seat for once since the creation of the state. The council area, THISDAY learnt remains the only local government in the zone that does not know the “shape” of the red chambers and they consider the next election as the time to fully burry the marginalization structure. The other three council areas have occupied the seat twice or once respectively.

In Ebonyi council, former Minister of State for Power and Steel, Chief Goddy Ogbaga is said to have renewed his intention to vie for the seat, after he discontinued his ambition for Egwu to emerge victorious in 2015. In the PDP, Ogbaga seems favoured to occupy the seat as the only heavyweight to have sacrificed his ambition to ensure the victory of the party in the zone.

Sources noted that Ogbaga was lobbied to vie on the platform of the labour Party, so as to pitch tent with his brother and governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Edward Nkwgeu but he declined all entreaties to ensure the overwhelming victory of Umahi’s PDP. Ogbaga is also highly revered in Izzi land in lieu of his giant strides recorded as a former minister. His relevance in Ebonyi politics may not be far from humanitarian services, which have endeared him to his numerous fans and admirers.

In Izzi council area, the Director-General of Umahi’s Divine Mandate campaign organization, Fide Nwankwo may take any “risk” even if it entails stepping on any toes to pursue his ambition to logical conclusion. Nwankwo, although has recently gone into political oblivion, which has created some suspicion in the polity, may likely put his destiny into his own hands to pursue his ambition gently and craftily. Respected in Izzi land, if he chooses to run against all odds, the records of his role in the last election may be reopened by his people.

In Abakaliki, a third term member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga is another force to contend with in the senatorial race. Silently and covertly as he operates, Ogbaga may place his senatorial ambition as a bargain to be allowed back to the House of Representatives for the fourth time.
In any of the calculations, the ambition of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Francis Nwifuru may also play a prominent role. Now, Nwifuru is a man after Umahi’s heart and may want him to go to the green chambers to reciprocate his support to him while as speaker. But if the position of the speaker will be retained, Nwifuru may still be reelected to head the sixth assembly.