How 2019 general elections in Nigeria will reshape Southeast’s votes
By Leo Sobechi
The 2019 general election holds a lot in store for Southeast politics. Although predominantly a seeming safe base for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there are indications that voter preferences would not follow the usual pattern of near bandwagon allegiance to party platforms.
Some active politicians have been looking at the overwhelming voter inclination towards the party in power in Anambra State to conclude that party loyalty would dictate voter behaviour in 2019.
But, while potential aspirants to mainly legislative positions are optimistic, there is one set of players that are having sleepless nights over the undulating electoral climate in the geopolitical zone: incumbent governors. How far is their second term ambition threatened?
The three governors that would be seeking re-election in 2019 in the zone are all card-carrying members of PDP. Of the three, it is only the governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, that does not have apparent posturing with the federal ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
However, despite the romance by the other two, Governors David Umahi and Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi, political developments in their states reveal apprehensions over the possible electoral challenges from APC and the much-hyped third force to their second term mandates.
It should be noted that even during its formative stage, the promoters of APC amalgam had marked Ebonyi and Enugu States as feasible areas for political inroad, given the running battles between their former chief executives, Chief Martin Elechi and Mr. Sullivan Chime, and some prominent play makers at the PDP headquarters.
While incumbent Governor Umahi had to rally round PDP financiers in Southeast to take advantage of the then pliant Presidency to displace Elechi’s preferred candidate from the PDP governorship ticket in 2015, Chime chose to endorse the candidacy of Ugwuanyi at the cost of the Enugu West Senatorial seat, which was in contention between him and current Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu.
Between 2015 and first quarter of 2018, much political water has passed under the bridge in the zone. No sooner than PDP lost the presidency than some influential members of the party strayed to the new ruling party, APC.
Although some trenchant APC stakeholders described the defectors as item seven politicians that are ever ready to arrive at lunchtime, the ruling party harvested big names.
The roll call included former President of Senate, Ken Nnamani, former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo, former governors of Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu States, Chief Orji Uzo Kalu, Chief Martin Elechi and Mr. Sullivan Chime, Senators Emma Azu Agboti, Anthony Agbo, Nkechi Nworgu, former Minister of Labour, Emeka Nwogu among others.
At a December 31, 2017 meeting in the country home of current Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnia Onu, the leadership of Southeast caucus of APC resolved to work for the electoral victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. They also conjured a curious political arithmetic that arrived at 2023 as the shortest route to produce a Nigerian president of Southeast extraction.
Last January, the leaders thronged the Presidential Villa, where they handed over the same resolutions to President Buhari pleading with him to ensure that an Igbo candidate succeeds him in 2023.
The Southeast leaders put up a convincing argument that sounded much like confession of past misdeeds.
They revealed that PDP has not really been winning elections in zone, stressing that unlike in the past, the politics of group interest captured by the President’s infrastructure uplift in the zone would help to sway voters.