IGBEAKU ORJI reports on the recent mega rally by held by the Abia State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which it used to state its readiness to take over the state in the forthcoming general elections
After several postponements the Abia State chapter of the All Progressives Party (APC) held its mega rally held on Tuesday last week. The rally instantly lifted the party to the second position in the state House of Assembly. Four members of the House declared for the APC during the rally, making APC the opposition party in Abia State.
The defectors are the immediate past speaker and member representing Isiala Ngwa North, Hon. Martins Azubuike; the minority leader and member representing Bende South, Hon. Solomon Okogbuo; member representing Ikwuano constituency, Hon. Theophilus Ugboaja and member representing Umunneochi constituency, Prince Ikedi Ezekwesiri. While Azubuike defected from PDP, the other three were APGA members.
The development now places APC, which had no seat at the inauguration of the House next to PDP, leaving APGA third in the 24-member Assembly. Many had believed that President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, would grace the rally with the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, but only the national chairman made it.
However, the absence of the president and vice made no difference. Addressing the mammoth crowd that converges at the Umuahia township stadium, venue of the event, Chief Oyegun said President Buhari has done in two years of his administration what the PDP could not do for the South-East zone in 16 years. He said the Enugu-Port Harcourt and Enugu-Onitsha expressways, which were dilapidated for many years, have received attention from the present administration.
He added that the government has embarked on the construction of a standard gauge railway across the nation, an infrastructure he said, is critical to the nation’s economic development.
Oyegun further said that the Buhariled APC government is working hard to rebuild the foundation of the nation, which he said has had been eroded over the years.
The APC chairman who said he was satisfied with the turn out at the rally urged party members to ensure that they worked to make President Buhari’s second term bid a reality. He declared that Nigeria has become self sufficient in rice production because of the agriculture revolution of the Federal Government, even as electricity generation has increased from the 3,000mw to the present 7,000mw.
According to him, these are indicators that the Buhari administration is on course and urged the people to support him to do more.
APC National Deputy Chairman (South), Engr. Segun Oni, who addressed the crowd, said with the bold statement made by the rally, members who were foot dragging “can now boldly identify with the party.”
Chairman of the party in the state, Hon. Donatus Nwankpa, while welcoming the guests promised to ensure that the state is swept by APC in 2019. He, however, appealed for more federal presence in the state.
He said the phenomenal growth of the party in the state, which a few years back was like a wildness, is evidence that it will go far in the 2019 general elections. His words: “We are determined to make Abia, God’s Own State indeed.
We will get it done through a door-to-door campaign, without hate speeches because we believe in the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
The Abia State APC Chairman also reminded the people that the APC-led Federal Government has commenced the construction of the Second Niger Bridge just as the Enugu-Port Harcourt and Enugu-Onitsha expressways are being rehabilitated.
Nwankpa noted that with four members of the state Assembly, including the immediate past speaker now in the, APC more will join before the 2019 elections. The South-East chairman of the party, Chief Emmanuel Enukwu corroborated Nwankpa’s position saying the party is poised to take over the zone in2019. “We should support Buhari in 2019 to pave the way for a president of Igbo extraction. We will move to other parts of the South-East from Abia State with same message,” he said. The facilitator of the rally and former governor of the state, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, in his speech, said the event is the beginning of great things that will happen in the party.
His words: “In 2015, we made below six per cent, but in 2019 we will make 75 per cent. We have come to tell Abians that APC has come to rebuild the state. When I was governor, I paid workers and pensioners because democracy is about the people.
So, I will do everything to return Abia to APC.” Kalu was unequivocal that APC is the Igbo surest route to the presidency and urged the people of the zone to support President Buhari in 2019 if they ever hope to get to the coveted office.
He encouraged the state legislators, who joined the party not to entertain any kind of fear of molestation as the party will stand behind them. “If they try to harass these House of Assembly member,s they will see federal might,” he said.
He added: “Theodore Orji said he was in bondage, now why is he keeping Okezie Ikpeazu in bondage.
Release Okezie to work. When I was governor, I paid workers and pensioners, I gave free education, now they have killed education and workers are not paid. As governor, I gave Abia State University ABSU N200 million monthly subvention and Abia Polytechnic N65 million.
ASCETA Arochukwu and School of Nursing Aba were getting subventions, but today they get nothing.”
He said there is nothing new the PDP government in Abia State is going to do that APC will not do, including free education and urged the people to support President Buhari as according to him, “the President has shown leadership in security and economy.
Today the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that went down is gradually coming up again.”
Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, on his part, encouraged members of Abia APC to work hard to give him a second brother from the zone at the Council of States, describing himself as a lone voice at the federal level.
“It is unfortunate that some of our people in the South-East are still talking regional politics. Let’s go for national politics.
There is no point complaining if we are not playing the right politics,” he said. Okorocha added that it was such vision that lifted the South- West from regional politics to the mainstream, reiterating that the hope of an Igbo man becoming president is greater in APC.
“Thank God, we took the initiative to be in national politics. Imo saw the future and made it possible that Igbo will be in APC. I am the only child crying in Abuja, I need brothers from Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states,” he said.
National Organising Secretary of the party, Senator Osita Izunaso, who noted that the South-East has every reason to turn to APC, said going by the turn out at the rally, Abia has seen the light.
“In the PDP we had Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Minister of Finance and four governors, yet South-East got nothing from PDP,” he said.
For former governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sullivan Chime, the rally provided a wonderful opportunity to disclose why he left PDP for APC. He said contrary to insinuations in some quarters that he joined the party to escape the prosecution by the anti graft agencies, he dumped the PDP because APC has done in two years what the PDP failed to do for the South-East in 16 years.
He said: “For 16 years, we were in PDP begging for attention and dividends of democracy. For 16 years, Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway and Enugu-Onitsha expressway were abandoned. As governors, we will go to Abuja with the request for attention, but nobody listened to us.”
The former governor noted that though the South-East did not vote for APC in 2015, yet the roads have been given attention, which he said was the reason he could arrive Umuahia from Enugu in one and a half hours.
“I came into Umuahia in one and a half hours. If you see a government that means well, you will know. What has happened with APC is much more than what PDP did in 16 years. APC is already working, PDP has derailed, you don’t have a choice.
APC is the way to go, the party is systematically returning Nigeria to where it should be,” he added. He urged the people of Abia to shun sentiment and relaunch into national politics by massively joining the party. PDP governorship aspirant for the 2015 elections in Abia State, Dr Uche Ogah, used the event to formally announce his decision to join the APC.
Ogah had challenged the election of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on the ground of irregular tax receipts and was issued with a Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the right candidate of the party on the orders of the court, but Ikpeazu challenged the order and was returned as governor.
Since then it was rumoured that Ogah had left PDP, but his exit remained in the relm of speculation until the APC mega rally. Ogah said his coming to APC is for the good of the state. His words: “Every bad thing in Abia State would be swept away in 2019.
One of the reasons I joined APC is because I have seen a man who love the nation. We will support him, we will mobilize for him to do a second term. We will build competent and credible opposition in Abia State. Abia is number one state and we will restore it to that position. We will make sure Abia is delivered, Abia people should support APC.”
The event also afforded him the opportunity to pay glowing tribute to the leaders of the party in the state, especially Prince Benjamin Apugo and Dr Kalu for their immense contribution to the growth of the party.
He assured that they would not let the people down. Ogah declared that for APC to achieve its objective in the state, leaders and members should imbibe the virtues of character, conscience, courage, competence and faith in God.
The event was indeed a veritable platform for Abia APC to present itself to the people.
Prior to the event the people hardly reckoned with the party as having the potential to form a government in the state. Besides, leadership crisis and clashes of interest tore the party apart.
It was therefore cheering for party faithful to see the leaders together as one family, sharing a common vision and a determination and commitment to achieve set goals.
The assemblage of political heavyweights was by any standard intimidating especially given that two years ago the party posed no threat to the ruling PDP. If anything it was APGA, which surprisingly sprang from insignificance and near obscurity to almost take over the reigns of government.
As the Abia APC mobilizes ahead of the 2019 elections and the ruling PDP in the state boasting of retaining power, no one will dismiss the relevance and extensive political strength of Apugo, once a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), while Kalu’s political popularity has not diminished since he left office as governor.
Also, the four members of the state Assembly, who joined the party, have their followers behind them, just as former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, who left the PDP immediately after the 2015 primaries will pull his supporters with him.
Senators Nkechi Nworgu, Chris Adighije and Bob Nwanunu are equally no push overs in Abia politics.
Same goes for former deputy governor of the sate, Dr Chris Akomas and former member representing Ikwuano/ Umuahia constituency, Hon. Stanley Ohajuruka. The list is as endless as it is intimidating, but how far these political heavyweights will go in the 2019 elections would be determined by developments in the days ahead.