Can APC win the South east?

Last Monday, the All Progressives Congress(APC) had inaugurated the Niyi Adebayo Strategic Committee to investigate why the party lost the last Anambra state gubernatorial election and to fashion out how the ruling party will win the South east geo-political zone. However, the committee’s leader seen be a round peg in a square hole as ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU and TOPE SUNDAY highlight in this report

A week to the last Anambra gubernatorial election, a group of Nnewi businessmen had visited Dr Orji Uzo Kalu, former governor of Abia state, at his Abuja residence. At the meeting, Kalu poured out his mind to the visitors about the situation of Ndigbo in national politics. The coming election, according to him, was an opportunity for Anambra state and in the long run, the entire Igbo nation, to join the mainstream of Nigerian politics. As businessmen, Igbo have no business being in the opposition as it is now time for the South east to support the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government. However, in spite of Kalu’s plea, the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) still won a decisive victory on the November 18, 2017 election. Significantly, APC has not given up on the South east as last Monday, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the National Chairman of the party, had constituted a Strategic Committee that will investigate what went wrong at the polls. In addition, the committee will fashion out a blueprint on how APC will win the South east in coming elections.

Adebayo Committee to the recue
Significantly, National Chairman of APC was disappointed with the outcome of the Anambra state election. In particular, he was expecting the party to do much better, given its mobilization and preparation for the election. Specifically, he expressed this disappointment while inaugurating the four-member fact-finding committee, led by Otunba Niyi Adebayo. The committee, amongst other things, has been mandated to do a forensic analysis of why APC lost the just concluded Anambra State governorship election. Specifically, the national chairman had asked Adebayo to find out ‘’why did we not do well as we expected? What were the factors that contributed to our low score?’’ Oyegun had confessed that APC did much better in the last election, compared to the 2015, in Anambra state ‘’ but in all fairness, given the work we put in and given the reactions of the public and the rest of it, there was no question at all that we ought to have done a lot better.’’

Significantly, the Adebayo-led Strategic Committee has 30 days, from the day of inauguration, to submit its report and its findings, according to Oyegun, will form the basis of winning the South east in the 2019 elections. In particular, the national chairman reiterated that the zone will be critical, not in terms of numbers, but to secure overall victory in next year’s elections, especially at the presidential election. At a later date, a separate committee will be set up to determine how to make inroads in the South south zone because ‘’the issues are different, the environment is different and the circumstances are different, from the South east zone, he promised.

APC makes inroads in Abia
The APC, without waiting for Adebayo committee report, has apparently started penetrating the South east. Last Tuesday, Abia state chapter had organized a Mega Rally, which virtually brought Umuahia, the state capital, to a halt for several hours. In addition, four members of the State House of Assembly had defected to APC at the event which attracted a massive crowd. Specifically, the immediate past House Speaker, Rt. Hon. Martins Azubike, left the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) while Minority Leader Solomon Okogbuo and his predecessor, Chief Ikedi Ezekwesiri, including Hon. Theophilus Ugboaja, who represents Ikwuano constituency, all defected from APGA to APC.

Oyegun attends mega rally
Addressing party supporters at Umuahia Township Stadium, Chief Oyegun, said that Abia state is ready to join APC and support President Buhari’s second term aspiration in 2019. According to him, the state has decided to shed its bondage to become an APC state. Significantly, he expressed satisfaction with the large turn out of supporters, adding that the party faithful ‘’ have asked me to tell Buhari that he must run and win in 2019.’’ The national chairman promised to pass the message to the president and in addition, Oyegun seized the opportunity to sell Buhari, by telling the crowd that very soon, the rail system will start working. “I can assure you that the president is doing that now because any nation that does not operate a rail system cannot go far. Until we have a workable rail system, this nation cannot have a good development,” he said. According to Oyegun, Buhari is doing well in electricity supply and agriculture, to the extent that the rice which “we ate this year was produced in Nigeria. Bad days are coming to an end, good days are beginning.’’

Kalu assures defectors
Significantly, the leader of the party and former state governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu vowed that APC will take over Abia state 2019. He promised that “I will put in everything I have to make sure APC takes over Abia State in 2019.’’ Kalu assured the defectors ‘’ that nobody will touch you or look for a way to impeach you; if they do, they will see the federal might because the president does not support militancy.’’

PDP has failed – Chime
Similarly, former governor of Enugu state, Mr Sullivan Chime, told the crowd that PDP had failed the South east. “For eight years as a governor, I was among the delegation that went to Aso Villa for them to build our roads to no avail. Today, it is a different story that the roads are being done at the same time. APC government means well, no matter the campaign of calumny being carried about by PDP. I am here to identify with our people in Abia and to tell them that APC is the only party that tells us the truth all the time. PDP’s engine has knocked and APC is now the only moving car. APC is the party Igbo have decided to join. We are returning Nigeria to a comity of nations.’’

Ojukwu’s earlier defection
Significantly, on the eve of that election, Mr Emeka Ojukwu jr, son of the late APGA leader, had defected to APC in a move that proved to be a political miscalculation. After the poll, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state, basking in euphoria, had dismissed the younger Ojukwu as someone without political relevance.

However, the son of the late Biafran leader took Obiano to the cleaners and justified his defection. In summary, it was a clarion call to Igbo to reconsider the politics of exclusion. According to Ojukwu, he was following his father’s steps in ensuring that the Igbos return to the mainstream of Nigeria’s politics. In the second republic, after he returned from exile, his father had joined the ruling Nigeria Peoples Party(NPN) and not the Igbo-dominated Nigerian Peoples Party, Ojukwu recalled. He argued that “I can afford to stay back in APGA and wallow in sentimental politics that the party belongs to the Igbo, but in the long run, what becomes of our tomorrow and place in the great Nigeria project, for which our forefathers laboured, invested their time, talent and even their blood?’’ In addition, the young Ojukwu posed a rhetorical question to the entire Ndigbo, ‘’which is preferable: to be a big fish in a small pond or a big fish in the ocean?’’

Similarly, Ojukwu pointed out the duplicity of Igbo governors. “So, while they seek to crucify me for joining APC, they express support and solidarity for the APC leader. Which is worse, to walk the talk or pander to politics of deceit and duplicity? What is the essence of being in a party that would rather support the presidential candidate of another party than choose its own?’’
At different times, Ndigbo have supported Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan in office, Ojukwu had pointed out, ‘’so we owe President Buhari a duty of support in the spirit of fairness and political goodwill so that when a president of Igbo extraction will emerge other ethnic groups will reciprocate.’’ Significantly, what Kalu and Ojukwu are advocating is smart politics but APC may have put its wrong foot forward.

Dead on arrival
Significantly, analysts have dismissed the Adebayo committee as being dead on arrival. In particular, they argued that Adebayo, one time governor of Ekiti state, is the wrong man for the job. ‘’First, he is not from the South east, so he can’t possibly know what the issues are. In any case, he has been out of political reckoning since he was defeated in 2003, ‘’ a ranking APC chieftain confided in our correspondent last Thursday.

Expectedly, APGA has described Oyegun’s plan to win South east as wishful thinking. The party, speaking through its National Coordinator, APGA Media Warriors Forum, Evang Chinedu Obigwe aligned with Governor Willie Obiano’s statement.

According to the duo, APGA, will sweep the entire south-eastern region in the coming general election. In particular, Obigwe advised ‘’APC leaders is to forget about capturing Southeast in the 2019 election because APGA victory hurricane will sweep the entire South-eastern States in 2019 for the purpose of replicating Governor Obiano’s good governance model in all the states in the region.’’

As it is, the Adebayo committee report and its implementation as well as APC determination to follow it through, will decide whether or not the South east will swing to the mainstream of the nation’s politics.

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