Nigeria is passing through interesting times with exciting political permutations ahead of the 2023 general elections.
In Abia State, apart from the governorship election which will determine who succeeds Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, the Abia South Senatorial District election is one election stakeholders are waiting for with spirited zeal.
Two political heavyweights in the state, Ikpeazu and Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe will square up for the coveted senatorial seat.
Observers say the senatorial election, no doubt, will be a battle of two titans. The two contestants are believed to be battle ready.
Obviously, when the election is won and lost, the two contestants will be heavily bruised and battered. Apart from political gains, the senatorial election has much to do with ego and self esteem. Who carries the day will go a long way to show who owns the political land scape in Abia south.
Already, Governor Ikpeazu, without much ado, has cornered the Peoples Democratic Party ticket. With the ticket, Ikpeazu hopes to go to the Senate where most former governors retire to “rest” after their term of office. Two former governors of the state, Orji Uzor Kalu and Theodore Orji transmuted to the Senate.
Ikpeazu’s major challenger, Senator Abaribe, after being “schemed” out of the governorship race under the platform of the PDP, speedily defected to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
APGA did not blink an eye in offering Abaribe the senatorial ticket of the party. The offering and taking of the senatorial ticket was indeed consummated on a platter of gold with the speed of light.
Ikpeazu though a sitting governor of the state, many observers see him as no match for Abaribe in the political contest in Abia South.
Their supporters are already at daggers drawn against one another throwing brickbats. A lot is certainly at stake, especially when it is widely believed in the state that Ikpeazu blocked Abaribe from getting the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP. For Abaribe, the pay back time may have come.
The general feeling in the state is that most political office holders believe that eight years is eternity. The time of reckoning has come in Abia State just as it is in other political climes.
Although Ikpeazu claim to have changed Abia for good, to some stakeholders in the state, the story of Abia under Ikpeazu is better told in “unsparing images of lost opportunities, abandoned projects and neglect of critical aspects of the state, especially Aba, the economic hub.”
For others, handing over the senatorial seat to Ikpeazu will amount to “reinforcing failure” when other parts of the country will go to the Senate with their first eleven.
Perhaps one single political miscalculation of Ikpeazu was teaming up with the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to allegedly “betray” Igbo presidential aspiration.
Many believed that Ikpeazu and Ugwuanyi brazenly sold their birth rights when they purportedly aligned with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, during the PDP presidential primaries in total disregard for Igbo aspirants in the race.
The two governors committed a “mortal sin” that should not be glossed over, they say.
Governor Ugwuanyi has also captured the PDP senatorial ticket for Enugu north. He edged out Senator Chukwuka Utazi who was said to have surrendered the ticket without a fight.
Ikpeazu, they say, has a lot of explanations to make in a place like Aba, fondly called Enyimba City, the hot bed of Igbo irredentists.
The story is told in the state that before the election of Ikpeazu as governor in 2015, the sing song in Ngwa area of Abia, was that Aba, the commercial nerve center of the state, was an eye sore because no Ngwa son or daughter was elected governor.
With the coming of Ikpeazu in 2015, Aba appears to have deteriorated more than what it was in the days of self styled Ochendo Global, Governor Theodore Orji.
The dismantling of “Abia Charter of Equity” that ensured rotation of governorship of the state among the three senatorial districts is another thorny issue that did not go down well with many stakeholders in the state.
It is largely believed in the state that in an effort to cover his tracks, Ikpeazu picked a former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University, Uturu, as the PDP governorship flag bearer for the 2023 election.
Governor Ikpeazu, they say “is a none performer and his abysmal performance in Abia is subject of fierce criticism.”
On the other hand, many political watchers in the state believe Abaribe has distinguished himself as a leading voice of the opposition in Abuja.
As Minority Leader of the Senate, he is said to have taken his responsibilities with much courage and thoroughness that spoke truth to power – even at times when other opposition leaders hardly dared to speak up.
Those who rate Abaribe describe the Abia South Senator as a very intelligent and charismatic politician who has one of the most solid political structures with enormous goodwill and grassroots appeal in Abia State, especially in Abia South.
According to them, Abaribe enjoys cult-like following among the youths and elderly alike, which reached a high pitch after he stood bail for Nnamdi Kanu the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
They say he is well regarded and respected by majority of Ndigbo for his pan Igbo stand and nationalism.
For them, Abaribe is vocal, bold and courageous in espousing issues of justice, equity and fairness. He does this with gusto, especially when Igbo nationalism is concerned, they say.
Abaribe’s performance as a vibrant senator and minority leader, they say, stands him out among the crowd of lawmakers in a country where most lawmakers go to the chamber to sleep.
The Abia South senator is seen as living above board on the issue of corruption, as such he is perceived largely as incorruptible and a man of integrity and high moral value.
It is also widely believed that Abaribe’s role in the enthronement of Ikpeazu as governor in 2015 remains a reference point.
His support base also cuts across party line. APGA is the dominant party in Aba and it has always defeated the PDP, except in the last by-election occasioned by the death of Hon Prestige Ossy of the House of Representatives.
Some say Abaribe attracted several projects to the Senatorial district, capping it with a bold initiative that culminated in the annual Made in Aba Trade Fair in Abuja, which is in its 9th edition.
Abaribe is largely seen as one of the symbols and faces of Igbo nationalism in the face of the current political realities in Nigeria.
Besides, APGA is largely Igbo party. No doubt the party is enjoying wide momentum, particularly after the victory of Prof Charles Soludo in the Anambra governorship election.
The party is fast becoming the rallying point of Igbo as a spring board to launch out to other nationalities for wider political negotiations in future and many political elite believe that Abaribe is well suited to be one of the major leading lights.
The growing resentment for the PDP in the South East and the mass exodus of the party’s big wigs, including Abaribe, Peter Obi and many other party operatives will surely affect PDP’s fortunes, especially in Aba that is seen as the melting pot of Igbo and the bastion of her nationalism.
Whether Ikpeazu’s pick of PDP’s gubernatorial candidate will fly or not will depend largely on how far other parties, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC) can go in putting their house in order.
The time of reckoning, they say, is indeed here with us.