By Dons Eze, PhD
The defection of Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the All Peoples Congress (APC), citing “injustices” by the PDP to the South East geopolitical zone as reason for his defection, has made us begin to reexamine the relationship between the PDP and the South East.
When the journey to democracy in the country started in 1998 after long years of military rule, it began with two political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the All Peoples Party (APP), later changed to All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Later, some people left these two political parties to form the Alliance for Democracy (AD). And they were mainly from the South West zone.
In the sequence of elections held to usher in civilian rule which started with the local government election, the PDP swept the polls in many parts of the country, except in the South West, which was won by the Alliance for Democracy. The same pattern was repeated in the Governorship and the State Houses of Assembly elections that followed.
In the South East, in particular, the PDP won the governorship election in all the five states of the zone, and went further to control the State Houses of Assembly in these states.
Some people had attributed the PDP successes in the South East, to Dr. Alex Ekwueme being the pioneer National Chairman of the party, and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, as the National Secretary. But during this same period, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu was equally doing well in the APP where he later emerged as its first Presidential Candidate. Even when Ekwueme was ditched by the PDP and denied its presidential ticket, and the APP also did the same thing to Ogbonnaya Onu, the South East still went for the PDP.
When, however, the PDP finally won the 1999 Presidential election, it zoned the position of President of Senate to the South East, perhaps, to right the wrong or “injustice” done to the South East by denying Ekwueme its Presidential ticket. At that time, Okwesilieze Nwodo was still the PDP National Secretary, while Chief Solomon Lar was its National Chairman, after Ekwueme resigned to seek PDP Presidential ticket.
Much later, the PDP zoned its national chairmanship position, Deputy Senate President position, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and Vice Presidential Candidate, to the South East. No other political party in the present dispensation has had such long history of association with the the South East, or had made such positive impact on the lives of the people of the zone.
Twice the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) tried to break into the South East by offering its Vice Presidential ticket to indigenes of the area, and yet, the party did not succeed in winning the hearts of the people. The party’s performances in the zone on both occasions were abysmally poor.
The only political party that so far has tried to break into the wall of the South East, is the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which from 2006 to date, has held the Governorship of Anambra State. Observers however believe that APGA’s success was mainly due to the then national leader of the party, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who the Igbo or the South East, in particular, held in high esteem.
In 2007, Imo State fell to the Peoples Progressives Alliance (PPA) led by Orji Uzor Kalu, with Ikedi Ohakim as its gubernatorial candidate, even though Ohakim was to decamp to the PDP almost immediately after he was sworn in as Governor.
Rochas Okorocha, in the same Imo State, in 2011, flew the flag of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), to win the state gubernatorial election. Okorocha, however, in 2014, merged his own faction of APGA with three other political parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Today, the APC is in control of two of the five states in the South East, Imo and Ebonyi States, with the recent defection of David Umahi to the party, which is a major feat. The PDP also controls two states, Abia and Enugu States; while APGA has only Anambra State. However, not many people believe that the APC is comfortably seated in Imo and Ebonyi states, going by the circumstances that brought the party to power in these two states, one by judicial coup d’etat, and the other, by political coup d’etat.
But the question remains, why is the PDP appears to be very popular in the South East states notwithstanding the alleged “injustices” done by the party to the people of the area? We have seen many prominent politicians from the South East who left the PDP to join other political parties, only to become politically irrelevant thereafter. Sometimes, some of them would retrace their steps backs to the PDP.
Some people would attribute reason for the popularity of the PDP in the South East to hunger in the land. The fishing net will always have enough fish inside, once there are some little droppings. Without any ideology, politics in Nigeria is always cash and carry or the so-called “stomach infrastructure.”Onye ji igu ka ewu n’eso”.
Yes, PDP has not zoned its Presidential candidate to the South East. It has not built roads in the South East. It has not sited industries in the South East. It has not brought infrastructural developments to the South East. The APC, nor any other political party, has equally not done these in the South East.
But under the PDP administration, there was psychological satisfaction by the average indigene of the South East. This was because the party gave strategic appointments to many people from the area, which the APC administration has so far failed to do.
If, however, those who were appointed to positions of importance under the PDP administration, including some Governors and National Assembly members, failed to use their positions or opportunities given to them to bring development to the South East, or to improve on the well-being of the people of the area, we equally would blame them, because they were the people who did not do what they were supposed to do, but to round to blame their former political party when they want to jump ship.