NIGERIA: Elechi’s Exit Strategy

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Although his people insist he is still in the Peoples Democratic Party despite having lost out in the present political dispensation, the Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Martin Elechi is believed to have some other plans up his sleeve, writes Benjamin Nworie

The doubts over the rumoured defection of the Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Martin Elechi to the opposition party, Labour Party (LP) may have been cleared on December 16, when Elechi convened a town hall meeting for stakeholders in the state to deliberate on critical political developments in the state. Before the town hall meeting, speculations were high that Elechi and his groups have abandoned the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as a result of the crisis in the state chapter of the party.

The crisis which started as informed Source revealed with Elechi’s plot to hijack the party and impose a successor of his choice. The crisis however manifested when Elechi eventually anointed a former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chuwku as his successor.
The real factor that could be responsible for Elechi leaving for the opposition party or perhaps, clandestinely work for it is not unconnected with the emergence of his deputy, Dave Umahi, as the governorship standard bearer of the PDP. Elechi does not want Umahi but Umahi was the preferred choice of the people and the PDP elected him at the governorship primary.

At the state Women Development Center, venue of the said Town hall meeting, it was obvious that Elechi may not have given up on the opposition when he said he had no regret losing his supporters and loyalists to the opposition party in the state.
He stressed that he who beats a child cannot stop him/her from crying, and so, he could not stop any of his supporters and loyalists who are aggrieved by the happenings in the party from defecting to the opposition parties.

As it has become the practice, before anyone speaks, the person would first echo: Labour Party and the supporters would reply with the slogan of the party. And each time this was done, there was a resounding ovation in the hall to herald the birth of a new platform.
To Observers, Elechi’s resolve to joining the opposition party started when it was rumoured that he made attempt to join the All Progressives Congress but was rebuffed by the leaders and stakeholders of the party in the state. According to some publications in some national dailies, the rumoured second attempt to join another opposition party, this time, PPA equally hit the brick wall.

Then to avoid a repeat of the previous scenarios, if the rumours were anything to go by, the governor had no other choice than to join LP since APGA, according to some sources in the party had also told the governor to go and work with one of the APGA’s governorship
candidate, Senator Anthony Agbo, which the governor may not accept.

But these options did not go down well with the governor, who had wanted a successor by all means. To further justify claims in some quarters that Elechi is secretly working for Labour Party, his eldest son, Chief Nnnanna Elechi has defected to the LP, where he emerged its candidate to represent Ebonyi Central in the senate.

Again, most of the aspirants in Elechi’s camp have all defected and emerged victorious in their various positions in the Labour Party. A
source revealed that all the 13 Local Government Caretaker Committee chairmen and 64 Development Center Coordinators have been instructed to work with the Labour Party.

The opposition train, THISDAY gathered, visited the former governor of the state, Dr Sam Egwu ostensibly to condole with him over the loss of his mother but the delegation were said to have gone there to consult the elder statesman on their decision to joining the LP.
A source privy to the meeting hinted that Egwu reacted differently. His words: “I was even thinking that you are here to condole with me on the burial of my mother but you are talking politics. However, Ebonyi State has nothing to do with Labour Party. So, I don’t want you to tell me anything about Labour Party again because I will not listen to you.”

Though Elechi has lost on all fronts in the PDP, he has not covertly declared his intension to leave the ruling party. But he noted that despite the trying moment of the PDP in the state, “I as the leader of the party will remain steadfast in ensuring that the image of PDP is redeemed in the state in no distant time.

"I am the leader of PDP in Ebonyi state, I will ensure that the aggrieved members both in the past and present find the party to be good but in the interim, I have said I cannot stop those who feel aggrieved from crying. You can beat a child but you cannot stop him/her from crying. Therefore, I am losing my supporters to Labour Party and other opposition political parties. Whichever party you are, please vote for Jonathan."

Part of Elechi’s grievances was because of the alleged intention of some politicians, who wanted to mortgage the interests of the state for their selfish interests. But whether Elechi wants to fully join the opposition party or not, the standard bearer of the PDP governorship ticket, Umahi, noted that “Ebonyi does not need ‘Labour’ to deliver and return President Goodluck Jonathan.”

Despite the defection of some aggrieved PDP members to LP, Elechi’s major setback is how to convince critical stakeholders in the PDP to leave the party and join the new fold. Reports have it that Elechi’s former deputy and one of the senatorial aspirants, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu and former Ebonyi South senator, Chief Anyim Ude have warned the promoters of the Labour Party not to near their homes with the gospel of the Labour Party.

The two PDP men were quoted as saying “Leave PDP for what and to who? Nobody should come to my house with Labour Party. I will not leave the PDP I suffered to join what I don’t know.”

THISDAY learnt that Elechi was an ardent member of the defunct All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) before he joined the PDP to
contest the 2007 governorship election in the state. Even as there are formidable oppositions to challenge PDP in the 2015 elections, the confidence of PDP is still believed as registered in the minds of the people.

Since the return to civil rule in 1999, Ebonyi has remained a PDP State. But to ensure a resounding victory of the ruling party in the state, analysts have cautioned against the rumoured choice of Umahi’s running mate. It has been speculated that Umahi has settled for an Ikwo-born politician, where Elechi hails from, as his deputy.

Although the aim could be to lure Elechi’s supporters and cancel out some of his calculations, the result may be counter-productive in the light of the poor numerical strength of Ikwo local government.

Suggestions have supported the idea that the deputy slot should either go to the most populous clan, Ezza or Izzi to capture their bulk votes. Already, the people of Ebonyi Local Government and Izzi clan are by extension aggrieved that they have been schemed out in the pursuit of charter of equity that favours the South for governorship.

Stakeholders of Ebonyi Local Government have agitated that it was fair and equitably justifiable that the senatorial position for Ebonyi North should be zoned to the area since it was the only council area that has not gone to the senate since the creation of the state. Rather, the position was returned to Ohaukwu, where Egwu picked the ticket.

Besides, the only PDP aspirant for the position from the Ebonyi council area and former Minister of State Power and steel, Chief Godwin Ogbaga has expressed displeasure that equity could not be extended to the people of his area. Consequently, analysts have advised that it was needful for the PDP, especially Umahi, to reconcile with all aspirants such as Ogbaga, who are still not inclined to leave the party.

This suggestion, if considered, could unite Ogabga and others who may have been offended in one way or the other for the victory of the party. The dangers of not doing the above are enormous. Izzi clan has three local governments and the heterogeneous Ezza clan occupies almost all the 13 council areas in the state.

As an offshoot to the crisis in the ruling party, the Izzis have adopted one of the billionaire businessman, Edward Nkwegu for governorship candidate on the platform of the Labour Party, and if the rumour doing the rounds is anything to go by that one of the PDP governorship aspirants and senate Committee chairman on Police Affairs, Senator Paulinus Igwe Nwagu has been tipped to deputize Nkwegu, there may be problem for the PDP.

This is because if the two clans team up with their numerical strength, it may hamper PDP’s success because they may be forced to
doing the protest votes by producing deputy, since the relationship which would have broken any alliance, is no longer there.

In Izzi clan, opinions in some quarters had it that Umahi should work with Ogabga, who is revered in Izzi land. In some other quarters, the choice of the APC governorship candidate, Chief Austin Edeze was raised. Though Edeze has not joined the PDP, speculations were high that the former UBEB boss should be prevailed upon to leave APC and join PDP to deputize Umahi.

Against all odds, the choice of Igwe Nwagu in Ezza clan was widely accepted so as to pull all the votes from the populous clan even though the senator is seen as somebody who would not be submissive to his boss.

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