Why Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe May Not Be Able To Win Abia State Governorship in 2023

15 mins read

The news that Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe is throwing his hat in the 2023 Abia State governorship election ring is the best news that happened to the state since 1999. The mere news is enough to cause the wheel of development to start turning in Abia State. The combination of Senator Abaribe in Abia State and Prof Soludo in Anambra State is enough to position the South East in the path of economic and technological development.

However sweet that news may sound to our ears, there are so many challenges that will make the new a mere fantasy. A couple of reasons may work against that ambition.

Let me state upfront that I have been an ardent supporter and admirer of Sen Abaribe. My support for him is not because of his fine looks (which you will agree with me that the guy got it) but because of what he stands for. He is the ‘only’ Igbo Senator in the Senator. Other Igbo Senators are just there to while away time and collect bogus salaries. Sen Abaribe has been the only vocal Igbo man, diving into suicide missions like bailing our esteemed Nnamdi Kanu, supporting IPOB and Biafra agitation, wearing the Dot Nation t-shirt, fighting for Igbo Presidency. The list goes on and on.

These are issues most Igbo leadership will not come miles close, how much less Igbo politicians. Sen Abaribe dares the lion and boldly defends the Igbo position. We salute him and stand with him. I’ve had cause to disagree with him especially on his position in endorsing the charade called Ohanaeze Presidential election. While I disagree with him, I still respect his bold stand. I liked him even more for standing behind his position.

Let’s talk about the Abia State governorship election come 2023. Sen Abaribe has a lot of things working against him. Sen Abaribe has been the lone vocal champion in the senate for the Igbo presidency in 2023 because of fairness and equity. Since 1999, Abia state PDP has maintained a rotational governorship candidacy in Abia State. Under this arrangement, the first governor of Abia state – Orji Uzo Kalu, came from Abia North.

After his 8 years in office, the next governor – Theodor Orji, came from Abia Central. After completing his 8 years as well, the position rotated to Abia South where the present governor – Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu comes from.

For fairness and equity, the position should rotate back to Abia North to continue with the spirit of the PDP zoning arrangement for political harmony. Sen Abaribe comes from the same local government as the present Abia state governor – Dr. Ikpeazu. Sen Abaribe contesting the governorship will not only destroy this balance but will endanger this political peace that Ndi Abia has enjoyed since 1999. A

against this fact defeats the same discussion we’re having at the national level for Ndigbo to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023. Some people may argue that Abia state needs someone to rescue the state from the rot that has enveloped the state since 1999.

So, it doesn’t matter where the person comes from. I completely agree that we need a crack team to rescue Abia State from further decline. However, Abia North has many capable managers to lead the state to become an economy and technology giant in not only Nigeria but Africa. Two of such persons from Abia North with the capacity, ability and experience to do that are Mazi Chikwendu Udensi and Dr. Alex Otti amongst others. Please check out their profiles and pedigree and get the facts for yourself. If Sen Abaribe has been arguing ferociously for Igbo Presidency come 2023, will it not be a moral burden on him to not practice the same at the state level. Fairness is fairness everywhere – national or state.

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Let me also chime in this disclaimer before being accused of being paid by these fine gentlemen to write this article. No one ever paid me to write this article. I did not even discuss the article with anybody including my closes friend – my wife. I write on different topics as my spirit leads me, coupled with my experience and facts at my disposal at the time of writing. This is not my first article and will not be the last in Jesus name.

Another albatross on Sen Abaribe is PDP. Since 1999, Abia State has been governed by PDP at the State level. Abia state is undoubtedly the worst developed state in the South East if not in Nigeria. It will be very difficult to convenience Ndi Abia that the next PDP government will be different and better than the previous three. In fact, Sen Abaribe happens to be the Deputy Governor of Abia State (even though he may not have a hand in the mismanagement of the state’s resources) during the reign of Governor Orji Uzo Kalu – who started the rot which Abia State is experiencing up till today. He may be guilty by association. Shaking off that toga will be next to impossibility. While PDP wants to rescue Nigeria from APC come 2023, wouldn’t other parties want to rescue Abia state from PDP.

Other neighbouring PDP governors like Wike, Udom Emmanuel, Umahi (I’m surprised I cited him) and a few others may have done fairly well in infrastructural development and resource management, Abia State under three PDP governors has nothing to show for the amount of money the state received under their respective leaderships. It will be a mission impossible for Sen Abaribe to convince Ndi Abia to see him differently. Closely following this argument is the closeness of Sen Abaribe to Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu – Abia State governor.

His opponents will not only tattoo PDP all over him, but they will also hang his relationship with Dr. Ikpeazu on his neck on the ground that he’ll perpetuate the Godfatherism that Bar Ume Kalu (SAN) wrote in his article. They might tag him a Dr. Ikpeazu’s boy who will be controlled by Dr. Ikpeazu. Running away from Dr. Ikpeazu will alienate him from the PDP base which he needs badly if he will win. Getting cozy with Dr. Ikpeazu will confirm the suspicion. He’s like between the rock and hard place.

There is also this rumour that the reason Sen Abaribe wants to contest the governorship is because he wants to trade places with Dr. Ikpeazu to pave way for Dr. Ikpeazu to contest for his Senate seat (since they come from the same local government). This will be at the expense of destroying the political balance that has existed in Abia state. If Dr. Ikpeazu has not performed well as a governor, why should he be rewarded with a senate seat. Sen Abaribe should not associate himself with that plot if true, so as not to ruin his stellar and impeccable image.

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If Sen Abaribe insists on contesting the election, he will be seen as somebody who cannot be trusted to keep an agreement. He needs more than Abia South to win the election. If Abia Central and North senatorial districts perceive that he wants to have his way irrespective of whose ox is gored, the two zones can team up to deny him the governorship seat. That may have a wider implication because these two zones can decide to rotate the governorship seat between themselves since Abia South cannot be trusted to keep an agreement. Also, Abia Central will remind Sen Abaribe that Dr. Ikpeazu hollowed out Umuahia government house and made Aba the de facto capital of Abia state and that Sen Abaribe will continue in that tradition. Such facts are easy to sell and will be bought because of established fact. If they can trust him to keep an agreement, they can’t trust that he’ll not continue in the tradition of Dr. Ikpeazu.

Sen Abaribe is the most popular Igbo pollical leader in Nigeria today. This popularity may be mostly among Igbo elites in Nigeria and Ndi Igbo in Diaspora. I don’t think that a voter in my village in Arochukwu, knows who Sen Abaribe is. If you explain to the voter that Sen Abaribe is our best politician in the Senate that has been fighting the cause of Ndi Igbo and another person explains to the same voter that Sen Abaribe was the deputy governor to Orji Uzo – who ruined the state for 8 years, I think the latter will resonate. Believe me, all politics is local. The national popularity of Sen Abaribe may not necessarily translate into local acceptance all things being equal.

The APGA factor. Any politician in Abia state and indeed South East who has not been researching Prof Soludo’s victory in Anambra state may not be paying attention to the shifting political terrain in the zone. If you think that APGA is contented with just winning Anambra state, you may be in for some surprise.

APGA very much wants to expand their coast to regionalize APGA in the South East and Abia State is next in their line of sight. It will be easy for APGA to pitch the prosperity of Anambra state against the sorry state of Abia state. They don’t need much effort to do so than just to point to a few laudable projects APGA initiated and completed in Anambra state to prove their point. There is no longer anything as “political stronghold”. PDP may be deluding herself into thinking that Abia is their stronghold. States will flip in the next election, especially under the era of INEC’s BEVA which is making rigging difficult if not impossible. So PDP will not only be up against a more informed voter base in Abia State, but they will also be up against voters who shone inducements and the big elephant in the room – the new INEC’s credible electoral system.

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While Sen Abaribe will be the best thing to happen to Abia state if he wins, there are so many things that will work against his ambition – most of which are not his making. It is for these reasons that Sen Abaribe should not jump into the fray without thinking through these landmines. This article is from a point of view of an informed voter who is analyzing the polity from the outside and it’s different from the bubble of politicians who have their political calculations, permutations, realities and advisers. In summary, it will be a herculean task for anybody wearing the PDP tag to win the governorship of Abia State in 2023 if other parties field qualified candidates as they did in Anambra State. For Sen Abaribe, it will be even a bigger challenge when the zoning question, his closeness to Abia State Governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and other factors are thrown into the mix. If I were him, I’ll resist the temptation.


Mazi Ben Ezenta

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Mazi Ben Ezenta
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