As the people of Ebonyi State get set for the 2019 general elections, the stage is still not quite clear where the pendulum will swing among the major contenders. OBINNA OGBONAYA writes
Unarguably, the race to occupy Ebonyi Government House in the forthcoming general election is gathering steam with the PDP perfecting plans to retain the state while the APC is making deft moves to end the reign of the ruling party in the state.
The emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship candidate, Senator Sunny Ogbuorji, and its National and State Assembly candidates in the state has not just given the opposition party in the state the confidence that it can win election in the state but that the contest especially the National and State Assembly will be keenly done.
There are indications that the race for the governorship seat between the incumbent Governor David Umahi and Ogbuorji may not witness very strong challenge based on certain reasons adduced by political analysts in the state.
There are however, some pointers to the possibility that the governorship race may still be won by Umahi based on certain indices.
Though campaign for the race is yet to begin, candidates of the two major political parties in the state would be concentrating on the strategy to adopt to ensure that they do not just convince the electorate to vote for them but they will also have to heighten their sensitization for the people to protect their vote, guild their PVCs jealously and vote performance and not unfounded promises.
The candidates are already putting modalities in place to avoid being rigged out of the polls.
As it stands, Umahi and Ogbuorji are the two major contenders for the governorship position of the state.
Apart from the two candidates, Prince Chibueze Agbo, a former Commissioner for Education under Chief Martin Elechi who picked the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) after losing the ticket to represent Ohaukwu/Ebonyi Federal Constituency, at the House of Representatives under the platform APC.
For the PDP, the incumbent Governor Chief David Umahi is believed in some quarters has a smooth ride back to the Government House. Some of his wining strides, according to pundits include his leadership, accommodation of shades of opinions, infrastructural development, people oriented policies including empowerment of widows, youths, traditional rulers, other opposition party leaders, religious institutions and artisans among others. But critics of his administration are of the view that he has not done enough for the civil servants in the state.
This may have prompted the indication of interest of Senator Sunny Ogbuorji who would have returned to the senate for a third term on the platform of PDP and without much stress.
First and foremost, analysts believe zoning is one factor that will give Umahi an edge.
The zoning arrangement of the state is a major factor. Ebonyi is made of three geopolitical zones, the Ebonyi Central, Ebonyi North and Ebonyi South senatorial zone.
In 1999, Senator Sam Egwu from Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi North zone emerged the governor of the state on the platform of the PDP and governed the state for eight years, while Chief Martin Elechi from Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi Central took turn and also spent a two-term of eight years.
In 2015, Ebonyi Central and North zone comprising eight local government areas unanimously agreed to allow the southern zone have its turn despite the fact that they are in minority.
One of the reasons behind the decision is the high level respect and regard the people of the zone accord to the Late Dr. Akanu Ibiam who hails from Unwana in Afikpo North Local Government Area of the South zone. Though Governor Martin Elechi is his desperate bid to stop Umahi in 2015, after his preferred candidate, former Minister for Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, lost the PDP primaries against the Elechi sponsored Chief Edward Nkweagu, the Umuekumenyi clan comprising of Ebonyi North and Central insisted on a candidate from the Southern zone against their leader and mentor, Elechi.
The election of Umahi in 2015 changed the political equation of the state as the completion of his second term in office would create a fresh political arrangement in the state. By 2023, the three geopolitical zones would have completed their eight years in office and the coast clear for either Ebonyi North or Central to slug it out again.
Political analysts are of the view that with the coming on board of Senator Sunny Ogbuorji from Umuekumanyi extraction in 2019, the political equation would be altered despite his promise of governing the state for only one tenure.
With the numerical strength of Ebonyi North and Central zones, coupled with their political awareness, the governorship election may be theirs to decide.
The two governorship candidates would channel most of their political strength towards the North and Central zone. While Governor Umahi’s campaign will focus on handing over the mantle of leadership to either an Ezza man or an Izzi person (the clans control the 99% of the zone), Senator Ogbuorji will face an uphill task of convincing the two major clans that he will handover to them after his proposed single term in office.
Though it is not yet clear what area the politician intends to improve, he has already assured the civil servants in the state that he would ensure the payment of the N30, 000 minimum wage but the leadership of the NLC in a swift reaction said that, it is high time politicians stopped making promises they won’t fulfil after they might have emerged victorious at the polls. While the two major contenders for the governorship position in the last two months have been making frantic effort to improve on their goodwill and ready to tour the nooks and crannies of the state wooing electorates to their sides, the National and State Assembly candidates are campaigning on the pages of local tabloids and the Facebook.
It is not in doubt that the two contenders will soon set the state on with their jingles and other political awareness programmes in an attempt to enlighten the electorates on the need to vote for them.
Looking at the candidates of the two major political parties contending for the position especially that of the National and State Assemblies, one would not be able to ascertain where the power would swing. But with the recent endorsement of the opposition parties in the state by the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ebonyi State, Traditional institutions in the state, Association of Non indigenes, the Landlords, the Urban forum, Proprietors of private schools, market women among many others, one would have no doubt to believe that the election is already concluded but as the saying goes, it is not yet over until it is over.
Meanwhile, a political survey conducted in the state by an Enugu based Research Institute shows that Umahi stands the best chance to win the election.
This is contained in a statement signed by Mr. Chijoke Chime, its Chief Consultant and made available to the LEADERSHIP in Abakaliki.
It stated that “Our findings also shows that the present administration within the public purview still has a lot to do concerning the welfare of workers and would massively sway the agitating workers to its side should they implement the new minimum wage”.
According to the research group, some of those who indicated preference for Umahi especially from the Ezza extraction did so because of his commitment to the genuine and lasting peace in Ezillo community in Ishielu local government area of the state.
Political analysts are of the view that if the survey is anything to go by, the incumbent governor will sail through.
While some persons are of the view that the survey is aimed at projecting the state government, others believe that the survey is a true reflection of the governorship race in the state. However, only time will tell whether or not the poll is a true reflection of situation on ground.