Nigeria News

In Houston, Contenders Brace up for Abia Race

The Ohuhu clan in Umuahia Abia State met recently in Houston, Texas, in the United States for its Biennial Convention and instead of discussing issues of project development, the conclave took an
in-depth look at the politics of the state, preparatory to 2015. Nduka Nwosu reports

Houston Texas welcomed the Ohuhu Development Union International (ODUI) Biennial Convention with a warm weather dancing between spring and an unfolding summer. The 'gala nite' at the Grand Ball Room in one of Houston's popular three star hotels was the icing on the cake of the two day convention declared open by ODUI President, Ginikanwa Okedi.

ODUI, back home is the umbrella or meeting point for the Ohuhu people in the Abia North Senatorial Zone in Umuahia. From London, Boston, New York, New Jersey, Houston, Dallas, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Washington among others, the kinsmen converged to weigh issues from home and the way forward in the geo-political entity called Abia State.

A representative of the hosts, Chief Onyema Ndukwe, had presented kola nuts welcoming the distinguished conference participants whose last meeting in 2012 at Boston, Massachusetts, set the agenda for the day.
As Elder A. A. Onukogu, Rector Abia State Polytechnic stated in his keynote address, the unbiblical cord binding the citizens of Ohuhu Clan together was mandatory that no matter where they found themselves, this meeting of brothers and sisters as the Psalmist admonished, must be observed constantly.

Indeed as High Chief Dani Nkemakolam, a delegate from New York stressed, ODUI is development-oriented and every biennial convention provides the opportunity to take stock of what has been done and what needs to be done. Nkemakolam proudly reeled out what the New York chapter has achieved back home – building new schools and hospitals while refurbishing existing ones.

It is also an occasion where every citizen is asked to give account of his contribution to the development of the state, which was why Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji, though an Umuahia Ibeku son sent Kingsley Megwara, his former Special Adviser on Diaspora Matters to brief his Ohuhu people, who happen to be a part of his domain and a brother to Ibeku, what he has achieved in his two term tenure in office and how the Ohuhu clan which once produced the Premier of Eastern Nigeria, Michael Iheonukara Okpara, has gained under his administration.

Okedi told his audience that "this gathering of Ohuhu indigenes forms the fulcrum and launching pad for Ohuhu's future road map. We hope to leave the 2014 convention with a concrete agreement to revive the Ohuhu leadership role which was inspired by Dr. Michael Okpara's era, but lost in the yawning transition of his absence."

Okedi lamented that currently, Ndi Ohuhu are like people groping in darkness and playing the second fiddle in the political dispensation of Nigeria with emphasis on the South-east and Abia State in particular.
The summit, he added, offers "a prophylactic value and may hold the ace to influence the much desired Ohuhu community integration and the consequent rejuvenation of Ohuhu leadership."

According to him, this is only possible "if we put our noses to the grindstone and seize the opportunity which this summit offers."
That opportunity was proposed by Professor Chinasa Buster Ogbuagu of the University of St Francis Chicago, whose paper dwelt on restoring the old values of accountability, good governance and rapid development.

Ogbuagu lamented the absence of unity in Ohuhu where three governorship candidates – Chief Onyema Ugochukwu of the PDP, Chief Ikechi Emenike of the ANPP and Uzodinma Okpara, son of the former Premier – who contested on the  APGA platform – all from the same clan emerged to fight the then PPA candidate, Theodore Orji.

His argument: "If there had been a united front, with just one candidate properly scrutinised by ODUI, perhaps, just perhaps, Ohuhu would have emerged victorious rather than waste the votes. But Ohuhu is only a clan in the geographical location known as Abia State."

Besides, the governor who is from Ibeku, a twin brother of Ohuhu, has delivered. That at least was the central issue of the Orji speech presented by Megwara.

In the outgoing Orji administration, Megwara told his curious audience that infrastructure in Ohuhu has been upgraded and increased while key appointments, perhaps the highest relative to other clans stoods eloquent testimony of how well the governor's goodwill stood among the Ohuhu people.

The land commissioner, Eboh Ihekwereme, the current vice chancellor of the Abia State University, Professor Chibuzo Ogbuagu, who was also a commissioner and Secretary to the State Government, the former Diaspora Adviser, and many other beneficiaries of key appointments stood as undeniable evidence on how much Ohuhu has benefited from the Orji administration.

Add this to the many infrastructure developments in the areas of electricity, roads, water and agriculture, then there is no doubt Ohuhu is a privileged clan. Most importantly, Orji remains a student
and disciple of Michael Okpara, whose six year tenure as premier of Eastern Nigeria remains unsurpassed in the history of both the South-east and parts of the South-south that formed the then Eastern Region.

Beyond Orji's legacy projects which have redefined him away from his predecessor, Orji Kalu, accountability and sustainability remained the recurring decimal for those aspiring to take over the outgoing governor's job. That was what Professor Ogbuagu's proposition was all about – the need to hold future gubernatorial aspirants of Abia State accountable while in office by drawing a charter of faith and trust between the governor and the governed.

On paper, each of these candidates has been harping on the need to sustain the legacy projects of Orji. Those who are not actively associated with the administration are at best written off as unserious with minimum chances of being shortlisted for the job. And no one is even talking of a passive opposition outside the inner conflicts within the party. Thanks to Orji's inclusive and unity government.

Thus, among the over one dozen aspirants are the contenders and pretenders. Yet in some quarters, some people have been mentioned as anointed by the governor. The Ukwa/Ngwa clan is holding the governor to his word that the rest of Abia has no choice but to let the power-shift move in the direction of Abia South senatorial zone. With this in mind, the argument informally descended on the search for the next credible governor of Abia State.

The Contenders

Enyinnaya Abaribe
Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe, 59, was born March 1, 1959 and attended Government College, Umuahia and the University of Benin, where he graduated in Economics with a first and second degree in 1979 and 1982 respectively. He lectured at Edo State University between 1982 and 1985. In 1985, he was appointed Area Manager of SCOA for Southern Nigeria and left in 1991 to work for NICON as Senior Manager Investment. He later moved on to start his outfit – Integrated Mortgage Company and was also actively involved in the import business.

He emerged deputy governor to Kalu in 1999 and was impeached twice only to resign and face a third impeachment threat in 2003. Abaribe was the ANPP governorship candidate in 2003 when he contested against Kalu. He was elected senator representing Abia South senatorial zone in 2007. Abaribe was re-elected senator for Abia South in the April 2011 election. He is currently the chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity.

Strengths: He is a strong man of Abia politics who fought Kalu to a standstill. He parades experience in the art of governance and has moved round more than any other contender on ground campaigning for the office, explaining why he is the best man for the number one seat in Abia. He boasts an intimidating log of legislative experience and strong Abuja connections inclusive of the presidency. He has also in recent years, after the opposition led by Ugochukwu, mended fences with Orji, becoming an active participant of Abia PDP and he supports of Orji’s legacy projects.

Weaknesses: Although Abaribe has pledged to continue with the implementation of Orji’s legacy projects, he was for long in the opposition group and does not command a mainstream following even from Abia North. His strong presence and track records of experience which he showcases may be his undoing.

Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu
The best way to assess the gubernatorial standing of Okezie Ikpeazu is to take a cue from Lagos State, where Senator Bola Tinubu holds court as godfather and benefactor. Tinubu chose his former Chief of Staff, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who was more of a technocrat and less a politician to succeed him. Only recently, another technocrat, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, who was the Accountant-General in the state, is being pooh-poohed in media circles as the man to succeed Fashola.

In Anambra State, former governor Peter Obi also chose a technocrat, Willie Obiano, then an executive director at Fidelity Bank as his successor, dousing such strong contenders as Professor Charles Soludo. The same is true of Kwara State, where Senator Bukola Saraki preferred the incumbent, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed to his sister, Gbemisola.

Ikpeazu, a toxicologist and academic with doctoral degrees in various areas of Biochemistry was head of department of Applied Chemistry, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) before his appointment as Special Adviser on Environment and Sanitation to the governor of Abia State.

A native of Obingwa local government area of Abia State, Ikpeazu was General Manager of the Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMS) before his current position of Deputy General Manager of the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA).

With this necessary grooming exercise, Ikpeazu would has been tested and prepared for the battle ahead seems to be doing a good job of keeping Aba clean, a job that seemed to have been carved out to quicken his footsteps and prepare him for the battle ahead. Going by what the rumour mills, Ikpeazu may be another Fashola, Obiano or Ahmed in the making.

Godfathers as ex-governors would rather choose a humble child who would not be a pain in the neck blocking access of the ex-boss to Government House and the strategy seems to be working even where the ex-governor proceeds to the Senate for higher national assignments.

Weaknesses: Ikpeazu’s weak point is the complex art of governance and legislative track record but contesting with such giants as Abaribe and Acho Nwakanma may well be his strong point.

Eric Acho Nwakanma
Eric Acho Nwakanma, 56, was born April 26, 1958 and schooled at National High School, Aba as well as the Community Secondary School, Nbawsi for his West African School Certificate in 1976. He is also an old boy of Government College, Umuahia, where he obtained his Higher School Certificate in 1978. Nwakanma obtained his first degree in Biochemistry from the University of Lagos in 1982 and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Biochemistry in 1985, from the same university.

Between 1985 and 1986, he was a graduate assistant at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos. He was a sales representative at Chemex (Chemiron) and later Zonal Manager. In 1990, he left Chemiron to head Eric-Jac Holdings and grew his business interests across transportation, real estate, importation, and agriculture.

He served as the fourth and sixth deputy governor of Abia State first replacing Enyinnaya Abaribe and later under Orji when he replaced Chris Akomas. Nwakanma’s pedigree as Deputy Speaker and two time deputy governor places him in a vantage position with a home advantage and a track record of experience in legislative exposure and governance.

Strengths: Nwakanma is still a member of Orji’s kitchen cabinet and was nominated to chair the Board of the Federal Neuro Psychiatry Hospital Enugu. When he lost the Senatorial seat to Abaribe as a PPA candidate in a post-election battle, the party chieftains rewarded him with the office of deputy governor. He is also seen as the good boy of the party in Abia State.
Weaknesses: Again his strong track record of experience may well be his undoing

Nwadiala Emeka Wogu
One other possible contender, considered a dark horse that could pose a problem for many is the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Nwadiala Emeka Wogu, who has been low key in his campaign strategy perhaps because of his ministerial job. Though entreaties have reportedly been made to him to contest, Wogu who has parental linkage to the North is yet to throw his hat into the ring and is presently occupied with his job at Abuja.

Wogu, 49, was born January 29, 1965 and schooled at Ngwa High School and Abia State University, where he read Law finishing at the Nigerian Law School with a BL in 1987. Three years later, he went into private practice setting up Emeka Wogu & Co. He later bagged a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Calabar in 2002

Wogu has been the local government chairman of Abia South LGA between 1991 and 1993 and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1998 while in 1999; he was appointed a Political Adviser to former governor Kalu. He was also a two term commissioner representing Abia State at the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission. In 2010, he was appointed Minister of Labour and has remained there till date.

Wogu’s critics say he is not well focused on the gubernatorial venture because he is nestled in his comfort zone but it is also possible he is listening to the political heartbeat of the governor who to a large extent will determine or bless who succeeds him.

Nkechi Nwaogu
Senator Nkechi Nwogu, 58, is a former banker with a Master’s degree in Finance, and Ordinary and Post Graduate Diploma certificates in Management Studies. The graduate of the University of Brunei has close to 12 years of legislative experience and chairs the committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions.

Nwogu has been proactive and vocal in her desire to make history as the first female executive governor elected into office. Unfortunately, the zoning formula, if strictly adhered to, may not be in her favour since she represents Abia Central that boasts of three LGAs representing the Ukwa/Ngwa clan from where she hails. The mainstream of the Ukwa/Ngwas is mostly found in Abia South, the most likely beneficiary of the current clamour for power shift.

Proponents of this group insist that since Orji is from Abia Central, it would amount to power returning to the zone if Nwaogu succeeds the governor and this argument automatically disqualifies her. Of course Nwaogu’s desire to become the next governor of the state can be viewed from the fact that Orji is likely to contest the senatorial seat from Abia Central, currently represented by Nwaogu, which would automatically retire her from the National Assembly, where many believe she and Uche Chukwumerije must step down for other eminently qualified contenders having stayed there for 12 years running.

The Pretenders
Other names that have been mentioned include the present deputy governor of the state, Chief Emeka Ananaba, Uzor Azubuike of the House of the Representatives, a former banker, Chief Marc Wabara, the Accountant-General, Chief Gabriel Onyendilefu, whose mother was recently kidnapped and released, leading lawyer, Paul Ananaba (SAN), Ambassador Okey Emuchay, Barrister Friday Nwosu, among many others.

Billionaire businessman and chairman of Masters Energy, Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah has been flexing muscles perhaps preparatory for a future contest since the zoning arrangement disqualifies him. Former Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika was also at a point mentioned as another dark horse, who may well be on his way to a bigger national assignment someday. But, that also will be against the spirit of zoning.

Leave a Reply