By Comr Amos Kalu
The battle over who will succeed Engr. Chinedum Orji, in the Abia State House of Assembly, to represent Umuahia Central State constituency is currently raging silently. It is a contest that is attracting strong permutations, especially, considering the general belief that the current Abia State Speaker raised the bar of representation at that level through his policies and programmes that reverberated beyond the boundaries of Abia State, across to Nigerians. He was christened “the speaking speaker”, to sum it up.
To make the race more competitive, Rt. Hon Chinedum Orji had at a recent meeting with his constituency’s stakeholders declared that he had no favourite aspirant and will therefore not meddle in the selection of his successor. He admonished aspirants that nobody’s political ambition is worth sacrificing the peace of the constituency for, and urged all political aspirants and their supporters to comport themselves in manners that are true reflections of the character of the constituency. There is no better way to raise the bar even higher by the indefatigable leader of Abia State Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji (Ikuku Abia)
A few days after Mr Speaker’s parley with his constituency’s stakeholders, the people of Afaraukwu Ibeku who constitute the majority of Umuahia Central State Constituency convened high powered stakeholders meeting to articulate their position on who should succeed Engr. Chinedum Orji at the State House of Assembly to reflect existing zoning arrangement.
The meeting was chaired by the scion of Nigerian politics Hon. G.O Onyemobi, and was co-moderated by the President General of Federated Afaraukwu Development Union, Chief Ugwumba Oriaku with some notable Abia politicians like former Abia Board of Internal Revenue, BIR, Chairman, Dr Udochukwu Ogbonna and Chief Frank Ibeh in attendance.
The well attended Afaraukwu stakeholders meeting resolved:
(1) That their brothers from Afarata Ibeku that share the constituency with them must honour the power-sharing agreement that had been in existence since 1999 in the forthcoming 2023 House of Assembly election.
(2) That power has resided in Amuzu-Ukwu (Hon. Barr Grace Akwukwegbu 2007-2015) and Ugba (Engr. Chinedum Orji 2015 – 2023) all in Afarata Ibeku for 16 straight years and therefore must move to Afaraukwu in the spirit of rotation and zoning enshrined in the Abia Charter of equity.
(3) That giving Afaraukwu the party ticket to vie for the Umuahia Central State Constituency is not negotiable irrespective of the party.
This understanding further buttressed and narrowed the permutations to a more serious poser: So who will succeed Engr? Chinedum Orji?
It was the search for a convincing answer that OHAFIA TV News brings you insight into the gladiators and their electoral chances.
DEACON IKECHUKWU NWOKE
Deacon Ikechukwu Nwoke comes with an impressive business and political profile. He was a Special Adviser to the former Governor, Senator T. A. Orji. He was a Council member, Abia State Polytechnic, and transition Committee Chairman Umuahia North Local Government Area where he was removed in a controversial circumstance. His business interests span across education and paint manufacturing.
Deacon Nwoke’s original plan was to run for Federal House to represent the people of Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency at the Green Chambers when he formed his structure called Umunne-Ato but lowered his ambition to contest for the Abia State House of Assembly when he heard the position was zoned to Ohuhu clan.
The odds in clinching the PDP Party ticket are stacked against Deacon Nwoke because he is from Amuzukwu-Ibeku Afarata where power according to Afaraukwu people had resided for 16 straight years. That is if respect for the Charter of Equity that has kept Abia at relative peace since 1999 is respected.
More so because all the stakeholders OHAFIA TV News spoke with, posited that the existing rotation formula must be adhered to.
According to some of these stakeholders, electing Deacon Nwoke will mean 24 years of political Siberia for the Afaraukwu people which will negate the spirit of equity and fair play.
Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji may have been referring to Deacon Ikechukwu Nwoke when he stated at his Constituency’s stakeholders meeting that “nobody’s political ambition is worth sacrificing the peace of the constituency for”
HON. LAWRENCE OKEZIE ODOEMELEM
Hon. Lawrence Okezie Odoemelem is an American returnee with an intimidating profile aspiring to succeed Engr. Chinedum Orji as the member representing Umuahia Central State Constituency at the Abia State House of Assembly in 2023.
Hon. Odoemelem has held several senior corporate and government positions in Nigeria and the United States of America which include Special Adviser to Dr Okezie Ikpeazu on Investment Promotions & Public-Private Partnerships (PPP-IP) championing the ‘Made-in-Aba shoe revolution at home and across the globe.
Political pundits believe that Hon. Odoemelem stands a greater chance of clinching the PDP ticket as well as winning the general election because all the boxes check in his favour and offer him a huge advantage. Some of his advantages include but are not limited to the facts that:
(a) He is from Afaraukwu-Ibeku where the position is zoned to.
(b) He is brilliant and a strategic thinker who will bring to the job, vast experience and contacts spanning across the globe.
(c) He stepped down his ambition in 2015 and 2019 for Rt. Hon Chinedum Orji, when asked to do so by party elders and even worked for the victory of Rt. Hon. Orji was Head of his campaign’s media team during the 2015 elections.
A PDP elder and stakeholder that spoke with OHAFIA TV News under the condition of anonymity described Hon. Odoemelem is humble, respectful, obedient and loyal. He submitted that it was time to reward Hon. Odoemelem for not challenging the decision of Party Elders and Stakeholders when he was directed to step down on two occasions in the past.
SIR MADUAKOLAM KENNETH ADIGHIBE
Sir Maduakolam Adighibe (alias Ijere) is the current Bursar of Trinity Theological College Afaraukwu-Ibeku and the Founder and CEO of Ijere Network which is his political structure.
Sir Adighibe is an Afaraukwu born grassroots politician who has amassed a reasonable following through his Ijere Network over the years. Political pundits tip him as the likely bearer of the APC flag for the Abia House of Assembly race if the APC crisis is amicably resolved otherwise there maybe two candidates from the two factions which will narrow his chances of beating opponents from rival political parties due to vote sharing and inhouse fighting.
Also, we are familiar with the fact that no political party can field two candidates at the same time, therefore, the first herculean task ahead of Sir Maduakolam (should he win APC ticket) will be defeating the PDP candidate because for an APC or any other political party candidate clinching the Umuahia Central State Constituency seat would mean prematurely retiring political heavyweights like the former Governor and Distinguished Senator representing Abia Central Senatorial District Senator TA Orji, current Speaker, Rt Hon. Chinedum Orji, Chief Charles Ogbonnaya, High Chief Uche Akwukwegbu, Sir Frank Ibeh and others. Yet in politics, no feat is impossible.
BARRISTER SYDNEY IFEANYICHUKWU ONYEMERE
Sydney Ifeanyichukwu Onyemere is a Barrister and Solicitor of The Supreme Court of Nigeria. He is a Human Rights Lawyer and was the Eastern Nigeria Coordinator of Rights of the unborn Child Project. 2023 elections will not be Barrister Onyemere’s first rodeo as he had contested for the seat several times in the past without success.
Barrister Sydney Onyemere who ran on the platform of the opposition All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the 2015 election openly accused Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo led Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia of having been compromised. He accused the panel members of adjourning for ten minutes to get the alert of the said financial inducement before giving judgement in his matter against the current Speaker Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji.
The Tribunal had struck out Barrister Onyemere’s petition because he did not know the name of the state constituency he contested election to represent. The tribunal said that the petitioner had come to the tribunal to seek redress for a non-existing constituency, which he referred to as Umuahia Urban State Constituency, whereas the respondent, Orji was returned for Umuahia Central state constituency.
Barrister Sydney Onyemere is from Afaraukwu and will likely emerge as the APGA candidate, everything being equal.
MR. EZE OKWULEHIE
Mr Eze Okwulehie the former General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA), Umuahia Central Business District seems to have thrown his hat into the ring as a contender for Rt. Hon Chinedum Orji’s succession as he paraded himself alongside other aspirants at a recent PDP event in Umuahia North Local Government Headquarters, but those in the know believe that he is not serious and will stand down his ambition because ‘Law Making’ will not be his forte.
Yet as we stated earlier, any political contest is always riddled with surprises and intrigues that may give life and prospects to seemingly impossible circumstances. To this, we will have our fingers crossed and watch Mr Eze Okwulehie like his competitors.
PRINCE MAYOR UKAEGBU
Prince Mayor Ukaegbu is an Indonesian returnee. His ICT Company Naprima Ideal Technologies Limited has partnered with Rt. Hon Chinedum Orji’s Direct Touch Initiative to provide a free ICT empowerment program to teeming Abia youths.
Prince Ukaegbu is described as smart, calm and focused, however, this is his first political rodeo. He is inexperienced and will not stand a chance against hardened politicians like Deacon Nwoke, Hon. Odoemelem, Sir. Adighibe, and Barrister Onyemere. At least this is our choice permutation after we researched all the candidates.
Insiders believe that Prince Ukaegbu may be screened out because of the two years membership proviso in the PDP constitution. Chapter 8 Section 50 Sub-section (4) of the PDP Constitution states: “There shall be a minimum of two-year membership span for a member to be eligible to stand for election into any public office unless the appropriate Executive Committee gives a waiver or rules to the contrary”.
Investigations by OHAFIA TV News revealed that Prince Ukaegbu recently joined the PDP about 10 months ago. In this light, therefore, we find it uncommon for PDP to offer him such waiver when they already have strong contenders they had advised to step down for other choice candidates in the past as this will amount to a breach of trust that will create more problems to be solved within the internal party structure.