2023: Neither APC Nor PDP Can Carry The Day In Enugu

By Onyekachi Obum

Since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, the country has been ruled at different times by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). The PDP, which assumed power 24 years ago, lost out to the APC in the 2015 general elections. Most citizens seem to share the view two parties are two sides of the same coin since there is little to show for the performance of each at the federal level. The people now desire change.

Even in Enugu, which has been described as a one-party state because no party has made a significant impact here other than the PDP, the wind of change has been blowing. From 1999 till the February 25 presidential and federal legislative elections, whoever got the PDP nomination for any post in the state was as good as elected. The Labour Party has changed everything.

The PDP has since been grasping for breath, to borrow the words of Dr Obiora Okereke of the Enugu State College of Technical Education. The Labour Party won seven federal constituencies in the state, conceding only one seat to the PDP.

The PDP lost the Enugu North senatorial race rather disastrously. Okey Ezea of the Labour Party defeated PDP’s sitting Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi by an unbelievable 104,492 to 46,000 votes. The governor lost his polling booth, his polling unit and his ward! Of all the state governors who contested to go to the Senate on February 25, none was beaten mercilessly as Ugwuanyi.

“The PDP and its administration underrated the Labour hurricane, and so paid a heavy price”, declared Jonas Nnamchi of the Enugu State University of Technology, noting that the party is likely to pay a heavier price this weekend in the Enugu East senatorial race. The election was shifted to this weekend following the assassination of the Labour Party candidate in the election, Chief Oyibo Chukwu, a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the state, only three days before the vote. Chief Chukwu was murdered along with his personal assistant, Sunday Igwesi, at Amechi Uwani in Enugu South Local Government Area, and their bodies were burnt by the assassins who also lit their vehicle.

Chukwu’s younger brother, Sir Kelvin Chukwu, a businessman who studied law and mass communication, will now fly the Labour Party’s flag in the Enugu East senatorial district election. Dr Nnamchi argues that the killings and the manner they were executed which have attracted both national and international attention will earn the Labour Party a lot of sympathy votes. “The Labour Party”, he states categorically, "will win the election by a big margin”.

Worse for the PDP, it is doubtful that it is participating in the Enugu East senatorial race. Its candidate, former Governor Chimaraoke Nnamani, has been expelled from the PDP by its national leadership, which has accordingly written two letters to the electoral commission dissociating the party from the election on the ground that Nnamani is no longer its member. Dr Nnamani insists he is still running, even though the law provides that every candidate in any election must be sponsored by a registered political party.

To exacerbate the situation for the PDP, its gubernatorial candidate, Peter Mbah, is having a couple of grave issues, including his arrest and detention for several months by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the manner the Enugu State government’s resources were managed when he served as Nnamani’s Chief of Staff and later the Commissioner for Finance. The most pressing now is that he is accused of submitting a forged National Youth Service (NYSC) to the electoral commission.

“To forge a document and submit it to the commission or any other body is a serious criminal offence”, notes Ikenna Ogbuagu, a lawyer in Enugu. “This is the precise reason the Supreme Court recently stopped, through its well-considered judgment, the swearing-in of the APC candidate who won the last Bayelsa gubernatorial election. The apex court decided that he would not be sworn in because his deputy submitted false information to the electoral commission. The implication of the judgment is that even if Peter Mbah, the Enugu PDP candidate, wins the governorship election, he will not assume office”.

Yet, Mbah has been approaching the governorship race as if there are no huge legal constraints against him. He has obviously outspent all his opponents put together. Critics allege that he may be spending on politics the N10 billion and the N3bn he borrowed from Fidelity Bank and Polaris Bank respectively to fund the operations of his Pinnacle Oil and Gas Company.

As for the APC and its gubernatorial candidate, Uche Nnaji, it doesn’t appear they will make a dent in the election. Despite being the government party at the national level, they exist only on billboards in Enugu State.

Enugu people have, for all practical purposes, passed a vote of no confidence in Nigeria’s two largest political parties. They will this weekend pitch their tent with the Labour Party for the second time in the 2023 general elections.