Igbeaku Orji reports on the recent state congress of the Abia State chapter of the Peoples Democratic (PDP) that saw the emergence of Hon. Allwell Okere as its new chairman
ast week, the Abia State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) conducted its state congress described by pundits as a model that has effectively ended the era of rancorous party congress. The party has come a long way and appear to have learnt useful lessons that will help it maintain its stronghold of Abia politics.
The congress was devoid of the characteristic harangue and brickbats that usually attend such exercises. Political turncoats were disappointed as it gave no one the justification to tear the party apart. It is indeed a contradiction in terms for members of a political party, which prides itself as one family to so disagree to the point of causing deep, irreconcilable schism and consequently become sworn enemies.
Some believe that the planning and conduct of the congress should serve as template for future congresses and primaries even for other parties. The delegates from the 17 local government areas of the state were civil; there were no hot exchanges or threatening chest beating because the party had conducted the congress through its various instruments before coming to the open to give it legality and legitimacy.
The party’s leadership had decided to balance the political equation that seemed skewed against the Ukwa area of Abia South. While the South produced the governor and senator for the zone, the Ngwa area clung to the two positions, leaving Ukwa with nothing. Political expediency blinded them to the justice and equity that brought the governorship slot to the zone.
So, while the people present themselves as Ukwa-Ngwa to gain political advantage, they have not followed the principle in sharing political offices. Ukwa people, comprising of Ukwa East and Ukwa West local government areas have been at the receiving end of the disproportionate sharing of the common political heritage. The two high offices, governor and senator, are not only occupied by the Ngwa but by Obingwa local government area. Both Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe are from Obingwa.
Fairness and equity should have been considered in deciding to cede at least, the senatorial seat to Ukwa but Ngwa held tightly to both. The party, therefore, took into consideration the volatile issue of equitable representation of the three senatorial districts in the state vis-a-vis political office holders and appointees in the choice of who and where the next chairman of the party in the state should come from given the tacit consensus that the governorship will return to Abia North having made its full circle.
It was therefore not surprising to many that Ukwa was favoured as the party chairmanship position swung South, Abia North and Central having served their tenures.
The event was held at the Umuahia Township Stadium on Saturday August 8, and was well attended. Out of a total of 2,315 delegates expected for the event, 2,151 attended. The figure, according to the returning officer and chairman of the electoral committee, Hon Kenneth Okon, represented 98.9 per cent and therefore met the required number for an acceptable congress.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu led the delegates during the voting being the leader of delegates from Obingwa, including the senator for Abia South and Senate minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and former deputy governor, Eric Acho Nwakanma. The deputy governor, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, was next and led delegates from his Ohafia council area, just as the speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Chinedum Orji, followed with delegates from his Umuahia Central constituency and his colleagues in the House.
At the end of the exercise, Okon declared former speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon Allwell Okere from Ukwa East winner of the chairmanship position with 2,105 votes. He was the consensus candidate like the rest of other members of the state executive council. Nobody challenged them, it was a one way contest, a mere formality to ratify what was already agreed upon.
Addressing the new executive members and delegates after the exercise, Governor Ikpeazu reminded them of the onerous task ahead of retaining the edge in Abia politics, saying: “Abia State is PDP and PDP is Abia State. Our desire is that the party will grow from strength to strength, so begin your work immediately through the length and breadth of Abia State. I have no doubt that you will lead the party to a resounding victory in 2023.”
To the party’s loyalists, he charged them to sustain their support to make PDP the hope of Nigerians in 2023.
It is pertinent to note that PDP has called the shot in Abia politics, so it knows the value of a rancour free congress. The acrimonious congress and primary of 2015 neayly cost it the governorship. The true test is to adopt the congress template in the conduct of party primaries. A situation in which the party leadership will pretend to be fair to all after collecting exorbitant fees only to give the tickets to predetermined and anointed candidates will continue to tear the party apart.
The new chairman, Okere has a humane outlook devoid of the abrasion of most people in his position. He was the member representing Ukwa East state constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly from 2003 to 2015 during which he served as chairman of the committee on Finance, Education, Media and Communications, Petroleum and Boundary Matters.
He has been a loyal party man and when his ambition to govern Abia State did not materialize, he did not protest. He emerged the Abia State PDP Chairman as a consensus candidate with no protest from any quarter. He replaced the party chairman from Abia Central, late Chief Johnson Onuigbo, who died last month while still serving as caretaker committee chairman of the party.
Okere seems quite aware of the task ahead of him. PDP has been in control of Abia politics and cannot afford to lose it under his leadership. Okere is a study in humility. His contact with political power has not altered his nature or stature. He has remained as unobtrusive as he is unwaveringly loyal. He is not in the category of grandstanding politicians or a partaker in the devious intrigues of heartless power mongers.
Fondly referred to as “gentleman lawmaker” by his colleagues, Okere was unanimously elected by his colleagues as deputy speaker of the 5th Abia House of Assembly, where he rose to become the speaker after Sir Ude Oko Chukwu resigned to become the deputy governor of the state.
He was later appointed Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources and Special Adviser to Governor Ikpeazu on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, a position he held to the admiration of all.