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Grassroots political activities in Abia State have picked up considerably since the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission announced its readiness to hold the state’s local government election on December 19, 2020.
Chairman of ABSIEC, Prof Mkpa Agu Mkpa, who made the announcement during a meeting with leaders of registered political parties in the state early September, said interested political parties should visit the office of the commission from September 14 to pick interest forms.
He added that the election will be held in all 17 local government areas and 292 wards of the state for the positions of chairmen and councillors.
“Political parties that are interested in participating in the poll should visit the office of the commission from Monday, 14th to Friday 18th September to obtain the detailed timetable while the date of collection of forms for candidates will be communicated to the parties later.
“Party leaders are to ensure that the prevailing relevant COVID-19 protocols are observed throughout the period leading to the polls and assured that the commission on its part will ensure that the polls comply with COVID-19 safety protocols,” he said.
Mkpa also urged parties to ensure all candidates to be presented meet requirements to avoid disqualification by the commission.
Since then, The Nation observed that political meetings, which dropped significantly in the state since the emergence of Covid-19 pandemic, have garnered significant momentum.
“Yes, the campaigns have not commenced officially, but I can assure you that no political party interested in Abia State politics is still sleeping over the forthcoming local government elections. We have been attending more meetings at the grassroots level than what was obtained before ABSIEC announced the December 19 date.
“Every politics is local. We all know that and that is why we will not joke with the local government elections. In my party, the All Progressives Congress, we recall how the ruling Peoples Democratic Party stole the grassroots seats in 2016. We will not allow that ugly scenario to repeat itself. You will agree with me that APC is now the major opposition party in Abia State. We know our position and are preparing, from the ward level, to take over governance in Abia,” said Ndukwe Orji from Item in Bende Local Government Area.
Kelechi Ugochukwu, a member of PDP from Ikwuano in Umuahia, said her party is ever prepared for the grassroots polls. “Even Covid-19 pandemic never broke the unity in Abia PDP. We are a family and have remained conscious of the important grassroots election coming up in December. Opponents can go ahead and make unfounded allegations, but I can tell you that as we swept the polls in 2016, so will PDP do again this year.”
Issues that may determine the results
Explaining the major issues that may determine the outcome of the December grassroots polls in Abia, Dr. Theo Ibemere, a political analyst in Umuahia, said “recent developments in both the ruling party, the PDP, and the major opposition parties in the state, the APC and the APGA, will go a long way in determining the outcome of the elections. In PDP, we know of recent disagreements which may not have been fully resolved. If this development has truly weakened the party, as some say, it will show in the result of the election. In the opposition parties, we all know that APGA has lost prominent leaders and that APC has gained so much that it is now the leading opposition party in the state. These developments are certain to reflect in the outcome of the elections. Of course, you know that all these depend on if ABSIEC is ready to conduct a free and credible election. As an informed observer, I can tell you that right now, many believe ABSIEC will simply try to conduct a sham election, a development that may be resisted by the growing opposition.”
Has PDP resolved its crisis?
As the leading parties prepare for a showdown in December, one of the issues the opposition political parties are relying on to win the election is the crisis recently reported within the ruling PDP in the state. The question is how deep is the crisis within Abia PDP?
It would be recalled that some months earlier, elders and members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of PDP from Abia State openly waded into the crisis among some members of the party in the state as they sued for peace.
In a release titled, “Let peace reign” and signed by Senators Theodore Orji, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Adolph Wabara and Chiefs Acho Nwakanma and Onyema Ugochukwu, the leaders said quarrels within the party were unnecessary at this point in time.
They said: “Prompted by the recent acrimonious public debates between important members and segment of our party, we, elders and members of BOT and NEC of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Abia State met to review issues with a view to finding ways to calm tempers.
“After reviewing the various exchanges, we came to the conclusion that the quarrels were unnecessary and were probably instigated by agents provocateurs to undermine the unity in the party for their own purposes. We deprecate the bitter public exchanges that sought to incite divisions within our party, our government and our state. We are certain that those unfortunate exchanges do not represent the true situation in our party which is united in solidarity with our Governor, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
Is the opposition stronger?
“If you compare the strength of the opposition parties today to what has been the case since 1999, you will agree with me that PDP should better prepare for a stiffer contest. The opposition political parties in Abia State, especially the APC, are in a very promising state. If ABSIEC conducts free and fair elections, PDP cannot repeat the result it claimed it had in the controversial 2016 local government polls. So much has changed and we all expect a more competitive contest in December,” Engineer Nwabueze Onwuneme, a House of Assembly candidate of APC in the last election, told The Nation.
It would be recalled that fears and controversies also dogged preparations for the 17th December, 2016 local government elections in Abia. Ahead of that election, and in fact by October of that year, protests marred the council/delegates elections in the 17 local government areas of the state.
So, when at the end of the exercise, ABISIEC announced that the ruling party, PDP, won all the 17 chairmanship seats, the opposition openly complained of complicity.
Four years later, the stage is set again. Will this December’s contest be a repeat of 2016?