Kalu, Orji renew battle for 2015

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The 2015 governorship election in Abia State is likely to rekindle the battle for political supremacy between the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu and his successor, Theodore Orji, reports Remi Adelowo

Governor Theodore Orji (l) and the man he supplanted, Orji Kalu (r) are locked in a battle for supremacy

For over four years following his exit from the government house in 2007, former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, practically withdrew from the political scene both in his home state and at the national level.

His short sabbatical from politics may have been as a result of his personality clash with his former ally and successor, Theodore Orji.

It was a battle that was fought with the entire arsenal at the disposal of the combatants and their supporters. While the true story to what led to the parting of ways between the two men is yet to be told, what was not in doubt is the fact that the incumbent governor secured a victory over his former boss, who, as governor from 1999 to 2007, dominated the political landscape of Abia like a colossus.

However, the body language and utterances of Kalu in the last few months seem to suggest that he is back on the scene. Notwithstanding the fierce opposition of some major stakeholders in Abia PDP, including the governor, to Kalu’s return to PDP from the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA), which he founded shortly after he left office as governor, Kalu, sources claim, is determined to, once again, put his assumed popularity to test.

As the 2015 general election draws nearer, The Nation gathered that the former governor has been quietly resuscitating his political structures in order to challenge the incumbent, who, according to sources, is interested in contesting for the senate after the end of his tenure in 2015.

There are speculations that Kalu is grooming an unnamed candidate to succeed Orji.

On his part, the incumbent governor has kept his plan on who succeeds him in 2015 close to his chest.

From all indications, it appears that three forces representing the Presidency, Kalu and Orji will largely determine how the governorship race is decided.

Until now, the thinking in many quarters is that people of the Ngwa extraction in the state should, for reasons of equity, be allowed to produce the next governor. However, there is another school of thought that are of the opinion that the race should be narrowed to only Ngwa people from the South Senatorial district.

As the argument goes, no Ngwa aspirant from the the incumbent governor’s area, Abia Central Senatorial district, should throw his hat into the ring.

While the permutations on which zone should produce the next governor rages on, sources say no fewer than 12 popular politicians are quietly working behind the scene to succeed Orji. They include:

Senator Nkechi Nwogu

The incumbent senator appears to be the only woman currently showing interest in the race.

Nwogu, who represents Abia Central in the red chamber of the National Assembly, is, unarguably, a major force in Abia politics. Before her election into the senate where she is serving her second term, Nwogu contested and won election into the House of Representatives in 2003.

There are unconfirmed speculations that the incumbent governor and Nwogu have allegedly reached a pact to swap their seats in 2015, even as there are fears that the gender issue, her place of origin and the new zoning formula being canvassed by some interests in the state may not work in her favour.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe

That this two-time senator has paid his dues in politics is like stating the obvious. He came into political limelight following his election as deputy governor under Orji Uzor Kalu in 1999.

But after he fell out with Kalu, Abaribe contested the governorship election against the former on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2003 but lost.

Currently the spokesperson of the senate, Abaribe has not hidden his ambition to govern Abia State. In 2007, he wanted to contest for the PDP governorship ticket, but was asked to step down for the anointed candidate of the party leadership and the Presidency, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu.

Emeka Wogu

Just like most ministers who are reportedly warming up to contest for the governorship in their respective states, Wogu, the Minister for Labour and Productivity is also allegedly gearing up for the 2015 governorship race.

One of the most influential ministers in the Presidency, Wogu has been around the political scene since 1999, having represented Abia in the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) before he was appointed as minster by the late president, Umaru Yar’Adua.

Chris Akomas

From Nenu in Obingwa Local Government area of the state, Akomas served as the Commissioner for Commerce and Industries under Orji Kalu.

He later became the deputy governor of the state under Theodore Oji in 2007, after which he fell out with the governor and contested the 2011 governorship election on the platform of the PPA.

There are feelers that Akomas is working behind the scene to contest for the exalted position again, but it is not clear if he would be relying on the structures of his political mentor, Orji Kalu, to realise his ambition.

Prince Paul Ikonne

If pedigree is the only factor that determines who becomes governor, Paul Ikonne would have won the governorship contest without much fuss.

A prince of Ngwaland, Paul Ikonne is the son of Eze Isaac Ajuonu Ikonne of Osusu, Aba.

He served as a Special Assistant to ex-Governor Kalu before he was appointed as a commissioner in the early years of the first tenure of the incumbent governor.

Ikonne also contested the governorship election in 2011 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) but lost to Theodore Orji.

He has remained in the party, with sources claiming that the merger of opposition parties under the banner of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may boost Ikonne’s chances at the polls in 2015.

Reagan Ufomba

Like most big players on the political scene in Abia State today, Ufomba also served under Kalu as a Special Assistant.

Having failed to win the PDP governorship ticket in 2011, Ufomba left PDP for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) where he was offered the ticket, but still lost in the general elections.

Believed to be putting structures in place for the 2015 contest, Ufomba’s major handicap is the leadeship crisis in APGA, as he is said to belong to Governor Peter Obi/Maxi Okwu faction of APGA, while most of the party leadership in the state is loyal to the National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh.

Another factor that may work against him is the fact that he hails from Nsulu in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government, which falls under Abia Central, the same as the incumbent governor.

Stanley Ohajuruka

A former political ally of Orji Uzor Kalu, Ohajuruka is a former Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly and also a former member of the House of Representatives.

The former speaker was an aspirant in PPA before he defected to the Labour Party (LP) as its governorship candidate in the 2011 elections.

Though allegedly interested in the 2015 race, it remains unclear which political platform he intends to use to prosecute his campaign.

Ikechi Emenike

He hails from Umuahia like the incumbent governor.

Emenike has contested the governorship election twice in 2003 and 2011 where he gave a good account of himself.

In 2003, he contested under the ANPP ticket but lost and in 2011, he gave Theodore Orji a scare in the PDP governorship primaries but allegedly lost due to high wire intrigues in the party.

The grassroots politician, according to sources, has not given up on his desire to rule Abia State and will stake his chances again in 2015.

With the array of heavyweight politicians in the governorship race, it remains to be seen where the pendulum of victory will swing in 2015.



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