Battle for Abia South senatorial seat appears to be a clash of the titans going by the pedigree of the politicians involved as well as the situation in the zone. Top among the contenders are the incumbent senator and the chairman Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who is running on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Chief Chris Nkwonta, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), candidate.
Others are, Chief Chukwuemeka Chinyere Okwuonu of the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) and Hon. Chinonyerem Macebuh of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Political watchers posit that the contest would rather be between Nkwonta Abaribe as the others are said to lack the capacity to cause an upset.
Though they are great politicians in their own rights, the APC candidate, Macebuh who is a former member of the House of Representatives and PPA’s Okwuonu, a former council boss, seem to have lost touch with the electorate as their parties lack the requisite structures to stop the expected victory of Nkwonta or Abaribe at the election.
Abia South senatorial district comprises six local council areas; Ukwa East, Ukwa West, Obingwa, Aba South, Aba North and Ugwunagbo which is further subdivided into the Ngwa and Ukwa blocs.
It is believed that the senatorial seat of the zone is rotated between the Ngwa and Ukwa blocs. At the inception of the present democratic dispensation, former senate president, Chief Adolphus Wabara who hails from Ohambele village in Ukwa East Council of Abia State, held the position from 1999 to 2007 when it was rotated back to the Ngwa bloc with Senator Abaribe who is serving out his second term and seeking re-election in charge.
Abaribe who hail from Obingwa local government area with the PDP governorship candidate, Dr. Okezie Ikpezu, is seeking a third tenure following his aborted governorship ambition. He was first elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.When the PDP party primaries released its guidelines for the 2015 general elections, the senate spokesman who had earlier bought a nomination form to run for governor, was allegedly prevailed upon to drop his ambition and return to the senate.
Worried by the arrangement, Nkwonta who also contested the PDP Primaries for the seat with Abaribe in 2011 and was the leading PDP senatorial aspirant for the seat in 2015 defected to contest the election on the platform of APGA.
Abaribe’s bid for a third stint at the Red Chamber is already creating bad blood between the Ngwa people and their Ukwa brothers. The Ukwa people are now calling for equity and respect for the rotation of the seat between the two blocs which produced Wabara for two terms and now Abaribe on his second term. Our correspondent gathered that such ‘bad blood’ is being fired by the probability of the Ngwa bloc producing both the governor and the senator for the zone in the event of PDP’s Ikpeazu and Abaribe emerging victorious at the polls.
The rotation of the seat between the two blocs is being threatened as arguments continue to fly for and against the Ngwa bloc retaining the senate while being expected to produce the next governor of the state.
Majority of the Ukwa/people have been calling for equity in the sharing of political offices in the zone insisting that the Ngwa bloc should concede the Abia South senatorial seat to Ukwa bloc.
According to a socio-political group, Ukwa Professionals and Political Stakeholders, it would be unjust for the Ngwa people to produce both the governor and senator for Abia South.
The group, had last year, petitioned the national leadership of PDP demanding that the senatorial ticket should go to Ukwa bloc in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness that led to the ceding of the governorship slot to Abia South.
“The justification that the two positions; senate and governorship zoned to Abia South, will be taken by the Ngwa bloc and from the same Obingwa LGA alone to the exclusion of the Ukwa bloc will be very hard to stomach,” the group said.
A member of the group, Okey Kanu further explained that the Ngwa bloc has produced seven deputy governors as well as the immediate past minister for Labour and Productivity. He insisted that such runs against the principles of justice and equity for the same local government, Obingwa to take the two positions.
Commenting on the situation, a resident of Mkporobe in Ukwa East, council, John Elewachi said it is annoying to consider the possibility of the two positions being occupied by two brothers from Obingwa local government to the exclusion of the Ukwa people in 2015.
Speaking on the situation, Abaribe insisted that politics remains a game of numbers, adding that the Ukwa bloc; East and Ukwa West councils have total of 44,000 registered voters, while the Ngwa bloc; Obingwa, Aba South, Aba North and Ugwunagbo councils have a combined voting strength above 400,000.
However, the race is too close to call between the two leading candidates. Abaribe in his campaign for re-election has been counting on his experience as a ranking senator. According to him, ‘wine gets better with age’. It was further learnt that Nkwonta had made inroads into the six council areas of the zone, particularly in Obingwa council, selling his programmes. A member of his campaign team from Obingwa who preferred anonymity told our correspondent that Nkwonta has taken his campaign message to select PDP chieftains as some of them have even assured him of support.
Despite being the APGA flag bearer for the race, Nkwonta who hails from Akwete town in Ukwa East is seen as more PDP than APGA and could easily garner sympathy votes from his former party. Though he has not held any elective position, he has been contesting party primaries for the same position in the PDP since 2011 before he recently defected to APGA. The challenge posed by Nkwonta is said to be giving Abaribe sleepless nights as his chance to return to the senate looks slim.
Political analysts predict that the two candidates may have to secure votes of their home councils and strive to build on votes from Ugwunagbo, Aba North and Aba South local governments for victory at the polls but the APGA’s candidate’s support base appear to be expanding to known Abaribe strongholds.
A source which volunteered information to The Supreme revealed that some political stakeholders in Abaribe’s home council, Obingwa have been campaigning for his main rival as the next senator to represent the zone. Against this development, it is believed that Abaribe has lost a huge number of his supporters to Nkwonta.
Many stakeholders from Obingwa are working secretly for the APGA senatorial candidate; a situation which is said to be troubling Abaribe.
There are strong indications that votes from Obingwa may also be split between Abaribe and Nkwonta since the popular sentiment is against Obingwa council retaining the senatorial and governorship seats in the event of the PDP candidate, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu emerging victorious. It is clear that the battle for the seat has gone beyond party lines as the APGA candidate appears to be having the upper hand ahead of the poll.
How well the two leading gladiators will fare at the polls, would be greatly determined by the political mood of the zone, particularly the sentiment of Obingwa council producing both the governor and the senator.