Ahead of the forthcoming presidential election, chances are that the Governor of Abia State, Okozie Ikpeazu might dump the G-5 governors to retain his political relevance following the death of Prof. Uchenna Ikonne, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the March 11 governorship election in the State.
Recall that Ikonne died on January 25 at the National Hospital Abuja. His demise was confirmed by his son, Chikezie, in a statement he issued on behalf of the family.
The governor had confirmed that Ikonne was ill and assured that he was recovering gradually and progressively, adding he would be strong enough in the future to join political campaigns. But that did not happen.
Ikonne, a former vice-chancellor of the Abia State University Uturu, ABSU, was Ikpeazu’s preferred candidate for the 2023 governorship election and he ensured Ikonne emerged against all obstacles.
Leading up to the announcement of Ikonne as the winner by the Chairman of the PDP governorship primary for Abia State, Chief Ayo Fayose, the gubernatorial primary in the State was reportedly characterised by a massive withdrawal of aspirants, who all cited “illegalities and irregularities” on the delegates list.
Governor Ikpeazu belongs to the Governor Nyesom Wike-led G-5 governors who have been embroiled in a political battle with Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate, over the control of the party.
CEOAFRICA reported that the G-5 Governors and other aggrieved party members have been clamouring for the resignation of the PDP National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, shortly after a northerner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, won the party’s presidential ticket.
Meanwhile, on Friday last week, the PDP announced a fresh governorship primary election to produce Ikonne’s replacement.
This is following the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, directive to the party to conduct a fresh election to replace the deceased.
The directive relied upon the provisions of the New Electoral Act on the replacement of candidates caused by death.
The party said a fresh primary would be conducted on Saturday, February 4, 2023.
“All interested aspirants are requested to collect Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms from the PDP Headquarters at Wadata Plaza, Wuse Abuja.
“The sale of both forms begins Friday, January 27 and ends on Wednesday, February 1. Screening of aspirants will be held at the PDP National Headquarters, Wadata Plaza, Abuja, on Thursday, February 2 at 11:00 am prompt”, Abia PDP Vice Chairman, Elder Abraham Amah, noted.
A top party official in the State, who is also part of the government, confided to the DAILY POST that governor Ikpeazu would be working for Atiku in the presidential election.
He said the PDP in Abia is working for Atiku Abubakar and does not see the chance of Governor Ikpeazu working for any other candidate.
He said, ”Our party (PDP) is intact. The national leadership of the party will do the right thing by giving us a good candidate. The party has made a publication to that effect that those who want to contest should go and purchase their nomination and notification of interest form. The death of Ikonne has nothing to do with G-5 governors. So we are one family.
”I am not the governor; he is entitled to his choice of support. He is a full PDP person, and I don’t see him having any other candidate, but I am not his spokesperson. Abia is PDP.
”We are one PDP family; we are working together. PDP in Abia State is working for Atiku Abubakar. We are one party. We are not divided; there is nothing like the Atiku camp and the G-5 camp in Abia State. PDP is one united family.”
Also, speaking to DAILY POST, Mr Paul Ibe, the media aide to Atiku Abubakar, said he believed that all hope was not lost in finding common ground and resolving the issues.
Mr Ibe also said the issues centred around the election and nomination of the vice presidential candidate of the party.
He acknowledged that some negotiations have happened that might be outside the public knowledge.
”The rerun primary is the responsibility of the PDP, leaders, stakeholders and delegates. In Abia State, they are the ones to determine who will replace Prof Ikonne.
“I am aware the leadership of the party has reeled out guidelines, starting with the procurement of forms, screening and all of that. And so far, so good; I don’t think there is any challenge right now. As I said, it is the responsibility of the Abia leaders, stakeholders and, most importantly, the delegates.
”This opportunity, as tragic as it is, reinforces the indivisibility of the PDP as a party. The election is going to be conducted by PDP. The governors, whether of the Abia State or any other State, are PDP governors. They will pursue the PDP agenda.
”I believe that all hope can never be lost in terms of finding common ground and resolving the issues around the election and nomination of the vice presidential candidate because that was what generated all of this.
“A resolution is underway because everybody realises that we all need to stand united around a common cause to oust the APC and recover and rebuild Nigeria. And everybody is aware of that, whichever side of the divide they may be,” Mr Ibe said.
Meanwhile, Governor Ikpeazu has assured members and supporters of the PDP in Abia State and across the country that the party remains strong, viable and united.
He gave the assurance at a meeting with PDP national leaders at the Government House, Umuahia.
The governor also informed the delegation that the State caucus met and agreed to retain the ticket in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area, where Ikonne hailed from.
The National Working Committee (NWC) members included the Deputy National Chairman Amb. Umar Damagum, the National Secretary, Sen. Sam Anyanwu and the National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Ajibade, SAN.