By NewsCritic Reporters
As political parties begin preparations ahead of the 2023 General Election, in Abia State the race for the Abia governorship seat is still generating hot arguments over which senatorial zone should produce the governor come 2023. However, just as the battle for the governorship is heating up the polity, the race for the Abia State House of Assembly seats have equally taken the centre stage with gladiators jostling to succeed the Speaker Rt Hon Chinedum Orji, who is the lawmaker representing Umuahia Central state constituency seat.
The Umuahia Central Constituency seat has taken prominence since the election of Rt Hon Chinedum Orji in 2015 and his subsequent re-election in 2019 to emerge the Speaker of the 7th Abia State House of Assembly. The Umuahia North Local Government Area, LGA, has three state constituency seats at the Abia State House of Assembly, namely the Umuahia Central constituency being occupied by Engr Chinedum Orji, the Umuahia East being represented by Hon Chukwudi Apugo and the Umuahia North (Ohuhu) constituency seat being represented by Hon Kelechi Onuzurike.
Though the possibility of the Abia Speaker returning to the state assembly in 2023 is muted as his next political moves remain close to his chest, with political watchers predicting his governorship run or moving to the House of Representatives as the case maybe, however, the Speaker appears to have cleared the air on his possible return to the state assembly thereby throwing the seat open.
In a recent constituency briefing and meeting with Umuahia Central stakeholders held at the speaker’s lodge Umuahia, Rt Hon Chinedum Orji insisted that he has no anointed candidate as far as Umuahia Central constituency race is concerned. He enjoined all the aspirants interested in occupying the seat to play by the roles and conduct themselves in a responsible manner in order not to destroy the peace of the area.
This is more so because the people of Afaraukwu Ibeku are agitating that it’s their turn to produce the next lawmaker for Umuahia Central constituency, while the people of Urban Ward 3 Umuahia, one of the three wards that make up Umuahia Central are clamouring for the ticket because they are the only ward that is yet to send a representative to the state assembly, out of the three wards that make up Umuahia Central Constituency. They are saying that this is the turn of urban ward three and it’s not negotiable for justice and equity to be served.
Some of the aspirants who are jostling to make to the state assembly to represent Umuahia Central are; Chief Eze Okwulehie, Hon Acho Ojukwu, Sir Maduakolam Kenneth Adighibe, Deacon Ikechukwu Nwoke, Barr Sydney Onyemere, Hon Lawrence Okezie Odoemelem and Prince Mayor Ukaegbu.
Sir Maduakolam Kenneth Adighibe( Ijere)
He is a strong All Progressives Congress, APC, member in Umuahia central and a grassroots politician, who understands the nitty-gritty of politics. He was the APC candidate in 2019 and lost to Rt Hon Chinedum Orji of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, though he claimed he was rigged out by PDP machine. Sir Adighibe aka Ijere is the Founder of Ijere foundation through which he has reached out to people in the ward in terms of giving out educational materials and books as well as scholarships to indigent students in the area. During the APC membership registration and revalidation exercise he mobilised constituents to register through sensitization programmes carried out by him and through media advertisements.
Hon Maduakolam is one individual who is passionate about the party’s success in Abia and he is always working hard through periodic meetings and visit of the various urban wards to preach the message of the APC and woo new members to the party at his expense. He stands a good chance to pick the APC ticket except for the division in the party now between Chief Ikechi Emenike’s group and Donatus Nwankpa faction. The implication is that Ijere might likely join the Ikechi Emenike APC if he wants to get the party’s ticket, but in terms of support he has widespread support from the grassroots and party chieftains who are at the other side of APC. It is believed that with the new Electoral Act law, the APC might pose a serious threat to PDP in Abia with the likes of Hon. Ijere.
Chief Eze Okwulehie
Eze Okkwulehie was the immediate past General Manager of ASEPA and one-time Deputy Transition Committee Chairman of Umuahia North LGA. He is a strong PDP member and is said to have links with the Speaker Abia State House of Assembly and the Ochendo family. He was removed in a controversial manner as ASEPA GM, after he featured on a radio programme wherein, he accused the Accountant General of Abia State of deliberately starving the agency of funds and hampering its works despite the governor’s approval. He was still on air when the commissioner for Information Hon. Eze Chikamnayo called his line to request a meeting with him and before we know what was happening his removal was announced. In all these he remained unshaken in his resolve to ensure that the right things are done.
He is touted to be Ikuku’s candidate for the Umuahia Central constituency race come 2023 which is an added advantage to have the backing of the Senator T.A Orji family. However, whether it will translate to election victory is a different ball game because majority of Abians are not happy with the PDP government in Abia and it will be difficult for PDP candidates to extricate themselves from the lack lustre performance of their party. Eze Okwulehie is from Isiama Afaraukwu and a youth with prospects.
Hon Acho Ojukwu
Chief Acho Ojukwu, young and dynamic is the Managing Director of Glajosh Hotels Ahiaeke, Umuahia. He is also a grassroots politician who recently emerged the Abia State Coordinator PDP Vote Right Ambassador. This strong man of urban ward three politics was the state coordinator Ochendo Equity Movement, which prepared the way for the emergence of governor of Ukwa-tNgwa extraction in 2015. He is also the founder of Ikuku Angels Initiative the foremost pro-women group that projected the speaker long before his emergence. In Urban ward three he is reputed as the man who delivers the best result for his party PDP and it’s expected that the party should compensate him for being a good party man.
Acho Ojukwu is the Vice President Ohuhu Solidarity Forum and also a strong and valued member of Ohuhu Welfare Union worldwide. He is one Ohuhu son who has been economically and politically relevant as his contributions to the development of Ohuhu and Umuahia North need not be over emphasised. He has sponsored different youth-oriented programmes in Umuahia Central which endeared him to the youths of the area and the non-indigenes resident in Umuahia as well.
Among all the prospective aspirants for the Umuahia Central constituency seat, it’s only Chief Acho Ojukwu that is from the Ohuhu clan, the rest are from Ibeku clan. The Umuahia central constituency is largely made up of Ohuhu and Ibeku people, but the latter has been producing the representatives of this constituency without considering the principles of equity or bring it to bear in the zoning of the offices. That is why Acho Ojukwu appears to be favoured because the ward three has not tasted the position before and the Ohuhu people are insisting that positions for Umuahia Central ought to be shared between the Ohuhus and the Ibekus. Acho remains a formidable and credible candidate in the race for the PDP ticket. In the event he clinches the party’s ticket his task will be to convince the constituents to vote for him the PDP abysmal record in the state notwithstanding.
Sydney Onyemere is a legal practitioner who contested for the seat under the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in 2015 but lost to Engr Chinedum Orji. He was tipped to had won the election them when the APGA momentum spearheaded by Dr Alex Otti swept through Abia. He was also said to had received big favour from Ikuku as compensation to support the winner of the election. Though he has not declared any interest to run, it’s believed that he might contest now that Speaker Chinedum Orji is not returning to the state assembly.
Sydney Onyemere is from Ohokobe Afara and he cuts the image of a controversial individual who once took the PHCN to court for disconnecting his house over non-payment of power bills. The suit is still pending it was learnt, however, the PHCN has removed his house from their supply list making him to look for alternative source of power. It’s still left to be seen if APGA can make any impressive outing this time or replicate the 2015 successes.
Deacon Ikechukwu Nwoke
He was one-time special adviser to then Gov. T.A Orji and council member of Abia State Polytechnic. He appointment as Transition Committee Chairman of Umuahia North LGA ended on a sour note as he was removed in a controversial circumstance. He is a business man cum politician whose ambition was to go to the House of Representatives but had to drop the idea because of zoning. The odds are heavily against him in picking the PDP ticket because he is coming from Amuzukwu Ibeku that is unlikely to clinch the ticket having been elected to the state assembly before through Mrs Uche Akwukwaegbu.