There are strong indications that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is making serious efforts towards gaining more grounds in the South-East and South- South ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The targets of the federal ruling party are some governors in the geo-political zones.The APC performed woefully in the two zones in the 2015 general elections, losing most of the areas, save for Imo State to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
That is in addition to Anambra State, which has been in the hands of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). To this end, New Telegraph gathered that top leaders of the party are dangling carrots of automatic re-election to some first term governors in the two zones.
With the exception of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who has proven a stubborn fly for the APC, sources said that other governors in the two zones, who are in their first terms, but do not belong to the APC, are being targeted for the cross-over onslaught.
Sources close to the APC indicated that top on the list of those being approached are the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano; Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi; Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu; Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade and that of Akwa Ibom, Mr. Udom Emmanuel.
It was gathered that towards achieving the goal, some top shots of the APC in the two regions have been reaching out to the governors, with a view to convincing them to join the APC and ditch the PDP.
The position of the APC stalwarts is strengthened by the continued crisis in the PDP, where the two arrowheads of the combat, Senator Ahmed Markarfi and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff are locked in a battle of supremacy over the control of the party.
“The lingering PDP crisis is a fertile ground and a good excuse for anybody to defect and abandon the party now. Of course, you know that factionalisation is one of the grounds allowed by the constitution for defection.
So, it is a good excuse for anybody to use and leave PDP for now,” said a PDP leader and former minister. Obiano, whose election comes up first in the latter part of this year, is under serious pressure to move to the APC. His APGA is having pockets of crisis, which is threatening its unity going into the election.
He was elected in 2014. It was learnt that some highly placed APC members from the South-East are in the forefront of the battle to recruit the governor into the APC fold.
“If he accepts to cross over to the APC, he will pick the ticket automatically,” said an APC chieftain from the South-East.
A source close to the governor said that the fear of the governor’s camp is that the rolling APC machine might complicate matters for him in the state.
“You can see how the APC took Edo and Ondo states. You can also see how the APC treated Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State in the rerun election.
Those are test runs for what the APC is planning for us this year and in 2019. If the governor does not play his game well,you know the APC will attempt to take him out.
That is the fear,” the source said. But, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Legislative Matters and Strategy, Prince Oliver Okpala, said that the governor would return for a second term on the platform of APGA.
Also contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to Umahi, Mr. Emma Anya, insisted that his governor would remain in the PDP. But he admitted that the story has been trending for some time.
Anya said: “That story has been flying around for some time. It is not today that we started hearing it. But the governor has been saying that he remains in the PDP and would not move to the APC.
He has always said that the PDP remains the party to beat in Ebonyi. The story has not changed.” Ayade has been in good terms with President Muhammadu Buhari.
He has visited the president several times and is one of the very few governors the president has visited to inaugurate projects.
The speculation that Ayade may defect to the APC has been lingering for a long time. Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to Ayade, told New Telegraph that his governor remains in PDP.
“Ayade has stated it several times that he remains in PDP. The only thing is that my governor has a good working relationship with the president. For him, after election, it is governance.
So, Governor Ayade is busy with governance now. When it is time for politics, he will play it,” Ita told New Telegraph. Ikpeazu’s CPS, Enyinnaya Appollos, said “nobody approached the governor to join APC and the governor is not leaving PDP.”
Highly placed sources within the APC informed New Telegraph that the party is focused on making serious inroads into the two zones to ensure its desire to retain power at the centre in 2019.
It is the drive that has attracted some bigwigs from the zone into the party. “We need to be a bit certain in the two zones for 2019.
The two zones are proving difficult for our party, but we remain optimistic that we can break into the two zones in 2019. We have some big men from the zone in our party now. That leaves us with an option to work hard and achieve our desire in the two zones,” said an APC chieftain in the South-East.
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