Nigeria Matters

Theodore Orji’s comeback to PDP leaves Uzor Kalu in the cold

The formal declaration on Wednesday last week by the governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) appears to have brought to an end the controversy concerning where he would finally pitch his tent after he announced his divorce from the now moribund People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) founded by Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State.

Theodore Orji and Uche Chukwumerije, PPA’s only serving senator had declared for the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, founder of APGA and revered in the southeast had received the Abia State governor with fanfare into APGA. In fact, Ojukwu had gone to Umuahia to welcome the governor into the party. Ojukwu’s presence in Umuahia at Theodore Orji’s declaration had been a carnival of sorts.

At the time the governor was declaring for APGA, Orji Uzor Kalu also dissolved his PPA and said he was collapsing it into the ruling PDP, from where he decamped to form PPA during the regime of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The former governor paid a visit to the Okwesilieze Nwodo, national chairman of PDP, saying that he was returning to PDP because of the respect he had for Nwodo. Uzor Kalu had said that he had promised Nwodo that if he (Nwodo) became party chairman that he would come back to PDP.

While Nwodo received the former governor warmly and appeared happy that Uzor Kalu was coming back to the PDP fold, other stakeholders in the party from Abia State thought otherwise. The promptly moved to block Uzor Kalu’s attempt to come back to the ruling party. Those opposed to Uzor Kalu’s return form the who’s who of PDP in Abia State. They include Enyinnaya Abaribe, his erstwhile deputy, who was forced out of government and now a senator; Ojo Maduekwe, who as minister under Obasanjo, formed the core of Abuja politicians from the state who were at war with then Governor Kalu; Eziuche Ubani, a member of the House of Representatives, who fought a war of attrition with Kalu before he (Ubani) was eventually elected into the lower chamber of the National Assembly; Vincent Ogbulafor, immediate past national chairman of the party, who had contested the state governorship against Orji Kalu. Ogbulafor was candidate of the then All People’s Party (APP) before he crossed over to PDP. Nkechi Nwaogu, another senator from Abia State and even Abia State indigenes in President Goodluck Jonathan’s government are opposed to Uzor Kalu’s comeback bid.

However, as opposed to Uzor Kalu who went cap in hand to seek a return to PDP, Theodore Orji was wooed, some say, blackmailed into coming back to PDP. The ruling party knows that between Theodore Orji and Orji Uzor Kalu, the former is a better electoral asset. Being the incumbent governor he has the state machinery at his disposal and PDP needs that to reclaim the state in 2011.

Truth is that the ruling party needs Abia State given that the party has lost some grounds in the south even as it has gained some from the opposition in the north. It lost Edo State to the rival Action Congress of Nigeria. In Ondo State, it lost to the Labour Party. Also even in the states that the party is in power the state chapters are crisis ridden. Bayelsa State, the president’s home state, belongs to this category. The State governor, Timipre Sylva, is reported to be discussing with ACN on the possibility of crossing over and running for a second term on that party’s platform.

The way CAN under Adams Oshiomhole has routed PDP from Edo State coupled with the strength Labour Party has gained in Ondo State on account of Segun Mimiko’s popularity make those states unlikely to fall under PDP bandwagon soon.

In Lagos, Fashola has successfully consolidated on Bola Tinubu’s legacy to make the acclaimed centre of excellence one that the possibility of the PDP getting close to the Government House in Alausa can only materialize in wishful thinking for now. This is more so considering that the frosty relationship between Fashola and Tinubu appears to have been resolved in the interest of the party.

In Anambra State, APGA commenced a fresh mandate in March this year and election won’t take place in the state until 2014 unless the courts upturn Peter Obi’s election and calls for fresh election.

With the foregoing, it is apparent that the PDP is not as formidable as it may appear. The hierarchy of the party knows it. That is why it will use every opportunity to make inroad into any state. That also explains the desperation to get back Abia State into its fold.

Also, for Nwodo, reclaiming Abia State in the 2011 election will be a personal achievement as it will be seen that he has delivered his zone save for Anambra State. Nwodo is from Enugu State.

The project to get Theodore Orji was executed by Nwodo, Olisa Metuh, national vice chairman of the PDP, southeast; Emeka Ihedioha, a member of the House of Representatives and Martin Elechi, the governor of Ebonyi State. The governor had asked for the dissolution of the state chapter of PDP. That has been done by Nwodo. The governor will now grant PDP’s request to concede to the party 60 percent of the cabinet, among other demands.

The other question is where does this Orji Uzor Kalu? When Theodore Orji left PPA, he said he was doing so to liberate himself from the former governor, who he said had him under his (Uzor Kalu’s) apron strings. The former governor is obviously out in the cold with no strong base anymore. With the dissolution of the Abia State executive committee of the PDP, the governor will now move quickly to fill the positions in the state executive with his loyalists thus having complete control of the state party machinery. Even though the PDP did not guarantee him an automatic ticket for second term in 2011, his control of the state chapter executive will put him in good stead to clinch the PDP ticket for 2011 Abia State governorship election.

This does not portend good for Uzor Kalu. Will he stage a comeback? Events in the next few weeks will tell.

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