The struggle for the creation of Ebonyi State from Abịa and Enugu states brought the people of Afikpo and Abakaliki together on a common mission of what they called political emancipation.
The Afikpo bloc consists of five local government areas in their new state today, namely Afikpo North, Afikpo South, Ohaozara, Onicha and Ivo. They now constitute Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone.
The Abakaliki bloc now has eight local government areas spread across two senatorial zones. They are Ebonyi North comprising of Izzi, Abakaliki, Ebonyi and Ọhaukwu local government areas; and Ebonyi Central which has Ezza North, Ezza South, Ikwo and Ishielu local government areas.
However, two power blocs have formed in Ebonyi South, namely Afikpo and Ohanivo. The Afikpo bloc is made up of Afikpo North and Afikpo South local government areas, which used to be one Afikpo local government area in the old Imo and Abịa states before the creation of Ebonyi State.
The Ohanivo bloc includes Ọhaozara, Onicha and Ivo local government areas which were once the old Ohaozara local government area in the old Imo and Abịa states before the creation of Ebonyi State
The two blocs have a Federal House Of Representatives Constituency each, namely Afikpo North/South and Ohaozara/Onicha/Igbo.
But in Abakaliki, it is not that straight forward. The zone is subdivided into clans rather than political blocs.The clans are Ezzaezekuna (Ezza), Ịkwọ Noyo(Ikwo), Izzi Nnodo (Izzi), Ngbo/Izzia, Igbo-Esa, Korri and Agba.
Now, Ezza, Ịkwọ and Izzi are the three biggest clans in the Abakalikii bloc and are seen as the major clans while the rest are seen as minority clans.
Geographically, the Ezzas are in Ezza South and Ezza North local government areas and make up a sizable percentage of Ishielu local government area. They share the local government area with Igbo-Esa, Agba and Korri clans. They are also one half of Effum town, one of the three major towns in Ohaukwu local government area. However, due to their nomadic nature, there are minority Ezza communities in virtually almost all the local government areas in the state
Ngbo/Izhia clans are predominantly in Ezzamgbo and Ngbo towns, the other two major towns in Ohaukwu local government. The Korri are also found in Effium town with a sprinkling in a few other places, while Agba people are predominantly found in Agba town in Ishielu local government area.
The Izzi are the predominant clan in Izzi, Abakaliki and Ebonyi local government areas in Ebonyi North.
Charter of Equity
In the runup to the 2015 general elections, a former governor of the state, Martin Elechi, said though the founding fathers of the state who led the push for the state’s creation drafted a charter of Equity, they did not get around to signing and ratifying it. Mr Elechi, who hails from Ikwo local government area, led the founding fathers to push for the state’s creation.
However, Abakaliki and Afikpo have a gentleman’s agreement to share and rotate power between their two blocs. They agreed that whenever one bloc gets the governorship position, the deputy will go to the other bloc. For example, Governor David Umahi is from Ohaozara in Ebonyi South (Afikpo bloc) while his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, is from Ịkwọ (Abakaliki bloc).
Mr Elechi is from Ịkwọ while his two deputy governors, Chigozie Ogbu (2007-2011) and Mr Umahi (2011-2015) are from Onicha and Ohaozara respectively all in Afikpo bloc.
With the Abakaliki bloc having two senatorial zones, one of the zones which didn’t get the deputy governorship or governorship position always gets the third highest political position in the state, which is the Speaker of the state House of Assembly.
In 1999, Sam Egwu from the Ngbo/Izhia clan took the governorship position. After him, Mr Elechi from Ịkwọ served two terms before handing over to Mr Umahi from Ebonyi South zone. With Mr Umahi set to complete his second term in May, it was expected that power rotation among the three zones would start afresh since the three zones have had their turns.
However, there arose controversy, division and disagreement over where the new cycle of rotation should start from. Note that the previous arrangement was made easy by the fact that the PDP was the dominant party in the state. However, the defection of Governor Umahi to the APC meant the PDP lost control of the state and became an opposition party. It, however, retained a larger proportion of stakeholders who control the localities.
For Saturday’s election, the PDP surprisingly nominated Ifeanyi Odii, from Onicha in Ebonyi South as its candidate against the charter of equity and gentleman’s agreement the zones had.
On the other hand, the APC nominated Francis Nwifuru, the current Speaker of Ebonyi House of Assembly while the All Progressive Grand Alliance chose Bernard Odoh who is from Ezza North in Ebonyi Central.
This meant that the three zones each has a candidate in the election.
The candidature of Mr Odii has been faulted by the Abakaliki bloc who have a larger number of the voters. Their grouse is that he is not only from the South but also from Ohanivo bloc where the present governor comes from.
Their argument is that even if the rotation is to start from the South, the Afikpo bloc should take it.
However, in the Abakaliki bloc, the emergence of Messrs Odoh and Nwifuru is seen as an opportunity for the PDP and Odoii to clinch the seat. This is because the two candidates are expected to divide the votes of Abakaliki bloc and help Mr Odii to emerge victorious if he can garner majority of the votes in Ebonyi South zone and some votes from minority clans in the Abakaliki bloc.
The Izzi, in backing Mr Nwifuru, argue that since the rotation started from Ebonyi North, it should re-start from the zone and that means the clan should produce the next governor since Ngbo/Izhia has had its turn The Ezza clan, however, disagrees, arguing that since it is a new cycle, it can start from any of the two zones, hence their decision to back their son, Bernard Odoh.
Mr Nwifuru, who represents Izzi West constituency in the State House of Assembly, is a core loyalist of Governor Umahi. He has been the Speaker of the Assembly for seven years now.
The zoning permutation favours him and his party. The APC with the prodding of Mr Umahi shared all the positions equitably. It zoned the deputy governorship to Afikpo and the senatorial seat to Ohanivo in the South.The party gave the speakership position to the Central zone, while zoning the Senate seat to Ezza clan and the House of Representatives seat to Ịkwọ.
Mr Nwifuru is seen as the anointed successor of Governor Umahi, a toga he has laboured to wean himself of, insisting that he is an independent mind who will not be controlled by the outgoing governor if voted in.
His party did well in the National assembly election but that cannot be the yardstick for determining who will win the governorship.
The PDP is battling to stay in touch with APGA and the APC in Ebonyi State. The party lost the governorship seat for the first time in its history in Ebonyi in 2020 when Governor David Umahi decamped to the APC. However, the party remains strong in the state as it has eight of the nine National Assembly members from the state and more than one-third of the state Assembly members who refused to defect with the governor.
However the PDP was soon beset with infighting in the lead up to the primaries. The situation worsened after the primaries as those who lost out decamped to the APC, APGA or LP.
A few others who stayed back also vowed to work against the party from within in the presidential and National Assembly elections. The result was a total rout of the PDP in the elections. It won only one National Assembly seat while its presidential candidate came third in the state behind the Labour Party and APC candidates.
In the senatorial election, the APC cleared the three seats up for grabs. The APC also won three of the six House of Representatives seats already announced. The PDP managed to get the Afikpo North/South federal constituency seat while the Labour party got the other one with one seat yet to be announced.
Although APGA did not get any seat, its senatorial candidate convincingly won Ezza North council which is the stronghold of its governorship candidate.
It is believed that Ezza North/Ishielu constituency election which has not been announced will likely be won by the party as its lead seems too large to be overturned by the other parties.
Alarmed by the results, the PDP and its governorship candidate, Ifeanyi Odii, have been scrambling throughout last week to steady their sinking ship.
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Mr Odii has since Monday been meeting various stakeholders of the party from the various local government areas in the state on the way forward.
The APC, led by Senator-elect for Ebonyi South and incumbent governor, Mr Umahi, though upbeat and buoyed by the results, has also been holding several meetings and re-strategising ahead of the Saturday elections.
The party’s chairman, Stanley Emegha, said that it cannot afford to rest on its oars as it was evident from the presidential and National Assembly election that the Labour Party and APGA are a strong force in the state.
From the look of things, it appears that the APGA candidate, Mr Odoh, is poised to win at least three of the four local governments in Ebonyi Central zone.
The Ebonyi North zone, if the results are to be believed, is totally APC, while in the South, APC and PDP may share the spoils.
The implications of this is that the APC may have the day.
The ouster of LP popular governorship aspirant, Edward Nkwegu, at the Supreme Court during the week has dampened the growing popularity of the party.
The court-declared candidate of the party is an unknown quantity, hence the party is not expected to do well in the election.
However, Mr Odii and the PDP may spring surprises at the election. This is because many Labour party candidates and stakeholders are former PDP members who left the PDP after its acrimonious primaries.
Many of them, who enjoyed the support of some PDP stakeholders during last week’s election, are set to return the favour to the PDP in the governorship election.
That notwithstanding, the feeling now in the state is that the election is that of the APC and its candidate, Mr Nwifuru, to lose.
Mr Nwifụrụ is also boosted by the zoning formula in the state, which greatly favours him and his party.
He is from Ebonyi North, the zone which last produced the governor some 24 years ago. Since then, the other two zones took their turns in Mr Elechi (Central) and Mr Umahi (South).
Many in the state believe it is Ebonyi North’s turn. The PDP candidate, Mr Odii is from South which will be completing its turn in May, with many saying it will amount to great injustice to Ebonyi North if he were to win.
Despite the permutations and arguments, the election may go down as the tightest in the history of Ebonyi State and the result may signal a turning point in the political development of the state.
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