‘He’s yet to declare interest in Governor T.A Orji’s job’- Aides insist
Immediate past Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd) may have finally joined Abia guber race, though his aides and political associates insist he is yet to take a decision on 2015.
Pointers to this effect emerged over the weekend with the retired military top brass’ campaign posters reportedly taking over major streets of Umuahia, the state capital and Aba.
ENCOMIUM Weekly’s reliable sources who sighted the all colour posters said it is the first bold move by any guber aspirant in the state.
General Ihejirika’s posters, it was further reported had him adorn the Abia traditional attire with a bold inscription, Ugoma Abia (Abia’s precious eagle). The colourful posters also urged the General “To come and do more for the people of Abia State”
It was equally expectedly designed in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s logo, indicating the fact that Ihejirika would be flying the flag of the party if he eventually decides to join the Abia guber race.
Contacted to confirm if the retired artillery general was aware of the posters, some of his aides and political associates, who pleaded anonymity told ENCOMIUM Weekly he is yet to take a final decision on the issue of taking over power from Governor Theodore Ahamefula Orji in 2015.
“The truth is that the general is under serious pressure to join Abia guber race, but he has not yet decided. Abians are yearning for him. And sooner than you expect, he will make official pronouncement on his aspiration. Whatever decision he takes, will certainly be in the overall interest of Abians.”
ENCOMIUM Weekly had exclusively reported weeks back the former Army boss would be running in the Abia guber race, having pulled out of the military. Like we reported, the Abia State government recently organized a grand reception for him. A move political pundits interpreted as a ploy to enlist him into politics.
The grand reception also sent danger signals to the over 20 guber hopefuls who fear that the retired general’s connections would jeopardize their ambition.
Nigeria’s political landscape is replete with success stories of former military goons who effortlessly transformed to career politicians.
From former president Olusegun Obasanjo, a one-time military head of state to late General Musa Yardua, Generals Theophilus Danjuma, Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari and others, Ihejirika would be following the footsteps of his superiors if he eventually declares his interest to govern Abia in a few months.
Interestingly, Ihejirika, who hails from Isikwuato, Abia has not denied the fact that he is being tipped to succeed Ochendo, as the Abia state chief executive is fondly called. But trying hard to be tactful and modest about it, those close to him say he is actually consulting widely.
He is also said to be building a formidable war chest, setting up political structures in all the 17 local governments, state and federal constituencies as well as senatorial districts in the state, while reaching out to Abia stakeholders at home and in Abuja including the Presidency.
A strong candidate any day, for a political party, General Ihejirika, who is from the old Bende zone that had governed the state for two terms, would certainly have a formidable opposition in the Ukwa/Ngwa geo-political bloc of Abia, who have never ruled the state (either as military or civilian) since its creation 23 years ago.
Already lined up from Abia South for 2015 are two incumbent senators, Enyi Abaribe (the senate spokesman), Nkechi Nwogu (one-time senate committee chairman on Banking and Financial Institutions), Chief Emeka Nwogu (Minister for Labour and Productivity), Chief Eric Acho Nwakanma (two-time Abia Deputy Governor), Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (university don and Deputy General Manager, Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA), Chief Friday Nwosu (Peoples Democratic Party legal adviser and human rights activist), Chief Sunny Aku (billionaire businessman), Senator Adulphos Wabara (former Senate President), Chief Mac Nwabara (defunct Hallmark Bank MD) and Hon. Uzor Azubuike (a member of the House of Representatives), among others.
Outside the PDP are also tested politicians like Chief Regan Ufomba (former APGA guber candidate), Udo Ahaiwe (a senior lecturer at Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia) and All Progressives Congress’ Chief Nyerere Anyim (Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha’s political and business associates), and many others.
The disposition of the Abia State governor, T.A Orji has not also helped matters. Agreed he is supporting the Ukwa-Ngwa group, it is obvious he is under pressure to pay back some prominent Abians outside the zone who helped him when he needed them most.
But not willing to openly identify with any guber candidate, at least for now, the governor only last week dismissed rumours that he has adopted, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (ASEPA boss).
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Anjunwa, Orji categorically said, he has not anointed any candidate to succeed him.
At anytime T.A Orji changes his mind, it is almost certain he would be a core factor in determining who steps into Government House, Umuahia after he leave office in 2015.
Born February 13, 1956, General Azubuike Onyeabor Ihejirika is from Ovim, Isikwuato local government of Abia State. Appointed Chief of Army Staff in September 2010, he is the second Igbo to head the Nigerian Army almost 50 years after his Abia kinsmen, late General Aguiyi Ironsi held a similar office. He is also the second Igbo alive to be decorated a three-star Army General after late General Chikadibia Obiakor. He however pulled out of the army in January 2014, after President Goodluck Jonathan dropped all service chiefs.
– UCHE OLEHI