Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
Ebonyi State has three senatorial districts, North, South and Central and 13 local government areas. Ebonyi North and Central have four local government areas each while Ebonyi South has five.
Ebonyi South is one of the key battlegrounds because three major candidates are squaring off for the seat.
They include Governor David Umahi who is candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), incumbent Senator Ama Nnachi of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Linus Okorie, a former House of Representatives member flying the flag of Labour Party (LP).
There are five local governments in the zone: Afikpo North, Afikpo South, Ohaozara, Ivo and Onicha.
Of the five, the largest and most populous is Onicha Local Government Area. Capture this and you have a great chance of winning the election.
But some analysts claim that recent happenings show that the popularity of Umahi in this local government is at an all-time low.
The Labour Party candidate, Okorie who hails from the local government was taken away by gunmen on the morning of Sunday, October 17, 2022, while driving out of his Abakaliki residence.
He was said to be heading to the local government where he was to have a meeting with his supporters when he was allegedly abducted.
His whereabouts was uncertain throughout that Sunday until news filtered in on Monday morning, October 18, that he was arrested by members of the Ebubeagu security outfit in liaison with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), over alleged illicit drug dealings.
The Ebonyi Police Command announced that the LP chieftain was arrested on grounds of his alleged involvement in illicit drug dealings in the state, saying he wasn’t kidnapped.
But the NDLEA denied involvement in his arrest. It also denied having any investigation against Mr Okorie.
He was in detention at the facility of the Nigerian Correctional Services, for over one month. His lengthy detention, many in the zone believe, was a calculated attempt by his opponents to put him out of circulation and whittle down his popularity.
As the pressure from the media and his people continued to rise, the state government was forced to release him dropping all the charges against him.
However, his incarceration seemed to have backfired as it appears to have made him more popular with many sympathising with him, while Umahi’s popularity has taken a hit which analysts fear he may never recover from.
It is believed he has effectively lost Onicha Local Government voters who are angry because of the detention of their son.
Also, some major political heavyweights in the local government like his former allies Ali Odefa, who is National Vice Chairman of PDP, his brother Obasi Odefa, who is Deputy Speaker of Ebonyi House of Assembly and Ifeanyi Odii, who is the governorship candidate of the PDP, and many others who are no longer with the governor following his defection to APC, will not work for his victory.
But supporters of the governor insist that he will do well in Onicha, especially because of some projects he executed in the area as well as the presence of a good number of his appointees across the local government area.
A political leader in the area expressed confidence in Umahi’s popularity and vowed that people are working hard to ensure his victory across party lines.
Also, Mr Umahi’s Media Aide, Chooks Oko, is of the opinion that the odds are high in favour the governor.
According to him, the Governor has worked so hard in the last seven years plus through massive infrastructural development and human capacity building to endear himself to the heart of not just people of Ebonyi South but the entire Ebonyi State and Ndigbo.
He noted that the governor built the best Medical University in the whole of West Africa and the most sophisticated Flyover popularly acclaimed to be another second Niger Bridge in the zone among other breathtaking accomplishments.
The governor is projected to win Ohaozara – his local government. He will also take some votes from Afikpo South due to the massive works he has done there – especially the construction of arguably the longest flyover bridge in the South-East, the Iyere bridge.
But Ama Nnachi of the PDP, who hails from the area, is expected by many to win the local government.
In Afikpo North, the council’s votes are expected to be split between the three major candidates. Also, the APGA candidate Eleje hails from here and is expected to take some votes.
Ivo Local Government is seen as a no-go area for Umahi due to the presence of former Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, with whom Umahi had an acrimonious fallout a few years ago when he left for APC.
Also, the presence of another popular candidate, Nkemkanma Kama, who is contesting the Ohaozara, Onicha and Ivo House of Representatives position on the platform of the PDP, according to pundits, will affect Umahi’s chances.
Kama and Anyim hail from Ishiagụ town and it is believed that since both Senate and House elections hold on same day, people are likely to vote one party for the two contests.
All in all, it is looking like a three-way battle between APC, LP and PDP in Ebonyi South.
David Umahi (APC)
59 years old Governor David Umahi is the current Governor of Ebonyi State. He is contesting under the platform of APC a party he joined in 2020.
Strength: He is from Ohanivo block which has not produced senator for the zone since 2011.
He is in the ruling party and has power of incumbency.
Massive infrastructural development in every local government area in the zone in the areas of roads, hospitals schools etc.
Weaknesses: The perceived persecution and intimidation of opponents may make voters revolt against him.
He belongs to the ruling party which has found it hard to gain support of residents of the state.
He is the Labour Party candidate. He was formally an aspirant in the PDP where he lost to Senator Ama Nnachi before defecting to the Labour Party.
Mr Okorie, 56 years old, is a former two term member of the House of Representatives. He hails from Onicha Local government Area.
He gained more popularity and sympathy when he was incarcerated for over a month by the state government on alleged trumped up charges.
Mr Okorie has keyed into the wave of the Obidient movement of the Labour Party’s Presidential Candidate which is growing stronger each day in the state.
Strength: He was adjudged one of the best Lawmakers at the House of Representatives during his time in the green chambers.
He is loved by constituents especially in Ohaozara, Onicha and Ivo federal constituency.
He carried out several projects as a lawmaker including the Caring Heart Health outreach which gave free medical treatment to thousands of his constituents.
He is from the largest and most populous local government area in the zone.
Weaknesses. His Labour Party though very popular has been accused of not having a proper structure not just across the zone but also across the state and country.
Mr Ama Nnachi is the incumbent Senator who is contesting for a second term under the PDP. The 58 years old Lawmaker hails from Afikpo South Local Government Area.
His party, PDP is has never lost the Senate election since 1999.
He has the backing of major political heavyweights like Anyim, Odii, Odefa and other power brokers in the party from the zone.
Weakness: He is from Afikpo bloc which has held the Senate position for Ebonyi South since 2011, a position that was supposed to be rotated between the bloc and Ohanivo bloc.