As the dust raised by the decision of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abia State to zone its 2023 governorship ticket to both Abia North and Abia Central districts is yet to settle, the immediate-past Governor and Senator representing Abia Central, Senator Theodore Orji, has declared that his position on zoning had not changed.
PDP explained that the reason it zoned the ticket to both zones was that the duo paraded the highest number of governorship aspirants.
But the double zoning has sparked wide criticism with many party bigwigs including former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara; and Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, describing it as “childish and selfish.”
Reacting to the development, Senator Orji, who had earlier openly declared his total support for power shift back to Abia North in keeping with the prevailing zoning arrangement in the state, said he still stood firmly by his initial position.
The former Governor in a statement Monday said: “My attention has been drawn to the news on social media platforms and handles concerning Abia State Governorship and where it is zoned to.
“Let me state categorically clear that my earlier position on the subject matter remains sacrosanct and unambiguous.”
The former Governor sued for peace and cautioned against destabilising the state.
” All those working to set Abia State on fire should toe the path of peace, do a rethink and sustain the peace we have been savouring as God’s Own State.
Meanwhile, Abia North stakeholders have vehemently, rejected the double-zoning formula and vowed to resist any attempt to scheme the zone out of the 2023 contest.
The stakeholders in a strong-worded press statement Monday, and signed by the immediate-past Secretary to State Government, SSG, Dr Eme Okoro, dismissed the zoning as “strange and obnoxious”.
It read in part: “We read with utter dismay, a statement released on Saturday, March 26, 2022, by the State Chapter of the PDP and signed by the State Party Chairman, Rt. Hon. Allwell Asiforo Okere, which zoned the position of Abia Governor, 2023 to Abia North and Abia Central senatorial zones.
“We unanimously and vehemently reject the purported double zoning arrangement. It is an abnormal novelty that has no place in our great Party. This is the first time that a position of such importance as the governors and/or any other for that matter will be zoned to two senatorial zones.
“This type of zoning is retrogressive, obnoxious, conflict-prone, high-handed, self-centred and disruptive to the system that has been running smoothly for the past 23 years. We see it as a calculated attempt and a manipulative scheme designed to smuggle the leadership’s preferred candidate into the Government House through the backdoor after the tenure of governor Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.”
The stakeholders called for the immediate reversal of the ‘strange zoning’ which they said was capable of destabilising the state.
“This ill-fated construct is capable of causing trouble, disunity and disharmony in Abia State that has remained peaceful through the equitable sharing of power among the three senatorial zones since the return to civil rule in 1999.”
The stakeholders expressed surprise that PDP could zone its governorship ticket to “Abia Central that handed over power to Abia South just seven years ago while Abia North has been waiting patiently for the past 15 years without worries.”
“It is not only laughable but a joke taken too far which no well-meaning individual or group will take seriously. Let the right thing be done to save our great Party and State from the devastations that follow misguided policies.
“We see this arrangement as an affront on the good people of Abia North who have always worked hard, sometimes at their own detriment to ensure that power rotates equitably among the three senatorial zones.
“We view it clearly as a design to deny Abia North the chance of producing the next governor, but we will resist that through all means available.
“We also disagree with the directive asking all the aspirants in Abia North and Abia Central to liaise with the Party for presentation to the State Elders Committee between March 26 and March 30, 2022 because the State Elders Committee has not been formally constituted and therefore does not have the force of law.
“We call on the leadership of our great Party, the PDP to have a rethink and do the right thing by reversing the tendentious zoning arrangement that is catastrophic in content.”
The stakeholders, however, urged the people of Abia North to remain calm while the controversy was being resolved.