The 2023 presidential poll is just over 20 months away but there are already permutations on the zone that should produce the president. Many are of the opinion that it is the turn of the South East, which is yet to produce a president since the return of democracy in 1999.
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha and former governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, are among the prominent names from the zone expected to vie for the presidency.
It is believed that political permutations ahead of the 2023 presidential election were behind the defection of Umahi from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was gathered that the move was informed by assumptions that APC would zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South, where observers believe the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of the South East.
Umahi had accused his former party, PDP, of not committing the presidency to the South East zone.
Umahi, who many rumour enjoys the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari, is not expected to get the ticket on a platter of gold as there are other political gladiators from the zone interested in the position.
But recent moves by anti-graft agencies against some of them seem to favour the Ebonyi State governor.
Okorocha, a former governor of Imo State and senator representing Imo West, is one of those that have indicated interest. He contested against Buhari during the party primary in 2014 ahead of the 2015 general election and has never hidden his interest in the exalted position as he has been meeting political leaders, including former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Political analysts are of the opinion that his recent arrest and possible probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will affect his chances of getting the ticket of the ruling political party.
Okorocha was recently released after spending two days in the custody of the Abdulrasheed Bawa-led commission.
The former governor, who was in charge of Imo from 2011 to 2019, had been accused by the state government of various corrupt practices including diversion of public funds.
He has denied any wrongdoing and promised to cooperate with the EFCC.
Okorocha’s media aide, Sam Onwuemeodo, said the senator’s arrest was based on an old petition written by the Imo State government.
The Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Kalu, is another aspirant that has indicated interest in running for president in 2023.
Kalu, who was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 2019 for allegedly stealing public funds while in office, was freed by the Supreme Court in May 2020 on the basis that the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, had already been promoted to the appeal court and was thus wrong to have given judgement on the matter.
Kalu and the EFCC are in court over the decision by the anti-graft agency to retry the former governor.
Barely months after returning from Kuje prison, Kalu said he would contest the 2023 presidential election if he gets the required support.
Kalu stated this when he visited two former Heads of State, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar in Minna, Niger State.
One of his aides disclosed to the Daly Trust that Kalu is yet to officially declare his intention as he is still consulting prominent Nigerians and stakeholders in the country.
Also, the commissioner for Information and Orientation, Ebonyi State, Barrister Uchenna Orji, declined to confirm if his principal will contest the 2023 presidential election, but maintained that the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum has capacity and passion for service delivery.
Umahi seems to have an edge over others if the APC decides to zone its ticket to the South East.
Meanwhile, the Pan-Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has said the difference in views and positions among Ndigbo is not a problem that can be exploited to rob them of the 2023 presidency.
President General of the group, Prof. George Obiozor, said this on Monday in Abuja at a news conference.
According to him, the divergent opinions on issues relating to politics were the hallmark of any democracy and that there has never been a time that politicians held a single view.
From Abiodun Alade (Lagos), Linus Effiong (Umuahia), Nabob Ogbonna (Abakaliki) & Abbas Jimoh (Abuja)