[From BONIFACE OKORO, Umuahia]
Issue of the zoning controversy threatening the unity of Abia State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came to the fore, Tuesday, during the commissioning of the Children’s Specialist Hospital built by Abia Government in Umuahia.
While some youth of Abia North besieged the venue in protest over the novel governorship zoning formula introduced by leaders of the PDP in the state, National Chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, pleaded for amicable resolution of the issue.
Senator Ayu who was on hand to inaugurate the Children’s Specialist Hospital, also named AnneMarie Jackson Hospital, urged Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and other stakeholders of the party in Abia to strive to resolve the zoning issue threatening to tear the party apart because, according to him, PDP cannot afford to lose Abia in 2023.
Currently, there is unease over the zoning formula introduced by Abia State Working Committee of PDP which declared that the governorship seat has been zoned simultaneously to Abia Central and Abia North Senatorial Districts. This is, however, as both senatorial zones are tenaciously insisting that it was their respective turns to produce the governor in 2023.
Ayu was confronted with the burning issue as he arrived to inaugurate the newly built Children’s Specialist Hospital, with other members of the National Working Committee (NWC).
A group of youths under the aegis of Abia North Youths Assembly stormed the venue of the event, brandishing placards and demanding power rotation to Abia North. Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: “Give power to Abia North,” “Give us governor or no more PDP in Abia North,” and “We want equity and justice,” among others.
In reference to the protest, Ayu said that it was normal in a democracy for people to express their feelings, adding that it was not the responsibility of PDP National leadership to endorse candidates.
He said that he has already discussed with Governor Ikpeazu and urged that they “must always put heads together to solve our problems.”
“We want Abia to remain a PDP state. So, you must discuss and solve the problem together,” he advised.
On his part, Governor Ikpeazu told his visitor that it was a sign that democracy thrives in Abia.
“You have come to see democracy and free speech in practice in Abia State,” he told Ayu and his entourage, adding that there are still other groups agitating for the same issue but chose to go about it in a more civil manner.
On the Children’s Specialist Hospital, Governor Ikpeazu said that he decided to build the health facility in partnership with Abians in Diaspora with technical support from Project Cure, Denver, United States, in order to provide a specialist healthcare services solely for children.
“We feel that the time has come to build a dedicated hospital for our children. We think it is the right of every child to live. And it is the responsibility of our government to help every Abia child to live,” he said.
The Abia governor called on wives and mothers to bring their sick children to the hospital and “give them a fair chance to live.”
He stated that the challenge facing him is to ensure that “by the time I leave office, life expectancy in Abia will be above higher than the national average.”