APC’s victory in Imo North bolsters party’s fortunes in South East
A predominant question that has continued to dominate public discussions after the 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections was, could the All Progressives Congress (APC), win elections in Southeast?
It is on records that the South East geopolitical zone, alongside its next-door neighbour, the South South voted majorly for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Prior to the general election, only Edo and Imo states were in the APC territory from the zones. But while the mixed outcome from Edo was understandable, it was surprising that no person on the APC platform could win a seat to the Senate or majority of the seats from the state in the House of Representatives from Imo, where the incumbent governor, Roachas Okorocha was entrenched in the party.
Many analysts have alluded to the allegations of monumental rigging that were said to have attended the National Assembly election in the area, saying that incumbents rode on the perceived massive support for the PDP presidential candidate and then president, to influence the outcome of the senatorial and House of Representatives polls.
In Imo State particularly, the PDP senatorial candidate, Hope Uzodimma, was alleged to have entered into a bargain with Okorocha, for a symbiotic electoral collaboration. There was no concrete evidence to prove such inter-party bargaining, but it was also said that Okorocha was not fully convinced that the power of incumbency would not push victory to Jonathan’s corner.
Based on the foregoing, what implication does the outcome of the July 23 and 28 rerun senatorial polls in Imo North, which went in favour of the APC bring to bear on the acceptability of the ruling party in Southeast?
Both Mr. Athan Achonu, who had a brief stint at the Red Chamber before the court invalidated his election; and Mr. Benjamin Uwajumogu, are not known to be exceptional political characters or wonderful legislative materials. But by scoring 56, 076 votes to beat Achonu, who polled 43, 815 votes, Uwajumogu’s victory has some significance.
The INEC returning officer, Professor Arinze Agbogu, had while announcing the results declared that Uwajumogu scored majority of the lawful votes cast.
Signs that the table was set to turn against the PDP and its candidate in the election emerged after the initial poll on July 23. Prof. Agbogu disclosed before declaring the exercise inconclusive that while the APC candidate scored 48, 921; Achonu of PDP was trailing with 40, 142 votes.
Reacting to the positive outcome, APC’s Uwajumogu expressed joy at his victory, stressing that he was grateful mostly to Governor Okorocha, for making available his political structure for the senatorial poll. Uwajumogu’s thank you speech left a poser as to why the governor did not make same structure available in the main election of March 28, 2015, thus bringing up the possibility that a political understanding existed between Okorocha and PDP before the presidential upset.
That apart, could it be argued that on the basis of the violence that broke out in Oru East and Isiala Mbano, as well as, in Okata and Amiri, where incidences of ballot box snatching were reported, that the outcome was tainted by the new power of incumbency at the centre? But the fact that before the cancellation of election in 15 polling units housing 13,000 registered voters, Uwajumogu had already posted a winning streak, with 8,777 votes-differences; defeats such likelihood.
But the claim by Okorocha that Uwajumogu was on hand to replace Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, introduces a new narrative to the Southeast dilemma in the new dispensation. Could it be that a new thinking has crept into the Southeast geopolitical zone, suggesting a softening of hard stance against APC and its promoters?
To some extent, a lot of commentators believe that the position of deputy president in the present dispensation by a PDP stalwart adds no significant value to the socio-economic and political interest of the geopolitical zone, except to the occupant of the office.
Southeast zonal chapter of APC had never hidden its desire to produce a senator from the area and prove to the national leadership of the party that they deserve inclusion through appointments and other perks.
For instance, weeks to the Imo North senatorial rerun, the Southeast leadership caucus of the party alleged that the PDP was planning to rig the rerun election earlier scheduled for February 20, 2016. In a statement, spokesman of the APC zonal leadership caucus, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, disclosed that after noticing the popular acclaim of voters for the APC candidate, Hon. Benjamin Uwajimogu, the PDP camp of Senator Athan Achonu, began desperate plans to rig through the use of manual voters register.
Okechukwu added that within the one week he spent in Okigwe, it was obvious that the APC candidate and former speaker of Imo House of Assembly, Uwajumogu was enjoying leading popularity rating, thus making “the camp of the PDP candidate, Senator Achonu panicky.”
He noted that Senator Achonu’s case was desperate “because some of his party’s State House of Assembly candidates blame him for their failure in the last election, and therefore plans to truncate a free poll from all indications.”
Okechukwu pointed out that: “for us in the South East Zone of the APC, this is a golden opportunity, as no Igbo Senator, even our revered Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, is not currently a member of the elite APC senate caucus.”
He explained: “Imagine, most alarmingly, how prominent Igbo sons trumpet on daily basis that the government of the day must implement the 2014 Constitutional Conference report, without aligning with Buhari’s government. They canvas that Buhari’s government must do all our wish list, yet they vote for the wrong candidate, because of money. We must say no to money politics as this is the golden opportunity for us to elect one of us to be in the conclave where vital decisions are taken.”
Could it then mean that the outcome of the July 23 and 28, rerun poll in Imo North Senatorial district propelled the need for national inclusive politics to guarantee victory of the APC candidate? The Southeast caucus of the party holds that view. “Nd’Igbo in this dispensation of our fourth republic democracy did not produce the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker and neither in the inner caucus of the ruling party. Uwajumogu is coming to fill this void.”
Okechukwu had argued: “Ndigbo had the first chance, when we appealed to the voters in Anambra State Central Senatorial District to vote for Senator Chris Ngige, now Minister of Labour and Employment.
“They missed that golden opportunity, a crucial scenario where Ngige could have by now been the Senate President. We hope they grab this chance.”