Monday, 2nd October 2023

How Okorocha won Imo guber race

By Lawrence Njoku, Owerri
04 May 2015   |   2:48 am
THE victory dance of members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Imo State, which was truncated by the suspension of the April 11 gubernatorial election results, resumed last weekend as their candidate and incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, was declared the winner of the poll. The returning officer and Vice-Chancellor of Federal University, Ikwo, Ebonyi…


THE victory dance of members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Imo State, which was truncated by the suspension of the April 11 gubernatorial election results, resumed last weekend as their candidate and incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, was declared the winner of the poll.

The returning officer and Vice-Chancellor of Federal University, Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Professor Ibidapo Obe had earlier declared the election inconclusive because the margin of win was less than the cancelled votes.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cancelled 144,715 votes due to irregularities in an exercise where Okorocha was announced to have scored 385,671 against 306,142 votes of his closest rival and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Emeka Ihedioha. Despite the fact that he led with 79,529 votes, Obe said it was not enough to declare Okorocha as winner because of the large number of cancelled results.

The supplementary exercise in the affected areas was however clear enough as the APC candidate polled a total of 416996 votes against PDP’s 320,705 out of a total of 782,528 valid votes.

At the final announcement that still came through Obe, APC supporters who had been waiting patiently at the Secretariat Junction near the INEC Office located on Port Harcourt highway, went into wild jubilations.

Those who monitored the rescheduled exercise in the affected council areas would agree that there was no keen contest. No thanks to the crisis in the PDP hich has torn the party apart.

At the several polling units monitored, especially in those in Oru East, Njaba, Isu, Oguta, Nwangele, Orlu, Okigwe, Oru West, Orsu among others, only enthusiastic APC supporters were found casting their votes. In some others, agents of the PDP were not even available, a development that was attributed to their inability to get mobilization from the party before the election.01

It was obvious also that Okorocha capitalized on the crisis in the PDP to enter into secret alliance/alignment with some aggrieved members of the party which became factionalized because of the 2014 governorship primary that produced Ihedioha. Pundits say it was the last straw that broke the Camel’s back for the party.

A chieftain of the party and former Adviser on security to ex-governor Achike Udenwa, Chief Zeek Martins Nnadozie told The Guardian in Owerri that the PDP and its candidate should not have gone into the supplementary election in the first place.

He said it was unimaginable how a party that was in crisis since the commencement of the process for 2015 elections could upturn over 80,000 votes in a state where the APC had done so much to uplift the youths and bring them to political limelight.

He said, “Personally, I had told the PDP candidate to emulate President Jonathan, to be man enough to throw in the towel and go back to the drawing board. Emeka Ihedioha should have been bold enough to congratulate Governor Rochas Okorocha and save his supporters from this wild goose chase. If a man can defeat you with close to 80,000 votes and we have 144, 000 votes left, do you think Rochas Okorocha will fold his arms and allow you garner all the votes? Do you think he will go to sleep?

“Even at that, you will agree with me that we are looking at 60, 000 votes and not 144, 000 when you consider the number that collected their Permanent Voters Cards and the overwhelming apathy in the land.  With this arithmetic, there is no way Ihedioha will get 80, 000 to invalidate the existing margin before talking of winning.”

Rochas and Imo politics
THOSE who have won elections in the past are said to have relied on the strength of their party, the powers behind them or their religious organization. For Okorocha however, apart from being a Catholic, which many believe was part of the factors that helped his election, the power of incumbency and the victory of his party in the presidential election, his name played a greater role in his election.

In fact Okorocha’s victory had demystified the claim by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) that he won in 2011 because the party was strong in the state. Many say that on the contrary, it was Okorocha that brought APGA to limelight and has used relatively unknown political platforms to actualize his political desires.

They stated that in 2011, realizing that the terrain in the PDP was not suitable to offer him the ticket of the party; he joined APGA that was unknown in the state to contest the governorship election. He eventually beat the incumbent after a re-run.

After few years of sojourn in APGA, Okorocha collapsed his structure into the APC, a new party then. Though he had continued to drum support for the party, the outcome of the presidential election has shown that it is almost unacceptable in the Southeast.

A chieftain of the APC, Chief Patrick Esemonu, said the name Okorocha has become a phenomenon, stressing that his style of life and administration has endeared him to the heart of the people.

According to him, “It is not about party but the individual and name Okorocha. If you could recall, there was nothing like APGA in Imo in 2011, until Okorocha went there to vie for election. His name carried the party through. That is why when APGA started making noise and complaining that he had left and that they were on ground in the state and would recover the state from him during the 2015 elections, we laughed.”

Implication of his victory in Southeast
THE outcome of the election indicates that the southeast is not ready yet to restore the zone to PDP, where it pitched its tent in 1999. Imo is one of the two states that the party lost to APGA. On several occasions, PDP had made futile attempts to recapture Imo and Anambra. Those who have interpreted the scenarios in the two states insist that the will of the people was the central force.
With the situation of things in the just concluded elections, where the APC won the Presidency, majority of seats at the National Assembly and governorship, there is a school of thought that it would have been dangerous for Ndigbo in the emerging politics of the country if Okorocha had lost.

Southeast Publicity Secretary of the APC, Osita Okechukwu said, “A vote for Okorocha is a golden vote to retain the only egg Ndigbo has in the basket of the new Nigeria General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) is constructing.

“South east with golden egg vote is now guaranteed a place in the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), for it could have been a poor outing if he had lost, when other zones of the country including the South-South has a member governor in the PGF.

“Owelle Rochas’ victory is suiting balm to southeast APC, without which history will not have forgiven Ndigbo for putting all our eggs in one basket”, Okechukwu said.