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Imo braces for intricate triangular gubernatorial battle

By Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
21 November 2018   |   4:25 am
If there is any state with curiously evolving electoral uncertainties, it is Imo State, particularly the push and pull that define each governorship election cycle.

Rochas Okorocha

• Okorocha’s many troubles
If there is any state with curiously evolving electoral uncertainties, it is Imo State, particularly the push and pull that define each governorship election cycle. From 1999, the line up of governors exposes this sequence: Achike Udenwa (PDP), from Orlu (Imo West) Senatorial Zone extraction; Ikedi Ohakim, Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA), and later, PDP. He hails from Okigwe Imo North Senatorial Zone and succeeded Udenwa from 2007 through 2011.

Governor Rochas Okorocha of then All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and later All Progressives Congress (APC), hails from the same Imo West as Udenwa and altered the zoning sequence. Okorocha broke the jinx of zoning, because he defeated the incumbent, Ohakim, taking over from the latter in a tough battle. And in 2015, when he sought a second term, the electoral fight was majorly between him and Emeka Ihedioha, who was rounding off his stint as the Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives.

Okorocha’s second term is expected to expire by May 29, 2019. Sources said he had an understanding with Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, which made the Okigwe-born Senator to persuade his supporters and loyalists to switch their support to Okorocha. That political understanding helped the governor retain his seat for a second term.

As the build up to the next year’ election continues, the political situation in the state is heated and leaders from across political divides have expressed dissatisfaction over the governor’s administrative style.

They accused Okorocha of inflicting poverty on the people by not paying retirees their pensions, slashing workers’ salaries, nonpayment of contractors, destruction of private buildings and structures, including the destruction of the ancient Eke Ukwu Market, along Douglas Road, Owerri and other markets without compensation and rebuilding them among others. The affected traders and indigenes feel that relocating the markets to outside their ancestral jurisdiction in the name of Urban Renewal Programme is a misnomer.

Okorocha, in each of these cases defended himself, loudly exonerating himself, accusing his accusers of nursing interest of demanding part financial transfer of the state resources to their pockets.

The Ogboko/Ideato South Local Council of Imo State politician went further to utilize the opportunity of public fora to boast that he had politically retired important sons and political kingmakers of Imo State such as Udenwa, Ohakim, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu among others, adding derisively that he had no political godfather who installed him and sp he is above control.

These did not go down well with these political juggernauts. They surreptitiously and clandestinely began to plan for the governor. So that when Okorocha began to fly the kite of his choice of interest to present his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu (in his 40s also from Orlu Senatorial zone), as his successor, he came against stiff opposition. Nwosu got married to Okorocha’s first daughter, Uloma. Okorocha had given Nwosu jucy  and plum position such as Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations), Commissioner for Lands and Survey, and lastly his Chief of Staff. The young man is now being seen as super rich as against what he was before 2011.

From sources, Okorocha’s choice of Nwosu was not acceptable, but the governor insisted that Nwosu would keep his signature legacies when he leaves office, such as free education policy among others. When Okorocha was voted into office, he was not considered based on the Orlu zone he came from. Rather, it was his philanthropic, along with his Foundation College, where he awarded scholarships to indigent pupils and students. These recommended him as replacement for Ohakim, who had lost the goodwill of Imo people.

The Guardian gathered that within APC as a party, prominent members formed a coalition. These included Okorocha’s deputy, Eze Madumere, Ararune, then Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, the Organising Secretary of APC, Senator Osita Izunaso, a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr. Theodore Ekechi, among others, who began to wrestle with Okorocha to ensure his ambition of installing of his son-in-law does not fly.

The battle began from the congresses (wards, local councils and state). They succeeded ab initio during the tenure of Chief John Oyegun as APC chairman until the ascendency of Adams Oshiomhole, when another congress was re-conducted and Okorocha took back the structure. It was a fierce battle between them and Okorocha. Ararume later defected to All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), where he applied his political sagacity that resulted in his obtaining the governorship ticket.

Now, for any electoral victory to happen, there has to be an equitable geo-political power share understanding among the three senatorial zones that make up the 27 local councils in the state. Orlu zone has the largest local councils with 12; Owerri zone has nine local councils while Okigwe zone has six local councils.

Ararume, who is now holding the governorship ticket of APGA, hails from Okigwe. Ihedioha comes from Aboh Mbaise, Owerri zone while Senator Hope Uzodinma hails from Orlu and he is currently flying APC governorship flag in the state.

As at today, Ihedioha’s closest challenger, Chief Samuel Anyanwu, is currently contesting in the court the emergence of Ihedioha. Uzodinma and Nwosu are also in the court challenging the primaries processes. The same applies to APGA where about 15 aspirants, led by a former governor of the state, Ohakim, are also contesting the submission of Ararume’s name to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the governorship candidate.

The above parties are pivotally leading. The electorate has predominant knowledge of the existence of the parties. But there are also the struggling, but existent Young Progressives Party (YPP), with Linus Okorie as the standard-bearer. Tony Nwulu is the candidate of the United Peoples Party (UPP), while Okey Ezeh is flying the flag of Social Democratic Party (SDP) among others. Chief Ike C. Ibe, who was affected by the problems of alleged non-organisation of primaries for APGA, is also a standard-bearer and consensus candidate adopted by a majority of former APGA aspirants in an exercise held at his residence.

There are other contestants, who are making waves at their own levels and testing their political weight. These include Chief Humphrey Anumudu, who obtained Zenith Party’s ticket, Aloysius Osuji of MAJA party, among others.

But due to zonal considerations, the standard-bearers have chosen their running mates. Ihedioha took Gerald Iroha from Oguta, Orlu, a former member of both House of Assembly and House of Representatives. Ararume selected Steve Nwoga, an Abuja-based lawyer from Mbaise in Owerri zone, while Uzodinma, though yet to be made public, is said to have selected the embattled deputy governor of the state, Madumere as his running mate.

Madumere had made an unsuccessful attempt to contest the governorship candidature. Both the two primaries held by Alhaji Ahmed Gulak and Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim Agbakabia led committees did not favour him among the nine aspirants. While Gulak’s committee announced Uzodinma as the winner of the governorship primary of APC, Agbakabia, whose committee came after some days, announced Nwosu as the standard-bearer.

Though the cases are in court, there has been war of words between Okorocha and Uzodinma. Okorocha as and who has the party’s structure, is pained by the choice of Uzodinma rather than his son-in-law. He has faulted INEC for publishing Uzodinma’s name, alleging that the Senator obtained a fake court order that countered the earlier one that favoured Nwosu.

Nwosu recently returned from Abuja after his vain efforts for INEC to include his name. He also dispelled the rumours making the rounds that he would defect to an obscure party since he could not make APC’s list. According to him, he has “no intention to leave the party he built for anyone,” point out that he had committed enormously to build APC in the state.

Before Nwosu returned to Owerri, his Campaign Director-General, Chief Chidi Ibe, had accused Uzodinma and Oshiomhole of fraudulently influencing INEC to publish the Senator’s name. He said the Ugwumba Campaign would use the last drop of their blood to ensure Nwosu’s emergence.

Uzodinma also returned from Abuja amidst an unprecedented crowd of supporters, who thronged Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, to receive him. He had also a roadshow that passed through the main streets of Owerri and settling at his campaign office along Okigwe Road, where he addressed his supporters. He also vowed to retain his position and take-over from Okorocha next year.

As the bad blood continues between the two camps, Uzondinma, through his media aide, Mbadiwe Emelumba, faulted Okorocha’s claim of having the capacity to install any governor in the state. He traced the history of the emergence of Okorocha in 2011 by populist support, claiming that he had since lost that support. The Senator claimed that he was the one now enjoying the support of the masses.

According to the statement: “Okorocha has run for many elections, including the governorship of Imo State, before 2011, and even the Presidency, and lost all. But in 2011 in particular, Imo people voted more against former governor, Ikedi Ohakim, than for Okorocha. So, he merely benefitted from the anger of the people against Ohakim. Even at that, the election went into a bi-election, where Ohakim was finally manipulated out of the race and Okorocha became governor. Also in 2015, Okorocha, as incumbent governor, could not win outright on first ballot.

“The election was concluded on a second ballot, where some aggrieved PDP members helped, again, to manipulate him into the governorship. I think this is more than enough evidence that in terms of popularity, Senator Uzodinma is far more popular than Okorocha in Imo West (the biggest senatorial district in Nigeria) where both men come from.

“The truth of the matter is that all strata of Imo society are celebrating Uzodinma’s victory as APC governorship candidate and this has brought them back on track to vote massively for APC in 2019. Uzodinma’s popularity in Imo State is infectious and it will not only guarantee victory for APC, but will rake in far more than five million votes for APC from the South East in 2019. So, let no one be deceived by Okorocha’s boast because he is the problem of APC in Imo State and the South East.”

In response to Uzodinma’s claim, Okorocha, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, faulted the APC standard-bearer, urging him to face a litany of charges against him in the courts.

The statement, which was issued on Thursday, read: “Even when we have not said or written anything about Chief Hope Uzodinma since the controversy over the governorship ticket of All Progressives Congress (APC), he took up the governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha in the media, claiming that the governor “underestimates his unpopularity” among other insulting remarks. And we swiftly want to say interalia:

“We won’t honour Chief Hope Uzodinma with response because even when politics today seems to be all comers affair people should be humble enough to know their superiors in certain areas of life. Chief Uzodinma should face his two most recently criminal charges over the issuance of Dud Cheque and non-declaration of assets. We won’t talk about other similar cases.”