In the history of elections in Imo State, Saturday’s governorship polls are the fiercest since the state was created in 1976. This is due mainly to the caliber of candidates on display and the type of heavyweight support behind them. Imo State has the largest number of governorship aspirants in this year’s general elections. And these candidates, 70 of them, believe the people will support them to success on Saturday. They point at existing and imaginary indices to support their claims.
Although previous governorship elections had usually ended in non–prophetic anticlimax, this year’s, according to investigations, may likely head for what most informed analysts have described as “unpredicted drama”. In 1979, late Chief Samuel Mbakwe, the first civilian governor of the old Imo State, was not the most popular or influential candidate en-route in that year’s governorship election. There were other heavyweight candidates like Chief Nwakamma Okoro of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and Nnanna Ukaegbu of Unity Party on Nigeria (UPN). But Mbakwe, National People’s Party (NPP) candidate, won the election.
The same scenario repeated itself during the botched Third Republic in 1993 when, against all expectations, Chief Evan Enwerem of the National Republican Convention (NRC) triumphed over Chief Alex Obi of Social Democratic Party (SDP). It was shocking because almost the entire state was believed to be SDP, especially with Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe, who was the party’s pillar, throwing his strength behind Chief Obi. As the Fourth Republic took off, all eyes were on the politicians with old order inclinations, but it was Achike Udenwa who emerged.
In 2007, political pundits had predicted a Senator Ifeanyi Araraume victory. Characteristically, it was a certain Chief Ikedi Ohakim who wore the crown. However, in a most dramatic fashion, Rochas Okorocha upstaged Ohakim four years later. After Okorocha’s eight years, whereupon the then Deputy Speaker of Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha failed to dethrone him in 2015, the stage is now set for Imo to re-enact its election surprises, which has marked it as one of the flashpoints states.
Going to the March 9, 2019 governorship election, there are, according to indications, five favourable candidates out of the 70 the INEC’s ballot list. It has never happened this way in the past. Prince Casmir Iwuh is the President-General of Umunokwu Okwuato Autonomous Community in Aboh Mbaise LGA and a chieftain of Action Alliance (AA). He describes the Imo 2019 governorship election as a tough battle of five ‘hot’ contenders.
According to him, “This is the first time these five leading politicians in Imo State are in five different political parties. Before now, it used to be one of them pitched against the others. This year’s peculiar outlook is what distinguishes it from the previous elections. Senator Hope Uzodinma is the APC candidate, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu is Action Alliance (AA) candidate, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha is PDP candidate; Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is of APGA, just as Ohakim is of Accord Party (AP). If you asked me, I will say this is balance of terror. The five candidates have all what it takes to emerge as the next governor of Imo State.”
To the spokesperson of Emeka Ihedioha Campaign Organization, Barrister Kissinger Ikeokwu, “Certainly, it is not going to be easy because so many issues are on the front burner. First, you talk of equity, fairness and justice. “In this case, Okigwe zone has had Mbakwe and Ohakim eight years put together. Orlu zone has had Udenwa and Okorocha for 16 years. Owerri zone has got only 18 months of the late Evan Enwerem. Looking at it, you will agree with me that since the PDP candidate is the big fish from Owerri zone among the five top contenders, equity demands that he should have it.”
Interestingly, Ikokwu hails from Okigwe zone. In his contribution, the APC Director of New Media, who also was a past president of Nguru Umuaro community in Ngor Okpala LGA, Cajetan Akuta notes, “Uzodinma’s emergence was a child of necessity. At a point, the challenge was, ‘who could stop Okorocha from imposing his son-in-law as the APC governorship candidate?’ Mind you, if Nwosu, the governor’s son–in-law, had emerged on the APC governorship ticket, he might be inches away from succeeding his father-in-law. On that note, Uzodinma took over the gauntlet and dusted Okorocha and Nwosu to pick APC governorship ticket.
“It was not the issue of zoning but of redemption. In other words, we are talking about a candidate who can both beat Okorocha to his own game and at the same time revive and rebuild Imo State and that candidate is the APC hopeful, Uzodinma”. Taking the issue of zoning further, PDP chairman in Imo State, Barrister Charles Ezekwem, gave insights into how the election would be won and lost. According to him, “As we all know, there are five strong governorship candidates for the 2019 election in Imo. Out of the five, two are from Okigwe zone namely Ohakim and Araraume. The point here is that both men will cancel out each other even as other candidates like Ihedioha of the PDP will make their presence felt.
“In Orlu zone, Uzodinma and Nwosu will equally settle scores while other candidates will equally make separate points. However, the scenario will be a different ball game in Owerri zone because it is only Ihedioha and he will garner over 85 per cent of the votes. When this plays out as its bound to happen, PDP and Ihedioha will be dancing in victory when the results are declared.”
Corroborating Ezekwem’s view, Mr. Emeka Omeihe, chairman, Media and Publicity, Emeka Ihedioha Campaign Organization, played up the strength of the zones and concluded that the PDP candidate would win.According to him, “If you look at the voting strength of the zones as released by INEC, you will find out that Owerri zone, where Ihedioha, the PDP candidate comes from, registered the highest number of voters. The zone registered almost a million voters-994, 971. Orlu registered 888, 087 and Okigwe entered 389, 245. If you appreciate the fact that the agitation or call for Imo governor of Owerri zone extraction is very strong, then you will understand why I am playing up this number game.
“It means that Ohakim and Araraume will share the 389, 245 in Okigwe zone, same with Uzodinma and Nwosu from Orlu’s 888,087 while Ihedioha will certainly get more than 80 per cent of the almost one million votes of Owerri zone.”
Meanwhile, APGA chairman, Imo State chapter, Barrister Peter Ezeobi boastful that Imo electorate had settled for APGA and his candidate, Araraume. He said, “Ndigbo seem to have realized that the only way out of their present political quagmire is to look inwards, hence they have embraced APGA. That was why Governor Willie Obiano was re-elected in Anambra State. He won in all the LGAs. Look at the mass movement called APGA in Abia. Look at the party in Imo State and you will agree with me that APGA is the party to beat in Imo 2019 governorship election.
“Araraume is a grassroots builder with both state and national contact. He has the capacity and capability. As a matter of fact, APGA will occupy Imo State Government House from May 29, 2019”. Countering APGA boss’ submission, Barrister Emeka Onyeodiri, a legal practitioner and commentator on national issues says: “Of all the five strong candidates representing the five big parties, only the PDP did what could pass as a governorship primary. “The APC had two separate governorship elections, one conducted by Senator Uzodinma’s faction and the other by Ugwumba Nwosu’s faction. At the end of the day, INEC recognised the former and the latter hijacked AA without going through laid down procedures.
“In the case of APGA, it was a tragedy of sorts and everybody in Imo knew what happened. It was the APGA governorship election that scattered the party in Imo State as the aspirants except two, who later controversially emerged as governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the party, complained of high-wired fraud. The delegates also complained and most of them dumped the party for other parties particularly, the PDP”.
While boasting the compelling power of his candidate, the Director General of the Emeka Ihedioha Campaign Organisation, Dr. Vincent Udokwu, says, “My brother, in the real sense of it, I can tell you that Ihedioha has not rested since 2015 when he lost governorship election. First, he was one of those who battled Senator Amodu Sherif in the leadership struggle of PDP. Immediately that war was won, he relocated to Imo and has since been doing consultations, visitations, rallies and other manner of campaigns. He has visited all communities, wards, federal constituencies, LGAs and zones in Imo. He has marketed himself to the Imo electorate. He has sold his ideas and vision to all Imo people ranging from the elite, industrialists, traders, market women, community leaders and youths. We are optimistic that PDP will take over power in Imo in 2019”.
However, the director, Media and Publicity, Uche Nwosu Campaign Organization, Comrade FCC Jones, boasts that AA would shock other parties on March 9.As he put it, “You see, Imo people have seen all the other four candidates and discovered they have nothing to offer, hence they are now on the side of the youthful and enterprising Nwosu.
“For instance, Ohakim ruled Imo State for four years; he performed badly and Imo people voted him out. What is he coming to do again? Just vengeance. “Araraume was in the Senate for eight years. Let him publish the laws he made that attracted Federal Government’s presence to Okigwe zone in particular and Imo in general. What of Ihedioha? He was in Abuja for 12 years and was deputy speaker for four years. The best he did was to antagonise Imo masses with siren.
“Then, Uzodinma. He is a ranking Senator till date. We know all the scandals dangling around his neck- the $200 million alleged contract scam in Calabar, as well as the N20 million alleged dud cheque. He has chaired several committees in the Senate and we challenge him to tell us what he did with them for Orlu zone and Imo people. The truth is that Imo has no option than to vote AA and Ugwumba on March 9.”
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