EMMANUEL MGBEAHURUIKE writes on the political battle ahead in Imo State as the 2019 general election draws nearer.
It is unassailable to posit that the greatest pre-occupation currently agitating the minds of Nigerians is the conduct and outcome of the forthcoming general elections, especially the presidential poll come February 16, 2019.
The growing trepidation, anxiety and apprehension trailing the conduct of the exercise and possible aftermath are really not unexpected, due to the increasing political awareness and consciousness of the electorate, largely brought about by perceived short comings and imperfections of the political class.
All of these have all combined to force the average voter to rise from his slumber bed, place a tab on the activities of those who promise to redeem them from the shackles of destitution, penury and want, the majority of who do the opposite upon assumption of power.
In Imo state, the picture is not different as the political temperature of the state, christened the ‘Eastern Heartland’ has continued to rise to a feverish point.
Although it has been reported that 91 registered political parties are participating in the polls, the All Progressives Congress, APC; the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA; the Social Democratic Party, SDP; the Action Alliance, AA; the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP; and the Accord Party, AP, are the ones making the waves in the political firmament of the state.
While the APC-controlled government in the state has the senator representing Imo West (Orlu zone), Chief Hope Uzodinma, as its governorship candidate, the PDP parades former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, as its standard bearer.
The APGA has been navigating the 27 local government areas of the state with a two time senator for Imo North (Okigwe zone), Chief Godwin Ifeanyichukwu Araraume, as its gubernatorial candidate; just as the ZLP has a multi billionaire business man, Humphrey Anumudu, as its strong man for the gubernatorial race.
The AA Ugwumba Uche Nwosu, incumbent Governor Rochas Okorocha’s son in-law as its candidate, while financial magnet and international business tycoon, Okey Eze, from the Ahiazu Mbaise council area is flying the flag of the SDP; even as a former Students’
Union President of the Imo State University, Linus Okorie, has his posters all over the state as the governorship candidate of the Young Progressive Party, YPP.
A serving member of the Lagos State House of Assembly from the Ezinihitte Mbaise council area, Tony Nwulu, has already mounted bill boards in strategic major roads in the state as the candidate of the United Progressive Party, UPP, for the governorship tussle.
To be sure, the state has become politically volatile and is among the states in the eyes of the storm consequent upon the drama that trailed the governorship primaries of the major political parties and the subsequent outcome of the exercise.
Thus, a cursory analysis of the prospects and odds facing these political parties and their gubernatorial gladiators speak volumes of the uncertainties beclouding the fierce race to succeed Governor Ethelbert Anayo Okorocha at the Douglas House (Government House), Owerri in less than a month from now, when the Ogboko Ideato South born businessman turned politician will exit from his Olympian height of power.
Senator Uzodinma of the APC hails from Omuma in the Oru East council area. He is the serving senator for Imo West, who not too long ago, defected from the PDP to the ruling APC.
Uzodinma, a successful businessman with local and international connections, is generally acknowledged as a philanthropist, who has put smiles on the faces of a number of the poor and the needy through scholarships and jobs creation.
Prior to his defection and subsequent indication of interest in the APC governorship ticket, he had enjoyed a robust relationship with Governor Okorocha.
The cozy relationship, however, later went sour, when Okorocha made it abundantly clear to the APC political family that he had anointed his son in-law and chief of staff, Nwosu to succeed him.
This expectedly dealt a devastating blow to the once enviable unity and cohesion within the broom wielding political party.
The party primaries and counter primaries conducted separately by Ahmed Gulak and Brigadier General Agbabiaka only served to worsen the bickering and antagonism within the party, and by the time the dusts would settle, the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, led by Adams Oshiomhole, settled for Senator Uzodinma as the party’s authentic governorship candidate.
A thoroughly disillusioned and demoralized Okorocha was to shift his political disciples to the AA, where eventually Nwosu picked its ticket.
The intra party squabbles arising from the dramatic emergence of Uzodinma as the party’s gubernatorial candidate and which had polarized the party into two antagonistic camps, is most likely to work against the serving two-time senator.
In the same vein, Uzodinma’s geopolitical background, Imo West (Orlu zone), which has dominated the governorship seat of the state might pose a problem to him.
The zone produced former Governor Achike Udenwa and the incumbent Governor Okorocha and the Imo East (Owerri Zone) is shouting “blue murder,” insisting that it is their turn to rule and that it is unfair for another Orlu man to succeed Okorocha, who is also from Orlu.
The zone is relying on the unwritten Imo State Charter of Equity which rotates the governorship seat among the three zones of the state.
The war of attrition raging within the APC Coalition Alliance, led by the state deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere, might equally pose a stumbling block to Uzodinma.
Aggrieved members of the coalition are bitter with Uzodinma for choosing a one-time Vice Chancellor of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia state, Professor Placid Njoku, as his running mate.
Njoku, a professor of Agriculture is from Amaimo, in Ikeduru local council of the state and is believed to be a neonate in politics.
AA candidate, Nwosu, hails from Eziama Obaire in Nkwerre council area, also in Imo West, and is married to Okorocha’s first daughter, Uloma. He is largely seen as a puppet and a stooge of his father in-law and not a few indigenes of the state believe that a vote for him would amount to giving Okorocha a third term in office.
Although, he is young, he is however seen by many in the state a green horn in governance and who would be pocketed by Okorocha to do his bidding as a governor, just as the electorate is saying NO to him for being an Orlu man.
Another issue Nwosu would have to contend with is the number of chieftains of the AA, who are unhappy that he dramatically emerged from the blues and picked the party’s gubernatorial ticket.
Conversely, the youthful Nwosu is generally acknowledged as one with the milk of human kindness, who has empowered many women and youths through his youth’s empowerment programmes.
Nwosu is in the good books of students’ unions in the state and with the full backing of Okorocha, he is firmly in control of the 27 council chairmen in the state all put in place by Okorocha.
His defection from the APC to the AA has no doubt weakened the former, whose members might not muster the necessary financial muscle to challenge him at the polls.
He is believed to enjoy a clean record of service both in the public and private sector.
The 27 elected council chairmen in the state, who all belong to his camp, are ready to consolidate and to strengthen grounds for him using both the government rescue mission train and the Ugwumba movement platform.
Chief Ihedioha hails from Mbutu, in the Aboh Mbaise council area. He was three time member of the House of Representatives, where he represented the Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala federal constituency during which he emerged as the Deputy Speaker of the House.
He has a lot to his credit, including women and youth empowerment schemes, provision of jobs and basic amenities.
The young Ihedioha is said to have single handedly rescued the party in the state from total collapse between 2011 and date with financial support. He is rich with strong political structures, party connections and grassroots mobilization.
However, he is currently involved in a legal battle with his arch rival in the party’s governorship primaries, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, who has so far rebuffed all entreaties to settle out of court and political analysts believe that this might be a problem to Ihedioha.
Ihedioha is said to be enjoying the support of his erstwhile boss in the House of Representatives and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the alleged support of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike.
As a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ihedioha is highly revered for using his position to place many indigenes of the state into key positions in government, just as he influenced the award of juicy contracts to many.
He enjoys strong respect, honour and credibility among traditional rulers in the state, who see him as their beloved son with whom they are well pleased.
However, there is the apprehension in his camp that the culture of “No love lost” between his Mbaise nation and the other six local councils of Owerri zone might by an impediment to the actualization of his dream.
Aside this, some of his political contemporaries see him as hoity-toity, one who is arrogant and pompous and who is not a good mixer.
Senator Araraume hails from Isiebu in the Isiala Mbano council area (Imo North).
A successful business man, who ventured into politics and represented his zone in the nation’s red chambers from 1999 to 2007, Araraume is seen as a serial governorship contender, with little or no prospects of realizing his dream.
His lingering political battle with his kinsman, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim is seen by many as a problem to his ambition, while his sudden defection from the APC to the APGA, where he shoved all other contenders aside and grabbed the ticket, might be a problem in his quest to govern the state.
Again, his frosty relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo is also seen as a minus to him.
Anumudu is another prominent Lagos-based business magnet, who hails from Mbieri in the Mbaitoli local council of the state, who reportedly won the PDP governorship primary in 1999, but was prevailed upon by party stakeholders to relinquish it to former Governor Udenwa from Amaifeke Orlu in line with the spirit of Imo State Charter of Equity.
Since then, the young Anumudu has remained a recurring decimal in the struggle for the state’s governorship seat, with vast impregnable political structures and support from his Mbaike nation and Orlu zone, which he magnanimously helped tremendously in the past.
He is making strong waves in all the 12 local councils of the zone. But all of these notwithstanding, some indigenes of the state see him as a rabble rouser and one who is only playing to the gallery, waiting for settlement.
Eze from Ahiazu Mbaise is another man to watch. He is a foundation member of APGA and was angled to clinch the party’s governorship ticket in 2015 before he was disarmed by the former Minister of the Interior, Captain Emma Iheanacho.
A major stakeholder in the politics of the state, Eze is popular among the youths, women, children and the business community, just as people with disabilities in the state sees him as their messiah, because of his boundless acts of charity to them.
On the other hand, the influence of Ihedioha in the three local government areas of Ahiazu, Ezinihitte and Aboh Mbaise might whittle his influence at the polls.
Although not much is being heard of Okorie of the YPP and Mwulu of the UPP, the duo has remained consistent in the battle, mobilizing covertly to realize their goal.
At the senatorial level, Governor Okorocah of the APC will slug it out with Senator Osita Izunaso of the APGA and Jones Onyereri of the PDP for the Orlu senatorial seat.
Okorocha whose image looms large in the zone is relying on the achievement of his rescue mission government to win the poll. His foot soldiers are everywhere, drumming support for him and brandishing his achievements.
But the crisis rocking the APC, the platform on which he is contesting, while his supporters are rooting for AA and which he allegedly ignited might be a problem to him. The Orlu royal fathers are angry with him for humiliating the then chairman of the state council of traditional rulers, His Royal Highness Eze Dr. Cletus Ilomuanya out of office.
Izunaso from Ohakpu in the Oru West council area has the support of many of his constituents, including the disabled who he has helped through his Kpakpando Foundation.
As the former national organizing secretary of the ruling APC, he cleverly carved a niche for himself and which endeared him to the people.
But the power brokers are against him for not taking care of them during his first outing as a senator.
Whatever happens, the electorate are watching where the pendulum of the clock will eventually swing at the end of the day, but one fact remains that the battle ahead is a titanic one.
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