The tussle for who controls the structure of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State has raged for a long time with the intrigues that played out during the 2019 election in the state.
The key actors in the dramatic political battle in the state chapter of the party are Governor Hope Uzodimma and a joint force of Senator Rochas Okorocha, the immediate past-governor, and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.
And so as momentum built ahead of the October 16 state congress, anticipation of another round of political clash heightened.
Interestingly, the Okorocha/Ararume team, who claim to be the progenitors of Imo APC in the state, have confronted Uzodimma at every turn in the Imo political “Chess Board.”
As old war horses, Okorocha and Araraume do not want to let go of the structures they laboured to nurture over the years in the state.
For Uzodimma however, the October 16, 2021 state congress would afford him the opportunity to finally outwit Okorocha and Ararume in the Imo political equation.
Since the inception of his administration and the circumstances that brought him to power, Uzodimma perceived Okorocha and Ararume as threats to his desire to have a firm grip of APC in Imo, and perhaps, by extension, the state.
Although he had edged out both stalwarts at the wards, local government levels after the congresses, it was still not clear if he would trounce them in the election of state chairmanship election, considering that Okorocha and Araraume still command followership in the state.
On D-Day the picture became clearer as to who controls the apparatus of power in the party in the state. The congress was peaceful even as an Uzodimma loyalist, MacDonald Ebere, emerged as state chairman which, according to pundits, effectively edges out Okorocha and Ararume from the political structure of the party in the state.
But how sustaining this victory will in light of the pending court case over the conduct of congresses in the state is another matter.
It was for this reason that Okorocha and Araraume shunned the congress and didn’t send any representatives to the event.
But basking in the euphoria of his victory, an elated Uzodimma governor challenged the newly constituted party executive to embark on political evangelism aimed at letting Nigerians know about the great policies of the APC and the need for them to be part of what he calls a “movement.”
Speaking at the Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu Square, Owerri at the close of the Imo APC Congress, he said: “Reconcile all manner of people. reconcile members of our great party. Convert new members into our great party, so that prosperity, which is the hallmark of our administration, will impact all of us.”
Uzodimma did not stop there. He was full of gratitude to the APC members and delegates drawn from the 305 Wards in the 27 local government areas of Imo State, who turned up in their numbers to elect leaders of their choice.
Hear him: “Today is a special day in the life of our great party, APC.
“Today marks the conclusion and election of a brand new executive for our party. My heart is full of joy.
“I want to urge you not to betray the confidence reposed on you by the great people of Imo State.
“I will give you all the support you will require. APC is a national party. APC is a party to beat in Nigeria. APC is the party that produced me to be the governor of Imo State.
“If you fail, it means that I have failed, but if APC succeeds, it means that I have succeeded. My success is our success and our success is my success.
“There is no winner and there is no vanquished. Reconcile all manner of people. Reconcile members of our great party. Convert new members into our great party so that our government of prosperity, which is the hallmark of our administration, will impact all of us.”
Before the election, the immediate past caretaker committee chairman of APC in the state, Prince Marcillenus Nlemigbo, thanked everyone for supporting his administration in the state, especially during the ward and local government congresses that were devoid of crisis which he presided over.
The Nlemigbo-led executive was subsequently dissolved and a new election called.
Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Paul Emeziem, moved the motion for the dissolution of Nlemigbo’s cabinet which was supported by deputy speaker, Imo State House of Assemble, Rt. Hon Amara Iwuanyanwu.
The new chairman, MacDonald Ebere, who was special adviser to Governor Uzodimma and general manager of ENTRACO was elected as chairman while former House of Representatives member, Matthew Omegara emerged deputy chairman.
In his acceptance remarks on behalf of his executive members, Ebere promised to carry everyone along and pledged to serve the party faithfully and sincerely.
He said: “I have come to serve, unite and amalgamate all people and sections of the party, to harmonize and ensure there is no dichotomy, segregation or separatism.”
The event was attended by Deputy Governor, Prof Placid Njoku, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, Senator Frank Ibezim representing Imo North in the Senate, serving and former National Assembly and State Assembly members, top government officials and leaders of the APC from Imo State.
Not longer after the exercise Okorocha, who represents Imo West in the Senate, claimed ignorance of the exercise, describing it as a birthday jamboree for the governor.
Reacting through his media aide, Sam Onwuemeodo, he said an “appeal is pending in the Supreme Court and the case has not been decided and somebody said he is conducting a congress,” he added.
Okorocha, who said the governor and everyone are aware that nothing happened in the state, said “probably it was a birthday party in advance for the governor.”
The Imo State chapter of APC however fired back, berating the former governor. The Imo APC spokesman, Cajetan Duke, was quoted as describing Okorocha’s comments as unfortunate, disappointing and laughable.
He said Okorocha and his cohorts had refused to embrace the reality by pledging allegiance to the party leadership in the state.
Ararume, who was recently appointed board chairman of NNPC Limited, has been largely silent over the matter.
Although the court has shaped the politics of Imo State tremendously since 2019, there is no telling how the outcome of the pending case will further swing the political pendulum in the state.
According to party pundits from the South East, Ibekwe Erondu, he believes that the ego tussle among the key characters has not helped the people of the state.
“As much as political posturing and scheming is basic in politics, we have repeatedly seen in Imo is a massive distraction to the quality of governance in the state. And it does not represent the true essence of power acquisition at all,” he said.