Imo: 2019 and Owerri agenda By Stanley Nwachukwu

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There are clear pointers that well meaning indigenes of the Owerri senatorial district, Imo State, have decided to rally round the immediate past governor of the state, Ikedi Ohakim, in his bid to return as governor. Two major factors simultaneously propel these leaders to the conclusion to endorse the former governor. One is the apparent unpopularity of the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who is the only visible governorship candidate that comes from the zone.

Arising from this is the fear that the chances of the governorship position going back to Orlu zone (after 16 years) has become brighter with two other highly visible candidates, Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (whose candidacy is backed by the incumbent governor), looming large. It is, therefore, the thinking among some highly respectable and influential people in the zone that unless it enters into a strategic alliance with Ohakim, it (the zone) may stand no chance of producing the governor of the state even in 2023.

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The main attraction to Ohakim’s bid is the fact that compared with the other governorship candidates, especially in the PDP, APC and APGA, he is the only one that must compulsorily do only four years between 2019 and 2023 to vacate office for another governor. This truism is so obvious that some candidates of the other key parties, in answer to the obvious disadvantage it poses to their own candidacy and also in desperation, have been heard promising to do only one term of four years if elected.

Unfortunately for these candidates, the people of Owerri zone do not believe them. It was the same promise that was made to them by the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, in 2011. But rather than keep it, Okorocha went ahead to methodically decimate the political clout of the zone. He disgraced his first deputy, Jude Agbaso, who is an indigene of the zone, out of office and attempted to do the same with the fellow that was used to replace him, Eze Madumere, who also comes from the zone.

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Even though the attempt failed, it needs no exaggeration to say that Owerri zone is the biggest victim of Governor Okorocha’s perfidy against the entire state in his eight-year reign. Even so, some elements in the zone were initially reluctant to buy into the Ohakim option. They believed that an Owerri zone governorship in 2019 would be a fait accompli purely on appeal to sentiments.

But they soon discovered that they were wrong, once Governor Okorocha unfolded his succession plan which gave the zone little or no chances of producing his successor.

All though the struggle for the APC’s governorship ticket did not favour Okorocha and his son-in-law, it did not favour Owerri zone either; as another Orlu fellow, Hope Uzodimma, emerged as the party’s governorship candidate. Agreed, an Owerri zone fellow, Emeka Ihedioha, emerged candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but his candidacy does not offer any assurance for the zone as far as 2019 is concerned.

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Ihedioha is facing a formidable opposition from within the zone itself. For example, it is not a hidden matter that there is no love lost between him and Senator Samuel Anyanwu who accuses Ihedioha of manipulating the primary election of October 2, 2018 in his favour. Senator Anyanwu is from Owerri zone but there are even other chieftains of the party outside the zone who are equally aggrieved and who went ahead to form a faction of the party, the New PDP in the state. At the moment, there are speculations that the Imo New PDP is on a waiting game on which of the candidates or parties to back for the governorship election and there are further speculations that the group is favourably disposed towards Ohakim.

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Within the Mbaise clan where Ihedioha comes from, the bulk support he enjoyed in 2015 is most unlikely to be there for the simple reason that another highly regarded son of Mbaise, Okey Eze, governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, also enjoys tremendous good will among his people. A recent move by the Ihedioha camp to get the apex socio-cultural organisation in Mbaise, Ezuruezu Mbaise, to endorse him apparently back fired after a section of the Mbaise political elite came out openly to repudiate it. From the same Mbaise comes the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Steve Nwoga, who comes from a highly respected family in the area.

Politics apart, it is generally believed that Ihedioha does not have the support of the Catholic Church in the state; as a fallout of the crisis rocking the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara in Mbaise. Though an Anglican, Ihedioha is believed to be among those who encouraged the rebellion of the Ahiara Diocesans against the directives of Holy Father, Pope Francis, over the appointment of a Bishop for the diocese.

Thus, with Ihedioha standing a very slim chance of making it, pundits believe that either of the duo of Hope Uzodimma of the APC or Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance, both from Orlu zone, may emerge if Owerri zone does not enter into a strategic alliance with Ikedi Ohakim of Accord and give him massive support to emerge. Apart from the sheer repugnance of “another Orlu governor”, Ohakim’s one term factor, as earlier noted, remains highly attractive to the people of Owerri zone. Ohakim is from Okigwe. Also from that zone is Ifeaanyi Araraume, the governorship candidate of APGA. But there does not seem to be much enthusiasm over his candidacy owing chiefly to the nature of his emergence as candidate and which has brought APGA into low esteem in the entire Southeast.

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For the people of Owerri zone, therefore, Ohakim seems to be the only assurance that, given the circumstances surrounding Ihedioha’s ticket, he is the only route through which the zone can get to Douglas House in 2023, that is, after his tenure. But it is not this statutory argument alone. There is also the argument about attitude. Governor Ohakim is, ab initio, highly disposed to the emergence of a governor from Owerri zone owing, especially, to his personal commitment to the Imo Charter of Equity.

Sometime in 2018, he swore to a Covenant Affidavit in the Imo State high court and in which he, among other things, pledged to work towards an Owerri zone fellow taking over from him in 2023 if elected. That is not new. While in office between 2007 and 2011, his body language tended towards grooming a successor from Owerri zone by the time he would complete his second term in 2015. Ironically, it was elements from the zone that were at the fore front of the intrigues and conspiracies that lead to his failure to go for a second term; but he has remained a formidable ally of the zone.

Finally, there is the “experience-that-matters” argument. There is a strong belief in highly regarded quarters in the state that given the way the outgoing governor ran the state, it required someone with experience in governance to retrieve the state from the doldrums into which the incumbent governor dragged it. Many argue that given that it was Ohakim who handed over to Okorocha who, by his own admission, runs the state without documentations, Ohakim is in the best stead to revive the state bureaucracy which is necessary for good governance.

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Nwachukwu writes from Owerri.

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