The Presidential campaign of the All Progressives Congress (APC) landed in Owerri, Imo State capital last Tuesday to garner the support of the people of the state for the party’s candidates including president Muhammadu Buhari in the forthcoming elections.
Prior to the rally, the state chapter of the APC, led by its Caretaker Chairman, Chief Marcelinus Nlemigbo, had suspended Governor Rochas Okorocha for alleged anti party activities. Okorocha had openly thrown his weight behind the candidacy of his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu who is contesting the governorship under the platform of the Action Alliance after he lost the APC ticket to Senator Uzodinma.
There was therefore political tension in the state ahead the President’s visit, following the earlier rumour that the AA candidate, Mr Nwosu was going to attend the APC rally which the state chapter of the APC had warned against.
On the day of the rally, President Muhammadu Buhari landed at the Hero’s square, Owerri, and proceeded to the Government House where he was hosted by the governor. This arrangement was contrary to the earlier plans of the presidential campaign team to stop at the Asumpta Cathedral where the President was expected to meet with traditional rulers and Catholic Bishops led by Bishop Valentine Obinna. This was the earlier arrangement made by the Senator Uzodinma’s campaign organization.
But unknown to many, the outgoing governor, Okorocha who was doing everything possible to frustrate the Presidential campaign where the President was expected to canvass for votes for Senator Uzodinma and other APC candidates, desperately arranged his own programme in order to ensure that his son-in-law, who had been warned by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC to stay off the APC rally, received the attention of the President.
Okorocha therefore kept the President at Government House for several hours while the Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and members of the National Working Committee of the APC waited endlessly at the Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri.
APC supporters across the state defied the rain to come out and give support to the APC governorship candidate, Senator Uzodinma. Amaechi was visibly angry when the crowd awaiting the arrival of the President started leaving the stadium after several hours of waiting.
It was obvious that the DG was unaware about the change of the programme. While this was going on, few government officials who were at the Stadium started dancing and hoping that the President had shunned the rally. Senator Uzodinma was worried but remained calm as his dogged supporters still remained resolute to see the President.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that Amaechi felt bad that the rumour was going round that the President may have abandoned Uzodinma at the stadium to go elsewhere to endorse Uche Nwosu. When Amaechi was therefore called upon to address the crowd, he called on the party chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to come and tell the people who their governorship candidate was.
The crowd at the stadium became alive again and started hailing the DG for that declaration. It was gathered that Amaechi was obviously trying to puncture any victory Governor Okorocha and his supporters thought they must have gained by keeping the President for so long at Government House when the team was in the state to campaign for the President and all their candidates. Members of the NWC and other leaders of the party who came from Abuja knew that it was a ploy by the governor to frustrate the campaign in Imo state since his son in-law did not get the APC governorship ticket.
Finally, President Buhari in company of the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, arrived the stadium few minutes before 5pm as the caretaker chairman of the party in the state, Chief Marcelinus Nlemigbo, welcomed the President to Imo state and expressed the confidence that the President would not only win Imo state with the kind of support he enjoyed in the state but the entire Souh East.
Apparently referring to Governor Okorocha, the state chairman urged the President not to be deceived with what he described as the antics of the governor who was creating the impression that he and his family alone loved him in the state.
He declared that the APC had the field soldiers to deliver the votes with or without Okorocha, adding that the performance of the President in the South East would guarantee victory for him in the zone.
According to him, “the South East made a mistake before in supporting the PDP but I can tell you Mr President, that we will no longer make such mistakes and with the leadership being provided by our governorship candidate, Senator Uzodinma who has since collapsed the PDP and APGA structures in the state since he emerged as candidate of our great party, you will win convincingly in Imo and other South East states”.
But the drama actually started when Governor Okorocha was called to the podium, as the crowd started booing the governor. As expected, the governor started by informing the President that the chairman who spoke was not the authentic chairman of the APC and recalled how he formed the party in the state.
He did not campaign for Uzodinma, rather he assured the President of victory. The crowd however continued to boo him in the presence of the President.
The tension heightened when the angry DG of the campaign, Amaechi, was heading towards the podium to check the excesses of the governor who was obviously wasting the time of the team after keeping the President at Government House for so long. Amaechi returned to his seat when he observed that the governor ceased in his attempts to talk down on the NWC of the party.
When Oshiomhole came to the podium, he apologized to the crowd on behalf of the President and leadership of the party for keeping them so long, saying that the business of the day was to come and campaign for the President, their governorship candidate Senator Uzodinma and other APC candidates and that the agenda must be accomplished even if the team was in a hurry to rush back to Abuja. He therefore called on Uzodinma to come and make his speech.
Unlike the governor who according to the leaders of the APC in the state spoke like an Emperor, Uzodinma exhibited maturity in his speech describing Okorocha as his governor while observing protocol.
Dissociating the Imo state APC from the purported endorsement of the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Uzodinma asserted that “we were not consulted before the purported endorsement.
We, in Imo State, in consultation with all the traditional rulers and Leaders of Thought have come together to endorse President Muhammadu Buhari as our candidate for 2019. Finally Mr President, we pray that God will give you long life, give you the strength, we are happy and we love what you have been doing in Nigeria. Those who have not been following your foot steps must change because the change has come to be and we have all keyed into the change”. His comment was greeted with loud ovation.
In his speech, Oshiomhole apparently tried to correct the impression by Governor Okorocha that he alone can deliver the state for the President in the forthcoming presidential election. He asserted that “I want to make it loud and clear that the APC has no alliance with any political party.
The governorship candidate of our party in Imo State is Senator Hope Uzodinma and he has the capacity to galvanize other leaders to ensure victory for our party in the state.
Uzodinma is not a neophyte in politics, he has the capacity to deliver and when he becomes governor, Uzodinma will ensure that appointments are given not on how you are related to the governor but on merit. Uzodinma will ensure that there is equitable distribution of resources.
He will ensure equity and fair play. He will ensure that the poor are protected, he will create jobs as an experienced business man and one of our best hands in the senate who has defended the policies of President Buhari. He is a man with good heart, a man you can trust and I can tell you he will bring genuine development to Imo state. I urge Imo people to support him, work for him and God by our side, Uzodinma is the next governor of Imo State”. Oshiomhole made the declaration to the chagrin of Okorocha.
President Buhari after reeling out his achievements and why the people of the state must continue to vote APC, recognized Uzodinma, raised his hand and presented him to the mammoth crowd of party faithful as the party’s candidate in the scheduled March 2 governorship election. It was greeted by thunderous ovation from the crowd.
And Contrary to the impression being created in some political circles in Imo state and the media, that the President urged Imo voters to vote for candidates of their choice, President Buhari had earlier solicited for votes for Uzodinma when he told the crowd, “I am raising the hand of the APC candidate, vote for him”.
However, as Uzodinma had said at the rally, despite the intimidations he and his supporters suffered in the hands of the state government, the APC candidate stole the show during the president’s visit and it seems he is the candidate to beat in the forthcoming guber election in Imo state.