By Kelechi Mejuobi
In democracy, especially, the Nigeria version, two critical moments arouse deep interest in affairs of party politics. The time to elect members for party offices known as congresses and the very crucial moments to pick flag bearers for elective positions. Within this period, it is not just about party members only, but the generality of the public are put on their toes and very anxious about who takes charge of their future for the next four years.
While the congresses to elect members for party offices differ in time and method, that of how candidates emerge has similar peculiarities with all the parties involved due to the common electoral act guidelines managed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC which stipulates time frame for the contenders and parties.
At the moment, political parties in Nigeria are very busy with activities to produce candidates for the 2023 elections parties in Imo state are not left out with the attendant razzmatazz to chose their ticket bearers.
Officials of the party both at the national and state levels in the past few weeks have been busy with the programs for a fruitful outcome. Going by the arrangements stipulated by the federal umpire, INEC, candidates for the parties would emerge before the end of the month, to set a stage for the main showdown early next year.
Irrespective of the threatening insecurity that has limited social, economic and other activities in the state, politicians hungry for elective posts next year are on the march again.
In Imo, interestingly actions are more in the major parties like APC and PDP than others, followed by the APGA and Accord parties where hordes of ticket seekers are jostling for available positions to grab.
In the race for the plum position of Presidency, only few Imolites want to succeed President Muhammad Buhari. Two major contenders from the state; Rochas Anayo Okorocha and Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba have shown interest in the APC while PDP records none. The former governor, Okorocha who declared months ago is upbeat about getting APC ticket while the recently resigned Minister of State for Education, Nwajiuba is in the tick of the campaigns seeking votes.
Because of the shift in date for governorship election to later part of 2023, arising from the Supreme Court judgment that disrupted Imo calendar, the race for the number one position in the state has been adjusted to reflex a new calendar not in line with the present dispensation.
The action in the political scene has therefore been reduced to the race for National Assembly and that of the state legislature.
In the APC, the battle for the senate where Okorocha is not coming back to the seat will strictly be between Goodluck Nanah Opiah and Osita Izunaso, while Juliet Obasi and Charles Ahize will be waiting on the wings for a slip to come up.
On paper, Opiah stands tall to pick the ticket of APC, considering his antecedents and affinity with Uzodinma. The former Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly who was appointed Petroleum Commissioner enjoys good support from Uzodinma. Anyone familiar with the governor’s style of ensuring his men get the positions knows that having missed producing Orlu zone Senator in 2019, he won’t give another unfamiliar ally to have the position. Should the delegates be allowed to vote, Uzodinma’s line up would likely be for Opiah against Izunaso, who was once in the Senate for the zone. The former National Organizing Secretary of APC who had wanted to be the National Secretary of the party during the convention wants a return ticket to the senate. Except Izunaso obtains an approval from Uzodinma to run via face mending talks, it would be difficult for him to pick the ticket at the expense of Opiah.
One other thing that may knock- off Izunaso for the throne and give Opiah upper hand is the fact that he hails from same Oru clan like Uzodinma which may not be okey for Orlu zone people to allow only Oru clan produce governor and Senator same time.
The battle front will be tough in Owerri zone APC where gladiators in various form are up to pick the party’s ticket. The list of those who have picked APC Owerri zone form are intimidating if the personalities of billionaire businessman, Alex Mbata, Jerry Chukwueke, Kemdi Opara and the wife of Ondo state Governor, Betty Akeredolu-Anyanwu are considered. It is difficult to predict the possible candidate that would emerge judging by their rich background. But the pendulum may tilt towards Mbata who has shown impressive marks so far. Said to be well connected to the governor than others, Mbata has made impressive marks in the affairs of the party coupled with enough financial muscle to withstand other contenders if the game gets to “cash for cash test”.
Okigwe zone APC ticket may not be an easy one for former governor Ikedi Ohakim who has thrown his hat into the ring for the race. Said to be backed by Uzodinma, the presence of the incumbent, Frank Ibezim and others like Mathew Omegara and perennial contestant from Okigwe LGA, Patrick Ndubueze will make the primaries a scene to behold. While the seeming comfort the governor appears to have will do the magic for Ohakim, a new difference Uzodinma has with Nwajiuba, believed to be Ibezim’s backbone may spell doom for the incumbent. Uzodinma is behind Senate President Ahmed Lawan for APC Presidential ticket despite Nwajiuba’s interest to succeed Buhari.
The galaxy of election seekers are not found in Imo APC alone in all the zones. The state chapter of PDP also has array of political stars on parade.
Already, it is a big fight among the Owerri zone Senator, Senator Ezenwa Onyewuchi, Uche Onyeagocha and Basil Maduka. The party leaders including those of Owerri zone are divided between Onyewuchi and Onyeagocha. Fingers are pointing at a top national officer of the party to be behind Nwagwu from Mbaise who may spring surprises against the duo during the primaries.
The main fireworks for PDP primaries shall be witnessed in Orlu zone. At the moment, three persons; Reps member, Jerry Alagbaoso, the candidate of the party in 2019, Jones Onyereri and former Reps member ThankGod Ezeani have all collected forms for the battle.
Definitely, it is going to be dicey for the trio as they are said to be powerful in their own capacities. Well prepared and packaged to pick the ticket, there is a report that mutual suspicion has again crept in within the rank and file of the PDP as to whom to support for the ticket of Orlu zone.
Just as the Owerri zone PDP leaders are divided, same can be said in Orlu zone where no candidate is sure to win except on the D- day.
Despite the agelong interests of Onyereri and Ezeani who were in the trenches last four years, Alagbaso may spring surprises to chinch the ticket. Indications are rife that he woke up lately to capture the minds of the party members in the Orlu zone, a sign he is the man to beat. His latest empowerment to party chieftains is a killer point.
The hostilities may be less in Okigwe zone where Emma Okewulonu who ran in the bye election for Okigwe zone battles for the ticket against the son of Ifeanyi Araraume. Though, unpredictable, Araraume Jnr may be a hard nut to crack for Okewulonu if the Senior Araraume comes to throw weight behind his son for the PDP ticket.