By Henry Ekpe
The Primaries of political parties to choose their candidates have come and gone in Imo State, now leaving only the main election, whose campaigns kicks off in September.
Presently as it stands in Imo today, there are two major political parties namely, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.
Before now, All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, used to be the alternative party to the Big Two, PDP and APC.
But latest event shows that APGA has given way to Labour Party as the next party after PDP and APC. Labour Party has become the home of Aspirants who could not pick tickets in either PDP or APC.
However, the Labour Party frenzy of now will wane off soon. If wishes were horses, what Labour Party apologists wish for may seem feasible, but this is Nigeria where two plus two can give you two, or even six, depending how the gods woke up.
And again, politics is a game of interest, which begins with personal interests, and morph into Group interest.
In this case, it was the reason SG Ikoku contested election against his father Alvan, and Heaven did not fall.
My major concern here is how the primaries went in APC and PDP in Imo State, particularly in the Senatorial tickets, which are the most important positions, after the Governorship seat, which Imo State is not participating until next year.
In Imo APC today, there is only one Leader, who dictates what happens in the party, which is Governor Hope Uzodinma. And he wielded that power during the primaries of Imo APC, which has left peace of the grave yard in the party.
The noise after the primaries is being subdued and only whispers are heard, for fear of repercussions that may follow whoever dares challenge the Supreme Leader.
The truth is that the Imo APC primaries that produced the three Senatorial candidates unleashed shocks to many, which rocked some political Cells in Imo.
The major shocks were recorded in Okigwe and Owerri Senatorial Zones, where pundits had predicted an easy sail, for the two most politically exposed Aspirants from both Zones.
In the race for the Okigwe Senate were His Excellency, Dr Ikedi Ohakim and Hon Ndubueze.
While Ohakim hails from Okohia in Isiala Mbano, otherwise called Mbano Block, Ndubueze comes from Okigwe, known as Okigwe block comprising of Onuimo LGA.
But with Governor Hope Uzodinma as Governor of Imo State, Ohakim had no reason to fear about picking the Okigwe Senate ticket.
The incumbent Governor is his Buddy and political Ally. They have done things together for years, and therefore he was optimistic of winning the main election, not to talk of the primaries. After all APC is the party in Power, and Uzodinma is the Governor.
But my former Principal, Ohakim, got shock of his life as things began to unfold prior to the Okigwe APC Senatorial Primary contest.
An amorphous organization sprang up, reminding Okigwe people how much “Otanchara Otanzu” axis has been denied Okigwe Zone Senatorial Seat. Taking us back to Late Dr Torti Ufere Torti, of the Otanchara-Otazu fame of the Mbakwe era.
As if it was a joke taken far, the story grew wings as top politicians of Okigwe Zone extraction suddenly developed Love for the “Otanchara” song, and Hon Ndubueze, against all permutations, emerged the APC Okigwe Senatorial Candidate.
Till now, Ohakim in his usual way of taking things easy, has moved on as the Okigwe Senate Seat was denied him, even when it is Senator Uzodinma that is the Governor of Imo State.
It still baffles me how that game was manipulated, especially when Ohakim had shown interest in the race. What is it that Governor Hope Uzodinma told his long term Associate to accept to bury his ambition?
In Irony of Life, in 2003, Chief Ikedi Ohakim was Chief Hope Uzodinma’s running mate under AD, for Imo Governorship diadem. And it did not work out in success.
But in 2007, Ohakim became the Governor of Imo State, and his friend, Uzodinma showed interest in Orlu Senate Seat in 2011.
By then, Senator Osita Izunaso had gone one term and was ready for a second term.
Ohakim was in a dilemma. I knew, because I was one of the Confidants of then Governor, as his Chief Press Secretary.
In the end, Ohakim helped Uzodinma to pick the PDP Senatorial ticket for Orlu.
At that time, Ohakim was seeking for a second term. In that election Ohakim could not garner enough votes in Orlu Zone.
But his friend, Uzodinma came out victorious in same Orlu Area thus he became a Senator, and Ohakim quit Imo Government House.
Since then, they have remained friends, even after Ohakim later joined the Government of Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha, before the Court handed Imo Governorship to Uzodinma.
Therefore, many had thought that Uzodinma would have strongly stood behind Ohakim to pick the Okigwe Senate ticket under APC as the Leader, as also a pay back to the Ohakim kindness of 2011.
But, that never was, and now, Senator Izunaso, whom Uzodinma defeated in 2011 through political and legal battles is now the Man Friday. He has been given the Orlu Senatorial ticket after Chief Charles Ahize (Akpuruka) bowed out and moved into Labour Party.
The issue is, when will Uzodinma reciprocate Ohakim’s own gesture?
In Owerri, the situation was too tight that I assumed that Uzodinma also found himself in a tight corner.
Jostling for the single ticket were Chief Jerry Chukwueke, Mrs Betty Akeredolu (Wife of Ondo State Governor) and Prince Alex Mbata (PAM). I did not forget Chief Sly.
Surrounding Alex Mbata are the likes of Prince Lemmy Akakem, Chief Henry Njoku (Harritex) Chief Willy Amadi, Rt Hon Godfrey Dikeocha and Dr TOE Ekechi.
Betty Akeredolu is the wife of the sitting Governor of Ondo State, who attends the Governors Forum with Uzodinma, a colleague and wields Executive power in another State like Uzodinma.
And, there is Jerry Chukwueke, a friend of Uzodinma, whom many said even joined the race at the prompting of his long time friend, Uzodinma. Among his supporters is Chief Cyril Amako (Irite 1)
When the appointed time to pick who flies Owerri Senate flag under APC arrived, Mbata came out the winner to the bemusement of many.
Many political forecasters had tipped the ticket to before either Akeredolu or Chukwueke.
The reason was that Mbata is seen as a first timer in politics, as that was his first political outing and could not have started at such volted position of Senate, while Chukwueke had tested political battles at many times, and Akeredolu a First Lady in an APC State, who has learned the game under the feet of her incumbent Governor husband.
As it stands now, Ohakim, Akeredolu, Chukwueke believe that Uzodinma disappointed them, even as Akeredolu showed hers in a recorded video.
Since then, attempts to substitute Akeredolu’s name with that of Mbata were foiled, even as it is not yet over, until it is over. Mbata must remain alert till the election proper.
In Imo PDP, because of the strict internal democracy in the party no one person arrogates himself/herself the maximum power of control. But there are many gods in Imo PDP,and Emeka Ihedioha is the Great “Deity”. He did not “buy” it but earned it through his consistency and loyalty to the party which has attracted him mutual followers and bestowed on him a Cult Figure in the Party spanning years of service to PDP.
So, while all the Heavy political Oracles in Imo State have traversed from one political party to the other, Ihedioha remains in PDP since 1999. That is the clincher!
Therefore, while Uzodinma points at individuals and they emerge candidates, Ihedioha only asks that you go to the field, and whoever wins gains my backing. That is PDP method of avoiding crisis and Ihedioha’s respect to Due process.
In the Senatorial primaries of Imo PDP, the most contentious were Orlu and Owerri.
The reasons are that in Owerri Zone Hon Uche Onyeagocha squared up against a sitting Senator, Chief Ezenwa Onyewuchi, while in Orlu it was between Hon Jerry Alagbaso, a three- time member of House of Representatives, and still serving, and Hon Jones Onyereri, a former member of House of Representatives, a former Senatorial candidate, and seen as being close to the National Working Committee NWC of PDP in Abuja. So, it was a tough battle that ended transparently with a chosen winner.
Okigwe Zone, was not much a fierce contest, where Chief Emma Okewulonu who is the incumbent party’s Senatorial candidate, had only Ifeanyi Araraume (Jnr) to contend with. It was a mere walkover as Araraume could not produce heavy opposition to the Obowo born Okewulonu.
But kudos to the Young Araraume, as he still has age on his side.
Still on the Owerri ticket, Onyeagocha defeated Ezenwa Onyewuchi, the sitting Senator who has since ported to Labour party.
Onyewuchi believed that Ihedioha should have asked Onyeagocha not to run. But Onyeagocha swore that he had no reason to listen to any body because it was his personal decision as a man, asking if he had not ran for Imo Governorship before!
Many had even wondered how Ihedioha’s name should brought into the Ezenwa/Onyeagochas saga, since the former Governor was neither a Delegate nor anywhere near the venue of the exercise.
Onyewuchi himself has acknowledged that the primary was clean, and moved to a new party to pursue his ambition.
As it stands now both APC and PDP have produced their Senatorial candidates waiting for the clash of the titans.
In Orlu Senatorial election, Onyereri of PDP comes from OwerreNkorji, sitting at the centre of the largest Federal Constituency in Imo State as his catchment Area.
Izunaso is from the Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta axis, who will fish for votes “across the Road” to enter the core Orlu Areas.
In Owerri, Onyeagocha is from Owerri West LGA, in Owerri Federal Constituency, with most of his lieutenants from the Mbaise Nation and Ngor Okpala block and has to move to Mbaike to search for votes.
And Mbata is from Owerri North, with the Senatorial candidate of Accord Party, Mike Nwachukwu, from his community to deal with first, before venturing out to Mbaise/ Ngor Okpala and Mbaike to look for voters.
In Okigwe, Okewulonu is already a brand, who “defeated two” APC candidates in his last outing, but was denied victory through political maneuverings.
Next edition, we deal with other parties and other positions, and Ezenwa Onyewuchi’s chances after leaving PDP.