By Henry Ekpe
On Saturday, February 25, 2023, Imo citizens of voting age will troop out to elect a new President of the Republic of Nigeria.
Also same day, is the elections for members of House of Representatives and Senate. That of House of Assembly comes on March 11.
I have participated in all the elections in Nigeria since 1999 the current Democratic dispensation berthed, both as an Electorate and Journalist. But I have never witnessed such an unpredictable atmosphere gripping the air, as Nigerians prepare to elect a new President next week.
In Imo State, the situation looks dicey and gloomy. The reason being that the State is moving into an election season with bitterness among most Imo people.
The State is also ravaged with Insecurity that the Electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has to yank off over Twenty Eight (28) polling Units from Imo State, citing Insecurity as reason.
INEC’s report said that such Polling Units would not entertain voters, because voters either refused to register in such Units, or may not venture out to vote there.
And quite unfortunately, the Polling Units are sitting in Orlu Zone that has the largest number of Local Government Areas in the State, and ironically, the Zone that produced the incumbent Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma.
In Imo today, the election scenario is going to be quite different from what the masses are used to.
Before now, there used to be two major Political Parties in Imo, with other “mushroom Parties” habouring most of those who could not be accommodated in the two top parties.
Also before in Imo elections, the top shots seem to converge under one political umbrella from where they dictate what happens.
But the story is very different as February 25, 2023 approaches.
Today, what could be described as the Elites, who usually foist on the people of Imo State their chose as a “Census” candidate, has been balkanized.
In Imo now, the political Big Wigs are scathered in different political platforms, warning up for the Battle front. They will on February 25 confront each other from this time, from different war trenches.
There is All Progressive Congress, APC, which is the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which is the major opposition party in the State, there is the Labour Party LP, and of course, the All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA.
The APC, which is in power in the State could be said to have a majority of Imo Bourgeoisie in its fold presently. But it does not prove any better for the ruling party in terms of easy sail during the balloting.
Most of the Big Men in Imo APC ran into the party not because of what they can provide for the party, but because of what the party can do for them.
They are not there on principle of political ideology but to part take in the cake sharing.
It has become a norm in our clime for “Professional Politicians” to converge in the ruling party immediately after elections, just to maintain their status and milk from the Government.
It is quite unfortunate that most of our Big Men live on Government, and have no true means of survival, except Government.
Therefore, the presence of these Big Political Contractors should not deceive Imo APC that it would ride to victory easily. Most of these Big Men are despised in their villages, and hardly visit home without a Brigade of security personnel. How then do they relate with the Electorate?
The party must go to work as what obtained before, where bravado and Government power were employed to snatch victory from the poor Electorate may not be entertained now, because the environment is volatile and charged as a little push might trigger mayhem and chaos, because the masses are angry.
Imo PDP still remains strong, despite losing many members to the ruling APC, who went for easy lucre and survival.
However, the major issue troubling the PDP is the latest bug in the party, which is internal wrangling, never witnessed in the party since 1999.
Today, even as the election is a few days away, some PDP members are still in Court, stopping those who won them in the primaries, therefore distracting the party from focusing mainly on election.
Unfortunately, in most of these litigations, PDP Aspirants are calling for a total cancellation of the primaries, not to replace the candidate. But to destroy the party. For the party not have any candidate. It is very disturbing.
Yes, PDP has campaigned vigorously across Imo State, more than any other political party. But the party should watch out for internal sabotage, as most of its members are romancing with the opposition political parties, including the ruling APC.
Before in Imo elections, APGA used to be the “third party”. But that position has been taken over by the Labour Party. And Labour Party in the State has succeeded in mopping up some known Heavy Weight Politicians hitherto in APC and PDP folds,
Therefore, PDP and APC should take Imo Labour Party for granted at their own peril.
Disturbingly, what is going for the Labour Party is the Peter Obi and Igbo propaganda mantra. Many Igbo people have been convinced to see the February 25 election as a battle for Nigeria by the three major Ethnic Groups.
Here, it is preached that while Tinubu (APC) represents the Yoruba, Atiku (PDP) represents Hausa/Fulani while Peter Obi (Labour) is the face of Ndigbo.
This propaganda or campaign has led to many members of PDP and APC to preach their parties loudly in the day, but in the Night while among their families, parrot Labour and Obi. That is antiparty and dangerous.
Another factor in the February 25 election in Imo is because the Governorship election is not coming same time with others. The Imo Governorship election will hold on November. Therefore the zeal and seriousness demonstrated by most Imo electorate have been lacking.
Had the Governorship election come along with the rest now, Imo would have been on fire, with robust and heated campaigns.
By now, Owerri Zone would have reminded Orlu Zone that it has spent twenty years in Douglas House, while Okigwe would have asked why it would not file a candidate for Imo Governorship Seat even after being there for four years.
But for now, all the seats are a straight fight between PDP and APC, while Labour Party is bound to show serious presence.
But judged by campaigns, PDP has visited nearly all nooks are crannies of Imo State that is not restive. The party is on the road every day unlike Labour Party and APC that is relying on deep pocket and State Power.
The Labour Party describes itself as being “Organic” and may not know who are their authentic members, Activists and sympathizers.
For Imo APC, it has engaged in what I call “Corporate Campaigning” where it gathers thousands of people from one large zone in one place and dance and display flags.
The current mode does not welcome such, as they people are no more gullible, because hardship and dynamic nature of Nigeria since PDP left office, has taught a great majority of the Electorate a big lesson. Voters Card may count this time.
It will surely be a tough battle.