Tony Icheku chronicles factors that favoured the re-election of Senator Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress as governor of Imo State last Saturday.
Charter of Equity
Victory did not come easy for Governor Hope Uzodimma, but a combination of factors worked in his favour. He had been two-term Senator of Imo West Senatorial district or the Orlu zone, which with its 12 LGAs clearly dictates who governs the State, Uzodimma is bent on riding on this wave to victory.
His ability to mobilise his structure in the senatorial district to his advantage was second to none, as he emerged as the only governorship candidate from there. Additionally, he ensured that the political elites joined forces with him including political heavyweights from the zone like Senator Osita Izunaso who is also of the APC.
Political elites from Orlu zone, like Hon Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere representing Ideato North/South in the House of Representatives were not given breathing space, but pushed aside.
Uzodimma further worked the clannish card to enhance his interests by playing up the almost non existent ‘Imo Charter of Equity’ as a non stop song. Eze Cletus Ilomuanya from the same zone once described the Charter of Equity which recommended rotation of the governorship as dead and buried, but Uzodimma has resurrected it, promising to pick his successor from the Owerri zone.
It seems a juicy bait, especially for the political elites from the zone who have bought into it hook, line and sinker.
In a divide and rule strategy, he sharply divided the Mbaise and Owerri sub-groups in the Imo East Senatorial district or Owerri zone, with the Mbaise political elites literally eating from his palms. Political stalwart like former Senator Chris Anyanwu was on the field mobilising for Uzodimma’s return
The Federal might
Did the Federal might come to play? Definitely, in the guise of a Daniel coming to justice. Lest we forget Uzodimma’s albatross is the perception that Imo under his watch has become a hotbed of insecurity and bloody violence. His invitation on February 23, 2021 to the military to ‘crush’ the IPOB irredentists backfired and few days to the election certain portions of Orlu, Oru, Okigwe and Osu LGAs are depopulated as the residents have all fled or the areas are under the grip of so-called unknown gunmen.
With this state of affairs, the opposition insisted on the removal of Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Barde, whom they accuse of being in bed with Uzodinma. To their delight, their request was granted, and to reassure them, the State was literally a police state as a DIG, Frank Mba, moved in with a team comprising one AIG, 27 DIGs, 40 ACPs and several contingent of mobile policemen. The Army and other paramilitary agencies were equally in full show of force in the State during the election.
At the end, the LP governorship flagbearer, Senator Athan Achonu, lamented that the military were brought in to aid the massive manipulation of the electoral process “It was a rape of democracy, it was like a military coup”, he lamented.
What convinced observers further that the Federal might was at play was the unconcern shown by the INEC Returning Officer, Prof Abayomi Fasina, who refused to listen to the protests of the LP agent, Callitus Ihejiagwa, at the State Collation Centre.
Eventually, Ihejiagwa was beaten black and blue by APC thugs inside the hall in the full glare of the security chiefs and none said a word in his defense.
Uzodimma as governor of Imo state is the strongest South-East ally of the APC-led Federal.
Uzodimma also invoked the power of incumbency for all it is worth. In a system where government is the biggest spender in the economy, it pays to align with the government in power. For Uzodimma, the attraction is even double as the APC, is also the ruling party at the Centre. His second term is therefore an attractive bait to political elites, some seeking political rehabilitation and revival or as a safe haven to escape investigation or prosecution for alleged corruption charges. Big names clustering around the Uzodimma ticket are described by observers as only bargaining for a piece of the pie and many only have boastful promises, and not really the political good will to deliver him in a free and fair contest. Thus from Okigwe or Imo North Senatorial district, APC stalwarts like former former governor, Ikedi Ohakim, multimillionaire businessman, Tony Chukwu, all worked round the clock to realize Uzodimma’s second term ambition, of course for a slice when the cake is baked.
Further enhancing Uzodimma’s chances is the APC structures which is spread across the length and breadth of Imo State and further consolidated under his administration through the victory by APC of all the 27 House of Assembly seats in the March 18, 2023 poll. Though the results are being contested by other parties which argue that the party rigged the process with some of the seats being contested either at the Elections Petition Tribunal or Court of Appeal.
Divide and Rule
Whether by design or accident, both the PDP and LP were divided houses, with infighting, lack of internal cohesion and bickering. For the PDP, the emergence of Sam Anyanwu led to a split in the party. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, considered as the David who would have brought down Uzodimma distanced himself and supporters from the party.
Similarly, in LP, Achonu’s emergence led to exodus of the ‘Obedients’, including the Director General of the Imo state council of the Peter Obi Presidential campaign.
Thus, the Achonu campaign was without the enthusiast populist yearning to overthrow the old political order for fresh leadership ideas and a new dawn like it happened in neighbouring Abia State.