Undoubtedly, the coming governorship election in Imo state will be a very challenging one. It is challenging not only from the viewpoint of the array and strength of the candidates but also the critical issues to the election. The way things stand; it is certain that Imo is available for grabs and this will depend on the candidate and political party that best appeals to the electorate.
The way the political parties fare will depend on how well they tap into the temperament of the Imo electorate who are anxiously yearning for a genuine leader unencumbered by some of the failings of the current government in the state. The Imo electorate is yearning for a genuine leader with requisite experience, a leader well groomed in the art of governance with liberal education and capacity. They are yearning for very trusted, disciplined and dependable leader. They are praying very fervently for a philosopher king with the acumen to manage scarce resources for the greatest good of the greatest number of his people.
As should be expected, the various governorship candidates of the political parties are very conscious of this and are not resting on their oars to take advantage of the opportunity. In the last one week or so, some of these candidates have rolled out their campaign trains traversing the nooks and crannies of the state with mouth watering offers to the electorate. They have also found convenient campaign points in some of the failings of the current government of Rochas Okoroacha that was recently lampooned by APC national Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole for poor performance.
Given the weighty issues Oshiomhole raised against Okoroacha during his inauguration of the campaign of APC governorship candidate, it is little surprising that they seem to have been dominant in the campaigns of all the political parties. The candidates seem to be saying that if Okorocha’s leadership can be so discredited by no less a person than the national chairman of his party, there is no further evidence that he did not perform. And this sounds appealing. It is not surprising that some of the issues raised by Oshiomhole now form the major campaign thrust of governorship candidates of the parties including the APC and PDP. But by far, the PDP appears to be harnessing more from these failings for reasons that are very obvious.
The PDP in Imo state appeared to have taken advantage of this when it inaugurated an all embracing campaign council with names of who is who in Imo politics as members. These include Chief Emmanuel Iwunyanwu, former governor Achike Udenwa, Dr Kema Chikwe, Profs. Jude Njoku, Viola Onwuliri, Dr Alex Obi Commodore Luke Ochiulo (rtd) and General Austin Oguledo (rtd) among others. The high point of the inauguration was the collapsing of the structures of the ‘original All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA’ into the state wing of the PDP.
Three key governorship aspirants of the party, Uche Onyeagocha, Frank Nneji and Nick Opara-Ndudu who had joined the PDP after their contentious primaries are also members of the campaign council. A former chairman of PDP in the state and leader of the defecting APGA group, Dr. Alex Obi announced that they have collapsed the structures of APGA in the various local governments of Imo state into the PDP. The former aspirants were also handy to pledge their support with promises to do all within their powers to ensure victory for the PDP.
Apparently, taking immediate advantage of the inauguration, the governorship candidate of the PDP, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha rolled out his campaign train last Monday. The choice of Mbaitoli local government area in Owerri zone for the flag off campaign is instructive given some of the issues to the election. We shall return to this later. It was a mammoth crowd to behold at St Mary’s Catholic Church ground Ubommiri venue of the campaign.
Speaker after speaker took turns to stress the importance of the election and the bright chances of the party especially given the credentials of its candidate, Emeka Ihedioha and the fact that the PDP conducted the most transparent primaries in the country. The state chairman of PDP, Chief Charles Ezekwem described Ihedioha as a man of credibility, capacity with the needed competence to move the state forward. For him, the party has presented the best candidate for the election stressing a vote for Ihedioha is a vote for the restoration of the lost glory of Imo state. According to him, the PDP is fielding a tested team that will restore the dignity of Imo people which has been badly battered by the out-going regime in the state. Chief Udenwa said that the PDP has the best chance to win the coming elections. He told the huge gathering that the people of Orlu zone have decided that it is the turn of Owerri zone to produce the next governor as other zones especially Orlu has taken more than a fair share of that office. He advised the people of Owerri zone to team up and ensure that they take advantage of the opportunity as according to him the party has all it takes to secure victory in the coming elections. The former governor warned against a repeat of the mistakes of the past and asked the people of Owerri zone to take their destiny in their hands this time around.
On his part, Chief Iwuanyanwu harped on the sterling qualities of Ihedioha which he said stand him shoulders above all other candidates in the race. He extolled the qualities of Ihedioha as a trusted and tested candidate who has served Nigeria in various capacities and discharged himself very equitably. He said that given his position as a leading BOT member and member of the NEC of the party, he is in a better stead to vouch for the integrity and capacity of Ihedioha, qualites that will count seriously in the coming elections in the state. Chief Iwuanyanwu urged members of the party to go back to their wards and work for the victory of the party.
In his response, Ihedioha said he knows the task ahead and has made up his mind to serve the people of the state and to rebuild the state to the dreams of its founding fathers. He pledged his administration’s commitment to the rule of law and due process contending that the major challenges facing the state were a consequence of the strong aversion of the current regime in the state to these pristine democratic ideals. He reassured the people that he is committed to provision of quality services that will remain a reference point in the annals of the state.
The PDP candidate said by his reference to due process and rule of law, he intends re-invent the civil service which is now a ghost of its former self. This will entail the restoration of all the rules, norms, processes and procedure for which the civil service is statutorily instituted. He deprecated the abysmal low into which this vital institution of government has degenerated in the last couple of years and pledged things cannot continue this way without dire repercussions for children yet unborn. In this regard, his government will focus on the core areas of power, education, infrastructure and sustainable youth and women empowerment. Prompt payment of wages and pensions, creation of employment, industrialization, efficient healthcare delivery system and rapid rural development stand tall in his development agenda.
Jideofo writes from Owerri
He promised a new deal for Imo state that will meet the yearnings and aspirations of its people.
His focus on education, power and regular payment of salaries, wages and pensions is very instructive given the abysmal performance of the current regime in the state in those areas. The issue of outstanding pensions for more than 50 months is neither new nor the inability to pay salaries and allowances as at when due. Retirees were also at the venue of the campaign flag off to corroborate the dire straits they have found themselves due to the inability of the state government to pay them.
In sum, Ihedioha has raised the hopes of the Imo electorate. They seriously desire a new brand of leadership unencumbered by the prejudices of the past. They are yearning for a leader with experience; leader without any baggage hanging around him and a leader not implicated in any shoddy business deal. They are looking for character and integrity. These and the issue of zoning will play a dominant role in the coming elections. And within this matrix Ihedioha stands tall among others. That was what Udenwa had in mind when he said the people of Orlu zone have agreed that it is the turn of Owerri to produce the next governor.
Jideofo writes from Owerri