The stage is now set for the people of Imo North Senatorial District of Imo State to decide who succeeds late Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogu who died last December in the 9th Senate. However, political gladiators, who are eyeing the position, are not leaving any stone unturned in their efforts to clinch the ticket of the major political parties and also beat the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deadline for party primaries.
Among the contestants are, Hon Mark Uchendu, former Secretary to the State Government under former Governor Rochas Okorocha, Sen. Ifeanyi Ararume who contested for the governorship seat in the last election, Chidinma Uwajumogu, sister of the late Senator, Chief Eze Okoro, Hon Chikwem Onuoha, Hon. Matthew Omegara, former member of the House of Representatives, the immediate past Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Acho Ihim and Sen. Atan Achonu. All are vying for the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Significantly, it is believed that since virtually all the aspirants are seeking to achieve their ambition through APC it is not unconnected with fact that the state is under the control of the ruling party hence whoever clinches the ticket can be considered to have advantage over other contestants. Meanwhile, there is every indication that after APC primary is lost and won most of these aspirants may decamp to other parties for tickets to slug it out with whoever becomes candidate of the ruling party.
Be that as it may, political observers are of the view that loyalty to the ruling party will be the determinant factor on who emerges APC flag bearer in line with the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s principle of true party person.
This school of thought expressed doubt over Ararume’s chances of getting the APC ticket on the premise that having dumped the ruling party for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) few months to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the Isi-Ebu political warlord may be denied waiver by the Oshiomhole led National Working Committee (NWC). Another strong contender who may be denied waiver is Sen. Atan Achonu, a staunch member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) until recently. It would be recall that he squared against Sen. Uwajumogu in 2015 and he was inaugurated as Senator representing Imo North in the 8th Senate, but after extensive legal battle his election was upturned by the Court of Appeal in favour of Uwajumogu. Many believe that his actions and inactions against the late Senator and APC during and after the election coupled with the cold war between him and Chief Tony Chukwu who wields so much political power in the zone may work against him.
In a swift reaction, pundits are of the view that money will play greater role in the power play and with Ararume and Achonu in control of so much of it puts them ahead of others. But political analysts opined that with Chief Tony Chukwu behind an underdog, Eze Okoro perceived to be his political godson, Ararume and Achonu will be taken care of financially.
They anchored their argument on the fact that with Chief Chukwu as the deciding factor of who gets whatever political position in the zone having openly declared that he won’t support Ararume this time because according to him since 2007 the zone has been supporting Ararume for governor after representing Imo North twice in the Senate from 1999 to 2007 that makes the race easy for Okoro. However, to many it is not yet uhuru for Okoro if you take into cognizance the statement of Chief Chukwu in a recent stakeholders meeting where he made it clear that he had no preferred candidate. Therefore, to political watchers, the contest is open. Above all, they insisted that Imo North won’t send a learner to represent them in the Senate, but someone in Uwajumogu’s pedigree. In their opinion, the battle will be between Mark Uchendu and Chidinma Uwajumogu who are laying claim that for the sake of equity and fairness someone from Ihitte Uboma LGA where the late Senator hails from should complete his tenure.
While Chidinma is banking on her contact and connection to the Presidency and her brother’s goodwill for support, she has the stakeholders to contend with. According to recent report, stakeholders have resolved to ensure only tested hand succeeds Uwajumogu and with such stand by stakeholders the chances of Chidinma from clinching the ticket of APC may be slim.
Uchendu, on his part, is considered as the only party loyalist among the contestants. Opinion poll conducted by Merit Group favours Uchendu as a founding member of APC and ever since has remained in the ruling party with late Uwajumogu, but one thing observers believed may work against the former SSG is Okorocha’s factor. It is believed that his attachment to his former boss Sen. Rochas Okorocha may not go down with Uwajumogu’s supporters considering how Okorocha tried to stop the late Senator from coming back to the Senate in 2019. But the fear was doused by a prominent APC stalwart in the area who doesn’t want his name mentioned. He said instead of work against Uchendu’s ambition, Okorocha’s influence will be an added advantage. He recalled how Uchendu before Uwajumogu’s demised made peace between him and Okorocha. Meanwhile, Uchendu who is popularly refer to as “Man of the people” because he rely on the electorates and his past performance as his selling-point has warmed himself into the heart of the people and stands a better chance to clinch the ruling party’s ticket and also well positioned to win the election proper. Put succinctly, So far, Uchendu has shown that he is on ground having toured all the electoral wards in Imo North soliciting for support. No wonder, recently youth leaders in the six local government areas in Okigwe zone under the aegis of “Okigwe Youths Align for Development” (OYAD) resolved to throw their weight behind Uchendu describing him as the bridge between the old and younger generation.
Speaking through their spokesperson, Christian Nwokoro, the group during a recent solidarity visit to Hon Mark Uchendu in his country home in Ihitte Uboma said, for the sake of continuity of Uwajumogu’s good work after due consultation on who to succeed the former Senator, they resolved to unanimously adopt Uchendu as their preferred candidate for the forthcoming Imo North Senatorial rerun. Nwokoro said they took the decision after considering Uchendu’s efforts in improving the living standard of Okigwe people, adding that within the period he served in various capacities both as member of the State House of Assembly, council chairman, commissioner and Secretary to State Government, he attracted projects that gave birth to government presence in the zone.
The people are supporting Uchendu because of recent gestures to his people through giving them some food items and cash as palliatives especially vulnerable persons including the youths in the zone to cushion the effect Coronavirus pandemic as well as enlightening the people on measures to prevent the spread of the virus. They are also supporting him because he is tested and trusted to continue the good work of late Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu in the Senate.
Okafor writes from Lagos