All is now set for the senatorial by-election for Imo North, otherwise known as Okigwe Senatorial Zone, as the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has declared the race open. Expectedly, many gladiators have thrown their hats into the ring, hoping that the pendulum would kindly swing to their side.
However, the race is more than just hope. It is about both contacts and capacity to deliver; believably and provably so.
A close scrutiny of those aspiring to take up the seat vacated by the late Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) shows that they are made up of different strengths and weaknesses. In fact, they are all qualified to run and none could be tossed aside just like that.
Nonetheless, a leading contender, Sir Frank Ibezim, SF, doubtlessly, stands out as the man to beat in this election. That is why all eyes are riveted on him and co-contestants are already jittery with the groundswell support trailing him. He stands a great chance to win not only the APC primaries but also the main election on October 31.
Interestingly, the state governor, Hope Uzodinma, had advised the people to consider adopting a consensus candidate so as to avoid acrimonious primaries because of the teeming number of contenders. The people welcomed the idea, resulting in the setting up of the panel on that. The panel has concluded its task and Ibezim did not only dust the other 12 co-aspirants but, interestingly, it was the other aspirants that gave him the majority votes in a rather novel arrangement by the nine-member consensus panel, led by Cosmos Iwu, Secretary to the Imo State Government. Therefore, Ibezim’s endorsement by his opponents is nothing but a vote of confidence in him as the right man ordained to represent Imo North in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.
Ibezim is not a rookie politician. However, his humble mien and disposition set him apart from the madding crowd of the usual politicians. He has remained himself, simple, unassuming and a man of integrity. He remains largely anonymous by choice yet impressively effective.
Ibezim’s exploits in public and private office testify to this effectiveness. His exploits in public life, especially, speak eloquently for him. No wonder those who matter in the affairs of the party seem captivated by him, as the man that has what it takes to retain the seat for APC.
The one-time Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Imo State stamped his signature as an achiever in office within so short a time. As a matter of fact, he started as the general manager of Imo Poultry in Avutu Obowo. However, due to his exceptional performance and ability to revamp the moribund settlement, he was elevated to the post of commissioner. Unfortunately, he didn’t serve long in that position before he was redeployed. More sadly, his achievements in office were allowed to whittle because of lack of continuity that bedevil governance in the country. Nevertheless, he had acquitted himself well.
Ibezim was also neck-deep in the campaign organisation of President Muhammadu Buhari in the run-up to the 2015 general election, among other high-stakes insider engagements for the APC. He is a focused politician with an eye for excellence, who knows what the zone needs at present and has already mapped out strategies to actualise them.
Okigwe has a lot of agrarian potentialities and only someone versed in that area would bring them out. Of all the contenders, none is as knowledgeable as Ibezim in that regard. The zone needs a man that has what it takes to represent the people well. The job of representation is better when the man on the seat has the qualities required to lobby his colleagues to support his bills, motions and, more significantly, getting valuable projects to be sited in the area.
Those who know Ibezim will attest to the fact that he is a very effective mobiliser and his capacity to network is legendary. He also enjoys very good rapport with the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba (HCN). Having both closely relating sons of Okigwe in the government at the national level would be an awesome experience, especially when they pull their weight together for the collective good of the zone. Locally, both gentlemen also enjoy a healthy relationship with the governor and, certainly, the governor needs people he can trust, not those that will raise their own army to fight him from Abuja.
Ibezim is also a loyal party man. Loyalty to the party should be rewarded and now is the time for the party to do that. Okigwe does not need everyday political travellers but dependable representatives who would be trusted to always deliver the goods and not scamper off once their selfish interest is not met. In a society where trust has become a rare currency, Ibezim can be counted on to walk the talk. So, if APC wants to play safe and have an edge over others, it needs to be careful who it hands its ticket to.
This is where the party leadership, including Governor Uzodinma and HCN, must weigh in. The first step to winning the election is giving the ticket to a reliable war horse who enjoys followership across party faithful, not a divisive personality that would stir controversy and disputations.
The party should also consider who among the contenders would most likely work in harmony with the governor. It would be a grave mistake if the party gives its ticket to someone that would go to Abuja and constitute a distraction for the governor.
More importantly, one other mistake APC would make is to treat the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), or any other party, with levity. Believe it or not, PDP is still strong and poses a real threat, especially if it could forge alliances with smaller parties. The only way APC would stand a chance against PDP is to make sure it presents the right candidate. Such a candidate need not be a moneybags with loads of cash to throw around. Rather, he should be a dependable, tested and proven man of integrity, who would not only deliver the goods but also deliver them intact for the greater good of the zone.
Certainly, as already noted, all the aspirants are qualified for the office. However, since all of them cannot occupy that single seat at the same time, common sense dictates that they would be patriotic and selfless in pursuing their ambition and rally round the eventual winner, as the face of the party.
So, as the APC consensus panel screened the aspirants preparatory to the primaries on September 3, the wisdom they deployed in asking the aspirants to choose the most suitable aspirant from among themselves is salutary, as it paved the way for a popular choice poised for good outing during the main election on October 31.
Sadly, some of the aspirants are suspected to be planning to renege on their promise prior to the consensus screening to abide by the outcome of the exercise. There is no basis for that since Ibezim is their own choice. Everyone expects them to act honourably in tandem with the exalted position they aspire to, as it would not be an affront on Governor Uzodinma and people would also wonder how any person that cannot keep his word in such a weighty matter should be trusted to represent Okigwe Zone in the Senate.
However, whether they go for an all-out primary or not, Ndi Okigwe should not be deceived by the propaganda that questions Ibezim’s choice because he hails from the same Ehime Mbano as Nwajiuba. They seem to have forgotten too soon that there had been cases where even three people from the same ward held sway at the same time but Okigwe didn’t burn.
Moreover, those also canvassing that the late Uwajumogu should be succeeded by his sibling seem to have also overlooked how they only recently condemned a purported dynasty being foisted on the state by former Governor Rochas Okorocha.
What Okigwe needs is someone who would effectively represent it and deliver dividends of democracy to the people. Sir Frank Ibezim is the man, and he has the backing of destiny.