Imo people, like their brothers and sisters in the other Igbo states, are essentially conservative. It is hard to sell to them what they had rejected before.
Anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of the political terrain in Imo State would readily attest to the fact that the state wing of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has shot itself in the foot with the outcome of the recent governorship primary election. It needs no exaggeration to state that, with the declaration of Mr. Emeka Ihedioha as the purported winner of the election, the party has dashed the expectations of the good people of Imo State that it was going to offer some succour, first in their clamor for transparency in the conduct of internal party matters and then move on to take up the political leadership of the state once again.
These expectations were informed chiefly by the involvement of a few credible members of the party in the ongoing governorship race. For example, the entry earlier this year of Senator Samuel Anyanwu promptly reversed the belief that the party had become an exclusive preserve for Mr. Ihedioha for no other reason than that he had enough idle time to run errands for the Ahmed Makarfi faction doing the leadership crisis that bedevilled the party for more than one year. Ihedioha’s personnel posturing did not help matters. Through body language and even utterances, he was unpretentious that the governorship ticket of the party for the 2019 general election was his. Using paid agents in the media, he gave the impression that other aspirants were simply wasting their time. Things got to a stage where highly regarded stalwarts of the party began to leave. And as the electoral processes towards 2019 began, PDP, which hitherto was the dominant party in the state in spite of losing power in 2011, began to shrink.
Alarmed by that trend, well-meaning stakeholders in the party began to appeal to some of its leaders not to allow the party to further drift. Senator Anyanwu’s entry into the governorship race was partly informed by that call. As is well known, Anyanwu’s entry into the governorship race was well received by Imolites, both within and outside the party, who had for long nursed a nostalgia of the good old days when the party was at the helm of affairs in the state and very much desired a return of the purposeful leadership that the party had provided. In other words, the senator’s entry returned hope to the people that the PDP, which was the only credible alternative to the repressive regime of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration in the state, would eventually get its act well and reclaim power.
To be sure, the senator was not the only credible governorship aspirant in the party but his pedigree stood him out. Little wonder that, in less than six months after joining the race, he was able to galvanise a level of support across the 27 local government areas and across all walks of life that was at once uncommon, unprecedented and even revolutionary. Suddenly, PDP, which had degenerated to a one-man show in the state, experience a lift and wormed itself back into the hearts of the people. As already noted, there were a few other credible governorship aspirants in the party but, as far as pundits were concerned, the race was between Anyanwu and Ihedioha. Still, not many Imolites, both within and outside the PDP, were enamored by the Ihedioha factor. The repugnance to his aspiration was principally because many felt that the PDP would not make the mistake of presenting for a second time the very fellow that could not successfully lead the people in their collective quest to cut short the repressive administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha in 2015.
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Ihedioha was the governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2015 general election and, given its pedigree, the PDP was the only credible alternative to the APC administration. Consequently, the people were on their own mobilised to lend their support to the party to rout the Rochas Okorocha administration, irrespective of the personal shortcomings of its standard-bearer. But Ihedioha bungled the entire thing and dashed the hopes of the people. Once he emerged as the candidate of the party, even under hazy circumstances, he began to see himself as governor-in-waiting. He did not carry along top stakeholders.
Overnight, many jumped ship and joined Okorocha. The most pathetic was that of a group known as Owerri Zone Political Leaders Forum (OZOPOLF), which had as its main agenda the enthronement of an indigene of Owerri zone (Imo East senatorial district) as the governor of the state in 2015. The emergence of Ihedioha, who is from Owerri zone, was, therefore, seen by the group as a partial fulfillment of their dream and as such it embraced Ihedioha with all the length of its arms. But what was its experience? The PDP governorship candidate snubbed members of the group both individually and collectively.
It is for the above reasons that both party faithful and other well-meaning citizens of the state who, though not card-carrying members of the party but have sympathy for it, frowned at the posturing of Ihedioha to position himself as the sole governorship aspirant in the party for the 2019 election. Having not approved of his conduct and attitude in 2015 when he had the ticket, the people generally repudiated the prospects of him being presented again as the candidate of the party. Without an iota of exaggeration, the refrain in the state was that PDP would fail if it presented Emeka, as Ihedioha is more popularly known in the state, in 2019.
Today, the repulsiveness has heightened, following the outcome of the September 30, 2018, primary election. The situation seems to be one whereby the people, including most members of the party, feel that the party has dared them by presenting the same fellow whom they had earlier adjudged as lacking in ability and the needed attitude to preside over the affairs of the state.
This feeling of shoddy treatment by the party is heightened by the fact that Ihedioha emerged despite the fact that there are one or two other aspirants whom the party could throw up. Add to this the widely held belief that the PDP primary election of September 30 was not transparent and it would become clear why the rating of the party, as far as the 2019 general election is concerned, has hit the bottom rung in the last couple of days. Throughout the state, tales of massive irregularities in the PDP governorship primary are being told in every nook and cranny.
Not surprisingly, Anyanwu, who came second in the election, has since rejected the election and has called for its cancellation and a rerun. Unfortunately, time is not on the side of the party, given the timetable given by the electoral umpire. But pundits believe that it is not something the party leadership cannot handle to avoid another disastrous outing in the state. Before the primaries, the rating among the parties with respect to the 2019 governorship election was PDP, APGA, APC as, respectively, first, second, third.
The reason the PDP was so rated was that, apart from that the involvement of one or two aspirants that gave it a helicopter image, the PDP was seen as better organised. But that has changed. The PDP is now in the third position in the wake of the governorship primary.
There is an aphorism that only a dog eats its own vomit. Imo people, like their brothers and sisters in the other Igbo states, are essentially conservative. It is hard to sell to them what they had, rightly or wrongly, rejected before. As things stand, the people are not happy that the PDP is bringing to the present a matter they had previously dispensed with.
Madumere writes from Owerri