By Ken Amadi
Of all the political tendencies or blocs currently in Imo state, the Owerri zone chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is perhaps the most challenged. The reason this is so is that those who populate it are seen by the generality of the people of the zone as having aligned with outsiders to deny the zone, as a whole, its occupancy of the Imo seat of government under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Even though most of the PDP stalwarts in the zone have since crossed over to the APC, the fact is that the former still has a lot of sympathy from the generality of the people of the zone. From Emekuku to Ekwereazu, from Imerienwe to Obinze, from Atta to Obibiezena; all over the average Owerri zone fellow believes that it was robbed by the governorship seat via the Supreme Court ruling of January 14, 2020.
Agreed, there is a lot of enthusiasm among leaders of APC in the zone to regain the initiative, but that effort is being negated by a certain measure of compliancy among members of the elite of the party in the zone. There is this feeling within that elite that the incumbency of the party would do the magic. The optimism is welcomed, but it would amount to nothing if the teeming members of the party in Owerri zone take things for granted, especially as regards the process of throwing up candidates that will fly its flag in the forthcoming general elections.
The reason is simple. The APC in Owerri zone has the higher stake in the forthcoming election than any other zone in the state. Being the party in control of the state, the general expectation is that they cannot but win the key elective offices in the zone regardless of the fact that, as already noted, there is still a lot of sympathy being harboured for the PDP at the grassroots.
In a local parlance, it is said that he who is already on the ground needs not harbour any fear of falling. The PDP in Owerri zone, having suffered the fate it did in 2020, is already on the ground. It is making every effort to get up again but if it fails, it will be understandable. After all, it does not enjoy the fabled power of incumbency. But not so for the Owerri zone APC. It cannot afford to lose, at least the key elective offices particularly the senatorial seat. If the APC loses the senatorial seat in Owerri zone, it will constitute a big political setback, individually and collectively, for all those who currently parade themselves as its leaders in the zone. The loss of face before the governor, His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodimma, over whom they all fall on each other, would be unimaginable. As a matter of fact, a loss of Owerri zone senatorial seat by the APC would be a major setback for the governor whose election will be coming later in the year.
With the dire security situation in Orlu zone, which has the highest voter registration in the state, the governorship election there will be surrounded with a lot of uncertainties. But Owerri zone APC can make the difference if its leaders do what is expected of them, to place the general interest of the party over and above the personal ambition of a few.
It was quite disgusting reading a report in which a so-called leader of the party from Mbaise was quoted as saying that the APC in Owerri zone will disintegrate if a certain aspirant (names withheld) for the zone’s senatorial seat fails to clinch the ticket of the party. Haba! I liken the statement to a hate speech and I ask: Are things this bad for the party in the zone? Interestingly, the fellow whom the satanic statement was meant to protect happens to be the least equipped to win the election if given the ticket.
However, before we go into a person-by-person assessment of the key aspirants, let me establish a template that might guide delegates to the party’s primaries that are around the corner. The formula is simple: Under the present circumstances, the APC in Owerri zone needs to field a candidate with a support base that transcends the party; a candidate who has strong tentacles particularly in the PDP. Agreed that some of the key aspirants have been around, but only one of them has an on-the-field experience. They have been involved in philanthropy, but that alone is not enough to bring votes to the party. In any case, I am aware that not a few indigenes of the zone, as a whole, are scandalized by the antics of this so-called philanthropists who suddenly turned into aspirants. The beneficiaries of their philanthropy feel blackmailed into reciprocating their fabled large heartedness with their votes despite the posturing that it was all gratis. Besides that it is unfair to make the highly sophisticated and proud people of Owerri look cheap, it should embarrass supporters of these scratch-my- back-I-scratch-yours philanthropists that they turned aspirants overnight despite the ‘Onweghi Ihe m N’azo’ (I am not vying for anything) assurances.
I have said nothing to suggest that a philanthropist should not run for elective office. But what the hapless people of Owerri zone saw in the hands of their philanthropist brothers are too mechanical to engender any lasting political bonding. This is besides the facts that, as earlier noted, most of those concerned have no experience in electoral contest. Agreed, a political neophyte could pull surprises to win even the most keenly contested election, but where Owerri zone APC -indeed in the whole state-finds itself currently does not give room for any experimentation or apprenticeship.
It would be pretentious to stop at just establishing a guide without juxtaposing it with the real life situation on ground. As a matter of fact, the motivating factor behind this write-up is to make an honest contribution towards making it easier for the zone’s delegates to make up their minds on who to elect among the three major aspirants namely, Chiefs Alex Mbata, Jerry Chukwueke, Sly Nwachukwu and Mrs Bethy Akeredolu.
However, 1 will make it even easier by not going into the strength and weaknesses of each of the aspirants. At the risk of being accused of partiality, I can state without any fear of contradictions that of the four, only Jerry Chukwueke fits into the template presented above. I do not know much of Mrs Akeredolu’s philanthropy, but I am aware that the three gentlemen under reference all lay claims to it. Thus, if we take philanthropy as given, that is, as a common denominator among the three, the next question will be: What other thing sets any of them aside from the other two? And here is where Chukwueke takes the lead. He is the only one amongst the three who has a big reach beyond the APC. For reasons that are not difficult to fathom, Chukwueke, despite being currently in the APC, still has a huge support base among the PDP faithful because of earlier relationships, especially after he took it upon himself to mobilize them to remain steadfast during the period the party underwent its worst existential crisis.
Chukwueke’s outing was so awesome that the PDP faithful on its own nicknamed him “Mr Mobilizer”. That was not for nothing and it is no racket science that, that assignment must have enabled him in establishing strong personal relationships he could harness if given the ticket.
For me, this is one attribute of Chukwueke which the APC in Owerri zone must not toy with. Of course, it is a well known fact that no candidate wins an election with votes from its party members alone. Even without going into figures, APC in Owerri zone knows too well that hundred per cent of the votes of its eligible members in the nine local government areas that make up the zone will not be sufficient to give victory at the general election.