At four major outings by Senator Hope Uzodinma, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Imo State, incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, had done everything humanly possible to take away the shine or to present the candidate as unwanted and unacceptable to Imo People. But on each occasion the people used the opportunity to demonstrate their massive support for Uzodinma.
When Uzodinma returned to Owerri on November 14, 2018, after his candidacy was finally confirmed by INEC, the Imo State government made attempts to stall his reception by Imo people. Protesters were sent to the airport to disrupt the reception. All that failed because thousands of Imo people that trooped out at both the airport and on the streets to welcome the candidate overwhelmed the hired traducers.
The campaign flag-off on December 21, 2018, was no different. The governor denied Uzodinma the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, hoping to make it impossible for the event to take place. But he failed. Imo people, in their thousands, occupied Uzodinma’s campaign office on Okigwe Road, and the street proper, from Library Roundabout to IMSU junction, into the adjoining streets. The event was a huge success and a sure vote of the people for Uzodinma.
Also at the APC women’s rally on January 12, 2019, the government capitalised on the opportunity of the governor’s wife playing the chief host to try to shut out Uzodinma from the event. This also failed as people, instead, used every opportunity at the venue to proclaim Uzodinma as their choice for next Imo governor. Instructively, when Okorocha tried to promote the candidacy of his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, the people roundly booed him.
The latest and the mother of all failures was the attempt by the out-going Imo government to derail the presidential rally of January 29. Their plot crumbled on their faces. The plan was to ensure at all cost that Uzodinma did not come out of the rally shining as APC governorship candidate. But again this failed in a most stunning manner, for not even a six-hour-long wait could deter the crowd. It was a game of wits. As always, the Uzodinma’s supporters were resolute, resilient and remarkable in their expression of solidarity with the governorship candidate. They were there to make a statement that Governor Okorocha no longer controls APC and that, contrary to his claims of being the only crowing cock in the party, Senator Uzodinma and other patriots were now on the driver’s seat. That was why the crowd waited.
Although the president arrived earlier at Heroes Square in New Owerri, Governor Okorocha deliberately hijacked him. Having gathered a handful of civil servants who, in the name of Action Alliance, the governor proceeded to organise a courtesy call, a meeting with traditional rulers and others just to show off his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu.
Although the game plan was for Buhari to endorse Nwosu at the prompting of the traditional rulers, and perhaps leave from there. This failed as President Buhari and the other APC chiefs stormed the stadium. True to the image already created by Comrade Adams Oshiomohle that Uzodinma was on the ground, the stadium was jam-packed. The people. showed how much they love and care for Uzodinma when they sharply reacted to Okorocha’s attempting to disparage the senator before President Buhari. In his egoistic manner, the governor had claimed to be the founder of APC in Imo State and lamented how those who are now beneficiaries used police, SSS, and thugs to harass him. Shouts of “No, no” drowned him.
To crown Uzodinma’s glory, a record 22 political parties, including N-PDP, declared their support for him at the rally. Their leader, Dr. Fabian Ihekweme, explained that the APC now attracts responsible people and parties with Uzodinma in charge. He said, unlike before when people were chased away from the party, Uzodinma was attracting more people into APC and making the atmosphere conducive for them to make their contributions.
Yes, it was with excitement on the faces of Imo people that they watched as President Buhari raised the hand of Uzodinma and asked them to vote for him. The President’s action threw the crowd into wild jubilation as they sang and danced around the stadium, forgetting how many hours they had waited for that moment. That action was the climax of the presidential campaign rally in Imo State. It spoke volumes about the support enjoyed by Senator Uzodinma. As the crowd cheered him when he spoke, it was evident that their hearts were with him.
Interestingly, Uzodinma, in his speech, did not bear any grudges or bitterness towards his traducers. He only urged them to emulate President Buhari as a man of integrity and honesty. According to him, anybody who claims to love the President and yet goes behind his back to sabotage his party, the APC, is surely a hypocrite. Once again, he promised to recover all the years the locusts have eaten in Imo when he becomes governor. He pledged to work with both the elite and the down-trodden to achieve the shared responsibility and prosperity he envisages for Imo State.
Indeed, the outpouring of support being received almost every day, at LGA campaign rallies by Senator Uzodinma from across party lines shows clearly that he is the candidate to beat. Even what was considered to be a barrier or impediment, that is, zoning, has becoming a non-issue. Leaders from all the senatorial zones of the state, namely Okigwe, Orlu and Owerri, are rallying round the senator to ensure victory for the APC candidate. From the Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere, to former Speaker, Kelechi Nwagwu, all from Owerri zone, they are solidly with Uzodinma. So also are Chief Charles Amadi (Chavaconl), Chief Lemmy Akakem, Dr. Obi Njoku, former Commissioner for Health, Chief Jude Ejiogu, a former governorship aspirant, and Chief Eche, also a former governorship candidate.
For Chief Akakem, the project is a pan-Imo one defying political, religious and ethnic considerations. That was why a die-hard APGA chieftain like Chief Martin Agbaso has thrown his weight behind Uzodinma. That is why those who were previously supporting governorship candidates from other parties have now joined forces to ensure that Uzodinma emerges governor in the next couple of weeks.
And it is not any surprise that, for the fourth time, through a major public gathering – the presidential rally – Imo people, through their massive show of public support, voted for Uzodinma as their choice for next governor of the state.
•Emelumba is the Director of Media and Special Duties, Hope Uzodimma Campaign Organisation.