In a recent political poll, Nigerians rated very highly the attributes of credibility & consistency, reliability, electability, sincerity of purpose and trustworthiness (CREST) as the qualities desired most in politicians aspiring to represent them within a framework of transparent democracy. To be able to win the hearts and minds of an electorate, one is expected (in fact required) to demonstrate these politically endangered qualities, but again these are plausible within the context of transparency at the polls.
Having looked at the crowded roll call of candidates seeking the office of governorship in Imo state from the two major political parties of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) & All Progressives Congress (APC), it has become evident that one could well apply the CREST factor in the analysis of candidates, their antecedents and where they stand within the hearts and minds of those they aspire to represent. While the All Progressives Congress (APC) appears to have a consensus candidate in the person of the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, in the People’s Democratic Party frontier, the scene is unarguably crowded and the horizon dotted with uncertainties.
As it stands, PDP has 22 gubernatorial candidates in Imo state. In principle, every qualified Nigerian has the constitutional right to pursue his or her political ambition, but only a handful of these aspirants are considered serious contenders in spite of an acclaimed framework within PDP that every aspirant would be allowed to thrive on a level playing field. At the end of the day, only one candidate will emerge from PDP post its primaries to challenge Rochas Okorocha or whoever it may be from APC should Rochas decides against a second term. While the electorate has the final decision as to who represents them through a free and fair election, these PDP candidates are considered the serious contenders and one or none of them may emerge to challenge Rochas Okorocha. But do they have the CREST factor? The decision will be that of PDP primary election delegates and later the general Imo electorate.
Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha
Emeka Ihedioha is the incumbent deputy speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, and by virtue of this position, the number 6 citizen of the country and the leader of PDP in Imo state. Ihedioha has the human and material resources to clinch PDP gubernatorial primaries. From the days of Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), the precursor of PDP to present, he has remained a party faithful. He has held numerous political appointments,
including the role of Special Assistant on Political Matters to the then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a position from which he contested and won to represent Aboh-Mbaise/Ngor
Okpala Federal Constituency in 2003. His followers have described him as a savvy politician and impressive legislator who has won the hearts and minds of his electorate, but others have described him as shrewd, manipulative and selfish man with indignant reputation and unrivalled commitment to achieve victory at the polls at all cost. Does Ihedioha have the CREST factor to clinch victory at the PDP primaries? While his followers say “yes he can”, his detractors are cynical and believe otherwise. Let time be the arbiter.
Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume
As the country ushered in the 4th Republic with great expectations in 1999, the political stock of certain political aspirants rose but later fell appreciably. One of those people is Ifeanyi Ararume who was elected to senate in 1999 under the umbrella of PDP to represent Okigwe
Senatorial District. He was re-elected in 2003. He was member of Senate Committees on Communications, Police Affairs, Federal Character, Finance & Appropriation, Information and Niger Delta where he was vice chairman. Ararume won the Imo PDP primaries in 2007 but his gubernatorial ambition was essentially dashed by Obasanjo who insisted on fielding a less known Engineer Charles Ugwu. Ararume reportedly made an enemy in Obasanjo while in Senate. People believe it was not unconnected to his lack of support for Obasanjo’s third term ambition while others credit this quagmire to his time in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Ararume went to court, and though he won at the Supreme Court, the party expelled him. This left the door open for little known Ikedi Ohakim of then Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) to emerge victorious and become Imo state governor. Ararume may have the experience and resources, but he is perceived to have lost his grassroot clout and have declining sympathizers within PDP.
Ararume is also perceived to be inconsistent with a dubious pre-politics past. He is known to hop from one party to another in search of greener pasture, only to leave if the party no longer serves his needs. While declaring his intention to run for governorship, Ifeanyi Ararume unambiguously stated, “If there is a free and fair election and I lose, I will support the candidate that emerges with everything I have. But, if the process is compromised and a candidate is imposed on the party, I will equally use everything I have to ensure the candidate fails. I have done it before and I will do it again.” Opponents have accused him of “do or die” politics, being politically reclusive post-election failures, and not bringing the dividends of democracy home when he represented Okigwe zone. However, his followers believe that he deserves the party ticket as a compensation for the ills done to him in 2007. Is this enough for PDP to back Ararume’s perennial desire to head to Douglas house? Does he have the CREST factor? This depends on who you ask.
Senator Chris Anyanwu
Chris Anyanwu is an Mbaise-born, award-winning journalist who in 2007 turned to politics and was elected to represent Owerri Senatorial zone under the umbrella of PDP. She has a reputation for excellence as a journalist and legislator. Between 1995 and 1998 she was a political prisoner, having been charged and convicted by Abacha administration for being an accessory to treason. She was a commissioner in Imo state under Amadi Ikwechegh- led military government and later the publisher of defunct The Sunday Magazine (TSM), a weekly publication which focused on contemporary political issues and how they impacted on the common man.
She is reputed to be a versatile legislator with a number of sponsored bills to her credit. She is also credited with initiating a number of empowerment programs for disadvantaged people within her electorate. However, it has been alleged that she uses her media house, Hot 98.3 FM as a platform to denigrate her opponents. She is also known to have decamped from PDP to All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) before reconciling with PDP. She has the experience and resources to pursue her gubernatorial agenda, but gender factor may well play against her in a patriarchal society where gender equality remains an issue of contention. Is Chris Anyanwu credible, consistent, reliable, electable, sincere and trustworthy? Let PDP primaries decide her fate.
Chief Ikedi Ohakim
Ikedi Ohakim was Imo state governor between 2007 and 2011.
He lost to current governor, Rochas Okorocha but has launched a campaign under the umbrella of PDP to return to Douglas house with his “let’s do it one more time” slogan. Ohakim was originally of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), a platform under which he won the gubernatorial election in 2007 prior to decamping to PDP during the course of his tenure, which at the time was controversial and diminished his electoral credibility and overall CREST factor. However, it is of note that he was one of the founding members of PDP. The Isiala Mbano-born politician undoubtedly has the financial resources and experience to return to Douglas house, but his past is drowned in controversies and his administration riddled by allegations of corruption that people generally believe he doesn’t meet the CREST factor. In June 2009, Imo state under the leadership of Ohakim issued a seven year fixed rate bond valued at N18.5 billion. At the time, the governor said that 7% of the money raised would be used for infrastructure programs such as water supplies, 20% for road construction and repairs, and the remaining 68% for the state government’s investment in Imo Wonder Lake & Conference Centre, Oguta. Ohakim is yet to account for the money raised through this state bond. While
Ikedi Ohakim may well borrow the title of one of his books, Pushing the limits, Courage to Challenge and Challenging New Frontiers as he embarks on this muddy expedition, it is widely believed that he no longer has electoral value and may indeed become a burden during the general election should he clinch the primaries. Does Ohakim possess the CREST factor? Again, PDP primaries will decide his fate, and should they put their faith in Ohakim, the Imo electorate will arbitrate.
Barrister Chuka Odom
Former Minister of Environment, Housing and Urban Development and later Minister of State for FCT, he is considered a credible prospect within PDP because he is young, articulate, versatile, and resourceful yet has the vision and experience to be a serious contender. In spite of the fact that he was a product of Orji Uzo kalu who himself no longer has electoral value in his native Abia state, Odom is a different brand and politically marketable. He was previously of PPA before decamping to PDP. Although his ministerial appointments were short-lived, he is credited to have created numerous employment opportunities for Imo people while he served as the Minister of Environment, Housing and Urban Development. He also has a number of youth empowerment programs which he has initiated to help ameliorate the challenges perennially faced by Imo youth. A believer in hard work, fairness and integrity, in a true democracy, Chuka Odom has the potential for a rise in his political stock, but again his fate lies in PDP primaries, and whether he would be deemed CREST enough to bear the flag is anyone’s guess.
Chief Martin Agbaso
Martin Agbaso has once again set his eyes on becoming Imo state governor, an attempt he has made a number of times. A former senator for Owerri zone and a Special Assistant to the President (Obasanjo) on Ecological Matters, he has the material resources to pursue his perennial ambition. He has been described as a “political prostitute” who jumps from one party to another in search of greener pasture. In 2003, he ran for governorship in Imo state under the umbrella of United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP) and in 2007 ran under the umbrella of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Although he was leading in the polls initially, that election was cancelled unceremoniously by a Maurice Iwu led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Ikedi Ohakim emerged victorious, albeit controversially. Agbaso was said to have been robbed of victory by Independent National Electoral Commission then chaired by an Ohakim sympathizer, Maurice Iwu.
In 2011, Agbaso abandoned his gubernatorial ambition in favour of Rochas Okorocha who then adopted his brother as his running mate under the umbrella of APGA. The relationship soured when his brother Jude Agbaso was implicated in a multi-million Naira contract fraud and later impeached. Agbaso recently left APGA to PDP, and while he may have electoral value in his native Emekuku and possibly Owerri municipality, it is doubtful whether he has the clout to clinch the PDP primaries. He is known to be consistently inconsistent and one who has the potential to loot state coffers. His allies and cronies still believe in him, but it is dubious whether PDP believes in his brand. Is he CREST enough? Let PDP primaries and Imo people pass that judgement.
PDP candidate will bout it out with incumbent Governor Rochas Okorocha
Rochas Okorocha is the incumbent governor of Imo state who was elected in 2011 under the umbrellaof APGA. His populist agenda and philanthropic disposition endeared him to the masses who saw in him a Biblical Joshua who would lead them out of Egypt and into the promised land. Okorocha’s victory at the 2011 polls over then governor Ikedi Ohakim transformed Imo state politics because it was the only time an incumbent governor had been unseated since the creation of the state. Prior to becoming a governor, he had made a number of previous attempts, losing to Achike Udenwa at the gubernatorial PDP primaries in 1999. He later moved to All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and ran unsuccessfully to become their presidential candidate in 2003.
He returned to PDP after his ANPP stint and was rewarded by then President Olusegun Obasanjo who appointed him a Special Adviser on Inter-Party Affairs. He also notably formed the Action Alliance (AA) party in 2005 in an attempt to further his presidential ambition, but later returned to PDP in 2007 where he wanted to become PDP National Chairman. When the marriage failed again, Okorocha decamped as usual but this time to APGA where in 2011 he had the opportunity to fly the flag of the party as its gubernatorial candidate against Ohakim. Albeit controversies, reruns and recounts, he won narrowly. Following the formation of APC, Rochas on March 2, 2013 once again decided against
APGA with his associates and into APC where he was later elected the Chairman of Progressive Governors Forum, a position he holds till date.
As governor, he is said to have dwindling popularity in Imo state but that can only be tested formally at the polls. Besides giving scholarship to Imo indigenes, his overall performance has, in the eyes of many, been average and to some abysmal. He notably embarks upon multiple projects at one time, most of which are left neglected or uncompleted. He is noted to have neglected state owned projects like Adapalm whose staff allege that workers’ salaries have not been paid for months. He has attempted to privatize health services, and had commenced new health centre projects across the state most of which have now been abandoned uncompleted. He initiated a number of new road expansions and improvements only to abandon most of the projects half way.
He suspended elected local government chairmen across the state because they were perceived to be PDP sympathizers. Okorocha is said to be more rhetorical than action-oriented, a man who has no respect for the rule of law and allegedly willing to award contracts to his privately owned companies without a formal bidding process. Okorocha has also essentially abandoned local government areas such as Ikeduru in terms of any infrastructure because it is considered a PDP stronghold which he lost in 2011. Most importantly, Okorocha has placed his electorate at a loss as to what cap he wants to wear come 2015. No one is sure whether he wants to be a Vice President, President or governor, which in itself is confusing at best.
Having said all these, Okorocha is still the incumbent governor of Imo state and still relatively popular in Imo state, in part because of his philanthropy as a private citizen. Historically, he has fared better than all past PDP governors whose tenures were marred by corruption, cronyism and god-fatherism. Should he decide to run for another term, he will give the PDP candidate a good run for his or her money. I suspect that if care is not taken, what happened in PDP in 2011 will repeat itself, a situation in which aggrieved losers decamp to APC to guarantee Okorocha resounding victory come 2015. One thing is certain: PDP gubernatorial prospects are so many and so qualified that the primaries may produce a lot of surprises. However, you may be qualified by law without having the CREST factor to win the hearts and minds of the electorate come 2015 general elections. Indeed, you may see one or perhaps none of the individuals profiled here coming out victorious at the PDP primary polls.
Historically, lesser known candidates have unexpectedly emerged during PDP primaries and this time may not be any different. Who amongst the profiled prospects is CREST enough to be Imo states next governor? Time will tell.