Had the original electoral timetable released by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), been upheld, Imo like most other States in the Federation would have had a Governor-elect and an outgoing Governor by now. It is also possible that the present Governor would have been re-elected. However the shift in election dates have seriously affected the chances of the governorship contenders as it has also seen a change in styles adopted by the candidates of different political Parties in canvassing for the support of the electorates. Notwithstanding the general lull in campaigns across the State, the people are watching the candidates and taking their decisions.
In all, there are about twenty governorship candidates in Imo State, however, there are about three of them who have realistic chances of being elected by majority of Imolites. Considering Imo’s history of throwing up political surprises, it will amount to an erroneous analysis if one dismisses all the other candidates as pretenders. From the lot of about twenty other governorship candidates who are considered by a good number of analysts as political wannabes, there are three such candidates who must be closely watched. Therefore, I shall attempt to analyze the styles and chances of six governorship candidates in all, albeit with more attention paid to the ‘big three’.
THE BIG THREE
In this category falls those whose candidacies have the widest connection with the people, and whose images are most visible to the people.
ROCHAS OKOROCHA: He is the incumbent, hence, is expected to be the mostpopular. Okorocha who came into power in 2011 as a result of the combination of the loquacious support by a section of Imo people and what has been discovered to be some high level sabotage from Abuja based godfathers, has experienced an unprecedented nosedive in both support bases, as his opponents accuse him of having frittered the massive goodwill he enjoyed from a cross section of Imolites in 2011 due to his deficiency in leadership skills.
Okorocha’s publicists and campaign managers have relied heavily on harping on some of his people oriented policies and programs, which include; his unprecedented free education program from primary to tertiary level, his massive road constructions and rehabilitations, prompt payment of teachers’ salaries and allowances paid to civil servants during the yuletide, etc. Most of his supporters also claim that he is down to earth and friendly to the poor. However, those opposed to his return to office have consistently refuted most of the developmental strides he arrogates to himself. For instance, the so much vaunted free education policy has been found to be an insidious cesspool of corruption initiated by the Okorocha administration to bleed the States resources dry. One wonders what is free in an education in which every civil servant in the State is compelled to part with an appreciable percentage of his or her monthly salaries, and other illegal deductions which the Governor is usually blamed on free education. The Okorocha government’s explanation that it wasted about two hundred billion LGA funds collected from 2011 till date in funding the free education program, has got a good number of Imolites confused.
The Governor’s most formidable campaign instrument is propaganda which his opponents claim are built on deceit and lies. For whatever it is worth, the Governor has been able to amass the support of most rural dwellers and illiterates who pay no heed to the analyses of eggheads and their likes. For them, as long as our children go to school without disturbing us over school fees, Owelle we know. Okorocha’s sole dependence on this class of voters for his victory places him at a very dangerous angle, as it is clear that an unassailable percentage of the elites and middle class are irrevocably opposed to his return to office. When one considers that these two classes of the population play pivotal roles in determining the swing of power in every society, it will be fair to conclude that Okorocha’s chances are not as bright as he might want his supporters to believe.
The controversies trailing the governorship candidacy of the PeoplesDemocratic Party in Imo State makes it impossible for me to attach any name to this column. PDP supporters in the State are torn between several options as the case on who is the authentic flag bearer of the Party is subject to litigation. While Emeka Ihedioha is the declared and INEC recognized PDP candidate, the duo of Senator Ararume and former Governor Ikedi Ohakim are laying stringent claims to the ticket. Ararume insists that the Party’s primary election was marred by fraud, yet claims to be the actual winner. The former Governor, Ikedi Ohakim appears to have a more impervious argument, as his case relies on the Constitution of the Party, which makes it explicit that those who fail to pay their annual subscriptions to the Party as at and when due lose their membership rights. According to Ohakim’s legal team, the duo of Emeka Ihedioha and Ararume are not qualified to have taken part in that primary election, as according to them, they defaulted in paying their annual subscriptions to the Party.
This brings us to a situation where the triumvirate of Ohakim, Ihedioha and Ararume are assumed to still be in the race and on the platform of the same political Party. Hence, my concern here is going to be about the strategy of the Party and its chances, and not any individual candidate.
The PDP goes to the electorates with the message of redemption, claiming to have done well in the twelve years it held sway in the State and promising to return Imo to the days of prosperity. The array of political mountain movers and leaders who are in the PDP makes the PDP appear invincible, as much as these leaders constitute a formidable asset in the PDP’s quest for political power, they are also a liability in lockstep; there are people who would have voted for the PDP, but for this array of political heavyweights who are seen by the ordinary people as buccaneers and oppressors will rather give their votes to a candidate more detached from such people, vice versa.
Like I wrote elsewhere, the intractable crises that have trailed the conduct of the PDP governorship primary may actually play out to the overall good of the Party at the polls. If three of its most formidable members will stand firm in their push to be named the Party’s governorship candidate, it will go a long way in strengthening the Party’s chances of winning the governorship.
Apart from having Imo’s political establishment intact within its ranks, the PDP in the State also harbours a majority of those who are disenchanted with the present government for the right or wrong reasons. For instance, a group of contractors who operate under a hastily formed group called- Unpaid Imo Contractors (UPIC) have been buying up airtime in different radio stations and going on street protests to protest against the State government’s refusal to pay them for jobs done. They claim that the State government owes them a total sum of one hundred and eighty billion Naira, blaming the death of about nineteen of their colleagues on the State government’s recalcitrance in paying up this outrageous bill. The APC government in the State have dismissed their claims as fictitious, alleging that they were part of the instruments of blackmail employed by the PDP in its desperation to retake power.
Some observers have suggested that the seeming contentiousness of the PDP governorship ticket may be a deliberate strategy by the Party to ensure that it tactically compels its three biggest horses to work for the overall good of the Party in the governorship election. This suggestion may not be totally wrong, as the continuous push by these three politicians for the ticket will ensure that the supporters of each of them votes for the Party, hence, making it possible for the Party to maintain a serious edge over other Parties. Should the PDP go into the election with the trio of Ohakim, Ihedioha and Ararume insisting on their right to the governorship candidacy of the Party, then, other Parties contending for the governorship may trail. However, it will not be as easy for the Party if it is left for just one person. For the PDP to have any realistic chance of wresting power from the incumbent there must be a strong cohesion- either forced or deliberate- between the top leaders of the Party, including the three leading governorship aspirants.
CAPTAIN EMMA IHEANACHO: The Emekuku born oil tycoon and philanthropist is one candidate that has lots of things going for him. But for the lack of a formidable political platform, Chief Iheanacho’s victory at the polls would have been a concluded matter.
He is one candidate who can boast of as much popular support from among the ordinary masses as the incumbent. Like, Okorocha, a good number of Imolites see Iheanacho as a wonderful philanthropist and benevolent leader who is not detached from the people.
Iheanacho’s biggest undoing is his seeming haste in abandoning the PDP. Pundits argue that had Captain remained in the PDP, he would have stood a good chance of winning the Party’s ticket, and had he being the one holding the Party’s ticket, then, the PDP can go to bed, being sure that they have got a man who can comfortably coast home to victory in the election, without relying on any special external help.
Iheanacho’s edge over other candidates in the race is that while Okorocha enjoys heart warming support from among the masses and Chief Emeka Ihedioha gets most of his support from Imo’s political establishment, Iheanacho enjoys good support from the two classes of the population. He has no serious issues to grind with the elite and he connects well with the ordinary people.
His choice of Ike C. Ibe is a game changer. The vibrant and youth friendly politician and former lawmaker helps Iheanacho navigate areas he may not be comfortable daring, alone. Ike C. Ibe is seen by a wide range of Imolites as one of the few politicians without dent and he is well connected to the youths, who see him as one of their own and a fine role model. His link with Dee Sam Mbakwe, who till date stands out among Imo’s best political leaders is also a huge boost to the APGA ticket.
While the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is not as formidable as the PDP and APC in the State, its history as an Igbo Party gives it some marketing edge ahead of the other Parties. Left to the aged voters in the rural communities and an unassailable majority of the Biafran war veterans, there is no other Party outside APGA, but the problem lies in APGA’s capacity to look out for these classes of voters and motivate them to come out on the day of the election and vote.