Column Opinion

The Saints And Shaitans Of Imo Politics, By Kelechi Abonuyo


In all the emerging political intrigues in Nigeria, Imo State presents an interesting narrative, which makes it arguably the most political hotbed.
One thing is clear. A political underdog will carry the day at the end of 2019 general election.

Incumbent Governor Rochas Okorocha is fighting ‘‘tooth and nail’’ the fight of his political life. All odds are now seemingly against him. Mr Adams Oshiomhole finished him off by truncating his nascent political dynasty.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) party, where the incumbent governor is begging for survival and permanently taken AWOL to Abuja, is mortally divided. The general feeling amongst the electorate is that Owerri Zone should produce the next governor of the state. That the incumbent governor wants his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu from the same Orlu Zone, to succeed him in office is adding insult to injury. And for this reason alone, his heart has known no peace ever since Senator Hope Uzodimma, another from Orlu Zone, took sleep off his eyes. Sen Hope Uzodimma is now confirmed by APC as the guber candidate.

In any case, Ndi Imo will neither vote for Sen Hope Uzodimma nor Mr Uche Nwosu – a man with no exposure except private service to Rochas Okorocha, who eventually became his father-in-law. Sen Hope Uzodimma himself has been a political mercenary in which he brokers and completes sundry political deals, mostly dirty, on behalf of senior Nigeria politicians. He ended up becoming a senator of the federal republic, in which he represents his Orlu Zone. Today these men are locked up in a court case in Abuja in order to determine who amongst them ultimately wins the ticket for their now unpopular APC party.

In the meantime, Mr Uche Nwosu, together with his father-in-law, is searching and preparing for a soft-landing in a political platform to save his face. He was spotted with Social Democratic Party (SDP), where Chief Okey Eze and his Mbaise brother, Chief Casmir Anyanwu, were said to have ‘‘fitted their legs in one trouser and scuffled’’. Ashen face Uche Nwosu then left to negotiate with AGAP and so on and so forth.

For one thing, Ndi Imo are elated that Sen Hope Uzodimma, despite his un-endearing political characteristics, has so far stopped Gov Okorocha and his puppet son-in-law. For all these scenarios and the devil’s advocate which Sen Hope Uzodimma plays, Ndi Imo also give kudos to Alhaji Gulak, the returning officer of their party primaries, which produced Sen Hope Uzodimma as the party’s flag bearer in the first instance. Alhaji Gulak blatantly refused to be used by the incumbent governor. He escaped death by whiskers and from Imo State in a funny circumstance.

And here is the real gist! The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) party is dead and the funeral or akwamozu is currently taking place. ‘‘And the disease which killed it will surely follow it to the grave’’ – in the way Igbos refer to a hopeless situation. APGA contracted the disease which killed it in Amawbia in Awka, Anambra State. The disease vectors were the party chairman, Ozonkpu Victor Oye, and the party leader, Gov Willie Obiano.

It came to pass that Ndi Igbo looked inwards and told themselves some gospel truth regarding Nigeria as is presently constituted. They decided to take the bull by the horn. In order to achieve this, they saw APGA as their regional party, through which they can emancipate their people, who are unwelcomed and marginalised in President Mohammadu Buhari’s Nigeria. Some good spirited technocrats aspired to govern Imo State, using APGA as the platform. Fearing that APGA will recover the entire south-eastern states, especially the Igbo mother states of Anambra and Imo, and therefore liberate Ndi Imo from the various aspects of their life’s ugly circumstances, the Buhari led Federal government supposedly planted a mole to thwart the process.

The APGA should have been the best possible Igboman’s option in Nigerian politics, using the success in Anambra as a template. Regarding President Buhari’s treachery, three Igbomen fell for it. The duo, Ozonkpu Victor Oye and Gov Willie Obiano, took money and sold their brothers for a presidential porridge – a penny really, with unloved Sen Ifeanyi Ararume as a willing mole. A popular sentimental Biafran song, full of emotions, is now sung about them. The song talks about, ‘‘How Biafran brothers went to war, but on the way, a brother was bought over to betray and sabotage the course of their life.’’

Sen Ifeanyi Ararume is from Okigwe Zone, which had had a fairer share of time in government than Owerri Zone, but which also has a genuine case to make in the years in guber office. His picking the APGA ticket through dubious arrangements meant that APGA died. He is surely unloved, having contested and lost the guber race serially. He came to APGA with loads of APC party men and women. There is this apathy for him from Ndi Imo, after former president Olusegun Obasanjo publicly rubbished him on account of his wanton character. He was not an APGA member.

Regarding the energy expended by the true APGA aspirants, including party men and women, in the grassroots mobilisation and building of the party and the eventual usurpation, Ndi Imo explain the circumstance as follows: ‘‘When birds want to lay eggs, they carry materials about in order to build a suitable nest. If, after building such suitable nests, a snake comes to live in it, the heap of materials can no longer be called a nest, despite that a bird built it. It may be called anything really but definitely not a nest. A nest is nest because a bird lives in it, regardless of who or what built it.’’

The true APGA members scattered throughout Imo State. The resulting explosion meant that the rest of the aspirants at all levels formed a New All Progressives Grand Alliance (N-APGA), with Rt Hon Ike C Ibe, from Okigwe Zone, as their consensus guber candidate. N-APGA has taken traction, with litigation against the now dubbed APC-APGA, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) and Sen Ifeanyi Ararume. The court process aims to achieve many ends. Some of the ends are to upturn the usurpation by Sen Ifeanyi Ararume, to hand over the party leadership for criminal prosecution by Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to ask INEC to conduct real primaries, or to ultimately leave the position vacant, etc. All these, altogether, has kick-started the akwamozu or funeral of APGA in the eyes of Ndi Igbo. Its eventual burial will be at the general election, 2019.

And what are the throwbacks from these intrigues? At the moment, three important Okigwe Zone candidates are in the race. Former Gov Ikedi Ohakim is the flag bearer of Accord party, a credible alternative to Ndi Imo/Igbo. Rt Hon Ike C Ibe is the candidate of Independent Democrats party in which the New APGA members have emptied into. He has most old and aggrieved APGA members behind him, including most former aspirants and State Working Committee members, under APGA. Sen Ifeanyi Ararume dubiously bears the APC-APGA flag, with heavy litigations weighing down on him. Okigwe Zone has done about half of 16yrs, which Orlu Zone will have completed at the end of incumbent Gov Rochas Okorocha’s second term next year.

Ike ibbe
.Ike ibe

Many permutations are in favour of Rt Hon Ike C Ibe and His Excellency Ikedi Ohakim, who is bound to do one term of 4yrs, having been the executive governor 2007 – 2011. His bait at the end of his hook is a long line to support and hand over to an Owerri Zone man in 2023. Many people of Owerri Zone extraction say 4yrs is not such a long wait after all. And so some Owerri Zone people are even providing the sinker. Two guber aspirants, at the run off of APGA aborted primaries, stepped down for Chief Ikedi Ohakim on account of this consideration. Chief (Capt) David Mbamara and Engr Austin Okere are prominent in this narrative. Chief Ikedi Ohakim is in top gear with consultations and campaigns.

Rt Hon Ike C Ibe has on his broad shoulders the burden to quickly unveil his nominations to key positions. On top of that, he has the enormous followership of former APGA guber aspirants and the grassroots of APGA, including those who see APGA as core Igbo. He is working round the clock to tighten loose ends before mischief makers ‘‘pour sand into his garri’’, as we say in local parlance. And by next week, events hopefully will shape up in this regard. The first time that Rt Hon Ike C Ibe missed being the governor of Imo State was in 2007, when conspiracies of those who have let of down for too long worked. During that time, former Gov Achike Udenwa left confusion and frustration in the wake of his exit.

The next is Sen Ararume, who runs with APC-APGA, which is a ‘‘done for’’ in the eyes of the electorate for real. Both Rt Hon Ike C Ibe and Sen Ifeanyi Ararume will do two terms of 8yrs, unless they promise and fulfil what Angels can’t even do talkless of Nigerian politicians in the act of one term tenure promises. And even if anyone of them doesn’t, the two terms will equalise the time already did by Orlu Zone, leaving the guber race incontestable for Owerri Zone in 2027.

Already there have been clandestine movements around Chief Ikedi Ohakim, with the present Deputy Gov Madumere and other heavy weights flocking around or making contacts to Ikedi Ohakim Street in Prefab Owerri. Sometimes they meet offshore in Abuja and other hideouts in Owerri. Similarly there have been mass movements towards Rt Hon Ike C Ibe and a planned international press conference by members of core APGA in his favour. Political kingdoms are building fast; others are collapsing at the same rate, in the view that what happened in 2007 guber election will repeat itself in Imo State. Phone calls are also flying up and down in the same desperation that fraudsters made phone calls from Awka to Owerri before the aborted APGA primaries.

In Owerri Zone, the only visible candidate is Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is embroiled in a court case with Sen Samuel Anyanwu, his runners up, who vowed to put a political stud to the ankle of his ambition. Sen Sam Anyanwu has long joined Young Democratic Party of Nigeria (YDP) party as their guber candidate, leaving Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha to contend with the public opinion on his character and history. Both men are now in the business of making frantic distress calls to their local and Abuja political contacts in order to undo each other. It is now a last fight and a cry for help.

Many thought that Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha’s chances were enhanced with the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as PDP presidential candidate. Rumour now has it that the two PDP ticket-bearing politicians have some grave scores to settle. Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha fought tooth and nail to stop Atiku’s emergence, when he brazenly supported his bosom friend Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and by not clearing some possible Atiku delegates from Imo State. Alhaji Atiku took it to heart and would want to have a pound of his flesh if the exit presidential poll favours him next year. Rt Hon Ihedioha’s circumstance made Chief Ikedi Ohakim leap with joy.
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) parades Chief Casmir Anyanwu, who is from Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha’s Mbaise Clan. Chief Okey Eze is also contending or may have even got the ticket. Chief Anyanwu is core Mbaise. Mbaise clan will likely coalesce around him, having been a system man and husband to astitute politician Sen Chris Anyanwu.

In the overall analyses, politicians from Mbaise clan are fanning the ambers of the stigma already ascribed to them. Mbaise paraded untold number of guber aspirants, who are unwilling to step down for another. They are unyielding. For instance Bar Steve Nwoga, from Mbaise, accepted to deputize Sen Ifeanyi Ararume in spite of five other guber aspirants from there; namely, Okey Eze, Tony Nwulu, Tony Njoku, Casmir Anyanwu, Emeka Ihedioha (in no order of superiority).

We were told that a certain intrigue played out in the conclave that produced Rt Hon Ike C Ibe as the consensus candidate of the 17 aggrieved APGA guber aspirants. At the requests of guber aspirants from other zones, all negotiations to get Owerri Zone to produce a consensus candidate from amongst them couldn’t bear any fruit, even if unripe one. After the first round of the ballot was a tally, the entire aspirants from Mbaise clan gave him a block vote to topple Dr Sam Amadi from Ngor Okpala. Before the conclave, aspirants felt that it was right for an Owerri Zone man to be elected. But seeing and reading the handwriting on the wall that it may not possibly be a man of Mbaise clan from Owerri Zone, with grievance those folks from Mbaise clan in turn decided to cede the outcome over to Okigwe Zone instead.

They did so in order to lump and populate Okigwe Zone with three strong candidates in the persons of Ikedi Ohakim, Ike C Ibe and Ifeanyi Ararume. The game is that, if they (Mbaise Aspirants) decided to seek another political platform to realise their ambition, they would easily win, being the only candidate from Owerri Zone. So they thought. But in reality, their vote for Ike C Ibe may not be out of love, especially as most of them, true to permutations, are now seeking alternative political platforms.

Since then, I repeat, Bar Steve Nwoga is now a running mate to Sen Ifeanyi Ararume, after Prof Aloysius Ukachukwu Awuzie refused the offer purely on principle and in direct show of disgust to anything relating to APC and Corruption. Chief Okey Eze is trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at SDP, where Chief Casmir Anyanwu is holding tight to the guber ticket. Chief Frank Nneji and Chief Bright Nwanne, both from Mbaise, may have retired to their businesses or supporting Rt Hon Ike C Ibe or are watching from a distance.

In the mainstream Owerri Zone, Chief Humphrey Anumodu is still building structures with the remnants of old APGA aspirants at Zenith party, which is a cousin to Labour party.
And what if Rt Hon Ike C Ibe succeeds in distributing the available positions equitably to old APGA guber aspirants? The whole world of victory will be in his palm, with the soul of Ndi Imo to impress. Or, what if he is cajoled to support Chief Ikedi Ohakim so [that] he can take Okigwe senatorial ticket? The possible outcome will be that history will repeat itself, when, in 2007, Chief Ohakim came from behind from a relatively unknown party to clinch victory. Let’s assume ignorance of the role played by Prof Maurice Iwu of INEC in that year. Most Owerri Zone aspirants from old APGA are willing to wait another 4-8yrs, during which they will re-strategise for a sure comeback and support from Okigwe Zone and the incumbent governor. Ndi-Imo want to hear the sounds of the new direction from New APGA. The intrigues are ‘‘behuge’’.

This game is unending. Every day brings new materials and intrigues. It is a game of the Saints and the Shaitans – the strong hearted men.

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