By Justice Nwafor
The candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Emeka Ihedioha, was on 13 March, 2019, declared winner of Imo State gubernatorial election that held on March 9.
Mr. Ihedioha won 11 of the 27 local government areas of the state, while his closest rival at the polls, Mr. Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance, (AA) won 10.
The governor-elect garnered 273,404 votes as against Mr. Nwosu’s 190,364 votes.
The candidate of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) Hope Uzodinma, came a distant fourth with 96,458 votes. He won in two LGAs. While Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), came third with 114,676 votes, winning in four LGAs.
A former governor of the state and candidate of the Accord Party, (AP), Ikedi Ohakim, recieved 6,846 votes, without winning any local government area in the 70-man contest.
In this analysis, JUSTICE NWAFOR looks at how the shortcomings of the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha of the APC gifted the state to PDP at the recently held polls.
Mr. Okorocha was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in 2011. He rode to power on the horseback of his philanthropic precedence, crushing the then incumbent governor, Ikedi Ohakim at the polls.
Many saw his arrival as the coming of the long-awaited messiah who would liberate his people from the hands of an oppressor, which Mr. Ohakim was then seen as. In 2015, he won a re-election, on the platform of APC, defeating Mr. Ihedioha with a slim margin. After his re-election, many believe, he unleashed the “real” him.
“During his first term in office, he performed relatively well. He paid salaries as and when due, and had good policies in place. “Imolites thought we had seen Okorocha not until he was re-elected in 2015 then he showed us the real Okorocha”, Chidiebere James, an Imo electorate told CRISPNG.COM
Mr. Okorocha was a ranking member of the APC at the national level, having headed the Progressives Governors Forum – a forum of APC governors – and was seen as an ally of President Muhammadu Buhari. Also, as the only APC governor in the southeast, he was seen as a strategic member through whom other states in the zone would be captured.
However, while he was blaring at the national level, he failed to keep the state chapter of the party United. Imo APC boiled and disintegrated.
“Trouble started when Okorocha openly expressed his wish for his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, to succeed him, and went ahead to nominate him. This led to fracas in the party”, Uche Eneogwe, a public affairs analyst, said.
According to Ms Toochi Onyeubi, an Imo based journalist “this balkanized the party along the coalition group and the Agburu anyi group”.
Demolition of Eke-Ukwu Owerri Market
One of the straws the broke the party’s back is the demolition of Eke-Ukwu Owerri market. Past administrations in the state had expressed reservations on the location of the very busy market at the heart of Owerri – Douglas road – but failed to demolish it.
Perhaps, they noticed it would cause more harm than good – increase unemployment and youth restiveness and crime. As well as the political undertone Owerri zone would see in it.
But Okorocha, maybe, did not see the risks, or bluntly ignored them, giving credence to Ms Onyeubi’s description of the governor as “Mr know it all”.
The death of 12-year old Somtoochukwu during demolition of the market, which Mr Eneogwe said, took the people by surprise added salt to the injury.
“The annoying aspect is that he denied that the little boy died the day he unleashed bulldozers on the poor market men and women, while the boy’s mother wailed uncontrollably, having lost his only son” the political analyst explained.
With this in mind, Owerri zone and Imolites vowed to root out Okorocha and anything connected to him at the polls, the smooth-speaking journalist revealed.
Urban Renewal Policy and Land Grabbing
The Okorocha led government embarked on what it described as urban renewal drive on commencement of its second tenure. Old and strategic infrastructures in the state were demolished and were replaced with ‘new’ ones.
But the new were not actually new as the people preferred the old and solid structures that were demolished.
A media consultant, Mr Noble Ogechi described the new structures as “shambolic”. According to him, the structures, especially the roads could not stand the test of a single rainy season.
In the words of Ms Onyeubi, “Okorocha’s works were very substandard, that Imolites termed them China roads or Road shining. He used the wrong people to execute the right jobs. Cheap labour of Hausa/Fulani guys doing what seasoned engineers should do, led to poor jobs that couldn’t even stand six months.”
As the demolitions were ongoing, he grabbed any piece of land he or any of his family members wished and dared the owners. He dared them because even if they get a court injunction against him, he would not obey it, Mr Eneogwe added.
Slashing of salaries/non-payment of pension
While other state governments, like Osun, during the heat of recession failed to pay civil servants’ salaries, Imo paid. But not fully.Long after the recession, while others pay as and when due, Imo pays quite late and not fully, still.
This pitched the entire civil service workforce against the governor. There were also complaints of pensioners not being paid.
“Death toll of pensioners increased under his administration. Only last week, a retired pensioner cried out that Okorocha’s non-payment of his late wife’s 50 months pension was part of what led to her death”, Ms Onyeubi revealed.
Guber ambition of the Governor’s Son-in-law
“The reason for the lose of APC at the polls is the imposition of Uche Nwosu as its gubernatorial candidate against the wish of the party members and stakeholders. This divided the party and Hope Uzodinma eventually became the flag bearer.
“There was Fracas in the party. Okorocha organised a party for Uche Nwosu – AA – and his entire structure left with him. This wrecked APC in the state”, Mr Eneogwe said.
“On the other hand, no Imolite, ideally, wanted anything do with Okorocha. His sins were so many. APC is Okorocha’s party while AA is his son in-law’s. This made PDP the new bride” he explained further.
With Emeka Ihedioha having contested against the incumbent in 2015, and being seen as a departure from the Okorochas, Imo people turned to PDP.
“Uche Nwosu is seen by many as a puppet of Okorocha, this is because of the fact that he has been part and parcel of the administration of the state and he has made no effort in condemning the policies of Okorocha which many saw as anti-human.
“Even if Okorocha had raised Christ from the dead, APC would have still lost the election, as many believe that Okorocha would have still had a hand in the government”, Mr Noble concludes.
“Even if Okorocha had raised Christ from the dead, APC would have still lost the election…”