Ex-deputy speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha against all odds defeated four strong contenders to clinch Imo Government House. Chidiebere Iwuoha writes on the intrigues and reactions following the declaration of the result.
Background to the election
Prior to the 2019 governorship election on 9th of March, close observers of current political developments in Imo state knew that the governor would emerge from the list of five top contenders from five major political parties in the state. The reasons were obvious: the rotational arrangements and the yearning for tangible infrastructural and development strides.
Under the APC administration led by outgoing Governor Rochas Okorocha, the people have generally heard promises and loud-mouthed and often elephant projects that neither materialized nor have any tangible impact in their lives.
First though, among the five top contenders that were in contention, only Chief Emeka Ihedioha from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hails from Owerri Zone (Imo East), the zone that has continued to lay claim to the fact that it is their turn to produce the next governor of the state.
Other zones like Orlu (Imo West) and Okigwe (Imo North) had two candidates each as contenders, a situation that narrowed the choice of candidate to the candidate from Owerri zone and they are Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Chief Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) (Orlu Zone). Also, Sir Ikedi Ohakim of the Accord Party and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Okigwe Zone) were equally in contention.
It was clear from the above arrangement that the Imo electorate would have political sympathy for the candidate from Owerri zone, Ihedioha as against the other candidates from other zones.
Again, the Owerri people who had the belief that it is their turn to seize the opportunity to demonstrate it in practical terms that it is indeed theirs and they were ready and willing to traverse oceans to actualise their turn. That probably may have been the reason why during the election, they made sure that the nine local government areas in the zone were intact for their son, Ihedioha.
The two other local government areas in Orlu and Okigwe won by Ihedioha, namely Oguta and Obowo were possible because one, Oguta is the local government area of Ihedioha’s running mate, Hon Gerald Irona who had been in the House of Representatives, been in the House of Assembly, been the chairman of Oguta LGA and is the political son to popular senator in the area, Senator Arthur Nzeribe. Surely, his grassroots connection was never in doubt and he delivered.
Obowo, on the other hand had some political personalities who supported Ihedioha notably Engr Charles Ugwu, who was Minister for Commerce and Industries under President Yar’Adua administration. So, while Ihedioha swept Owerri Zone, he went to Orlu and grabbed Oguta and went to Okigwe and grabbed Obowo, while Uzodinma and Nwosu on one hand and Araraume and Ohakim were busy fighting themselves.
So from onset the direction the election would go was obvious: Ihedioha was regarded as the candidate to beat in the election throughout Imo state. He was regarded as the most intelligent and the best achiever among all the top contenders.
Prior to the election, he had appeared on a radio programme and told Imo people what he had achieved while representing Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okala federal constituency and those things endeared him to the people and in fact people from other parts of Imo state who believe given the chance he could extend same benevolence to them. His equitable representation stretched beyond Imo state to other parts of the South east.
After that, almost everybody in the state knew he was good to go. When the election was eventually conducted, news of favourable polls from PDP agents all over the state pointed to the fact that he had the upper hand.
Thus, the majority of Imolites had renewed hope that he would eventually be declared winner and that it was a matter of time before that would be actualized. Towards the end of the announcement of results, when it remained only three local government areas to be announced namely, Owerri North, Ngor Okpala, which is one of the areas in the state that have numerical or voting strength (both are Ihedioha’s strongholds) and the controversial Ideato South result (Okorocha’s LGA) which had earlier been rejected by the PDP because of the belief that it was doctored by some electoral officers and AA agents, Imo people became convinced that Ihedioha was going to carry the day.
He had the highest number of votes and when that of Ideato South was announced by the returning officer, Prof Francis Otunta, it became insignificant because it had then became clear that the results of the two local government areas mentioned above would cancel out whatever figure the APC and AA had from Ideato South.
At this moment, people started jubilating. While at the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Owerri, precisely at the collation centre, people started jubilating marked by drinking of all sorts of alcoholic and other drinks. In fact, some demonstrated their happiness by removing from the street posters of Uche Nwosu, in particular. And when Ihedioha was eventually declared winner, people drank and celebrated all night.
Reactions of Imo residents
From reactions of Imo people, it was clear that the majority were on the same page. Comrade Emeka Akujiobi, who is the Youth Leader of Umuorie Naze in Owerri North LGA and the Executive Director, Global Educational Services and Consultants, expressed happiness over the victory. He said he contributed immensely to the victory by mobilizing over 500 voters that voted for him without money.
He advised Ihedioha to identify all Imo state owned properties and recover them from Okorocha and ensure that any project done by the state must be in line with the desire of the people.
Also reacting, a chieftain of the PDP, Nze Akujobi thanked God for giving Ihedioha victory because according to him, God saved Imo people from the wicked hands of Okorocha who wanted to enslave them by imposing his son-in-law on them after being at the helm of affairs for eight years.
Comrade Frank Adindu, who said he got drunk for the first time in his life when he heard of Ihedioha’s victory, thanked God for ensuring the end of the era of familiocracy and “iberiberism” in the state, adding that the new Imo would now belong to all. They in unison urged the governor-elect to do everything to unite Imo people and end the enmity which the Okorocha administration brought to the state like pitching the oil producing areas against the rest of the state.