The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has not produced a Governor in Imo State since 2007, yet no one has become the Governor of the State without benefiting from the political infrastructure of that Party. The PDP has continued to fail in Imo State not because it is hated by the people, but because it is hated by its members. Those who should be at the forefront working for the Party’s success are the same people who have put in all their efforts into working for the downfall of the Party. That is the history of the PDP crisis in the State.
Left to ordinary Imolites, Imo is a one Party State and that Party is the Peoples’ Democratic Party, but the leaders and those who claim to own the Party have consistently worked to destroy that Party, not because of any reason of principles, but because of selfish interests. I have never owned a membership card of the People’ Democratic Party, but I have followed that Party’s activities since its inception in 1999. Even though, I was not qualified to vote then, I followed campaigns and enjoyed the fun and thrills of political talks among some of my elders.
It will not be very wrong to assert that the crisis within the Peoples’ Democratic Party in Imo State started from the day that Party berthed in Imo State. The only difference between then and now is that the leadership that was in place at inception was more selfless and visionary in handling the crisis, hence, there was always a way of coming around it to achieve success for the general interest of that Party.
The PDP struggled to survive the implosion of 2003, when it took some unprecedented levels of political and electoral magic to deliver the Party in all the elections it won in that year. There were few incumbent Governors in the country that had it as rough as Chief Udenwa before they succeeded in winning their reelections. Some political commentators still believe that the Hope Uzodimma/Ikedi Ohakim ticket of the Alliance for Democracy actually won that election, but for the rigging machinery of the then ruling Party, who announced whatever results were written from Abuja. Hope Uzodimma, Ikedi Ohakim and indeed most of those who tried to torpedo the PDP’s second term chance in 2003, were all PDP members, before they were pushed out of the Party as a result of some undemocratic practices.
Immediately after the 2003 elections, moves were made to reconcile aggrieved members of the Party. These efforts no doubt yielded good results as most of those who defected from the PDP rejoined en masse, having been assured by the Party hierarchy of fair play and equity in the running of the Party’s affairs. These commitments were not kept by many members of the Party. Less than two years after the 2003 elections, all peace accords were thrown to the trash bin, as high level horse-trading, sabotages and all dirty tricks known to the world of politics came to play.
Two strong factions of the Party emerged in the State. One which was led by Abuja based politicians and businessmen and funded by individuals like Senators Ifeanyi Ararume, Chris Anyanwu, Arthur Nzeribe, Chief Tony Ezenna, and many other Abuja big boys swept the structure of the Party off the hands of a sitting Governor, whose loyalists going by the name, Onongono were relegated to tea boys within the Party they earlier had control over. Moneybags bought over the Party from Abuja, and the structure of the Party was shared among them. No real election was conducted to fill any Party office, in the charade called Party congresses from ward to State level.
At the primaries proper, it became a game of who has the biggest money to share, as the Party delegates got priced off like you would price off a Christmas goat at the Ekeonunwa market. Before the primaries, some of the over thirty candidates who expressed interest in running for the governorship under the PDP platform, had seen the incoming implosion within the Party, and found their way to other Parties, while many others completely folded up their campaigns for that elections. One of those who remained in the race is Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, who became the candidate of the brand new Progressive Peoples Alliance, founded and funded by his friend and former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu.
The primaries which was originally scheduled for the 9th of December, 2006 was put off midway, as a result of power outage which many people believed was a sabotage by supporters of a particular aspirant who smelt that the process was not going in his favour. At the rescheduled primaries on the 13th of December, a Wednesday, the process which lingered till the next day failed to produce a clear winner after the trio of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, Hope Uzodimma and Tony Ezenna of the Orange Drugs fame ran head to head with one another. Going by the PDP’s rule at the time which specified that for any candidate to be declared winner at the election, he or she must not only win but must score two third majority of the vote, Senator Ararume’s 2,069 was not up to the two third majority as required by the PDP Constitution and guidelines, neither was Hope Uzodimma’s 1,649 nor Tony Ezenna’s 1,388.
At that point, the right thing would have been for the National headquarters of the Party to decide on who among these candidates would fly its flag at the primaries. But, instead of going about this in a peaceful, transparent and matured manner, officials of the Party opened a serious business out of this and seemed ready to cede the ticket to not just the highest bidder, but to the candidate with the closest links to Aso Rock. Initially, the luck fell on Chief Tony Ezenna who came third in the primaries and the then State Chairman of the Party, Marcelinus Nlemigbo announced him as the anointed candidate. This was received with protestations from members of Chief Ararume’s Destiny Organization, led by Chief Bonny Ejiogu who addressed another press conference after some of their members had gone to unleash mayhem on the State officials of the Party doing their legitimate businesses at the Party’s office along Egbu road. Eventually, Senator Ararume used his contacts in Abuja to ensure that his name was submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the duly nominate candidate of the Party.
This development rattled the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency and some higher echelons within the Party in Abuja, who swung into action and had the ‘error’ corrected, albeit, erroneously. Chief Charles Ugwu who came a distant 13th position with a paltry 32 votes in the primaries had his name submitted to the electoral umpire, after Senator Ararume’s name had been illegally substituted. The Supreme court was to eventually restore Ararume’s position as the candidate of the Party.
Feeling spited, President Olusegun Obasanjo flew into Owerri, the Imo State capital and announced to bewildered and crisis weary Party supporters that the PDP will not be fielding a candidate for the election. Thence, begun a hot search for an alternative candidate from any of the smaller Parties, but who has links with the PDP and who would be easily sold to the electorates within the few days remaining into that election. The choice of Martin Agbaso was aborted midway into the April 14th elections, while Chief Ikedi Ohakim who is a founding member of the PDP in the State, but who had to leave for the PPA after seeing through the Tsunami that the PDP was later to experience. The choice of Ohakim flew without hitches and on the 28th of April, 2007, Imolites, coordinated by the PDP political infrastructure went to the polls to elect the New Face ideologist as their Governor.
After scaling through forty legal mines placed on his way by his opponents, Chief Ohakim kept faith with the Party after his heart and formally rejoined the Party on July 29th 2009 at a well-attended rally held at the Dan Anyiam stadium, Owerri. The technocrat and leadership consultant turned politician immediately swung into action as he immediately commenced the process of rebuilding the Party from the scratch.
From renting a new office for the Party, which could not boast of any State secretariat for more than two years, Ohakim, with the full support of the late President Yaradua, engineered the process of democratically setting up a leadership structure for the Party from ward to State level. The Party was already on one page and was cruising home to a seamless victory in the 2011 elections before the death of President Umoru Yaradua ensured that the same cabal who believed that they either get what they want in the Party, or they sink the Party returned to the creeks against the Party. Like always, they reactivated all their lying machineries to Abuja and told all kind of lies to President Jonathan, who ignorantly sanctioned most of their projects against the Party.
During the governorship primaries of the Party in 2011, machineries were put in place to deny the incumbent Governor, Ikedi Ohakim the ticket, but this project fell like a pack of cards as Ohakim swept his way to easy victory, as most of the Party leaders owe him a lot of gratitude for resurrecting the Party from the dead.
At the governorship election proper on the 26th of April, 2011, Dr. Ohakim was projected as cruising home to victory before Professor Akobundu who was the INEC Returning Officer for that election received a mysterious phone call, after which he declared the election inconclusive. The real story behind the sudden disappearance of the INEC Returning Officer for Ohaji-Egbema LGA remains a wonder till date. At the rescheduled election on May 6th, 2011, Governor Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was declare winner of the election without voting tallies from the entire Oguta LGA with over 200,000 registered voters. Not a few analysts believe that this level of electoral machinations and political sabotage against a sitting Governor would not have been possible without the connivance of some of his Party leaders.
The 2014 PDP primaries in Imo State turned out to be the most expensive in the entire country, as Party delegates milked candidates dry before the main election. This is because certain individuals who feel that they owned the Party decided to replay the drama of 2007 in the State. The same issues that held the Party down in 2003, 2007 and 2011 repeated, as a particular governorship candidate who has been in Abuja since the inception of this democratic dispensation, used the contacts he has garnered in Abuja for the past 16 years to hijack the Party ticket from Abuja. Some of those whose names appeared on the delegates’ list are not even members of the Party, while those who have been working assiduously for the interest and success of the Party were ignored.
Most of those who were ignored in the writing of the delegates’ list were actually those who have been in touch with the grassroots. It is these same people that Governor Rochas Okorocha ran to when he saw that his chances of winning the elections were very slim. It is these people that ensured his victory the second time.
One expects members of this Party to have learnt their lessons after all these years of near-successes and miscarriages. For a large Party like the PDP who has been in opposition for more than eight years now, should bother anyone who stil have the slightest modicum of love for that Party. But that is not to be, as that same individual whose ambition derailed the PDP in 2011 is insistent on ensuring that the Party never really resurrects. Many of the PDP’s best brains in the State have been pushed away from the Party as a result of the high-handedness of those who feel they have the capacity to pocket the Party. These men and women who have remained the backbone of the PDP in the State have all joined the ruling APC in the State and instead of these leaders to seek for ways to bring them back, they are killing themselves over who will control the Party structure.
How do you explain the reality that one man could singlehandedly pick individuals to constitute what some people have already described as a kangaroo Caretaker Executive for a Party, in a State as politically conscious, powerful and intelligent as Imo State. This individual took this step without as much as consulting two immediate past Governors of the State who are still members of the Party. Three serving Senators, serving State Chairman and most of the elected and appointed officials under the Party in the State also complain of not having been consulted. This is a political coup of the highest order, and it will, instead of healing the many wounds in the Party, worsen them. It is worst that the engineers of this coup went to the insulting level of importing someone from Anambra to head the Party in Imo State. What have they being thinking?
The PDP should approach the rerun elections which should soon hold in some constituencies across the State as one united family, instead of this continued bickering that may end up making the PDP ticket as useless as a bread label.
KA IMO DI MMA OZO!