Published On: Mon, Aug 1st, 2016

Imo Rerun Elections: The Reasons, The Lessons – By Onwuasoanya FCC Jones


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The Independent National Electoral Commission has officially declared a result some people have known about for about one week now. What would have been a surprise to many people after the charade of July 23r, 2016, is if the man, a majority of the people voted for was announced the winner of the Imo North Senatorial District. The fact that the electoral umpire chose to leave Imo electorates and observers in suspense for close to one week now does not change the fact that many people have already known what result they were set to announce eventually.

These elections were originally scheduled to hold in February, but a group of people led by top functionaries of the ruling Party in the State went on rampage, barricading the INEC headquarters in Owerri, while fully mobilized officers of the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies, watched helplessly. Some hours after that orchestrated criminal breach of public peace, and after most of the electoral materials had been fully deployed for the election; top officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission went on air to announce that the election would no longer hold.

That decision to postpone the election is still as wrong as it was when it was originally taken. Some people, including myself argued then, that if a ragtag mob of political supporters could stampede the entire Nigerian security setup into postponing an election it was detailed to protect, then, no Nigerian is safe. Some people have argued that the election was postponed in order to allow a certain political Party which was jittery of an imminent defeat in the election to get its acts together. For a political Party that has unleashed the worst suffering on the people through some of its anti-people policies both at the State and the national level to ‘sweep’ all the polls conducted in the State, is an evidence that the four months delay was really worth it for the Party.

While there were reported cases of electoral malpractices, including vote buying and intimidation of innocent electorates by high ranking functionaries of the Imo State Government, it will be forgivable to extend a note of congratulations to the House of Assembly members-elect for both Owerri West LGA and Oru-East. Both men could pass as children of circumstances. In Owerri West for instance, top ranking PDP members openly canvassed for and voted for the APC candidate in retaliation for the ignominy with which they were treated during the last PDP congress in the LGA. In Oru East, the APC candidate, John Nkenna Nzeruo is that kind of politician with such unprecedented grassroots touch that he can actually win election from any Party. Also, the PDP candidate, Lady Dympna is described by some people as an imported candidate, in apparent reference to the internal and external forces that saw to her emergence as a candidate of the Party.

Conversely, the PDP candidate for Isiala Mbano State constituency, Lady Joyce Mbawuike is one of the most popular candidates in that election, as she loved by interests within and outside her political Party. I got the news of her ‘defeat’ in that election from a top APC member, who was close to tears that the woman lost the election. In the words of the youth leader; “Lady Joyce is everybody’s choice for the House of Assembly seat. It is not about Party leanings, as most of us in the APC worked for and voted for her, but I do not know what really happened.”

A former staff of Shell Petroleum Corporation, Lady Mbawuike is noted for her contributions and investment in the youths of Isiala Mbano during and after her days in the service of the multinational oil exploring company. She enjoys massive goodwill from orinary voters who have either benefited from her directly or are pleased by her selfless philanthropy. She is also helped by the support of the immediate past Governor of Imo State, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim.

If the purported defeat of Lady Joyce Mbawuike is surprising, more surprising is the magic that made Chief Athan Achonu lose the Senatorial election to a less popular Benjamin Uwajimogu. The declared Senator-elect, who is the immediate past Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly does not also seem to believe his own ears, when he was declared the winner of the election. In giving his victory speech he betrayed his conviction about those truly responsible for his ‘victory’. He singled out Governor Rochas Okorocha for commendations, affirming that without the Governor’s ‘machineries’ which he fully deployed to help him win the election, he would not have being elected a Senator of the Federal Republic. Noted for his philanthropy, humility and accessibility, the businessman turned politician knows that the Party on whose platform he ran for the election is seen by an overwhelming majority of the electorates as anti-people in general, and anti-Igbos in particular. I do not think that the Benjamin Uwajimogu that I know will be proud of the circumstances surrounding his victory in this election.

From results collated at the booths and wards level, from which better developed democracies determine their exit polls, Chief Athan Nneji Achonu, the billionaire business tycoon and philanthropist was projected to sweep majority of the votes in all the six LGAs that make up Imo North Senatorial District, alias, Okigwe zone. One-Arm-General is undoubtedly a darling of the electorates. Apart from the numerous humanitarian and empowerment schemes which he is associated with, the real estate and construction topnotch also has a good number of supporters whose support for his candidacy is based on some kind of sympathy and sentiment. Standing out as the only politician in the State with physical impediment, many of the eletorates see him as an inspiration to themselves and their children. If Athan can make it with one hand, then, I, or my child can make it to anywhere in life.

The Umunumo, Ehime-Mbano businessman had so many things going for him in that election, that it is still like a dream that he is not the one whose convoy will be moving to Abuja as soon as the Senate returns from its recess. No matter how hard it is for anyone to swallow, the reality is that Chief Benjamin Uwajimogu has been declared winner by the electoral umpire, and the only institution that can say otherwise is the judiciary.

Recent political history and events show that when the people are united, any effort no matter how powerful to thwart the people’s wish can be halted. The Peoples Democratic Party in Imo State remains a strong force in Imo politics, and should the Party be united, it can win any election with ease and resist any attempt to steal the mandate freely given to it by the people. The crisis ravaging the Party at the national level played a big part in seeing to the defeat of the Party in this election. Also, Chief Athan’s full involvement in the politics of Party congresses saw to him hurting so many interests within his Party.

In more developed democracies, a loyal Party man or woman should not betray the Party because of personal interests and grievances. Party loyalty should supersede individual and clique interests, but in Nigeria, and especially for a good number of politicians within the PDP platform;it is either they have their way, or the Party suffers. This played out during the last rerun election in Okigwe, as some notable PDP leaders either became uninterested in what happens at the election or covertly aided the APC in subverting the peoples’ will. Some of those who were not personally or directly affected by the fallout of the Party congress were bitter about the reported negligence and insult meted on the foremost political leader of Okigwe zone in the person of Dr. Ikedi Ohakim.

As a loyal Party man and team player, Dr. Ohakim made concerted efforts to ensure that his Party got victory in the election. It is to the former Governor’s credit that certain things did not get very ugly. The PDP’s senatorial candidate was reported not to have taken the former Governor into confidence, as he relied fully on some PDP leaders from outside the constituency. Had their being the needed synergy between these two top leaders from Okigwe zone, it would been near impossible for Governor Okorocha and his Party to successfully manipulate the election results and subvert the wishes of majority of the people.

The general feeling among most people in Imo State is that Senator Athan Achonu will eventually recover his mandate through the courts, but how soon that happens is what is not really known. While he goes on with the processes required to achieve that, it is important that he and those very close to his political organization takes step to heal the wounds of the last Party congress in Okigwe and also mellow down on accentuating the crack in the national leadership of the Party in his home turf. At the end, a resolution is bound to be reached over who is the authentic chairman of the Party at the national level, but some of the bad blood generated in trying to show loyalty to one faction against the other may continue to haunt the Party and its members for a very long time.

Imolites are anxious for a change come 2019, and at present, the PDP presents the most formidable political Party outside the ruling APC with any chance of effecting this change. However, the outcome of these elections in the State should serve as a wakeup call to leaders and members of that Party to get their acts together to ensure that they win the upcoming elections in the State. There is no leader or any political family within the PDP that should think that they can do it all alone without the involvement or support of the other people or political families. One of the things the PDP can learn from the APC of today is that a Party in opposition tries as much as possible to solve its problems fast before it explodes. Simply put; a Party in opposition should not be enmeshed in leadership crisis.


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