Transparency and Integrity


Imo : Okigwe Senate, The Battle of Titans

By Kizito Duru

As Imo State and Imo people slowly but steadily resume activities after months of lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, attention is once more fixed on political developments in the state. Critics, journalists and opinion moulders have abandoned the scary stories of COVID-19 to pay more attention to unending political intrigues in the state, especially as it concerns the forthcoming senatorial election in Okigwe Zone.

While the pandemic was at its worst in the state, Imo West and East senatorial districts took solace in the timely palliatives provided by their senators: Senators Rochas Okorocha and Ezenwa Onyewuchi; whereas Imo North (Okigwe Zone) was left to their wishful imagination and the sour realization of their vacant seat of at the Senate. Only newcomers in Imo State would be told that Imo North (Okigwe Zone) had lost their Senator, a former Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu, to the cold hands of death on December 18, 2019. Since then the Zone has been without a representative at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.

Since nature and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria abhor a vacuum, some prominent sons and daughters in Okigwe Zone have not only indicated interest to replace the deceased Senator but have also begun consultations and secret campaigns to brighten their chances of winning their party's ticket and subsequently the main election. Among those jostling for the position under the platform of the APC are two former senators of the zone; Senators Ifeanyi Araraume and Athan Achonu, a former House of Representative member; Hon Matthew Omegara. A former Speaker of the Imo state House Of Assembly; Rt Hon Acho Ihim. A former Chief of Staff to governor Okorocha; Mike Uchendu. Others are late Senator Uwajumogu's sister; Chidinma Uwajimogu. Chikwem Onuoha. Prof VC Nwaebo etc.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court judgement on Imo State governorship election on January 14, 2020, seems to have made the All Progressive Congress (APC) the party to beat in Okigwe Zone, as the party has witnessed an influx of political bigwigs in the Zone. Those who were with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before the Supreme Court judgement had found reasons to abandon the umbrella for the broom. Notable among them is Senator Athan Nneji. Rt Hon Acho Ihim had joined from the Action Alliance. While those running under the APC platform are already known, it is not so for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Although, the APC had won the last senatorial election in the Zone and even the House of Representatives for Okigwe North and South constituencies, the party cannot be said to have enjoyed massive goodwill in the Zone as evidenced by the guber and house of assembly elections in 2019. But the political development that restored the APC as the ruling party in the state seems to also strengthen the party at the grassroots. Thanks to the Governor's appointment of Interim Management Committee (IMC) members in the various LGAs.

Okigwe Zone, made up of three blocs: Mbano bloc (Isiala Mbano and Ehime Mbano LGAs), Etiti bloc (Ihitte-Uboma and Obowo LGAs) and Okigwe bloc (Okigwe and Onuimo LGA), have been represented in the Senate since 1999, thus: from 1999-2007: Senator Ifeanyi Araraume (Mbano bloc); 2007-2011: Senator S.N. Anyanwu(Etiti bloc); 2011-2015: Senator Mathew Iwuagwu (Etiti block); 2015-2016: Senator Athan Achonu (Mbano bloc) 2016-2019: Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu (Etiti bloc). It is perhaps in this regard that Okigwe bloc appears to be attracting sympathy for the position, as no one from the bloc has represented the Zone at the Senate. A former House of Representative member, Hon. Matthew Omegara, and a former Speaker of the Imo House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Acho Ihim, are the top contenders from Okigwe bloc.

However, the two contenders from the Okigwe bloc would have to beat their counterparts from other LGAs, notably Isiala Mbano, to the party's ticket. Senator Ifeanyi Araraume's posture in the Zone is intimating. A former two term Senator of the Zone and guber candidate in 2007, 2011 and 2019 with the PDP, ACN and APGA respectively, Araraume, according to bookmakers, is the man to beat, considering his political structure, financial muscle and political sagacity and the recent development with the national leadership of the APC.

Nevertheless, analysts posit that it is not yet uhuru for Senator Araraume and Chief Chikwem Onuoha, of Isiala-Mbano LGA. They say the House of Representatives member for Okigwe North and the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly are from Mbano. This factor, they insist, would no doubt be considered when delegates of the APC go to the field to elect their standard bearer.

For the political class, it is politically wrong to domicile power in one area in any part of the country. Even the much preached about but rarely practiced federal character became necessary for the purpose of ensuring equitable distribution of power across the country.

Political analysts have also posited that the chances of one becoming the candidate of the APC for the election depends largely on his or her relationship with the Executive Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodimma. While many may not discard such position completely, they argue that the Governor is not known for imposition or anti-democratic tendencies, having been Senator for eight years. According to them, the Governor would have an opinion as the Leader of the party in the state, imposition seems far from the picture.

There is also the emotional consideration of Mrs. Chidinma Uwajimogu, an elder sister to the fallen Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu. Stories have it that she was at the heart of everything good for his late brother. It was said she brokered the deal that made his brother the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly and contributed financially, materially and otherwise to her brother's sojourn and stardom in the Red Chambers. She could hold her own with her connections.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not released guidelines for the election and real politicking has not yet begun. When this is done, the coast would be clearer for both the political class and pundits. Untill then, the politics of Imo North senatorial election is still about permutation, propaganda, conspiracy theory and/or rivalry.

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