It is no longer news that Imolites will head to the polls again in November this year to assert their views on their political destiny. Following the January 2020 judicial ‘magic’ that ushered in the present administration, a preponderance of voters who are understandably dissatisfied with that scenario are gearing up to make a loud statement.
The decision of the Supreme Court to manipulate the election of Emeka Ihedioha in its judgment of January 14, 2020, and impose an unpopular Governor on the flabbergasted masses not only shattered the political equation in the state but also moved the election cycle. This is the decision that Imolites will be heading to the polls to correct or validate in November.
With every passing day, the upcoming contention in the Eastern Heartland continues to generate talking points, ostensibly due to the level of political awareness among the citizens. Again, the state appears to be the cynosure of all eyes in the country because indications are rife that the incumbent Governor, Hope Uzodinma, may not be gearing up for a fair game.
Regardless of the machinations, frontline candidates have emerged, and their chances are shaping up. Permutations have assumed the front burner, and going by the words on the streets, Imolites are decidedly picking a side with the speed of light.
Interestingly, going by the word on the streets, Imolites appear determined to stick to the issues ahead of the commencement of campaigns.
For the incumbent, the election is a straightforward referendum on his performance over the past three years, and for the opposition candidates who are seeking his office, the task before them is to prove that they are undeniably better.
With four months left before this all-important election takes place, below is the current state of the race based on diverse opinions on the streets of Imo State as of today.
1. Major-General Lincoln Ogunewe (retd)
General Ogunlewe is one of the frontline candidates contesting to claim the exalted seat at Imo Government House. He is doing so on the platform of the Action Alliance (AA).
Ahead of the primaries of the Labour Party, many had tipped him to pick the ticket, and he significantly amassed support from the Obidients. He narrowly missed out on that popular ticket, and right now, he has his eyes fixed on the bigger price, albeit through a different, perhaps more obscure route.
The general turned politician earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and a master’s degree in defense and strategic studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan; he also trained in Ghana, Israel, the United States and Thailand. In fact, it is generally believed that Ogunewe missed the position of Chief of Army Staff by a whisker but, as Chief of Policy and Plans, was next in command. When it comes to military experience, give it to Ogunewe—he knows his onions; however, military experience has never in history assumed the place of administrative prowess or managerial abilities in the polity of any country.
The general, who hails from Umuakam Umudim Apkodim and Okpofe Town Hall in Ezinihitte Mbaise LGA, although travelled and well-read, is still struggling to assume lofty positions in the minds of average Imo voters who believe that his military background is not what is needed to take them to Eldorado.
2. Sen. Hope Uzodinma
It is no longer news that Senator Hope Uzodinma became the Imo State Governor via the courts in 2020. Shortly after that popular ‘Ben Johnson’ heist, he earned himself the title of ‘Supreme Court’ Governor, not to celebrate the Nigerian judiciary or to praise his ingenuity but to serve as a reference point in the minds of the victims whose electoral mandate was forcefully taken away from them. The sweet thing about the upcoming election is that this time Uzodinma will be confined to an attempt to retain his seat as Governor of Imo State by winning at the courts of the people, through the ballot and not through his big friends in Abuja.
To emerge as the candidate of the APC, Uzodinma did not have anybody to contend with in his party, not because he is exceptionally wonderful in governance but because his style of politics barely tolerates political opposition. In Uzodinma’s world, what money cannot do, more money can. This philosophy is exemplified in how he has gone on to acquire rogue elements and jobbers in opposition parties ahead of the elections.
Imolites are not in any way happy with the governor, who hails from Orlu. His scorecard as Governor does not reflect anything that can earn him goodwill. Virtually every indicator, such as GDP, internal revenues, the unemployment rate, and poverty, shows very abysmal numbers. The common man on the streets of Imo has tried to match Uzodinma’s propaganda with what he has delivered to Imo State, and there has been nothing to write home about.
At various times, Hope Uzodinma expressed his commitment to creating job opportunities for the people of Imo State. He included this promise in his 2019 manifesto and reiterated it after assuming office in 2020. In 2020, he stated that his administration aimed to generate 500,000 jobs within three years. However, the most recent available data from NBS indicates that, as of Q4 2022, the unemployment rate in the state stood at 57%. Sadly, with a 57% unemployment rate, Imo State currently holds the highest unemployment rate in the country. This implies that out of every 10 working-age people living in the state, at least 5 are unemployed. This is just one of Uzodinma’s sad legacies. Why then is he seeking re-election and not seeking forgiveness? Many have wondered.
Ahead of the November election, Uzodinma has been going about acting like the conqueror of the State. His inability to arrest the hydra-headed state of insecurity in the state appears to have united Imolites against his illegal occupancy of the Imo Government House.
Ahead of the elections, Uzodinma’s problems are further compounded by the fact that every other candidate seeking his position through the mandate of Imolites is way better than him. Imolites believe that Uzodinma’s candidature represents slavery, oligarchic domination and the most brazen fraud ever perpetrated against democracy; hence, the strong determination to offer stuff resistance.
Uzodinma understands how widely unpopular he is, and it remains to be seen what rigging plans he has up his sleeves.
3. Athan Achonu
Athan Achonu is a known strong man in Imo politics who bulldozed his way to the senate in 2015. His time at the National Assembly was cut short when the court ruled that the omission of the Accord Party’s logo from the ballot paper meant his election back then on the platform of the PDP was invalid. A battle-tested politician, he is also loaded and well-connected with Northern Oligarchs.
The Aku Ruo Ulo Movement was inspired by Senator Achonu and he anchored it on seven key focal areas: security, infrastructure, education, agriculture and tourism, manufacturing, employment, and excellence in leadership. To his credit, he believes Igbos should come home and invest, and for the past 20 years, he has been championing Aku ruo ulo, encouraging Igbos to come and develop the South-East.
His emergence as the candidate of the Labour Party, which was popularised into the mainstream of the Nigerian political lexicon by Peter Obi, came as a surprise to political watchers. To make matters worse, the internal crisis that has created several factions in the party has fractured it. With too many aspirants, the party has been engulfed in divisions that have snowballed into court actions by different interests.
Curiously, the governorship primaries held on the 15th of April witnessed parallel camps, each holding its primary. On one hand, the camp supervised by the Caretaker committee led by F.B.I Onyekwulisi returned Sir Basil Maduka as the governorship candidate, while another camp led by Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie returned Senator Athan Achonu as her candidate. This and many more issues have put a dent in Achonu’s plan to govern Imo State and prevented his candidacy from resonating with average voters.
4. Senator Samuel Anyanwu
The 57-year-old former Senator was a Governorship Aspirant on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019. He began his political career in 2004 following his appointment as Chairman of Ikeduru Local Government Area, a position he held until 2007. Anyanwu was a Two-term Member of the Imo State House of Assembly (2007–2015). Between 2015 and 2019, the Ex-Lawmaker represented Imo East Senatorial District in the National Assembly under the PDP platform. Despite holding these positions, ‘Sam Daddy’, as he is often called, has not been able to entrench himself in the minds of voters.
In the buildup to the primaries of the PDP, the choice of Samuel Anyanwu was somehow accidental in the sense that his closest rival, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, decided to bow out of the race at the last minute without providing sufficient reasons for doing so. Ihedioha’s exit from the party appears to have snuffed out the remaining oxygen from the former ruling party.
Recently, Anyanwu’s candidacy took a major hit after seven executive members of the PDP dumped the party. They joined a series of other party stalwarts who, in recent times, opted to quit taking shelter under the tattered umbrella.
It is widely believed that Anyanwu was anointed by former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike which paved the way for him to clinch the party governorship ticket in the state unopposed. Both were local government chairmen and have formed a strong political association since then, with Wike controlling the lever of power between the pair. The former strongman of Rivers politics was instrumental in the emergence of Anyanwu as the national secretary of the party.
Today, Wike is no longer governor, and he has absolutely nothing to offer Anyanwu’s candidacy. Imo voters do not consider him a serious candidate for all intents and purposes and this is something much bigger than adorning himself with white ‘Senators’ and red caps.
5. Tony Ejiogu
One name that has been on the lips of Ndi Imo in recent times is that of Tony Ejiogu. It has been like a tsunami—an unprecedented one at that.
Almost everyone seems to have agreed that Ejiogu is the type of leader any people would yearn for in any given generation to take them to the promised land. The Emekuku-born technocrat is an asset to any political party, and it is not surprising that he has managed to garner genuine popularity ever since he stepped into the ring to contest the position.
Apart from his sterling pedigree, which has seen him leave indelible footprints on the sands of everywhere he has found himself, he is an innovative solution provider.
His humility and manifest wisdom in handling even complex issues, coupled with the sound education that he availed himself of, have endeared him to Imolites who want something different from the regular brand of politicians who have been nothing but spectacular failures.
He has promised to champion pure development, create viable employment, encourage agriculture, standardise quality and affordable education, and enhance commerce and industry to better the lives of Imolites, and his antecedents have made it pretty easy for Imolites to believe him.
The truth remains that in any civilised and advanced society, it is the people, both the masses and the elite, that would be urging a personality like Ejiogu to make himself available for leadership by providing him with all the necessary encouragement and support that he needs.
Imo people are civilised people. They enjoyed good democratic leadership from 1979 to 1983, when the charismatic governor Sam Mbakwe raised the bar of public service in the state to the height of excellence. Since then, they have been seeking something similar, and Ejiogu appears to be their man.
From the words on the streets, Ejiogu is a phenomenon that is widely believed to be a good omen that Imo State cannot afford to miss owing to his exemplary leadership qualities.
Ejiogu is not only a team player, but he is also dynamic, and vibrant and possesses the political sagacity to take Imo state to a greater height. As things stand currently, he seems the man to beat.