Last Saturday’s inconclusive governorship election in Imo State certainly brought to the fore a lot of intrigues, deft political maneuvering and some political lessons. The two main gladiators and dramatis personae in the political game, Governor Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party’s, PDP, candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha were determined to outsmart each other to win the election.
Going by the available results so far, Okorocha is leading with 385,671 votes compared to the 306,142 votes garnered by Ihedioha. However, Ihedioha is trailing Okorocha with 79,529 votes not because of the APC leaders’ spartan determination to have a presence in South East. It was also not because of the intense poaching of some key and notable elements within the PDP leaders by the governor and recent defections into the APC shortly after its presidential candidate won at the nation level. Available information showed that it was purely a case of internal strife and sabotage by the PDP leaders.
During the run up to the election, Ihedioha and the PDP had traversed the nooks and crannies of the state, telling the people of the state the reason they should reject the APC-led government for a better future. That message sank in the minds of the people as they truly yearned for a change. This was despite the fact that what could be referred to as PDP backbone—the presidency—had lost his return bid. Yet, Ihedioha did not leave anything to chances.
The effort to strengthen the PDP political base in Imo to achieve good result in the poll began even after he galvanized the party to win Imo during the presidential and national assembly elections.
However, signs that the PDP might be weakened at the April 11 election came when some of its known leaders who were in control of the political machinery in their areas and capable of helping it to attract votes in any election in their areas for the party started defecting to the APC. People like Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Chief Jerry Chukwueke, Barr. Humphrey Anumudu, Chief Charles Amadi, Dr. Vitalis Orikeze Ajumbe, and many others left the PDP with three days to the election for APC. Even such gladiators as Senator Hope Uzodinma, Chief Tony Chukwu and others were rumoured to have joined the fray and worked against the interest of the party. Their intention was to worm themselves to the heart of the incoming President Muhammadu Buhari through Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Despite all this, it was learnt that what weakened the PDP’s effort the most was those who were with the party till the Saturday morning of the election day. For instance, all the resources deployed by Ihedioha to all the 27 LGAs were diverted into private pockets in most areas of the state resulting to PDP supporters voting for the APC in protest.
In Mbaitoli LGA, N48 million was said to have been given to one of the party leaders, but that money was never distributed it was meant. The same situation occurred in Nwangele and most parts of the state. In fact, on Monday morning after the result was released, two PDP leaders were seen at the Owerri residence of the PDP candidate, Ihedioha, where they engaged in fisticuff with one of them accusing the other of hoarding the money given to him to prosecute the election.
Also, at the state party secretariat on Monday where youths and women were demonstrating against the outcome of the results so far released, the women and youths were heard blaming the party leaders in various LGAs for diverting what they (youths and women) should have used to work perfectly for the party.
In addition, it was learnt that the high-tech political maneuvering launched by the APC leadership coupled with the deft move by Okorocha and his men in the state gave the party upper hand in the election. What further weakened the political control of the PDP and depleting their rank and support was the defeatist theory they adopted, a development that saw the members losing confidence in their own ability to win now that President Jonathan had lost his own election.
From the results, however, it is evident that the efforts of these people and others in the area could have contributed to a better performance and raised the fortunes of the PDP in the election if the members of the party had believed in themselves and had not suffered self- infraction.
Not that alone, there is a new definition of politics this days referred to stomach infrastructure. This was the reason money was given to PDP leaders in various LGAs. Yet, the money was not properly utilized. On the contrary, the APC leaders cooked and shred plates of rice and water in many polling booths.
Furthermore, the majority of the people of the state became more resolute to return the APC to power and vote against the PDP because of the allegation that those given money to give to them as leaders pocketed it. Consequently, they feared that if they vote for the party, the so-called leaders would still go ahead to claim more money for “having performed creditably” and eventually continue to get the share of the people if a new government comes on board, hence the revolt against them.
Also, the inconsistency of Senator Hope Uzodinma and Chief Tony Chukwu was another contributory factor why the PDP seems to have technically lost the election. It would be recalled that few days to the election, Uzodinma was rumoured to have held meetings with Governor Okorocha, first at Abuja and later at the governor’s Spilbat haven. In the meetings, the former was said to have begged Okorocha to get the APC to zone the senate president position to south east and even get the party to choose him. Though, the senator was reported in local newspaper to have denied that through his aide, but many PDP supporters took that with a pinch of salt. Even before the presidential election, he was rumoured to have discussed with his Orlu Stakeholders on the need for them to re-elect him so that he would in turn pull his support for Okorocha, his Orlu kinsman. That arrangement was famously termed Orlu-for-Orlu.
Again, Chukwu the billionaire businessman was rumoured to have pledged his support to Okorocha just for the incoming ruling party to protect his business as a federal contractor. Though, Chukwu di not deny nor confirm the rumour, whether that was true or not, the result that came from his Ehime Mbano LGA showed that there was element of truth in the rumour as this was the first time PDP was losing election in Ehime Mbano. This was same in the other five local government areas of Okigwe senatorial zone.
Another factor that helped the APC to scuttle the ambition of the opposition during the election could be attributed to the performance record of Governor Okorocha. His popularity among the people grew with his free education for the state from primary to university level as well as some of the projects he had put on ground which hitherto were not done.
Many Imo citizens, including the less privileged, saw the zeal and determination by the current administration under Okorocha’s’s administration to develop the state and thereby meeting their yearnings. Whether these things were of standard quality did not matter much to most of his admirers who insisted that he is better than those contesting with him.
All said and done, the election was also equally well fought by the PDP and its candidate. The over 306,142 votes recorded by the party against the 385,671 votes garnered by the APC to lead in the election is an indication that the PDP should won the election on Saturday if its loyalists did not sabotage its effort as the defection of Araraume and co would not have had much effect.
Expectedly, Some bitter lessons to draw from this election, according to political watchers, is that any serious politician should not deploy his resources into the hands of a politician in his comfort zone as such people only talks in the media and cannot defend the interest of their principal when it matters most.