As promised, part two of this topic will dwell on three other prominent aspirants who cannot be easily written off from the ticket race of PDP after a preview of the chances of the two forerunners; Chukwuemeka Nkem Ihedioha and Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu, ( SamDaddy) was done in last week’s edition.
If previous stories of how governors who ruled Imo State in the past are to be considered, it would be risky dismissing the aspirations of Jude Njoku, a renowned Professor and former Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, FUTO, as well as that of a seasoned politician and business mogul, Athan Nneji Achonu. The next on the list that must be highlighted is one of the Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN of Imo State extraction, Chukwuma Ekomaru.
In previous elections, the favourable candidates tipped to emerge failed to go through in the State. Rather, jokers in the pack with little chances had their ways.
In 1998/99, Nigeria’s nascent democracy debuted, a relatively unknown Achike Udenwa who called it quits from his accounting job at MCC in Port Hacourt, River State, emerged from the blues to torpedo the popular Humphrey Anumudu, Grey Mbadiwe and Rochas Okorocha for the PDP ticket. In 2007, the story of Ikedi Ohakim’s emergence is well known. After he could not be screened in the dominant PDP, the former governor joined PPA to pick the party’s ticket. Against the interest of the other vibrant aspirants like Charles Ugwu, Ifeanyi Araraume, Ike C Ibe etc, Ohakim of PPA became Imo State governor.
A similar scenario was witnessed in 2011, when PDP’s Ohakim and Araraume, then of defunct ACN engaged in war of attrition over who occupies Govt House, Owerri. It was Okorocha who came from behind to snatch the position.
It would be foolhardy to dismiss the interest of any governorship aspirant, especially in the major parties as 2019 beckons.
For the umpteenth time, the Obiangwu, Ngor Okpala born university don is showing interest for the number one job in the state. Njoku came into reckoning during his days as head of FUTO. Later, the Ikedi Ohakim administration who assembled rare egg heads to kick start his stay in office in 2007 found him worthy to serve as one of the commissioners. An international scholar of repute and consultant on agriculture related issues, his name will be among those delegates of PDP will choose for the governorship ticket.
POSITIVE POINTS: If good reputation is a yardstick to determine who carries the day, Njoku has favourable chances to emerge. With people of the state declaring interest to have the next governor as one without “political baggage”, luck might smile his way at the end of the day should cash influence and partisan proclivity are relegated to the background.
The professor is also from the much touted Owerri Zone, where there is great clamour for the district to produce the next governor. Rumours are rife that Njoku is also in the race to gain from the fallout of the expected fierce battle between Ihedioha and SamDaddy who are at each others throat for the coveted crown. Should there be a crisis among the two aforementioned camps, Njoku, Achonu and Ekomaru will come in to benefit at last.
The goodwill Njoku has extended to people who have crossed his paths during his days as FUTO VC and Commissioner will also come into play in facilitating his emergence as the party’s flag bearer.
NEGATIVE POINTS: There is no gainsaying the fact that Njoku will encounter obstacles trying to get the mandate of the PDP delegates because he was not instrumental to their emergence.
Also, since the race appears to be for the money bags who have either made fortune from elective positions or business moguls with enough cash to throw around, the road appears narrow for Njoku who is coming from the academic sector where expenditures are properly guided. Last exercises showed the delegates voted for the highest bidders. The coming primaries may not be different from the previous ones.
The enormous influence of Ihedioha in Njoku’s Aboh/Ngor Okpala federal constituency is another minus. The former Deputy Speaker of House of Reps unarguably has considerable number of followers from Ngor Okpala. And if Njoku can’t get the strong support of his homestead, his chances of capturing others in the 27 LGAs would be limited.
One Arm General, as Achonu is fondly called, is not a newcomer to the scene. The federal contractor caused an upset in 2015 when he shoved aside the likes of Nnamdi Obiareri, a law teacher turned politician to clinch the PDP Senate ticket. Achonu went further to overcome stiff challenges from the former Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Ben Uwajumogu of the APC in the first election. Achonu was a Member of the 8th National Assembly who represented Okigwe Zone in the red chamber. It was the Tribunal that knocked him out after INEC missed the logo of one the candidates of the parties who ran the election. The rest is history as Achonu lost out in the fresh election a year after tasting life as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Now he is among those interested in picking PDP ticket for governor.
POSITIVE POINTS: As one who has won primaries before and went ahead to win the election, going through the process again won’t be an unfamiliar terrain for Achonu to make his dream come true.
Remarkably, as the only aspirant from Okigwe Zone seeking PDP ticket, his chances are bright as he has opportunities to consolidate his Okigwe zone base and go out to chase for voters from Orlu and Owerri zones.
The campaign structures he has established overtime and contacts outside his zone will also be of help in the pursuit for the ticket.
Achonu also has enormous cash to engage in the monetary reach out in the scramble for the delegates. He has the financial muscles too to also compete favourably with others in seeking voters support.
NEGATIVE POINTS: Similar to what would affect Njoku, One Arm General is also said not have been in the picture of how the party’s structures emerged during, before and after the Markafi vs Sheriff brouhaha. Therefore, getting the delegates’ to his side would be a herculean task.
A very striking aspect working against him that won’t be overlooked is the processes that led to how he lost the bye-election for the Okigwe zone. If he was unable to overcome a zonal contest, his strength for a state wide contest may not be forthcoming during the primaries.
There is no visible campaign platform bearing Achonu’s identity in the 365 wards of the state to garner support base for him, except for his LGAs in Okigwe zone.
But governorship contest is not a clannish exercise for a victory conscious aspirant to concentrate in one area only.
The legal luminary is also not new to politics even as his name is new to the governorship race. The Mbaitoli born lawyer had functioned as the Legal Adviser to the PDP and one time commissioner for sports in Imo State. The Abiazuma title holder also tried in the past to go to the Federal House before Bethel Amadi had an upper hand. The flourishing lawyer cum politician is looking forward to make a breakthrough in the coming PDP primaries.
POSITIVE POINTS: A fresher to the scene, Ekomaru is not coming with any “political baggage” and may win the sympathy of delegates if their choice is for a professional to fly the party’s flag in next year election. Similar to the case of Njoku, both can excite voters searching for aspirants in the system without enough “stains” Imolites would accept and gladly vote for during the general elections.
As one of the adopted “boys” of elder statesman and guru in the field of politics, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the pendulum may also swing to his side if Ahiaejiagamba as Iwuanyanwu is known, uses his might and weight to pull the string to his side.
NEGATIVE POINTS: Unlike others who can boast of campaign structures and massive followership at the grassroots level, his name is just getting to the ears of the PDP members at the ward levels for the first time. He would go extra miles to cover up if he wants the support of the delegates from those remote quarters.
Ekomaru will definitely have to overcome challenges at the home front where SamDaddy’s threat cannot be ruled out too. While Ekomaru hails from Mbaitoli, Sam Daddy is of neigbouring Ikeduru. Mbaitoli and Ikeduru form Mbaike Federal Constituency.
Though, the legal professional may be rich but he is not known as one of the big time spenders in the field of politics, to understand what the delegates expect of him before the cast their votes to an aspirant during the primaries.
Kelechi Mejuobi, an Owerri based journalist, is a regular commentator on political issues