Ahead of the November gubernatorial elections in Imo State, political activities seem to be taking the centre stage once again in the eastern heartland. The election, which is supposed to be a referendum on the administration of Governor Hope Uzodinma, may not turn out to be what pundits expect it to be given recent happenings in the state.
Over the last three and half years, Uzodinma has bastardised governance in Imo State to the point that Imolites can no longer recognise good governance even if it hits them in the face. Transparency, accountability, integrity and a sense of direction which are supposed to be the hallmark of any purpose-driven government have been completely absent in Imo State under Uzodinma.
After riding into Douglas House on a stolen Horse, no one expected a man with a stolen mandate not to steal. However, the brazenness of the corruption that has been perpetrated in the State under the Uzodinma beggars belief.
Despite receiving over 500 Billion Naira in FAAC statutory allocations, 13% oil derivations, LGA allocations and loans, there is absolutely nothing to show for it as Uzodinma has added only little to the state.
The primary health care centres in the state are still nothing but dilapidated consultation centres where people with light ailments cannot even be attended to. The public primary and secondary schools in the state are still as worse off as they never got any attention. The rural roads in the state are still death traps and the dwellers around the communities are currently gnashing their teeth with the rains lurking around. Imo is currently the worst state in the South East to do business in going by the ease of doing business index published last week. Pensioners are still being owed pensions and gratuity. Insecurity is the new normal as kidnapping and armed robbery continue to soar. One will wonder, what tangible value did Uzodinma add to Imo State since he sneaked into power almost four years ago?
Given his poor scorecard, one will expect the Onuma-born politician to be swept away by the tsunami of angry Imolites when he presents himself for re-election against the run of play in November. However, events of the last few weeks have shown that Uzodinma is certainly not that sitting Governor that will allow the wishes of the citizens of the state prevail without any form of interference or manipulation.
During the just concluded 25th February and 18th March elections, Governor Uzodinma showed the stuff he was made of as far as the dirty political shenanigans which have become the new normal in Nigerian politics is concerned. The world saw Uzodinma allocate votes to the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the Presidential elections in several wards where elections did not hold in Orsu. The world watched as Uzodinma used the badly compromised security agencies to suppress the votes of opposition parties who were part of those elections. The world saw how Uzodinma won virtually all the available positions for the APC in the state assembly elections despite being largely unpopular in the region. Uzodinma clearly showed that he had the ruthlessness of Rivers State Governor, Nyesome Wike and the mischievousness of his Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi in matters that concern election rigging.
The election result of both polls sends a very clear message to opposition parties who are scheming to remove Uzodinma for non-permanence. Uzodinma has clearly demonstrated that he cannot relinquish the office of the state Governor without a very brutal fight that could even lead to the loss of lives and properties.
The major opposition parties in Imo state which include, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Labour Party (LP) and perhaps the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) must at this point understand that it is no longer business as usual and that even non-performers can retain power in the Nigerian political establishment against the wishes of the masses.
Armed with this knowledge, these parties must now return to the drawing board to strategise and plot Uzodinma’s ousting if they really want him out of Douglas House next year. It is certainly not going to be as easy as they have often envisaged and the stakes will be most likely higher.
Opposition parties in Imo State must come to the full realisation that for power to change hands during the elections, the ancient regime and political stakeholders must give way for the institutionalisation of new politics based on the power of the people. This means that they must as a matter of urgency, listen to the people in selecting their respective gubernatorial candidates for the elections. Gone are the days when stakeholders handpick ‘loyal’ stooges as candidates going into an election and he or she goes on to win.
Opposition parties in the state must study the campaigns that lead up to the last Presidential election campaigns that saw Peter Obi of the Labour Party winning 12 states against all odds despite being ‘structureless’. He was able to do so because of his popularity and the way he sold his ideas to the people directly.
Opposition parties in Imo State must understand who Uzodinma truly is and come to the realisation that to uproot him, leaders who have the pedigree to fit into a new political paradigm are required. If their promise to Imolites is to assure them of a new deal, then they must be able to completely show and prove that they are not just an old wine in a new skin but a new wine in a new skin.
Ahead of their respective primaries which are all slated for April, opposition leaders in Imo State must come to the firm understanding that what they need to do is to sell Imolites a new deal that is backed by empirical evidence. They must ensure that only competent leaders with the required mental and physical energies can stand a chance. They must understand that only leaders with innovative minds with proven capacities to solve problems can sway Imo voters and get them to sing his name.
Opposition parties in Imo State must understand that Imolites will not give their mandates to another fraudster who does not have any verifiable means of livelihood or source of income asides from politics. They must understand how irritated the new voting demography is about baggage and how terrible such a character will be for campaigns in the process leading up to the elections.
Opposition parties must understand that it will be pretty difficult for them to match Uzodinma in his rigging machinations and crude plots. To defeat Uzodinma, the people must be allowed to fight the battle themselves. With Uzodinma in full control of the resources of Imo State and all the instruments of the state including security agencies, it will take a more coordinated opposition to retire him permanently to Abuja.
Going into the elections, the opposition must understand it needs to be strategic. There are already strong insinuations that the National Secretary of the PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Sam Daddy), former Governor Emeka Ihedioha and a certain Emekuku politician are all going to be candidates in different parties going into the elections. One will wonder how all these politicians who are all from Owerri zone with 9 Local Government Areas will expect to defeat Uzodinma who hails from Orlu come which has 12 LGAs. These politicians must understand that the reality of votes spilling will ultimately lead to votes wastage and they will only be wasting their time chasing shadows.
Opposition parties must understand that Uzodinma still has his ‘Ben Johnson’ playbook and he will be very willing to add magic from that of ‘Harry Potter’ to remain in power. If Uzodinma must be removed, then they must get serious and ensure that noise gives way to substance. The November election is theirs to lose but they can bundle it and keep Uzodinma in power for another four years if they don’t press the right buttons.
In conclusion, Imolites will not forgive members of the opposition parties if they fail to remove Uzodinma from power in November. Another four years of stagnation, looting, insecurity, unemployment, poverty and abuse of power will not augur well for the good people of the state. Opposition parties must rise to the occasion and deliver Imolites from the shackles of Hopism and ultimately show Uzodinma that the power to make Governors solely rests on the shoulders of the people and not corrupt elements at the Supreme Court.