Following the Supreme Court judgement, Imo State has joined the states where governorship elections are not held during the general elections. Nevertheless, next year’s polls are expected to be keenly contested in the state because of the calibre of gladiators vying for different elective positions. Correspondent CHRIS NJOKU reports.
After the horse-trading, alignment and realignment from the fallout of the primaries conducted by various political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently released the list of candidates for next year’s general elections in the country.
The presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, February 25, while the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections will take place on March 11.
In Imo State, the election will be keenly contested by gladiators seeking various elective offices and parties are already in the electioneering campaign mood.
They will not be much pressure in Imo because there will be no governorship election; the state is now one of those where governorship elections are held on a different date because of the annulment of Chief Emeka Ihedioha’s election by the Supreme Court seven months after he was sworn in as governor. Hope Uzodimma was declared the winner of that election. So, ahead of next year’s general elections in Imo, the focus is on the presidential and National Assembly elections.
For the presidential race, three major political parties would be soliciting votes from their followers and supporters. They are the All Progressives Congress (APC), being represented in the race by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), with Atiku Abubakar as flag bearer; and the Labour Party (LP) which has Peter Obi as its candidate. Given the antecedents of the two major parties, the APC and the PDP and the growing popularity of the LP, it is likely to be a tough contest.
Imo is one of the states where the APC can easily coast home to victory since the state is a major stronghold of the ruling party in the Southeast, particularly because Governor Uzodimma has made the party a formidable one in the region, despite the challenges of insecurity. The party is expected to leverage on some of the achievements of the Uzodimma-led administration, particularly the roads revolution to campaign for its candidates.
The LP is expected to challenge the dominance of the two major parties, as support for its candidate, Obi is growing geometrically across the country and Imo is not an exception. An observer who does not want his name in print puts it this way: “Peter Obi and his LP remains a potential threat as elections draw close.”
The party has held two major rallies in Owerri, the Imo State capital recently and the mammoth crowd which graced the events is a testimony of the soaring popularity of the party in the state.
The PDP is also expected to campaign hard for its presidential candidate, despite the internal crisis rocking it at the national level. There are signs of polarization of the party in Imo State, owing to the political feud between former Governor Ihedioha and the party’s National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu. As a result, the PDP may not be able to forge a united front to campaign for its candidate ahead of next year’s elections.
Observers insist that the recent activities of Senator Anyanwu, who is popularly known as Samdaddy, suggest that he does not want the PDP to succeed in Imo State. His recent activities, including the inauguration of the party’s governorship campaign outfit, the Divine Mandate Movement (DMM), the convergence of his campaign group a few days ago to herald his declaration, etc point to the fact that he is not interested in the progress of the party.
The National Assembly elections are also an interesting area where people expect candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives to convince the electorates to vote for them. Upsets are widely expected in this contest.
For Senate, the battle will be fiercely fought in Orlu, Owerri and Okigwe zones. In Orlu, also known as Imo West, a former senator, Osita Izunaso of the APC is going to slug it out with the LP candidate, Ahize Charles Ugochukwu, and the PDP old warhorse, Jones Onyereri. Curiously, Senator Rochas Okorocha did not make the list of those who are seeking to return to the National Assembly. But let nobody blame him, the weight of his travails of the past few months have been much for him to bear, combined with his legislative duties.
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Also, the battle will be hot in Owerri zone (Imo East) where the APC candidate billionaire, Alexander Mbata, was said to have intimidated Ondo First Lady, Mrs Betty Akeredolu during the party’s primary. Mrs Akeredolu insists that the shadow poll was manipulated in Mbata’s favour. During the general election, the APC flag bearer is expected to face a high-ranking member of the Red Chamber in the person of Francis Ezenwa Onyewuchi who defected to the LP after he was denied the PDP ticket. Both will compete with one-time House of Representatives member, Uche Onyeagocha who is now the flag bearer of the PDP.
Okigwe, also called Owerri North, is also a contest that is expected to be spectacular because it is the zone where Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume Ifeanyi, the son of three-time Senator Ifeanyi Ararume will be facing the not-so-popular but very intelligent APC flag bearer, Ndubueze Patrick and its PDP counterpart, Emmanuel Okwulonu. Ararume is contesting the election on the platform of the LP.
It is expected that the campaign may likely not be issue-based; political analysts have foreseen that candidates may resort to campaigns of calumny and blackmail to outwit one another. Some candidates and political parties have been accused of sponsoring fake news and in some cases outrightly blackmailing their opponents. A political analyst told The Nation that it will be difficult for candidates to rule out blackmail and fake news during campaigns.
The issue came up at the PDP stakeholders meeting with the members of the State Working Committee (SWC), State Executive Committee (SEC), Elders Committee, candidates and leaders of the party two Saturdays ago. At the meeting chaired by its Chairman, Charles Ugwuh the party said the concern was raised because of “the APC’s sponsorship of fake news and tales of imaginary wars against the PDP in the past”.
However, some analysts said those candidates and their political parties, who intend to follow this path are those who lack the intellectual capacity to focus on ideas-driven or issues-based campaigns.
“The norm is for candidates to embark on issues-based campaigns. This would enrich the discourse and enable voters to make informed choices during the elections” they said.
The Imo Awareness Coalition (IAC), a socio-political group based in Owerri, said it will keep an eye on all the candidates, particularly those jostling for Senate, House of Reps and State Assembly elections.
“We will focus on the quality of the candidates, and guide the electorate to ensure they make the right choices at the polls. We must enrich the campaigns and ensure candidates focus on core issues and not on blackmail” the group said.
The coalition stated that “Section 92 of the Electoral Act 2022 forbids any political campaign or slogan tainted towards abusive language directly or indirectly or one likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings, thus abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendos intended or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotion should be avoided.
However, the APC has assured the electorates that it is prepared to engage them with the evidence of the party’s unprecedented and unbeaten scorecards in all the critical sectors of the economy. Its Publicity Secretary, Cajetan Duke, challenged the opposition on an issue-based campaign. He said: “Actually as the campaign for next year’s general elections kicks off in line with official guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), we are prepared to engage the electorates with the evidence of our unprecedented and unbeaten scorecards in all the critical sectors of the economy. We look forward to an issue-based campaign from the opposition parties.
“We are very optimistic that with the significant investment the APC-led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has made in the past seven years in virtually all sectors of the economy, particularly in the area of provisions of critical infrastructure that drives the economy, undivided commitment to the fight against insecurity and corruption, our party, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) has got the opportunity to present itself again before the people to seek their mandate to consolidate on our agenda for a more secure, prosperous and corruption-free Nigeria.
“While relying on the uncommon milestone of the President Buhari administration, our party will further leverage on the proven political and administrative antecedents of our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima.
“Here in Imo State, we are proud that Imolites, including the opposition parties, have continued to testify about the good works of our governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, who has turned every part of the state into an emergency construction site. By the performance of the shared prosperity of the administration of Uzodimma, our job has been made easy.”