By STEVE UZOECHI
The scenario in Imo State ahead the 2019 elections is not entirely different from the prevailing reality across the country. As early as the year 2017, Governor Rochas Okorocha, who is the leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Imo State, put the entire state on notice that as he serves out as governor, he will be running for the Imo West senatorial seat, which is presently occupied by Senator Hope Uzodinma, who was at the time a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)in the state.
Quite a lot has happened since that declaration by Okorocha. And it was obvious that the import of the governor’s notice was not lost on the incumbent Senator Uzodinma. From that point it seemed, Uzodinma commenced action to boost his capacity to either contend with the outgoing governor for the seat, or enhance his bargaining power for a comfortable political deal. He plunged into the leadership tussle for the national chairmanship of his party at the time, the PDP. Unfortunately, he backed the wrong horse by supporting the Ali Modu Sherrif faction of the party, which eventually lost to the Ahmed Markafi led faction.
The leadership of the PDP in Imo State was consequently constituted by the Markafi faction. And having antagonized the party in the state leading to their leaving the former state party office to a new location, Uzodinma understood he had burnt all his bridges. Remaining in the PDP was no longer an option, so he secretly jumped ship to the APC, but most members of the party in the state were not aware.
Senator Uzodinma’s entrance into the APC was apparently a good gambit, which perhaps could have offered him some grounds to negotiate a comfortable compromise with Governor Okorocha, who is the leader of the party in the state. But it did not pan out for the senator.
Months ago when Senator Uzodinma in the usual style of Nigerian politicians went to the National Headquarter of the APC to dramatize his entry into the APC, all hell broke loose in his home state, Imo. Barely has the news of his joining the APC cooled off, did Okorocha unleash a blistering attack on the senator, rejecting his crossing over to the APC, insisting that the state party was not aware of his joining the party.
“People like Hope Uzodinma would never want to fairly run an election and truly test their popularity. He will always want to cut corners and I believe he was of the erroneous view that APC is a place where he can deploy federal might to win an undeserved electoral victory in 2019. APC is not the same as PDP, if you are unpopular and the people has rejected you, nothing can save,” Okorocha said at a press conference. Not too long after, it became obvious that Uzodinma had pulled a fast one on the governor; that he had duly registered in his ward, thereby outsmarting the governor.
But, whether by design or coincidence, some hoodlums besieged the home of the said ward chairman that registered Uzodinma and beat him to coma. He narrowly escaped death. From events that played out subsequently, it was obvious that Uzodinma was not wanted in Imo APC under the leadership of Okorocha.
This also placed Uzodinma and his political ambition in a precarious situation. The senator, therefore, quickly aligned himself with the rival group within the party in the state. With the APC congress and counter congresses that followed in the state, Okorocha seems to be presently controlling the party structures, while the rival APC group that Uzodinma belongs to continue to wait for the time-challenged ruling on their appeal against the ruling of the lower court on the contentious congresses held in the state. Presently, short of dumping the APC for another political party, Senator Uzodinma is boxed to a corner and clearly snookered by time and chance as far as his return to the Senate is concerned. Apparently, this is unarguably the reason Uzodinma, to the chagrin of many, raised the ante by obtaining an APC governorship nomination form last week. Even if Uzodinma is finally outwitted in the primaries, the party will come out of the process, splintered and
Whatever the case, however, Okorocha has already bought his senatorial nomination form and he is not backing out of the race, while the incumbent Uzodinma has fled the Imo West senatorial battle ground for others. Whether the senator will continue in his bid for the governorship of the state or will ship out to another party for a return to the Senate are variables that only a last minute negotiations will determine.
With the APC primaries barely a fortnight away, the windows for a volte face by either Governor Okorocha or Senator Uzodinma are fast shutting down. But for the like of Hon. Jones Onyereri, Senator Osita Izunaso and some of the young Turks of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run movement like Comrade Precious Nwadike, Okorocha may have had a jolly ride to the Senate.