The quest by the Peoples Democratic Party in Imo State to wrestle power from the All Progressives Congress in the November governorship election may have suffered a setback given the internal crisis in the party, the incumbency factor that might work for the APC and the rising profile of the Labour Party, DIRISU YAKUBU writes
Ahead of the November 11 governorship election in Imo State, three political parties have been tipped as top contenders for the poll. They are the All Progressives Congress whose candidate, Hope Uzodinma, is the incumbent governor; the Peoples Democratic Party, whose candidate, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, is also the party’s National Secretary, and the fast-rising Labour Party, where Senator Athan Achonu is the candidate.
Interestingly, none of these candidates is a pushover. In addition, they had at one time or the other served as senators.
The PDP, hitherto the dominant political party in the South-East, has since found itself on the fringes of politics in the region after losing the governorship election to the APC in 2015. Although initially declared winner of the governorship poll in 2019, PDP’s Emeka Ihedioha performance in office received applause until the Supreme Court declared Uzodimma the authentic winner of the election.
Many people had expected Ihedioha to fly the PDP ticket yet again, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives on March 28 announced his decision to dump the party.
Ihedioha’s decision to part ways with the party, on whose platform he was elected into the Green Chamber, was partly informed by his clash with Anyanwu, who later won the governorship ticket after scoring 802 votes out of a total of 915 delegate votes that participated in the primary.
Even though some PDP support groups have asked Anyanwu to resign his position as the party’s National Secretary following his emergence as governorship candidate, he has held on to his position, noting that he had not violated the party’s constitution.
Responding to calls for his resignation recently, Anyanwu noted that the party’s constitution was clear on how a National Working Committee member could be replaced, stressing that “I have the time to decide. In my absence, there is the Deputy National Secretary who can always step in. I am not the first NWC member to pick a ticket to run for an elective office on the platform of the PDP.”
In spite of Anyanwu’s optimism, the PDP seems to have more reasons to be worried about its chances in the November election, given the recent exit of the party by seven members of the state working committee.
A fortnight ago, Collins Opurozor, Ray Emeana, Greg Nwadike, Martin Ejiogu, Maria Mbakwe, Josiah Eze and Chibuisi Obido, who were the state Publicity Secretary, Secretary, Youth Leader, Deputy Chairman, Woman Leader, Treasurer and Vice Chairman (Orlu zone) respectively, resigned their positions and dumped the party.
Opurozor who spoke on behalf of the group did not mince words when he gave reasons why they decided to leave the PDP.
He stated, “In unequivocal terms, we announce to you that the PDP in Imo State has now been damaged beyond redemption by the National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and the party is, at last, moving irreversibly to its terminus.
“It is necessary we remind you that in the last three years, this working committee has built a very strong, formidable and enviable PDP in Imo State. To enable the party to realise its promise of being a truly democratic entity, we envisioned the need to expand the internal democratic space by forming nearly five thousand chapters across all the polling units in the state.
“We took the party to the people, and that made us the darling of the Imo people. We accomplished this task despite our lean resources as an opposition. No other political party has attained this feat in Nigeria. More so, we institutionalised the culture of accountability in party administration and demonstrated the readiness to govern and reform Imo.
“But, since Senator Anyanwu became the National Secretary of the party, he has never relented in deploying the powers of his office to fight members of this working committee and intimidate even ordinary members of the party. Endless strife, mindless wars and erosion of all democratic values and principles have now defined and defiled Imo PDP.”
They accused Anyanwu of sponsoring petitions against them and that he threatened to dissolve the party in the state despite defeating him at the Supreme Court. They said Anyanwu, popularly known as Sam Daddy, had remained unrelenting and unrepentant in his agenda.
Opurozor added, “It is heartbreaking to inform you that some of us in the State Working Committee have at several times escaped assassination attempts because of the wicked lies which our National Secretary sold to his violent supporters, that we misappropriated party funds.”
While the PDP is battling internal crisis, the LP governorship candidate seems to be expanding his support base as he has been speaking to certain focus areas that are of interest to many people.
For Achonu, neither the APC nor the PDP should be trusted in their pledges to make Imo safer for all.
It should be noted that in the 2023 general elections, in an unprecedented manner, the Labour Party won several seats in the two chambers of the National Assembly, House of Assembly seats and the governorship election in Abia State.
Addressing journalists recently at his Abuja residence, Achonu, who represented Imo North Senatorial District in 2015 on the platform of the PDP, vowed to address the security challenges in the state if elected by the people.
Speaking while receiving indigenes of Imo State who paid him a solidarity visit, the governorship candidate said no threat was big enough to stop him from winning the election. “I have the support of our people,” he stated.
He added, “I don’t have any challenge taking part in this election. There is too much brutality in Imo State and this gave birth to the number of deaths in the past few years. We have over 1,000 uncollected bodies in the mortuary and over 900 dead elsewhere.
“In Akwa Ibom, they burnt houses and killed people. I agree that there is a lot of brutality going on in Imo State and that is why I am running to checkmate the menace. I live and earn a living in the state and I want it to be peaceful. My people no longer go home; the senatorial district of the incumbent governor is a troubled zone. His people no longer go home for fear of the unknown.
“We know President Bola Tinubu does not condone violence and because this is a stand-alone election, there is nothing to worry about.”
While insisting that neither the PDP nor APC is good enough to change the governance trajectory of the state, Achonu said the electorate were wiser, having realised that the two parties were the same thing.
He added, “Imo people have seen what the two parties are capable of. You can’t give what you don’t have. Promises are very easy to make but what is more important is the capacity to deliver. If you don’t have what it takes to deliver on the big stage, the people will not take you seriously. This is the situation as we head to the poll in November.”
Taking a swipe at the Uzodimma-led government, the LP chieftain argued that no developmental activity had happened in the state in the past four years, adding that Uzodimma was only interested in federal roads.
He said, “Nothing is happening in Imo State. Uzodimma has abandoned state roads. He is concentrating only on federal roads and we don’t know the arrangement he has with the federal ministries of works and finance.
“We are looking into the details of those federal roads because the cost is almost double the cost of building such roads elsewhere. He is doing these roads because he knows he will get a refund. You can’t move from one local government to another in the state. The whole infrastructure has collapsed, but it is now that the election is coming that he’s busy trying to please the people by paying attention to some key places in order to win votes.
“People are running away from the state, internally generated revenue has dropped and pensioners are crying all the time. The state is in a mess. The hotels are folding up because Imo is a tourist destination, but people can’t go there anymore.
On the state’s indebtedness, Achonu pledged to adopt strategies that would liquidate the loans and reposition the state for optimal productivity.
According to the LP chieftain, the controversy surrounding the 2023 presidential election outcome may help the Independent National Electoral Commission to deliver a more credible election in Imo in November.
He added, “INEC is being manned by Nigerians and from what happened in the last presidential elections held in Imo State, we can say we have a certain level of confidence in the commission. We have no reason to be scared because Imo people will not condone rigging. They are fully behind me, and don’t forget that they are obi-dients. We expect INEC to do its job.”
Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, a political analyst, Haruna Abdullahi, said the PDP had a long walk to victory considering the issues on its path.
He said, “The party did not do well by allowing Emeka Ihedioha to leave. Yes, the former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and Senator Anyanwu were both eying the governorship ticket. Leaders of the party, particularly at the national level, should have stepped in and addressed the situation.
“Regardless of Ihedioha’s stint in the Imo State Government House, people see him today as a leader who rose to become governor in the history of the state. You can’t lose such a high calibre leader and not expect a huge crowd to follow him.
“The PDP will pay for that. Again, timing is of the essence in politics. Forget the saying that 24 hours is a long time in politics. The exit of those state working committee members literally snuffed life out of the party. It came at the wrong time, and with elections due in November, I don’t see a miracle happening for the PDP and its candidate.”
Abdullahi predicted that the election might be a two-horse race between the APC and the LP.
He added, “You may want to look in the direction of Governor Uzodimma because of the incumbency factor but our politics is getting better. Former Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle of the APC, lost election as a sitting governor.
“So, anything can happen. But I think the race is between the ruling party and the Labour Party, which demonstrated its populist credentials in the entire South-East in the last presidential election.”
But for the PDP National Vice Chairman (South-East), Ali Odefa, the loss of the seven working committee members will not affect the chances of the party in the governorship election.
In an interview with Sunday PUNCH, Odefa identified the strength of the PDP in Imo as a singular factor capable of tilting victory in its favour in the November 11 governorship election.
He stated, “The PDP is very strong, willing and ready to win the election in Imo State. It is working very hard in the state in preparation for the election. People are free to make their political choices whenever and however they want to make those choices. Nobody will fault them on what they chose to do. The party is moving on and we are poised to win the election.”
Similarly, the Deputy National Youth Leader of the party, Timothy Osadolor, said the popularity of Anyanwu and his running mate, Jones Onyereri, placed the PDP at a vantage position ahead of other parties.
He stated, “Nigerians will accept the fact that until the Supreme Court magic that brought the current state government into power, Imo State had always been PDP. Most of the founding fathers of the PDP are from Imo State. The state till date is traditionally and predominantly PDP.
The candidate of the party was a member of the state House of Assembly and was once a senator. His running mate, Jones Onyereri, was until recently a member of the House of Representatives.
“Nigerians can see the recent gale of endorsements. We heard Rochas Okorocha coming out to say he endorsed a safer Imo. We have also seen former Governor Ikedi Ohakim endorsing the candidate of the PDP. These are big politicians you cannot ignore. They are former governors with capacity and followership. When you juxtapose this with the followership and capacity of the candidate, you will realise that PDP will win Imo,” he said.