By Collins Ughalaa
*”He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine'” Matthew 26:39.*
For those of us who are desirous of a united, stronger Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), we are greatly concerned over the seemingly intractable tide ravaging the party in Imo State. While many of the party leaders would want to move on with the usual politics of protecting their strongholds, we as “outsiders” are very mindful of the fact that those who watch a fight see greater opportunities from the outside. This is why it may seem sometimes that we don’t see the same thing from the same lense as the political gladiators. We may agree on the need for internal democracy, competence and capacity in party leaders and candidates, due process, rule of law and good governance, but often times we disagree on the how to make it work.
To the political gladiators anything good is good so far as it does not affect their hold on power, no matter how minute. This is why, in order to have their way the gladiators accuse us of mischief. But that is part of the cross to bear in our contribution to society.
The situation in the PDP in Imo State has got to the point of *Ama k’ekwu*. It’s like one who is separating two of his enemies or friends in a fight. Either can accuse him of unfairness. But we can only continue to pray and draw the attention of the PDP in Imo State to just let this iniquitous cup pass, otherwise they may drink a poisonous content.
There are some people in Imo PDP who say they don’t mind easing out anyone whom they consider injurious to their cause. Whatever that means. There are also many who believe that the umbrella is spacious enough for anyone. This is really a very hard nut for anyone, because some might reason that no one brings in ants into his bosom cloth, or brings fire to himself and not get burnt.
Those who make this argument seem to find some justification in history. They cite the popular claim that the two-term Senator of Imo West, Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodimma, is a political merchant, who is accused of trading sumptuously on the bright opportunities of the party. Though this allegation has found no substance yet, it has remained in the public domain for long. There is reference to what they term the sellout of 2015 where they accuse the Senator of striking a deal against the PDP governorship interest with Governor Okorocha, so that he could return to the Senate. He got back to the Senate anyway, but his party lost the governorship election.
It will be unfair to put the failure of the governorship interest of Imo PDP in 2015 squarely on the Senator. There have been claims that Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha who was the guber candidate of the PDP in Imo in 2015 should take greater part of the blame, particularly the manner of his emergence as gubernatorial candidate of the party and his mannerism after he emerged. There have been claims that Ihedioha, after his emergence as candidate saw himself in government house already and built walls around himself instead of the needed bridges.
This accounts for why upon his controversial guber ticket in 2015, the people of Orlu Zone sent poweful delegations of their leaders to negotiate the Orlu interest in his would-be government. Shocking, in an unspeakable arrogance Ihedioha rebuffed them. On one of such humiliating occasions Ihedioha’s deputy governorship candidate, Chief Chuma Nnajj, intervened and booked appointment for the Orlu delegation. But what did Ihedioha do? He rebuffed them, for the seventh time.
Did Ihedioha consider some of the leaders of the party of any consequence? Even when some of them, out of love for party and sportsmanship, opened their arms, did Ihedioha embrace them?
This blame game and grandstanding can go on very much, but can it solve any problem? The truth is that most of the party leaders shouting crucify him! crucify him! and are ready to throw the first stone, are actually guilty of the same offence. And if we want to continue on the blame game and throw stones, a lot of PDP leaders will have broken heads, legs, arms and blinded eyes.
Who among the PDP leaders have not traded the party’s interest to the enemy? Some have even sold the party with a kiss!
Was it not because PDP leaders traded the party’s interest that the party lost the 2011 governorship election? No matter how you choose to look at it, the PDP lost the 2011 governorship election to the PDP. And they have collectively suffered the consequences, no mattert the justification they put forward. Again, it has been in the public space for sometime that Ihedioha used his influence at the National Assembly as Deputy Speaker and frustrated Chief Ikedi Ohakim’s efforts to reclaim his stolen mandate in the court.
The story goes that Ihedioha feared that incumbent Governor Ikedi Ohakim would not favour his succeeding him in 2015, having been in the House of Reps for three terms. But he forgot how the same Ohakim made enemies for himself with the Ngor Okpala people where there was existing truce on tenure, just to ensure that Ihedioha returned to the House for the third term and possibly becoming Speaker. If this story is true, one can only ask Ihedioha to pour water on his chest.
But the PDP cannot continue to dwell in the past. This is why the current posturing by some leaders of the party should give concern to all lovers of democracy in Imo State. In my last intervention on the PDP I had warned that Ihedioha’s surugede dance should stop forthwith to enable wounds heal and allow true reconciliation take place. I argued that Ihedioha and his group should be magnanimous in victory. But the claim on Wednesday, August 16, 2017, at the 47 Okigwe Road “PDP” office by Senator Hope Uzodimma, that after the Supreme Court victory they were expected to do boy-boy work around Makarfi was uncalled for and remains condemnable.
When the Senator said that the leadership crisis in Imo PDP has nothing to do with the resolution of the crisis in the party at the national level, one thing struck my mind. And without prejudice to the matter in court, it should be noted that the Senator’s claim that “We (the PDP) had completed wards, LGAs and state congresses” before the Port Harcourt national convention where the party came out divided further, is also false.
Public records show that the leaders of the parry, unable to conduct the state congress, converged at Rockview Hotel in Owerri where they addressed the press and announced that the state congress was suspended. Senator Hope Uzodimma also addressed his loyalists at Disney Hotel in Owerri emphasizing that the party had suspended the state congress.
In a shocking maneuver, the party leaders would swallow their words and hold five parallel state congresses with five excos laying claim to the soul of the party. The intrigues that have gone on in the party is not subject of this intervention. But the question remains that the instrument that warranted the subsequent state congresses is still unknown to many. On this ground one may be tempted to say that all PDP excos in the state are illegal.
And for whatever reason, the Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee of the party has recognized the Barr Ezekwem led exco in Imo, and this has given them some level of legitimacy, though the problems linger. But love for party and good of the people should direct all gladiators in the party to seek reconciliation and reintegration. Instead of pursuing this nobler cause, what I see in Imo PDP is both provocative and threatens the wellbeing of the party. It is also capable of snatching the opportunities Imo people need to change this draconian imperialism in the state in 2019.
I understand that the Senator Hope Uzodimma faction of the PDP is looking on to the outcome of the matter in court and they are taking political advantage of the recent letter from the Inspector General of Police to the State Commissioner of Police. But the question that needs to be answered is: what could happen if the Ezekwem exco withdraws their case in court? The Senator Hope Uzodimma faction may continue to lay claim to being the true exco, or they institute their own case against the Ezekwem exco. But they wouldn’t be recognized by the Makarfi led NCC and would enjoy no legitimacy therefrom. If this circus is not halted the PDP might go into the 2019 general elections badly bruised and ineffective.
Therefore, whereas I expect the Ezekwem exco to show magnanimity in victory, it is also expected that Senator Hope and his group should show the willingness for reconciliation. Doing this would mean that there would be give and take. The Hope group should now moderate their claim to the leadership of the party, since it has become obviously impossible for Makarfi to dissolve all the excos in the State and call for a fresh state congress. In any battle, whereas it is expected that the winners stretch their hands for a shake, it is expected too that the *losers* would grab the hands and shake them and be men.
As a national leader of the party, Senator Hope could secure the needed reconciliation from the top and bring it back home. If he can hijack Makarfi as he claimed, he should rather strike a peace deal with Makarfi for the good of the party.
The truth of the matter is that the conflagrating ambitions of Senator Hope Uzodimma and Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha are the reasons for the trouble in Imo PDP. Ihedioha believes he is still the PDP guber candidate, since 2015, and he does not want anyone to challenge him. He doesn’t mind whether his ambition constricts the party or not. He can chase anyone away to achieve it. But he’s been severally warned that what the party needs in 2019 is someone that can win the governorship election and not one that will just try.
Ihedioha’s guber ambition is the reason he insisted Orlu Zone would not produce the state chairman of the PDP. He fears Hope might pocket him, and that such would become suicidal for his unbriddled guber ambition.
Ihedioha’s recent adopted strategy is that he has been intimidating anyone that shows interest in the guber ticket of the PDP. But I am yet to see how he handles Senator Arthan Achonu from Okigwe Zone who has shown interest in the PDP guber ticket.
Ihedioha is destroying Owerri Zone by ensuring that no one shows interest in the guber ticket again. Believing erroneously that he had conquered Owerri Zone, he is rather banking on the 12 local governments of Orlu Zone. This is why he has taken the war to Hope’s yard. But what assurance does Ihedioha have that no one from Orlu Zone is interested in the PDP guber ticket. If he counts his teeth with his tongue he would know Orlu Zone is very much interested in the guber ticker. And it is actually for the fear that he does not possess the capacity in enough quantity to win the guber election that Orlu Zone is stepping up to remedy the situation.
Ihedioha does not see eye-to-eye with some gladiators in the PDP from Owerri Zone, particularly from his Mbaise Clan, such as Senator SamDaddy, Hon Nnanna Igbokwe (and he has chased him out to Okorocha), Dr Alex Obi, Senator Sylvester Anyanwu, etc. It is only Dr. Mrs. Kema Chikwe that Ihedioha is comfortable with, because she runs everyone else down before him.
It is also because of the ongoing intimidation game in the PDP that the people of Owerri Zone have adopted the graveyard silence and sit-don look approach. Ihedioha should not take this graveyard silence for victory. It is a gunpowder.
Another truth worthy of stating here is that, though the Ezekwem PDP is reaching out to other factions of the party, particularly the Alex Obi and Ajaelu factions, one can claim that Senator Hope Uzodimma and his group are doing exactly what Ihedioha threatened he would do. Recall that Ihedioha had threatened his group would press the Option B button if they lost at the Supreme Court and leave the party. But Methinks also that if the Senator had made himself a bit more trustworthy among his PDP fellow leaders things would have been different.
For example, it is known to all that Ihedioha is running for 2019 guber. But that cannot be said of the Senator. He keeps on denying it but his footsoldiers insist he’s running for 2019 guber. He swears and says it’s a lie. Even among his group, there is confusion as to whether he will run or not. And this is not strange. Senator Hope is known for capacity to pull a surprise at the last minute. This kind of attitude is partly why he does not see eye-to-eye with former Governor Achike Udenwa and other leaders in his Orlu Zone.
But Barr Ezekwem and his exco should not be provoked into doing the wrong things. They should rather bite their lips and shake their heads and think clearly like men. They should focus on the 2019 target and therefore pursue peace with all men. Nothing should distract them from the need to have a united and stronger PDP, not even the antics of some gladiators.
The National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, should not look from the sidelines. He should set up a committee that would look into the Imo PDP matter, with the aim of uniting and strengthening the PDP in Imo.
Meanwhile, Barr Ezekwem and his exco have the onerous task of checking the overbearing egos of some of the gladiators in his camp, who for the sake of becoming governorship candidate do not mind what the party suffers. These people are the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They appear as angels of light but they are ravenous.
We need to put an eye on them, until this cup passes over.