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TWith the approaching end of Gov. Rochas Okorocha’s second term in Imo State, it is apparent that the contest for the crown is a fight to finish. An array of formidable candidates flying the flags of relatively prominent parties has made political pundits hamstrung in predicting the winner in the coming polls with regard to who occupies Douglas House in Owerri. Indeed, it might not be unexpected that upsets and surprises are likely, even more so than it was during the party primaries that threw up very remotely expected candidates in the various parties.

Ordinarily, the contest appears to be between Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Godwin Araraume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and, perhaps, Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA).  Nwosu holds the instrument of the state through his father-in-law, Gov. Okorocha, who has been fronting him from day one as an able successor, amidst vehement opposition of some erstwhile loyalists of the governor and a good number of others who see the administration as an embodiment of nepotism.

In addition, he carries a burden of what could be described as a series of administrative faux pas which constantly set the government against the people, with the government showing no scruples in many cases. Under the administration, pensioners and workers suffered the worst neglect in the annals of the state, clerics were treated with disdain and traders and businessmen got a raw deal with the demolition of the Eke Ukwu Owerri market and other markets across the state, thus setting the traders many years backwards.

In infrastructure development, the roads they built were always as bumpy as the course of the administration itself while the much bandied free education turned out to be a ruse.

Yet, advocates of the unwritten charter of equity are howling over the idea of a candidate from Orlu zone coming out after the zone had been there for 16 years. Nwosu, who is from Nkwerre in Orlu zone, shares this burden with Senator Uzodinma who hails from Oru, also in Orlu zone. Nwosu was headed to grab the flag of APC by the help of his father-in-law when Uzodinma threw the spanner on the wheels and the table turned amazingly.

Another astonishing turn of events in the politics of the state was the emergence of Senator Araraume as APGA candidate, barely three weeks of his entry into the party, straight from APC.  Prior to this, eyes had been fixed in the direction of APGA for a messiah for the state from among scores of green horns that showed up in the party.  Prominent among these first timers in the political turf was Frank Nneji, an industrialist and transport tycoon who expressed great worry at the level of poverty and unemployment in the state and had mapped out a plan to deal with the situation, having lived all his adult and business life in the state.  He backed out when he and others were fleeced in veiled primaries where latest entrant Araraume was announced the flagbearer, a move that led many into suspecting that huge funds had moved from hand to hand. What followed were shouts of “to your tents o Israel”. The predominantly APGA state was bruised.

A dominant campaign point in the Imo guber appears to be the recovery of alleged stolen government property. If proved right, that task, to the average Imo person, is as important as the urgent upgrading of the economy of the state to guarantee jobs and a raised standard of living of the people. It, however, remains the responsibility of law enforcement agencies rather than the exclusive role of a succeeding executive that might over react out of acrimony. The issue came to the front row because there were strong suspicions that the incumbent may have some skeletons in the closet which he would want to remain under cover forever, and only his son-in-law is the trusted person to ensure that. Opposition, on that account, mounts for Nwosu, but the intricate network of Nigeria’s “politricking” offers every politician a leeway out of every problem.  To that effect, it may not be out of place to sense that a smart politician who desires a cover of that sort could enter into alliance with other candidates than the one he appears to be fronting, such that should they win he would jolly well be sure of the cover.

One man who stands way off this radar is PDP’s candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who appears to be an archrival of the incumbent governor, having taken an unsuccessful shot at the crown against the incumbent. He has not been vociferous about the recovery of stolen property stuff, but that does not foreclose such an action in an administration he heads. Besides, he is the one that has no traceable affinity to the present administration. As it stands, he remains the hope of the common Imo people in redressing the anomalies that characterised the government in the last eight years or more, the major being the bastardization of the civil service and the utter neglect of due process in matters of governance.

It is this setting aside of the due process that cast a slur on the integrity of the rescuers who found unnecessary the compelling need for accountability and transparency in governance.  Contract sums which ought to be in public domain are shrouded in secrecy as if it was a hide and seek game with government and the masses. Considering his experience in the legislature, his constancy in PDP and the distance between him and the present government, more than any other candidate, Ihedioha appears to be the bastion of restoration which the Imo people badly need today.

If the electorate are able to focus on the antecedents of the candidates, majority of whom have changed parties variously in their desperate bid to rule over the Eastern Heartland, many of whom have constituted saboteurs to their party men, they would be able to elect their messiah come March 9.   

     As the game gets tougher and appears quite unpredictable, it might be dangerous, though, to ignore the ever menacing influence of spoilsports among the candidates.  It’s been thrilling times for Imo.

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