By Chidi Levi
How Re-alignment, geo-numerical Advantage, Intra-Party Feud, Handed Him Victory
Owerri, the serene but beautiful capital of Imo state was the setting. It was a gathering that would influence the outcome of the November 11, 2023 Imo guber contest.
The Making of a “Business Get Together”
To divert public attention from the main meat of the meeting, it was disguised as a “Business Together”.And so, it was at the “Business Get Together” that the interplay of forces and factors that combined to return Governor Hope Uzodinma to Douglas House(as the Imo state Government House is known) for a second term were hatched.
At play in the meeting were strategic realignment, alliance and geo-numerical consolidation between Owerri and Orlu zones and the decision to flood every Local Government Area, Ward and Community in the two zones with vote canvassers.
Canvassers As Re-election “Evangelists”
The Uzodinma re-election vote canvassers were saddled with interfacing with members of their immediate families, kindreds and communities on the need to re-elect the Governor.
They were also to engage in house-to-house and door-to-door selling of the Governor.
The modus operandi of the canvassers was akin to the itinerant Jehova witness members’ door-to-door mode of evangelism.
Vote canvassers also penetrated and saturated nzuko ummuna ( kindred meetings) in various villages, community gatherings, weddings, burials, Church,ch events and other social events, innocuously selling the Governor’s re-election bid.
Essentially, the canvassers did an excellent job of bringing Governor’s Uzodinma re-election to the front burner and the consciousness of the people to the extent that in communities in Oru-east and Oru-West, Orsu and so many other Council Areas and Communities in Orlu Senatorial District, the only candidate voters knew was “Onwa Oyoko” as Governor Uzodinma is affectionately called.
Background to “Business Get Together”
The eggheads of the idea had been talking at informal gatherings but as the Gubernatorial election drew near, they decided to have a formal meeting to concretize their agenda.
So, on a certain Saturday evening in August- three months before the 2023 Imo Governorship election, select political leaders, including some chieftains of the three main political parties in the State and some past and present political office holders, business moguls and a few religious leaders, all drawn from the Orlu and Owerri Senatorial districts otherwise known as Imo West and Imo East respectively, discreetly met at a hotel in Owerri.
At the meeting, speakers were detailed and frank in their assessments and submissions. Discussions were also no-hold-barred and exhaustive.
A source privy to the gathering and what transpired, including the far-reaching decisions that were taken, vehemently denies Governor Uzodinma’s remotest involvement in the conception, planning or execution of the meeting. “Neither the Governor nor his aides were privy to the meeting; they were not in the know and had no slightest idea of what was in the offing. Eminent Imo citizens from Orlu and Owerri simply put partisan politics aside to deliberate and agree on what they believed was the best for the two zones nay Imo” he told the Magazine.
Essentially, apart from agreeing that each person should organise vote canvassers in their wards and communities, at the end of the meeting, leaders from the two Senatorial Districts were unanimous that Orlu had had a larger share of the slice of Imo’s political power to the detriment of the other two districts – Owerri and Okigwe- having cumulatively ruled the State for 20 years since the return of democracy in 1999 as opposed to Okigwe and Owerri zones four years( Ikedi Ohakim) and Seven months( Emeka Ihedioha) respectively.
However, aware that the combined electoral strength of Orlu Zone’s 12 Local Government Areas and Owerri Zone’s 10 meant a clear-cut numerical advantage and could singularly deliver the Governor for a second term, the need for Governor Uzodinma’s return to complete the remaining four-year tenure was agreed upon to among other things, according to them:
* Enable him to sustain, consolidate and clinically complete his state-wide socio-economic and infrastructural re-invention of Imo.
* Avoid the truncation of his giant strides by a new Governor who may want to stall them.
*Solidfy power rotation to Owerri zone in 2027 in such a way that Orlu and Okigwe zones will have no excuse or moral fibre to want to eye Government House.
However, citing alleged years of political deprivation, including the annulment by INEC, of Chief Martin Agbaso’s virtual governorship victory in 2007, attendees from the three Owerri Local Government Areas- Owerri West, Owerri municipality and Owerri North argued that any of the three Council Areas should be allowed to produce the governor in 2027.
And LP and PDP Factions Joined the Fray
Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Labour Party, LP sources have confirmed to the magazine that factions of the two opposition parties in Imo aided the victory of Governor Uzodinma.
According to a Chieftain of LP from Okigwe, the home Senatorial District of the party’s candidate in the election, Senator Nathan Achonu, “Truth be told, we went into the Governorship election badly divided. Some of our members who are disgruntled over one reason or another openly canvassed votes for our opponent; it was that bad”
The magazine was reliably informed that supporters of some of the aspirants who felt they were manipulated out in the LP gubernatorial primary election, especially supporters of General Jack Lincoln Ogunewe (Rtd) and Chief Martin Agbaso worked against the LP Candidate.
The PDP candidate, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, suffered the worst fate. A PDP insider informed the Magazine that supporters of former Governor Emeka Ihedioha across the State made no pretence about their rejection of Senator Anyawu.
The consequence was that in traditional PDP strongholds, particularly Owerri zone, including the Mbaise nation where Ihedioha hails from, voters snubbed the PDP and Senator Anyanwu and voted massively for Governor Uzodinma instead.
Recall that Ihedioha was the front runner for the PDP Governorship ticket and was on the cusp of grabbing it before Senator Anyanwu who is the National Secretary of the PDP used his vantage position in the party to muzzle him out of the race and then grabbed the ticket himself.
For Uzodinma, it was a clear, solid, unprecedented victory, which, in the hearts of the opponents, they have no answer to.