Palpable tension, anxiety and trepidation have continued to rise to a feverish point in Okigwe zone, Imo North senatorial district, following the shocking postponement of a re-run election earlier scheduled for Saturday, February 20, 2016 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
The exercise which was also expected to have taken place in Isiala Mbano, Oru East and Owerri West council areas for the State House of Assembly seats, was dramatically shelved for a yet to be disclosed date by the electoral umpire for alleged clandestine plot by the foremost contenders to the senatorial seat, their supporters and agents – Chief Ben Uwajumogu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Senator Athan Nneji Achonu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Achonu – a multi billionaire business man turned politician from Ehime Mbano was elected into the nation’s upper legislative chamber last year before his mandate was annulled by a court of competent jurisdiction, consequent upon an observed anomaly in the electoral arrangement reportedly detected by one of the candidates for the office.
Expectedly, this was to open the floodgate for fresh extensive and intensive grassroots electioneering in the six local government areas that make up the zone comprising, Okigwe, Onuimo, Isiala Mbano, Ehime Mbano Obowo and Ihitte/ Uboma.
This is even as the local government areas slated for the same re-run have become a beehive of political activities by the candidates and their political parties with the APC and PDP as the major gladiators.
To be sure, the last minute postponement of the polls by INEC has since provoked accusations and counter accusations between them(APC and PDP).
While the latter has repeatedly pointed fingers of accusation of a planned but exposed plot to rig the polls, the former is insistent that it (PDP) is crying wolf where there is none.
Thenigerialawyer monitored the unfolding political drama in the state before the postponed re-run reports that a heavy duty truck loaded with miscreants and urchins allegedly fronting for the APC had in the most bizarre manner stormed the entrance gate of the INEC which situates opposite the civil service secretariat and aggressively blocked the main entrance gate of the commission.
Chanting solidarity party songs with bottles of hard drinks which they joyfully emptied in their mouths, the roaring youths curiously accused the INEC of playing out the scripts of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Curiously while the state chairman of the party (APC) Dr. Hilary Ekeh re-echoed the submission of the youths in an, interview with newsmen in Owerri, the party’s candidate for the re-run, Chief Benjamin Uwajumogu admitted that the boys were indeed working for the party (APC), thus bringing discordant tunes within the APC family.
Governor Rochas Okorocha, generally acknowledged as the personification of the APC in the South East has consistently lamented the absence of an APC Senator of South East extraction in the nation’s upper legislation Chamber.
This, he said, has denied the zone of juicy appointment in the leadership of the National Assembly.
To this end, he has remained vociferous in the APC gospel of change, imploring the Imo electorate to embrace the party to enable them join the main stream of the nation’s body politics.
Two days before the postponed re-run election for Okigwe zone, the governor had in a radio and television broadcast appealed to eligible voters in the area to vote massively for APC for them to enjoy more democracy dividends.
To the APC, the decision by the INEC to annul the mandate of Chief Achonu – a multi billionaire business man from Ehime Mbano council area of the state was nothing but good riddance to bad rubbish. The party which is still licking her wounds over her poor performance in the past Presidential and National Assembly elections has never hidden its determination to consolidate and to strengthen its supremacy in the state more so as its principal rival the PDP has vowed to send it packing in 2019.
Okorocha in one of his public outings had accused the PDP of massively rigging the 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections which he argued had denied the South East of juicy positions in the leadership of the National Assembly.
The tensed political atmosphere arising from the rescheduled elections in the zone, Isiala Mbano, Owerri West and Oru East state House of Assembly seat rose to a feverish position when (INEC) announced Saturday 20th February as the date for the conduct of the fresh polls.
Before this, the two contending parties had held the state bound with ceaseless grassroots campaign which was followed by radio and television jingles, posters and bill boards dotting the political landscape of the affected areas.
The APC Senatorial Candidate, Chief Benjamin Uwajumogu was the immediate past Speaker of the State House of Assembly. He hails from Umuihi autonomous community, in the Ihitte/ Uboma local Government area of the State.
He won election into the state House of Assembly in 2011 under the platform of the PDP before the dramatically fled the party and defected to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) which won the majority of the Assembly seats from where he emerged as the Speaker to the chagrin of the PDP.
Although largely seen as a political neophyte and a greenhorn in the politics of the Eastern Heartland, not a few people believe that Uwajumaogu has an edge over his rival –chief Achonu.
As a protégé to governor Okorocha, who is rabidly in support of the Rescue Mission administration, the former Speaker has carved a niche for himself having undergone the necessary political tutelage in the hands of major stakeholders from the zone. The movers and shakers of the politics of the zone are said to be solidly behind him in his aspiration.
They include a two time senator for the zone –Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume, financial magnet – Chief Tony Chukwu, Professor Nnandi Obiaraeri, Barrister Emma Ibediroh among others.
Conscious of the fact that this is the last straw that will break the camel’s back before 2019 members of the party in the state have begun to gather under the party’s umbrella in demonstration of its solidarity for the party senatorial flag bearer Achonu with series of overt and covert meetings, consultations and compromise being the in thing.
In spite of perceived thick conspiracy against him by a powerful clique within the zone, Achonu with his financial might is dreaded as a political bulldozer who is most likely to spring a surprise in the political ring.
With sustained political electioneering which lingered till the 19th of last month, a day to the much awaited re-run, precisely mid day, the unexpected happened.
Thugs loaded in a heavy duty truck armed with dangerous weapons emerged from the blue and stormed the INEC office in Owerri and in a commando like operation blocked the gate of the commission.
Chanting party songs which betrayed them as fronting for the APC, the youngsters not only vandalized stationary vehicles parked by innocent members of the public but also gave some staff of the commission the beating of their lives.
The melee that erupted, forced people to scamper for safety while the agile ones quickly took to their heels for tear of being engulfed in the cross fire.
Consequently, the acting Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state Mr. was to later come up with a press statement that the exercise had been shifted to an unknown date.
This provoked chains of reaction among the residents of the state with the two major gladiators (APC & PDP) trading accusations of complicity in the ill fated re-run.
At a joint press briefing held on Saturday 20th, at the party secretariat in Owerri, the Chairman of the PDP, Chief Nnamdi Anyaehie and the party’s Senatorial Candidate Athan Nneji Achonu accused the APC of recruiting miscreants to abort the poll.
The Party pointedly accused the state government, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies in the state of complicity in the aborted re-run election earlier scheduled to hold on that faithful Saturday.
The Chairman – Chief Nnamdi Anyaehie who addressed newsmen at the party secretariat said that the postponement of the polls was a contrivance of the state government whose top officials recruited miscreants, urchins and who stormed the premises of the Independent National Electoral Commission midday with dangerous weapons and blocked the entrance gate of the commission with a heavy duty truck.
“It beats our imagination and the minds of all right thinking individuals how such an ugly incident could thrive in the presence of armed security agents and yet nobody was arrested”.
Chief Anyaehie who also took exception to the statewide radio broadcast to the people of the state by the state governor Rochas Anayo Okorocha a day to the aborted re-run election during which he urged the electorate to vote for APC candidate dismissed this as an abuse of the paraphernalia of office.
He wondered why the National Anthem should be used for such an illegal broadcast that was meant to cajole and to intimidate the electorate to vote against their wish.
Chief Anyaehie however, advised the electorate of Imo North origin , Okigwe senatorial district to remain firm and resolute in their support for the PDP.
Adding his voice, the PDP senatorial candidate Chief Athan Nneji Achonu dismissed the indefinite postponement of the re-run election as laughable.
He blamed the APC controlled government in the state for the shocking action taken by the INEC, insisting that Okigwe zone had traditionally enjoined peace, unity and tranquillity.
Chief Achonu regretted that the Okigwe zone had continued to stagnate in growth and development as a result of the selfish activities of a cabal in the area who want to dominate the affairs of the zone till eternity.
He boasted that the conspiracy of these self styled political godfathers against him would not impede his electoral fortunes whenever the election is conducted as he was sure of victory any time, any day.
The state commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports, Chief Chidi Ibeh was quick to counter the allegation.
“The state government wishes to make it abundantly clear that it had no hand whatsoever in the circumstances that led to the postponement of the re-run election originally scheduled by the INEC to hold last weekend”.
According to Ibeh the decision to postpone the polls indefinitely was entirely that of the INEC consequent upon an air of uncertainly created by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), their agents and collaborators who were convinced that they would have lost the election if it was allowed to hold.
He insisted that the State Government has traditionally accorded prominence to the provision of maximum security and as such could not have engage anybody, group or Association to storm the INEC office to frustrate the conduct of the polls saying “If anything, the postponement came to the APC in the state as bolt from the blue as the party having endeared herself to the masses through its result oriented programme is sure of clinching Victory whenever the election comes”.
On the allegation that the state government thumb printed ballotpapers on the eve of the proposed re-run election, Ibeh challenged the PDP to prove this beyond all reasonable doubt, stressing that on the contrary, “it is on record that the PDP has over the year ingloriously acquired notoriety in electoral malpractices because of its desperation to acquire and to retain power at all costs and by all means.
Accusing the APC of thumb printing ballot papers therefore amounts to a pot calling the kettle black.
Experience has shown that whenever the PDP is afraid of losing an election it usually goes out of its way to ensure that such an election does not hold. It happened during the last general when the party, moving and rearing like a wounded lion ensured that the 2015 presidential election was postponed at the first instance.
The PDP is suffering from hallucination, and crying wolf where there is none. The party indeed deserves pity as it has been consigned into the dustbin of history by the electorate because of its poverty of visions, democratic principles and administrative malfeasance”.
He therefore advised the people of the state to ignore the ranting of the PDP and their agents who he described as nothing but sinking boats.
For now, the people of the state are anxiously awaiting to know where the pendulum of the clock will eventually swing when the election is conducted.