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2011: OPPOSITION GROWS AGAINST OHAKIM

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Several days after the PDP primaries were concluded in Imo State, there is a sense that opposition to Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s re-election bid is growing instead of waning. Another worrying dimension to the rising opposition is the fact the much of it is from within his own party – a sort of replay of 2007 when PDP lost the governorship election by its own hands; largely because of the same sort of disaffection that is now growing in the lead-up to 2011.

This time, what appeared to have been the catalyst is the conduct of the primaries which brought several complaints from within the PDP ranks that Gov Ohakim “openly intervened to frustrate some otherwise very popular aspirants from emerging”, as one of the stakeholders put it.

Hon Ike Ibe, a former member of Imo House of Assembly who ran a strong campaign for governor in 2007 and came fourth amongst more than 18 candidates was disqualified at the screening stage. The reason offered for his disqualification was that he could not prove that he has re-entered the party after he decamped in 2007.

A source close to Ike Ibe told this reporter that “Ike Ibe came back to PDP before even Atiku who was allowed to vie for President and Nwodo who became Chairman of the party immediately he re-entered”.

Ike Ibe himself is widely known to be very bitter at his disqualification, even as he has charged that it “that powers that be in Imo” pressured the screening committee to disqualify him. He has since decamped to the Labor Party and is expected to pick its guber ticket with easy. And he is known to be a good campaigner who is expected to attract some disaffected ranks of PDP to Labour Party.

Outside of the PDP, there is a palpable fear that Chief Rochas Okorocha is waxing ever stronger by the day. Rochas is aspiring to fly the flag of APGA which from inception has remained popular in Imo but has suffered electoral losses due to what an APGA source called “PDP’s rigging machine and the lack of people like Rochas who can match PDP’s capacity for political mischief”.

According to reports, Rochas is very popular in Ideato Federal Constituency which has two large local government areas, as well as Nwangele and Nkwerre. He is also widely acknowledged to be close to President Jonathan, thus stoking the rumours that a replay of what happened in 2007 is possible this time around.

Another significant factor in play is Ifeanyichukwu Ararume, who is aspiring to fly the ACN ticket. Ararume is a strong grassroots politician, and he is also said to be very close to President Jonathan to the extent that despite being in ACN, he still plays a strategic role in the President’s campaign, albeit from the background. Reliable sources say that Ararume decamped to ACN on President Jonathan’s prompting, as “standby alternative to Ohakim when time comes for reckoning in April 2011”, as one of the sources put it.

Ararume’s strength is also bolstered by the support of Achike Udenwa who was governor of Imo for eight years and is known to still have a grassroots political organisation that spans the entire Imo State. Amongst their ranks are the likes of heavyweights like Dr Alex Obi, former PDP Chairman and Iwuagwu, former Speaker of Imo HOA, amongst many others.

Perhaps, the most interesting case is that of PPA, which is Ohakim’s former party and which saw him to power. There is an undying bitterness from the PPA to the point that one of their leaders in Imo State told this reporter that “2011 presents the best opportunity for PPA to take a political pound of flesh from Ohakim’s betrayal of the party”.

The PPA, thus plans to carry out a personal campaign against Ohakim but is said to “be ready to align with any other party that presents the strongest challenge to him in April”, the source said.

As regards the PDP itself, a new confluence of opposition is emerging against Ohakim. Prominent amongst them is a platform that is known as the Rainbow Coalition, which has supported Governor Ohakim since he became governor. But this support seems to have waned with the huge loss of Rainbow aspirants in the primaries.

Hon. Rufus Omire, a Rainbow-supported member of the Federal House of Representatives lost the primaries to “an Ikoro who is related to Ohakim’s campaign manager, Chief Ralph Obioha”, as an Imo PDP source put it. The source continued, saying that “when Tony Ezenna, the head of Rainbow presented another alternative aspirant by name of Dr. Ibe, Ohakim still refused and insisted on Ralf Obioha’s candidate”.

Rainbow remains the pre-eminent political platform in Ideato and that makes it possible that it may call on its ranks to vote against the governor in 2011. According to some sources, Rainbow is said to be “seriously considering aligning with either Rochas or Ararume in April to wrench PDP voters away from Ohakim”.

Other losers who blame Ohakim include Senator Chris Anyanwu who remains very popular with voters in Owerri, Senator Osita Izunaso, who is a personal friend of former Gov Achike Udenwa. A member representing one of the prime Constituencies in Okigwe, Hon Nwachukwu also lost and is said to very bitter and ‘blames Ohakim for his loss’.

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