Ihedioha Out, Uzodinma In
In 2003, in Anambra state, the question on the lips of most Anambrarians was Peter Obi who? The then young and self effacing Philosopher turned businessman was in the race to unseat the godfathers that had held the state to ransom. He had no known political experience and it was even his first office for the plum job.
He didn’t allow the fact that he was a political neophyte deter him from pursuing his noble dream of providing uncommon leadership to effectively steer the affairs of the state that produced the most notable of Igbos. He embarked on a grassroots door to door campaign and was able to sell himself especially to the youths, aged and economically marginalized.
INEC declared the results of that election and gave the victory to Chris Ngige of the PDP. Unruffled, he put his faith in the democratic system by first heading to the elections petitions tribunal and then later the courts. Many of his supporters doubted if they could get justice as the judicial officers were appointed by the PDP which was the ruling party both in the centre and state.
History was made when in 2006 he became the first person to be made a governor via the courts. This opened the floodgates and the likes of Rotimi Amaechi benefited from it in 2007, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in 2008, Kayode Fayemi in 2010 as well as Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in 2010 as well. The vision of one man opened up the Pandora’s Box.
Senator Hope Uzodinma who contested the 2019 elections in Imo State came fourth with less than a hundred thousand votes behind Emeka Ihedioha, Uche Nwosu and Senator Ifeanyi Ararume. He immediately headed to the elections petitions tribunal where he lost to Ihedioha. Undeterred, he placed his faith in the judiciary by going to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court where the apex court granted his wish yesterday evening.
The lead Judge in the case, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun gave her judgement in his favour and it read: “Vote due to the appellant Senator Hope Uzodinma and the APC from 388 Polling Units were wrongly excluded from scores ascribed to the appellant(to them),” the justices ruled.
“It is thereby ordered that the appellant votes from 388 Polling Units unlawfully excluded from the appellant vote declared shall be added and that the first respondent, Emeka Ihedioha, was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the said election.”
“His return as the elected governor of Imo State is hereby declared null and void and accordingly set aside
“It is hereby declared that the first appellant (Mr Uzodinma) holds the majority of lawful votes cast at the governorship election held in Imo State on March 9, 2019.”
Agreed, the law will have to take its due course with Ihedioha respecting it and vacating the seat for Uzodinma but how popular is it on the streets of the Heartland state?
Rochas Okorocha once held sway and was the governor from 2011 to 2019. He was initially the man of the people as he sold himself as a businessman and philanthropist who was coming from his base in Abuja and Jos to rescue his people from the shackles of economic slavery and bad governance.
The then incumbent governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim was seeking a re-election and he was grossly unpopular due to some bad decisions he took as the governor and for allegedly assaulting a Catholic priest.
Okorocha won narrowly under the banner of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) amidst wild jubilations in the nooks and crannies of the state.
Disillusion with the Owelle Anayo as he is fondly called soon set in due to some anti-people policies he took which included some demolitions of buildings and the withholding of the salaries of the civil servants and the pension of the retirees. He further angered the people by erecting statues of some prominent people that visited the state who had no significant impact in the day to day living of the hoi polloi.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was his decision to install his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu who was his Chief-of-Staff as his successor. This was viewed by many as a third term agenda through the backdoor and it was vehemently resisted.
The PDP who had been in the opposition for twelve years cashed in on this and fielded Emeka Ihedioha who garnered a lot of goodwill while he was the Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives.
He carried the day until his recent exit via the courts. The APC as a party is unpopular in the state and this may breed some hiccups for the incoming helmsman. He needs to build bridges and shun any attempt at political witch hunting as that will further draw more blood.
He should play the role of a Statesman and see himself as the father of the bitterly divided state. He should strive to build legacies that will long outlive him when he will one day leave office as power is transient. With the passage of time, the people will forget about the APC/PDP dichotomy and will give him their unflinching support if his policies can bring home the bacon.
What matters now to Imolites is the leadership that will put bread on their tables and it doesn’t matter whether it is PDP, APC or APGA. The hood doesn’t make the monk.
Uzodinma is now the man of the moment and should make hay while the sun shines.
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com