States across the country are grappling with the issue of determining who the next governors would be in 2015, but the case of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s Imo State appears to be slightly different, as Amby Uneze observes
The race for the next occupant of the seat of Imo State Government at Douglas House come 2015 has begun. Politicians from the various political parties are indicating interest through their actions, as the system tries to ensure that the best candidate emerges. Imo people are hopeful to have a government that would help to consolidate on the rescue mission, and to have a state where peace, development and unity will thrive.
For the incumbent state governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, to continue and consolidate on his pet projects under the rescue mission, he needs to convince Imo people beyond the rhetoric of “power of incumbency will always prevail” syndrome. While it may be his desire to do a second term, he may be constrained by the zoning “charter of equity” in the state. He has been variously accused of truncating the issue of zoning in the state by thwarting the agreed method for sharing the governorship position among the three zones in the state.
However, the governor has not officially announced his intension to run for second term. What he has kept telling those close to him is that he is confused as to what to run for in 2015. But his body language indicates he may be eyeing the Presidency; yet, he also wants to hold on to power in the state so that he does not lose out completely if the presidency thing fails.
The governor, certainly, has some things going for him. In terms of performance, he has put in place certain physical structures that could earn him a second term ticket. But his critics allege that some of the structures may not stand the test of time. In any case, Okorocha has been able to transform the landscape of the state. He can count and show a good number of development projects he has accomplished or attracted to the state in his first three years as governor.
These projects are what give him confidence that if he eventually declares for a second term he would win. Such projects include the construction of Owerri City Schools, the ongoing 27 general hospitals across the local governments in the state, rehabilitation of the renamed Ikemba Square, Heroes Square, International Conference Centre, roundabout and new roads across the Owerri metropolitan city, reconstruction of the Government House, 305 primary schools across the state, the new cities of Orlu and Okigwe and the adjourning towns, the government-sponsored free education, among others.
Okorocha seems passionate about his desire to govern the country. According to him, “The reason for my declaring for the All Progressives Congress is that it is the only party that can guarantee an Igbo president.”
The ultimate interest of Okorocha seems to become the next Igbo president of Nigeria. The calculation is that since he is a founding member of APC as well as the chairman of the APC Governors Forum, he stands a good chance of clinching the presidential slot if it is zoned to the South-east. However, other leaders of the party from the North and South-west may not be keen on giving the slot of president or vice president to the South-east. If that happens, then Okorocha may have to settle for the governorship.
Odds against Okorocha
There are some odds against Okorocha’s second term. Imo people are wiser now, as against the bandwagon effect that was the order of the day in the 2011 governorship election in the state. In 2011, the former governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, was the major issue as Imo people, obviously, did not want him back. Secondly, the presidency allowed the election to go the way it went without stamping her feet that the president’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party, must win at all cost. This notion from the presidency somehow brought the issue of supplementary election of May 6, 2011, which brought Okorocha to power.
The scenario may be different in 2015, as many believe most PDP chieftains in the state, with the backing of the presidency, are becoming increasingly desperate about returning the state to PDP.
‘Imo Charter of Equity’
Notwithstanding the level of achievement recorded by this administration, the alleged scuttling of “Imo Charter of Equity”, which guarantees equal opportunity for the three zones of Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe in the governorship of the state may be a drawback for Okorocha. The feeling is that Okorocha in 2011 breached the original agreement by the founders of the state that every zone must have equal chance to govern the state.
In 1979, Chief Samuel Mbakwe from Okigwe zone was the governor from 1979 to 1983, and during the experimental days of diarchy under former military president Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, the Owerri zone under Chief Evans Enwerem took the seat as governor for only 18 months before the army struck again. At the return to democracy in 1999, Chief Achike Udenwa from Orlu zone was elected governor for two terms of eight years. By that arrangement, Imo people felt that the circle had been completed, even though it was the turn of Owerri zone that was short-lived.
After the eight years of Udenwa, the governorship moved to Okigwe, with Ohakim. The argument is that since Ohakim from Okigwe zone had one term and could not do another term, the baton ought to have moved to Owerri zone instead of going back to Orlu, which had had her turn complete. So there is a danger of overkill if Okorocha, from Orlu zone, should again nurse the idea of second term in 2015.
There is a seeming gang up against Okorocha’s second term by his opponents in the state. Those who are bent on taking the seat from him are mainly from PDP and All Progressives Grand Alliance. Most of them are from Owerri zone, which seems to be in pole position in the race for the next governor according to the zoning arrangement.
Prominent among the aspirants are Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha, Chief Jerry Chukwueke, who is chairman of the PDP state mobilisation committee, Chief Emma Ojinere, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Chief Bethel Amadi, Professor Jude Njoku, Chief Humphrey Anumudu, and Mr. Ken Njemanze (SAN). These are aspirants from the PDP.
Those contesting under APGA from Owerri zone include Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho (rtd), Chief Martin Agbaso, Mr. Okey Ezeh, and Chief Okey Unegbu.
In APC, a serious contender that may challenge Okorocha is Prince Charles Onuoha. From Okigwe zone, there is Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.
Ohakim also seems interested in the race, as he strives to do his second and last statutory term.
While it is the constitutional right of Okorocha to seek a second term, pundits believe he faces odds that may seriously impair his chances. Besides, he is alleged to have promised before his election in 2011 to do only one term.
For now, apparently weighing his chances, Okorocha has yet to declare an intention to seek a second term. It remains to be seen what his decision would be.