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Okigwe Senatorial Rerun: The chances, the right choice

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One of the things the things NASS should tinker in our Electoral Act, is that provision which requires elections to be re-conducted if INEC mistakenly omits the logo of any political party in an election. 

One of the things the things the present National Assembly members should tinker in our Electoral Act, is that provision which requires elections to be re-conducted if the Independent National Electoral Commission mistakenly omits the logo of any political party in an election. This part of the Electoral while not bad on its own, is not conclusive in its provisions. For instance, there is no reason why an innocent party or its candidate should be punished for the errors of an institution of Government, without any costs awarded against this institution.

The law should be retouched to ensure that the INEC is made to pay heavily when this kind of situation arises, such that all expenses incurred by candidates who are standing for the rerun election should be completely borne by the INEC, or the firm contracted by the electoral empire to print the ballot papers, if it is found that this error came from them. 

It is not justice when Parties are made to pass through another hell of expenses to conduct an election they had earlier concluded. It is also necessary to rewrite the law to ensure that only the winner of the previous election and the candidate whose name was omitted from the ballot are allowed to participate in the rerun.

In Imo North Senatorial district where a rerun election has been scheduled to hold on the 20th of February, 2016, the spunky one-hand-general, Athan Achonu will be slugging it out in what promises to be a tough race with the former Speaker of the Imo State House Assembly, Benjamin Uwajumogu. No one sees Mrs. Rita Ibemere and her Accord Party whose omission from the March 28th, 2015 election necessitated this rerun. Feelers have it that the weak and nearly inexistent Accord Party has already coalesced into Uwajumogu’s APC, instead of going ahead to prove that the omission of their Party’s logo was a serious error.

Some bookmakers are projecting Chief Benjamin Uwajimogu to carry the day, not because of his popularity or massive acceptability by the masses, but as a result of the fact that his Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) are in power, and most State machineries shall be deployed to ensure his victory at the election. 

These people do not believe that Benji is more popular than Athan, and some of them have even confided in me that should the election be at least 60% free and fair, then Athan Achonu will surely carry the day. While the APC bank on State machineries and the power of big men, the PDP and its candidate are trusting in the people, hence, while Athan takes his time to visit the ordinary people of Okigwe zone, the APC and its candidate, Uwajimogu are only interested in visiting and extracting endorsements from those they call ‘Okigwe leaders’.

The swell of opposition against the candidature of Chief Benjamin Uwajimogu in the Okigwe zone Senatorial rerun is understandable. No one can deny the fact that the immediate past Speaker is a good hearted and compassionate man, who can go to any length to empower the youths and other vulnerable citizens if he has the opportunity, there are many reasons why he is not going to receive the required support from the ordinary people, this time around.

People believe that Chief Uwajimogu cannot be exonerated from any blame in whatever went wrong in the first four years of the Okorocha administration. They argue that as the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Uwajimogu was supposed to be the eyes of the people and a watchdog who should protect the peoples’ wealth from being frittered away by the Chief executive and his aides. While it is yet to be proven, some people argue that Chief Uwajimogu was an integral part of the mindless looting that went on in the government, while he served as Speaker, hence his failure to ensure that the House of Assembly under him adequately monitored government projects and expenditures to ensure that the best services are rendered to the people.

The tags ‘rubber stamp’ Speaker, ‘Okorocha’s stooge’ and even ‘Okorocha’s House boy’ have been used to describe the immediate past Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly. Those advancing these sobriquets argue that electing Honorable Uwajimogu to represent Okigwe zone in the Senate will mean empowering Governor Okorocha to decide what happens in Okigwe zone, as Chief Uwajimogu will continue to be remote-controlled by the Governor even while he is in the Senate. 

Someone recently told me that it would have been easier to market Uwajimogu for Orlu senate because if he represents Orlu in the Senate and decides to be taking orders from Governor Okorocha before doing anything in the Senate, it may be understandable, because Okorocha is from Orlu, but for an Orlu man to decide what happens in Okigwe is not acceptable.

While I do not agree with people who project Uwajimogu as docile, this lie seems to have sold very well among Okigwe electorates, because to an average Imolite, Uwajimogu as Speaker was too loyal to the Governor which made the Governor operate like a maximum leader, without recourse to due process and rule of law. One of the biggest blunders of the Uwajimogu led House of Assembly is the faux pas of approving a three years appropriation plan for the executive, which led a former member of that House, Honorable Ray Emeana to call for the closure of that fifth Assembly, because according to him, the House has no more job to do. It is also alleged that Uwajimogu presided over the least productive House of Assembly, as they passed fewer numbers of bills than any other House before it.

Senator Athan Achonu’s biggest selling point is his connection with the ordinary people. He is seen as the new face of Okigwe zone, who will not be easily swayed by godfathers. To the average Okigwe zone electorate, Athan’s election is a stamp to the freedom of the common Okigwe man and a step towards retrieving Okigwe from the grip of selfish godfathers who have held that zone captive for such a longtime. The support from former Governor Ikedi Ohakim is an added advantage to the candidature of Senator Athan Achonu, as the former Governor is seen by majority of the people as one of the few political leaders with the interest of the common man at heart.

The support of the immediate past Governor of Imo State, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim is what anyone needs to win election in Imo State, but in Okigwe zone in particular. Unlike most other political leaders in the State, Ikedi Ohakim’s poitical mainstay is the ordinary people. He has an unbreakable connection with the ordinary people, because when he held sway as the Governor of the State, he consistently pursued policies and programs that are directly beneficial to the ordinary, and even as one out of office, his connection with the ordinary people is still unbroken, as he finds time, to meet with them, interact with them and find ways of assisting them, even as someone who has not held any government office for the past five years.

In the six local government areas that make up Imo North Senatorial District, alias Okigwe zone, the name One-Arm-General is on every lips. For the election to be taking place at a time when the agitation for the actualization of Biafra is at its highest beat, is also helpful to the philanthropist turned politician, as a most of the ordinary people, especially Biafran sympathizers see him as a symbol of the Biafran struggle and his one arm as an insignia of the Biafran long-suffering and the Igbo subjugation. Athan is said to have lost his arm when a bomb exploded during the civil war. Some of his friends were not as lucky.

It is important to note that Senator Athan has had a hat trick of victories over Chief Uwajimogu since the 2015 elections. Having dusted him to an unenviable third position in the main election, Athan’s victory was affirmed at the election Tribunal and got reaffirmed at the Appeal Court. This rerun election became necessary, not because Senator Athan was found to have been involved in any manipulations in his electoral victory, but purely due to the electoral umpire’s foresight. Simply put, Uwajimogu is trying to reap where he did not sow. This election should not have been about him, but about Athan and one Rita Ibemere.

The All Progressives’ Congress has continued to be unpopular with the people due to its anti-people policies both at the central and State government. Uwajimogu would have had a better chance if he ran under another Party’s platform, but with the APC, his chances are slim. How can any civil servant in Okgwe zone vote for a Party that has made no pretenses about its disdain for them? How can an ordinary man on the street vote for a Party which has made it clear to them that they do not care about what happens to the ordinary people? The APC is such a bad market that someone once told me that even if his father was running for any elective position under the APC, he would gladly cast his vote against him.

It will be more beneficial to Okigwe zone if Senator Athan is reelected to the Senate, because within the six months he has been at the Red Chamber, he has made so much impact that he has become a rallying point for other senators from across Nigeria. He is one person who is more privy to the making of the present Senate leadership than most other senators in this eighth senate, that should it boil down to who can extract the best deal for Ndi Okiigwe and even Ndi Igbo in general, we can trust the One-Arm-General to be that person. For Uwajimogu, it will be a situation of ‘ Johny Just Come’, as he will need to spend at least five months, trying to connect with the politics and tricks of the present Senate, and by the time he understands how things are really being done, the job would have been over.

Come February 20th, I do not have any doubt that the electorates in Okigwe zone will reaffirm their support for the One-Arm-General, what I cannot guarantee however is the neutrality of both the security agents and the electoral officials. There is fear that the APC is not interested in winning the election at the polls, but will rather wait compromise officials to have the results written in their favour. This fear is predicated on the fact that the APC boasts not with the number of ordinary voters who have taken sides with its candidate, but with the number of notorious election manipulators who are have declared support for its candidate. It is the duty of all electoral officials, including the security agents to conduct themselves in such a manner that the credibility of that election will be marred in doubt. Let the will of the people prevail!

Onwuasoanya FCC Jones

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