By: IFEANYI MADUAKO
It took the calibre of a politician like Sen. Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was the then sitting governor of Imo State with all the incumbency, the apparatuses and might of the government at his disposal to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Rt. Hon. Jones Chukwudi Onyereri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 Imo West Senatorial District (Orlu Zone) contest. If Okorocha was not a candidate in the said election, Rt. Hon. Jones Onyereri would have been a senator since 2019 because he was the most popular PDP candidate in the zone at the time and even today.
Therefore, the recent disqualification of the candidacy of Rt. Hon. Onyereri by the Supreme Court of Nigeria came as a very rude shock to the majority of Imo electorate, especially the people of Orlu Zone. The apex court premised its judgment on the ground that the primary election that produced Onyereri as the PDP senatorial candidate for the zone was conducted outside the senatorial district.
The judgment was utterly shocking and befuddling because some of the other primaries that produced candidates for the same party were conducted outside the senatorial district, particularly in Owerri, the state capital due to the nagging and intractable issue of security challenges currently plaguing the Orlu Zone. There are 12 state constituencies, four federal constituencies and one senatorial district in the Orlu zone. Almost all the candidates for these positions were produced in Owerri, the state capital for the aforementioned reason.
Against this background, the recent singular disqualification of Rt. Hon. Onyereri left bitter sour in the mouths of the people of the zone. The judgment of the Supreme Court is final as far as this matter is concerned whether good or bad. However, there are speculations that prominent members of the party worked surreptitiously against their own senatorial candidate with a view to disqualifying their own party from fielding a candidate in the zone.
Chief ThankGod Ezeani and Chief Jerry Alagbaoso were the appellants in the suit. This writer does not begrudge them for ventilating their grievances about the primary election through the civilized and appropriate channel which was the law courts. But, they should have considered the larger interest of the party in the zone against their personal interest.
Now, that the party has been excluded from the senatorial election, what do they stand to gain? Their action smacked of politics of bitterness knowing full well the likely implication of the judgment as none of them has been made the candidate of the party.
Speculations are rife that some prominent members of the party outside the Orlu zone also worked clandestinely against Rt. Hon. Onyereri to spite him for trying to be independent of them as a politician. For these politicians, every PDP member in the state must be subservient to them in order to exist. They have monopolized the party in the state in such a manner that every little dissent or seeming act of dissention must be punished in a most punitive manner.
The governorship election in the state will be conducted in November alongside a few states like Kogi and Bayelsa. Political party primaries will commence on March 27 and end on April 17. It therefore means that the primary election will be held after the 2023 general election across the country. Whichever party among the PDP, the APC and the Labour Party (LP) that produces the President of Nigeria after the general election will have a concomitant or even bandwagon effect in Imo State.
If Atiku Abubakar of the PDP wins the presidential race, he will call the shots on who emerges the gubernatorial candidate of the party in Imo State even as a President-elect. If Peter Obi of the Labour Party or Bola Tinubu of the APC wins the race, the PDP in Imo State will suffer the consequences of Onyereri’s disqualification in Orlu Zone unless he (Onyereri) is fielded as the running mate to whoever that will be fielded as the governorship candidate from Owerri Zone.
Those who worked against Onyereri’s senatorial ambition have shot themselves in the foot. They cut their nose to spite their face. With Governor Hope Uzodimma, as a sitting governor from Orlu zone and the likely APC governorship candidate in the November gubernatorial election, anyone who emerges the governorship candidate will be playing with fire if he refuses to choose Jones Onyereri as his running mate in order to compensate him for sacrifices he has made for the party over the years. I do not hold the brief of Rt. Hon. Jones Onyereri neither do I know him but a great injustice has been done to him by the recent disqualification through the sabotage or artifice of his fellow party members.
Most importantly, among the four federal constituencies that make up the Orlu Zone; Nkwerre, Isu, Nwangele, Njaba is the only federal constituency yet to produce a senator, a deputy governor or a governor in the history of Imo State. Orlu, Orsu, Oru East has produced Chief Achike Udenwa and Sen Hope Uzodimma as governors and senators. Ideato federal constituency has produced Rochas Okorocha as governor for eight years who is also the incumbent senator since 2019. Ohaji Egbema, Oguta, Oru West has produced Senators Arthur Nzeribe, Osita Izunaso and deputy governor Gerald Ironna.
It is only Nkwerre, Isu, Nwangele, Njaba, which is the largest federal and most densely populated constituency in the zone with four LGAs that has not produced a senator, a deputy governor or a governor in the history of Imo State.
Therefore, the disqualification of Rt. Hon. Onyereri will haunt the PDP in the state if he’s not carried along as the next deputy governor if Owerri zone produces the gubernatorial candidate in the November election.
Maduako, writes from Owerri via email@example.com (08061562735)