By Chidi Nkwopara, OWERRI.
Political party campaign has obviously taken the centre stage, ahead of the general elections in Nigeria. The difference however, can be traced to the seriousness or otherwise, of the candidate, his programme and manner of reaching out to the people.
Strong feelers within Imo State, points to the fact that the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, is one party chieftain that started working his way to the position early enough. He is also reputed to be one politician that clearly defines his stand on any issue and maintains it, despite odds.
The examples are many and varied but the recent fight between Makarfi and Sheriff, for the soul of PDP, is typical. Ihedioha never hid his preference and support for Makarfi all through the battle. The same is also true of the party’s leadership structure in the wards, local council areas and the state.
It is also on record that long before the party primaries, Chief Ihedioha executed a grand programme of visiting the 305 electoral wards of the state, interacted with the stakeholders and thereafter sustained the rapport established during the visit. The eventual result of the party’s gubernatorial primary amply proved this trust and friendship.
Beyond this, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives also has sound relationship with youths, women and the church.
A United States of America based attorney, Mr. Stanley Ozuzu, described Ihedioha as “not only tested and trusted, but also a very responsible youth”.
Ozuzu equally said: “Chief Ihedioha never undermines or underrates the youth class. He has remained a friend, mentor and leader of the youths. He is never known to have missed any event organized by youths, especially those he was specifically invited. If for any unforeseen reason Ihedioha fails to attend the event, he was known to call the organizers, to know how the event was progressing.”
Saturday Vanguard recalls that on Saturday, December 15, 2018, Ihedioha was in the midst of Imo students, at the Okigwe Road state office of the PDP, as a special guest of honour at the inauguration of Ihedioha Students Movement.
The high point of this event was the scholarship awarded to Miss Rosemary Ujunwa Akponye, of the Federal College of Land Resources and Technology, Oforola, who made a flawless presentation in Igbo language.
In March 2018, Ihedioha similarly awarded 10 scholarships to students of Federal University of Technology, Owerri, FUTO.
It is equally important to note that Ihedioha had, in the past, facilitated scores of undergraduate and graduate overseas scholarships for Imo youths, from across the three geo-political zones of Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe.
The same is also true of over 200 Imo youths he gave jobs into the Federal Civil Service, ministries, departments and agencies. This is in addition to skills acquisition trainings and empowerment progammes for Imo youths and women sponsored by Ihedioha.
Only recently, stakeholders in Owerri senatorial zone and Ezuruezu Mbaise, announced the adoption of Ihedioha as their preferred successor of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
It is therefore believed that the very cordial relationship Ihedioha enjoys with Imo youths, women, religious groups and party faithful, will add up and successfully drive his victory in the 2019 gubernatorial election.
As Nigeria glides slowly towards the 2019 general elections, the acceptance and following of some gubernatorial candidates gets Imolites rally round the Incoming Governor for selfie?!
See, there is no way the PDP can lose the 2019 elections. Any LGA, Community or village you go to, the people are given natural support and I mean natural support to the PDP and their Candidates.
At any event, once the sight of the Green Cap sets in, or the name Ihedioha mentioned, watch out for the reaction of the ordinary people, the youths, the women.
The spontaneous overflow of natural Support Ihedioha attracts on daily bases shows that the 2019 election is won and lost.
In the words Ihedioha “for those telling you that they have INEC, they have security, they have tugs, tell them we already Know. The only demand the PDP is making is free and fair election. But be assured that the PDP is also very ready to check those who are planing for the other way round.
“2019 election is about popularity and not notoriety. It’s about capacity, antecedents and track records. It’s about who the people are voting for and what they believe the individual can offer. Imo shall recover from its lost glory when the PDP takes over.”
Some governorship candidates of various political parties were absent at a debate organised for governorship candidates by a group with the name “Imo Community Europe”.
The debate took place at Rock view Hotel, Owerri.
Governorship candidates who took part in the exercise include PDP governorship candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, his SDP counterpart, Okey Ezeh, Linus Okorie of Young Progressive Party (YPP), Ikenna Emmanuel of Change Democratic Party, (CAP) and others.
Among those absent include Senator Hope Uzodinma (APC), Senator Ifeanyi Araraume (APGA), former Governor of Imo State and Accord Party candidate, Ikedi Ohakim, Hon.Tony Nwulu (UPP), Uche Nwosu ( AA) and many others. There are over 60 governorship candidates vying for Imo governorship election.
As at the time of filing this report, there was no official statement from the absentee candidates.
The APC candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma was said to be in Abuja for the inauguration of the APC presidential campaign council by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.
In a post on social media, governorship candidate of the Young Democratic Party, YDP, Evangelist Mike Ikoku, said he was not invited by the organisers for the event.
“The organisers of the Imo Guber Debate today did not invite me for the debate. I m surprised why they decided to shot out some frontline candidates” he wrote on a WhatsApp platform.
This newspaper observed that most of the candidates allegedly stayed away on the grounds that the debate was tailored to favour a particular governorship candidate. There was no independent verification of this claim.
During the 2011 and 2015 governorship election, debates for governorship candidates were organised by the Nigeria Union Journalists, NUJ and the Owerri Catholic Diocese headed by Archbishop AJV Obinna which attracted all segments of the Imo society.