Athan Agbakwuru takes a postmortem of the just concluded Imo governorship election to x-ray the sins of omission and the commission of the two leading parties and what the APC did right that the PDP did not right
The just concluded governorship election in Imo State threw up several issues prior to the casting of votes and ended on mixed note that defied several pre-election calculations and assumptions writes Athan Agbakwuru.
On Saturday April 25, a supplementary governorship election was held in Imo State two weeks after the April 11 poll was declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The supplementary poll was the second that brought incumbent governor of the state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha into office as elected governor of the state. The result released and announced by the INEC showed that Owelle Okorocha, the candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, polled a total of 416,996 valid votes against that of his closest rival and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha who scored 320,705 votes.
During the first ballot, results released showed that Governor Okorocha won highest votes in 21 local government areas with a total of 385,071 while PDP’s Ihedioha polled only 306,142 votes. The difference between the votes of the two stood at 79,568 votes. In the supplementary election, which took place in 259 polling units spread in 24 LGAs of the state, Okorocha and his APC won highest votes in 21 LGAs with a total of 31,326 votes leaving Chief Ihedioha and his PDP with just three council areas and a total of 13,624 votes.
From the figures of valid votes polled by each of the frontline contestants, it is glaring that APC led the PDP in both the first and second ballot as well as got outright victory in the overall having led with a difference of 96,291 votes. While a few appear to astonished about the development quite a whole lot believe the outcome of the election was, without doubt, the will of the Imo people and true to the exact scenario in the contemporary politics of the state.
Prior to the election, the PDP in Imo State sounded extremely optimistic about reclaiming the Douglas House from the APC led government headed by Owelle Okorocha. The party with its array of political notable personalities in virtually every electoral ward and the 27 LGAs traversed the length and breadth of the state with intimidating activism to the extent of almost frightening the ruling APC to submission.
The campaign train of the PDP touched the base of every area to muster support. The electronic and print media was awash on hourly basis with jingles and slogans that promoted the PDP interest. Members of the party enthusiastically criticized the Okorocha administration and did all they could to smear it. PDP also employed federal might in the onslaught to dislodge its main opposition. Virtually electoral official that played one role or the other in the last general elections was appointed at the instance of PDP and the INEC was not left without PDP undue influence in the discharge of the election duties.
Before March 28, the PDP brazenly held sway. The influence of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan pervaded the entire state and gave the PDP a big plus. APC’s presidential candidate, Gen. Mohammadu, Buhari, rtd, was no march for the Otuoke man who majority of Imolites saw as one of their own having hailed from one of the areas under the defunct Eastern Region. PDP’s argument that Imo State needs to be hooked to the national grid of politics by electing a PDP governor also made serious impact especially among the elite who understand the dynamics of politics in the land.
The PDP lavishly spent whooping sums of money, flooded all nooks and crannies the state with imposing billboards, scintillating posters and several other customized insignia and souvenirs that could be found in wrist bangles, wrappers, T-shirts, bags, etc. At a point, the coast appeared like it was going to be PDP’s even with all that Okorocha and his men tried to do to contain the storm of PDP.
On the part of the APC, it was a hard battle because of its relatively disadvantaged position as an opposition party state which is obviously not in the good books of the Presidency. Events of March 28, during the presidential and national assembly election, overly revealed that APC in Imo was certainly endangered. Both the INEC and security operatives involved in the elections proved difficult to the party and denied them needed cooperation.
The APC was the complainant until the national elections were over.
The party like the PDP also carried out intensive campaigns especially using the state radio station, Orient FM and Television to canvass its ‘Change’ slogan. The party was also quite aggressive in grassroot campaign as it covered every level. To be able to win, the APC realized it not only needed to garner votes from the electorate but to protect same in order to make it count. That was why, the APC had a minimum of 21 polling booth workers per unit in the 305 electoral wards of the state.
APC used the Community Government Council, CGC, Agenda Group, Vote Rochas Club, Nneoma Women, APC agents, Rescue Missionaries etc to man the various polling units and that yielded positive result. While the PDP appeared relatively complacent and relaxed that it was going to overrun the APC in Imo, the latter fought like a wounded lion having realized that it was facing a strong contender.
Unlike the PDP, the APC in Imo State had no much-known political ‘big names’ in its fold. All the party had was the state government reputed for its ‘cashless’ disposition. But although, Owelle Okorcha was the only strong man of the APC in the state, he turned out to be their David and used his goodwill, philanthropy and political sagacity to overwhelm the almighty PDP.
Even PDP and other critics of the Owelle Okorocha administration inadvertently acquiesced to the bare fact that he executed multiple projects during the first four years, the quality of jobs notwithstanding. They never said he never worked but only argued that the massive road construction, buildings, bridges, water projects etc were not the best in terms of standard.
All through the campaigns and election periods, PDP battled relentlessly to diminish the governor’s feat by smear campaign but all that failed because the masses who were the direct beneficiaries preferred the completed “China” projects of Okorocha to the no project or white elephant project era of PDP under Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim respectively. So it was a matter of the “the known Devil being regarded as better than the unknown Angel.”
The failure of the public debate organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri also was not in the interest of the PDP. Overzealous supporters of the party mismanaged the opportunity and allowed the debate which would have showcased Governor Okorocha’s lapses to be scuttled. If that debate had held, image of Okorocha’s administration would have suffered a most devastating blow, as all the other candidates would have heaped mud on him and made him unpopular. But Okorocha escaped that snare by the whiskers because the opposition could not put its act together. The post debate media campaign was medicine after death and could hardly impact much as the public show would have done.
The PDP and its candidate also goofed when they shunned the guber debate organized by Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, in conjunction with civil society organization and other professional bodies. Though Ihedioha attended few other public debates like that put together by Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, among others none of them would have been as impactful as that of the Catholic Church considering its reach and credibility.
In the political front, Hon. Ihedioha and PDP erred grievously in the handling of the fallout of the governorship primary election of the party. Frayed nerves were not calmed nor were aggrieved members assuaged in any way. Impunity, complacency, arrogance and illusion of self confidence combined to write the epilogue of the party. That gave Okorocha and the APC the advantage to poach the PDP and heavy weights like Sen. Ifeanyi Araraume, one PDP leader with the highest personal followership, to dump the party for APC.
While the APC appeared caution, organized, united by common goal, determined and reaching out to the voters wherever they were, PDP before the elections was already in celebration mood. Its campaigns
were not issue based but frivolous denigration. Leaders at all levels instead of investing in garnering voters appropriated party moneys for the election to themselves believing it will be manipulated centrally like in the presidential poll.
Most disturbing about the PDP errors was the inglorious dependence on malpractice as only sure means of electoral victory. It worked in 2003, 2007, failed in 2011 and again this year. It however worked a little in the presidential and national assembly elections of March 28 and they so hoped it will be uhuru in the governorship. But Jonathan’s defeat turned the tide and there was hardly any federal influence to pave way for wholesale manipulation of the process in favour the PDP, hence the damning defeat that wrecked the biggest party in Africa.