By Chikere Agu
His first appearance in 2015, as a gubernatorial aspirant, ended in anti-climax. His defeat at the polls by Rochas Okorocha, sitting governor of Imo State, was haunted by inter party squabbles and betrayals
Four years after that unbecoming incident, Ihedioha is on the hustings again for the exalted office of Governor, Imo State. The PDP primaries are round the corner a second time, and public excitement is at fever pitch for who will sway the delegates and take home the party ticket. Ararume, his rival of 2015 has pitched his tent with a different party and Okorocha is out of contention for the gubernatorial office. Within the PDP fraternity, Ihedioha holds the aces for the party nomination.
Emeka Ihedioha’s first great asset has been his name recognition. No serious analyst can question the track record of a man whose foray in public administration began with a stint as presidential assistant in 1999. Thereafter, he won election into the Federal House of Representatives and experienced, first hand, the noisy drama of Obasanjo’s tenure elongation scheme with the pitched tension of Umaru Yar’Adua’s short lived reign, to become the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives in his third term as a federal lawmaker.
. No other contender for the PDP nomination boasts of a similar credential, though Senator Sam “Daddy” Anyanwu comes close with the chairmanship of a local government and two tenures in the Imo House of Assembly plus one term in the Senate.The race for party nomination is between these two, observers and analysts believe.
Earlier in his campaign, Ihedioha appeared to have suffered a backlash fromthe fall outs of the controversy in the appointment of the Bishop of Ahiara Catholic Diocese. Though he is of the Anglican Communion, the much publicized intransigence of persons of Mbaise origins to allow the appointment of a non-Mbaise priest to head the Ahiara Catholic Diocese weighed heavily against his candidature. Apparently, several mitigating factors have been taken into cognizance by Imo voters and Ihedioha is now riding a wave of public approval that seems set to translate into a huge harvest of votes at the primaries.
Another point in his favour is that Ihedioha started out early, when the coast was yet unclear to resuscitate his arrested dream to govern Imo State. Dusting up his rested structures, he went around from Okigwi to Orlu and Owerri in the three senatorial districts to re-invigorate his support bases for a new race to Douglas House, Owerri; office and residence of the Imo State governor.
Initially, accusations had been rife that Ihedioha was aloof, proud and haughty in his interactions with the people; as if the office was his for the asking. At that time also, public reproof of the Mbaise factor in the troubles at Ahiara Catholic Diocese was at its peak. Time appears to have healed the rifts in perception and Ihedioha’s candid unveiling of his programmes for Imo State has won him several converts.
More than that , many see Ihidiola as honest and straight forward. The common mantra among his ardent followers and supporters is that his word in his bond. And indeed this is true to a very large extent. Even his worst critics will readily agree that Ihedioha is a man of character and is not wanting in integrity either. His pedigree is straight and clean and his intellectual capacity is not in question .
Many PDP members believe that if the contest is all about integrity , intellect and clean background , then Ihidiola will carry the day. Perhaps that was why Ihediola appeared to have taken things for granted at the initial stage until the appearance of Sen. Samuel Anyamwu in the race. The Ikeduru born senator came into the race with an unusual charm that appeared to be good music to the ears of some PDP people. Suddenly it looked like the race may not be all about integrity
Some analysts believe that Sam “Daddy” Anyanwu’s entrance into the ring caused Ihedioha to re-appraise his strategy and do the needful to expand his support base within the party structures. Indeed, the senator- who hails from the senatorial zone as the former deputy speaker- made a flamboyant showing in his public appearances as a man of the people and irrepressible grass roots politician. Soon, many were touting his qualifications for gubernatorial office, to the growing disquiet of Ihedioha’s ardent supporters.
This is the essential background to the looming contest of wills, wiles and wallets that shall unfold at the party congress scheduled for the last week of September. Who will carry the day? Ihedioha, some say. Others are swearing by Anyanwu. As happened in 2015, there are no credible dark horses, only a stable full of also rans. Of this number, Professor Jude Njoku, a former vice-chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, presents the most interesting carriage. But lack of an enduring political structure and the limitations of his financial base appear to be his undoing.
Ihedioha, save for any last minute banana peels, has everything going for him in this unfolding contest. Among other contenders, he is touted to have the farthest political reach and network outside of Imo State. Besides, given the recurrent leadership gap in Imo State since 1999, his long standing legislative experience is reckoned to stand him in the good stead of a democrat and consensus builder.
Are these qualities enough for tilting the balance of votes in his favour? Time will tell and soon enough on September 26 at the PDP Congress in Owerri.
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