The prospects of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2019 governorship election in Imo State keep looking brighter as more and more citizens of the state bet on the party as the only one that can rescue Imo from its present derelict state. This is as the […]
The prospects of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2019 governorship election in Imo State keep looking brighter as more and more citizens of the state bet on the party as the only one that can rescue Imo from its present derelict state. This is as the party in the state has also continued to attract many more credible aspirants vying for its governorship ticket.
With the People’s Democratic (PDP) in the state still gasping for breath, unable to fully recover from its self-inflicted injuries over the years, and with the crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over Governor Rochas Okorocha’s determined bid to impose his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as the party’s flag-bearer in the 2019 governorship election, all eyes are on APGA to take the lead.
Formed in 2002, APGA has been the dominant party in Anambra State in the past 13 years after Peter Obi rode to the Government House on the party’s platform. Obi was succeeded by Willie Obiano, and last November, riding again on the party’s platform, Obiano secured a 100 percent victory in the governorship election in the state to clinch what many political analysts described as a well-deserved second term of office. In January this year, Victor Umeh, a former national chairman of APGA, also won a place in the Nigerian Senate in the Anambra Central senatorial election.
But the history of APGA in Imo State has been a chequered one. Although the party has always claimed to have won governorship elections in Imo State since 2003, it was only in 2011 that the party for the first time truly won an undisputed victory at the governorship poll in the state.
When Okorocha came to power on the APGA platform, he called on Imolites and Ndigbo in general to join the party which he said was a distinct political party that the Igbo passionately believed in and followed like a religion.
“All Igbo should join APGA for us to be identified, it is our culture. Every Igbo man is APGA before any other party,” he said.
Barely two years into his tenure, however, Okorocha not only joined the then newly-formed APC but also condemned APGA and declared it dead in the state.
Okorocha’s exit to APC, carrying with him more than half of APGA members in the state, spelt doom for the party. However, within two short years, and by dint of hard work, APGA was able to regroup, reorganise and field a candidate in the 2015 governorship election, even though internal wrangling over the party ticket cost it dearly.
Now a wave of optimism is sweeping across the party ahead of the 2019 elections. Bolstered by its recent victories in Anambra, the party is pushing seriously to consolidate its position in other states of the South-East, including Imo.
A surge of optimism
Last December, Governor Obiano advised his fellow South-East governors to join APGA if they wanted to be re-elected in 2019.
Obiano, whose thoughts were made known via a report on the Facebook wall of Ifeanyi Aniagoh, his senior special assistant on social media, described APGA as hurricane that can never be stopped in the South-East by anybody.
“What happened here on November 18 when APGA swept the entire poll in Anambra State will be replicated in Imo, Abia, Enugu, and Ebonyi States in 2019. APGA is a hurricane that nobody can stop in the South-east,” Obiano said.
“What I am telling my brother governors in the South-East is for them to join APGA now if they wish to be re-elected; otherwise, sorry for them, they must lose their seats to APGA in 2019,” he said.
Many party faithful in Imo agree, saying God has positioned APGA to play a central role in Imo’s redemption come 2019.
John Osuji, a political analyst, is of the opinion that the growing number of governorship aspirants vying for the APGA ticket is a positive sign that APGA is the party that God has positioned to rescue Imo from the doldrums.
“It is a fact that APGA in Imo State still retains enormous support from the Imo populace. It is the party that took Rochas Okorocha to Government House in 2011. APGA nearly made Martin Agbaso governor if not that powerful forces who had denied the party of victory in the past also frustrated his victory. That tells the strength of APGA in Imo,” Osuji said.
Writing in an article “Imo APGA: Between The Frontline And Backline Guber Aspirants”, Osuji said APGA has the colouration of a movement and has also been embraced by the Igbo because it is tailored towards championing the Igbo cause.
“With its victory in Anambra State governorship election last year, Imo State could be its next victory point if it harnesses the level of its followership. Because of its electoral appeal, it has become a new destination point for all manner of politicians who want to ride on the popularity of the party to become Imo State governor. It made the mistake in 2011 and it will be catastrophic if it happens again,” Osuji said.
He, therefore, advised the party to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff in order to save the party from implosion.
Chidi Okoro, a frontline aspirant for the APGA governorship ticket in the state who declared his interest at the party office in Owerri on April 3, is also very optimistic that the party is well positioned to wrest power from the APC next year.
Okoro, who said he possesses a superior, well-thought blueprint that would deliver sustainable, inclusive and diversified development in Imo State, insists that APGA’s strength lies in the majority of Imo people who want a better life for themselves and for their children and who trust that only the party can deliver the goods.
In February, Sam Amadi, a former chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC), while declaring his intention to vie for the APGA ticket at the party’s secretariat in Owerri, the state capital, said the party was positioned to salvage Imo and its people in 2019.
“Two things are involved in this 2019 election: one is integrity and the other one is governance. APC lacks integrity and true governance and that is what APGA has come to offer to Imo people,” he said.
Another aspirant, Uche Onyeagocha, had also boasted in March that Imo traditionally belonged to APGA and that the party has what it takes to reclaim the state in 2019.
Even Okorocha has keyed into this prophetic optimism, perhaps inadvertently. In February this year, he reportedly told governorship aspirants in his party (APC) that any of them who wanted to succeed him in 2019 should go and pick the APGA ticket. Okorocha spoke through a statement by his media aide, Sam Onwuemeodo.
More aspirants join the fray
With APGA positioning itself as the party to beat in 2019, it has become the most beautiful bride to be courted by the Imo people, but especially by aspirants to different political offices. And the courtship is on.
As at the last count, over 20 aspirants are jostling for the APGA ticket in Imo State. Prominent among these aspirants are Chidi Okoro, who has held senior management positions in Promasidor, MTN, Reckitt Benckiser and Emzor Pharmaceutical and has served as managing director/CEO, GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria, and later, managing director/CEO, UAC Foods Limited; Frank Nneji, chief executive officer, ABC Transport; Stephen Nwoga, deputy national organising secretary of the party; and Sam Amadi, a former chairman of NERC.
Others are Uche Onyeagocha, a former member of the House of Representatives; Okey Ezeh, who also contested for the ticket in 2915; Ike C. Ibeh, David Mbamara, Obi Njoku, Charles Onyeagbako, Humphrey Anumudu, Phillip Ibekwe, among others.
Indeed, this is the first time in the history of APGA in the state that such a huge number of aspirants have converged in the party at the same time.
While many may see the large number of governorship aspirants in the party as a bad sign, and while it has continued to generate concerns as some political analysts fear there might be an implosion in the party if the primary election and its outcome are not properly managed, some political observers say it is actually positive as it signals the high level of acceptance of APGA in the state. If properly harnessed, they say, this acceptance could translate into electoral victory for the party in 2019.
Learning from the 2015 experience
Emmanuel Ihenacho, a retired captain and the party’s candidate in the 2015 governorship election, said recently that APGA had taken note of what happened in the last election and would “put the details of that experience into 2019”.
Part of the 2015 experience that APGA must take seriously, observers say, is the poor handling of the primary election and its aftermath.
Ihenacho defeated Okey Ezeh, another key contender in the party’s governorship primary election, to clinch the party’s ticket in 2015. Aggrieved, Ezeh had gone on to hold a parallel congress where he emerged the parallel APGA governorship candidate. Not satisfied, he later went to court to challenge Ihenacho’s candidacy and, when that did not seem to produce the desired result, eventually mobilized all his structures, pledged loyalty to and worked for Emeka Ihedioha, the PDP governorship candidate in the election.
In the prevailing circumstance, APGA, a party that was tipped by many political pundits to win the election, could not garner more than 20,000 votes.
As 2019 approaches, it is gratifying to note that the party is already putting machinery in place to ensure that the outcome of the primaries scheduled for August, according to an insider source, does not breed rancour.
BDSUNDAY gathered that not long ago the leadership of the party in the state held a parley with some of its governorship aspirants at the APGA state secretariat at Egbu Road, Owerri, where the discussion dwelt on the need to imbibe political tolerance and work as one family, irrespective of who amongst them picks the governorship ticket.
It is also heartening to hear that some of the aspirants have said they would work harmoniously with whosoever emerges as the party’s flag bearer.
Nwoga, for instance, was quoted by an online medium to have said after the parley, “We shall work together to support whoever that picks our ticket to make sure APGA wins back Imo State.”
Sometime ago, a local newspaper in Owerri had reported that majority of the APGA governorship aspirants had endorsed Okey Ezeh for the party’s guber ticket, a report which triggered a wave of reactions that were capable of sinking the party into oblivion.
In a reaction, however, John Iwuala, assistant national organizing secretary, South-East Zone of the party, condemned “the image-tarnishing publication” and disassociated the party’s “responsible and reasonable gubernatorial aspirants” from what he tagged “political blackmail”.
He said APGA was yet to commence the sale of expression of interest forms to any aspirant for any elective position in the 2019 general elections, adding that the party was too credible “to have aspirants who will throw in their towel before the contest”.
More interestingly, Iwuala said all the governorship aspirants in Imo State have “mutual love for themselves and as well share things together which is uncommon with rival political parties in Nigeria today”.
He added that under the credible leadership of Peter Ezeobi, the party chairman in the state, and the direction of Victor Ike Oye, who “has always preached internal democracy within the various hierarchy of our great party”, APGA “is poised towards credible, transparent, free and fair primaries on a level playing ground for all the aspirants in the state”.
“APGA is the only hope of Ndi Imo State for a positive change come 2019 and would not take any chances to any undemocratic disposition from any individual or media outfit,” he said.
In order to water the ground for their emergence as the preferred candidates to clinch the APGA ticket, some aspirants have begun to throw money about, with some already donating vehicles to the party for the campaign.
But analysts say in order not lose credibility, APGA must shun money politics to give every aspirant a truly level playing ground and ensure that the most promising candidate, not the highest donor, gets the party ticket.
Need for equity, justice
Austin Echefu, new media, media & strategy coordinator, Imo Youth Platform, is of the view that God has positioned APGA in Imo State for serious assignment so that the state can move on again, but adds that the party must help itself to play its God-assigned roles.
In an article “2019: What APGA Must Do To Win Imo Guber”, Echefu commended the national leadership of APGA for demonstrating “orderliness, equity and justice” by adopting and maintaining a zoning formula in Anambra State. He, therefore, called for the same principles to be extended to the party in Imo State, saying that was the only way the APGA victory in Anambra State could be maintained and replicated in Imo State and other states of the South East in 2019.
While agreeing that what APGA requires is “someone with proven managerial ability to fly its flag”, Echefu insisted on the need for “equity and justice”, which, in this case, means “zoning of the 2019 governorship ticket to Okigwe zone”.
Justifying the need for zoning the ticket to Okigwe, he said though APGA in Imo State had always practiced zoning, Okigwe zone had always held the short end of the stick.
To buttress the point, he recalled that after APGA was formed in 2002, the party’s governorship ticket in the state for the 2003 general elections went to Ezekiel Izuogu from Ideato North (Orlu zone). In 2007, the ticket went to Martin Agbaso from Emekuku in Owerri North LGA (Owerri zone). In 2011, the ticket returned to Orlu zone through Rochas Okorocha from Ideato South, who picked Jude Agbaso from Owerri zone as his deputy. And in 2015, APGA gave its governorship ticket to Emmanuel Ihenacho from Owerri zone.
He further argued that apart from the APGA governorship ticket, the state chairmanship of the party had over the years also been shared between Orlu and Owerri zones, with Okigwe zone clearly missing from the entire permutation.
“Therefore, APGA has a golden opportunity to correct this anomaly and reassure everyone that it is not a party owned by Owerri and Orlu zones and that it is not into any conspiracy against Okigwe zone,” he said.
The best way to do this, he argued, is for the party to “immediately zone its 2019 governorship ticket to Okigwe zone and ensure that only a sellable candidate from that area emerges as its flag bearer”.
He reminded APGA in Imo State that it is going into the 2019 governorship battle with Okorocha, a man who once held its ticket and later turned around to spit on it, arguing that the only way to defeat such a man was for the party to zone the ticket “and shop for the man with the right arsenal to defeat the governor and his would-be candidate”.
He also reminded APGA that by zoning its 2019 governorship ticket to Okigwe, the party would be carrying every zone in the state along towards having a stronger party and winning the much coveted governorship.
For instance, he argued, the zoning formula would resolve the claim that APGA only has presence in Owerri zone while it suffers in other areas, dispel the discouraging feeling that some people own the party, give every member a sense of belonging, present the party in a good light before the Imo public as a party that caters to the interests of all, making it more acceptable to them, as well as give the party a broader outlook.
“If the right things are done, APGA stands a good chance to win the 2019 governorship election; that is, if the lethal war in the APC and PDP are not allowed a breathing space to rear up in APGA,” he said.