Ahead of November 11 governorship election in Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodimma is deploying both religious and gender sentiments to deflect people’s attention from insecurity and other challenges unsettling his administration – LAWRENCE NJOKU
Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 11, 2023, governorship election in Imo State, Hope Uzodimma, has deepened his quest to return to office when he announced an educationist, Mrs Chinyere Ihuoma Ekomaru, as his running mate.
Although his choice of Ekomaru stunned many, especially, since she is not a politician and the fact that there is no known rift between him and his incumbent deputy, Prof.Placcid Njoku, the governor, however, explained that the decision was because of “ecumenical and political permutations.”[news_related_post]
He did not explain in details other factors that fuelled his choice of new deputy but quickly added that he “expects Imo women to appreciate this gesture as my genuine appreciation of their innate strength and capacity to contribute to the growth of our state.”
He added, however, that the choice of Ekomaru was “all inclusive.” While urging Imo people to accept and make peace with his decision of new deputy, Uzodimmasaid he had “enjoyed a good working relationship” with his incumbent deputy.
He said: “I don’t have any problem with my deputy. He is a very loyal and committed partner in progress. My confidence in him has not waned in any way. I want to assure you that he is still very relevant in our political family and his political career is not by any means over. The truth is that as representatives of the people, we need to be sensitive to the ecumenical nature of the environment,” Uzodimma added.
The governor’s new running mate is married to a lawyer and politician, Chukwuma Uchenna Ekomaru. She is a devout Catholic. Her husband was a Commissioner during the administration of AchikeUdenwa and worked briefly under Ikedi Ohakim. MrEkomaru participated in the governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019 that was eventually won by Emeka Ihedioha and had since switched support to Uzodimma.
Sources, however, hinted that the choice of Ekomarum might not be unconnected with the influence of her husband in the scheme of things, adding that the loss of the ticket of the PDP to Ihedioha was out of party politics and not popularity deficiency.
Another source, however, stated that her choice might be part of the governor’s effort to integrate women into his campaign and governance, stressing that he had earlier nominated a female Minister from the state. It was further gathered that no political party in the election fielded female candidates, a development that has made it an all-male affair, hence the deft move to replace an incumbent deputy governor with a female deputy governorship candidate.
The Guardian gathered that the choice has opened another vista in the political equation of the state, going by the influence of other contenders to the seat from other political parties. Such names as Senator AthanAchonu of the Labour Party (LP); Senator Samuel Anyanwu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Lincoln Ogunewe of Action Alliance (AA) are leading the pack with their grounded and massive support base.
While Ogunewe and Anyanwu hail from Imo East senatorial zone, Achonu hail from the North, and Uzodimma is from West, among other contestants.
Sources stated that the choice of the female deputy is meant to break the hegemony and control opponents of the APC hold in their various zones and deepen contests in the election.
Although Uzodimma has been on the saddle in the past three years, issues bothering on insecurity, killings, underdevelopment of the rural areas, poor workers’ welfare, arsons, as well as poor management of the State resources are low points trailing his government and dominating discuss for the November governorship election in the state.
Dataphyte.com in a report released in June this year, stated that the November election would witness below 50 per cent voter turnout from the total of 2.42 million people expected to vote in the election due to previous voting in the state that witnessed low participation.
For instance, it recorded that in the 2011 governorship election, with 1. 69 million registered voters, only 750,964 persons turned out, representing 45 per cent of registered voters, while 1.75 million participated in 2015 (about 46 per cent). It stated that in 2019 however, although 2.22 million people registered, the voter turnout dropped significantly to 37 per cent of the people.
But political watchers pointed at the alarming insecurity that trailed the current regime of the state as instrumental to any low voter turnout, stressing that the governor’s strategies to restore order and confidence in the state had failed completely.
A don, Kennedy Mbawuike, told The Guardian while attempting to justify this that “Imo State remains the most insecure in the southeast region”, stressing that, “it is no longer news that people are killed anyhow and property burnt by hoodlums.”
Mbawuike disclosed, “we are almost battling two parallel authorities now. A group of people will wake up in the morning and start moving around just for the purpose of identifying buildings belonging to individuals and billing them on what to pay or risk being attacked. That is the terrible situation we have found ourselves among others.”
It was in response to the porous security of the state that the governorship candidate of LP, Achonu recently called for the resignation of the governor. Achonu, who was reacting to a meeting between the governor, traditional rulers, presidents-general and youth leaders of communities in the state chided the governor for telling his audience to assume responsibility for security of their respective communities.
He said: “The first duty of the government is to protect lives and property, and a governor, by the dictates of our Constitution, is the chief security officer of the state.
“If the chief security officer is telling the people he is supposed to protect should protect themselves, that simply means that he lacks the capacity to continue as their governor and should therefore resign,” he stated.
The PDP had toed similar line of thought when it accused the governor of failing to fulfill his campaign promises and therefore had nothing to campaign with.
The party’s Director General, New Media, Lancelot Obiako said that Imo State residents are now victims of rampant arson and violence, with devastating loss of lives and property, while every aspect of the economy suffered significant damage.
He said: “It is crucial to highlight the deterioration of the education and healthcare sectors. A recent photograph circulated on social media, showing Emmanuel College students sitting on the floor while taking exams. This distressing image serves as a representative example of the crumbling infrastructure and inadequate learning resources in Imo public schools.
“Unfortunately, there is currently no clear plan or framework for advancing education in the state,” he had argued among others.
Uzodimma understands the enormity of attempting to return to office for a second term, especially given the shocking verdict of the Supreme Court on January 14, 2020, which ousted Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP.
The court had pronounced him governor from his fourth position in the result ladder. That verdict, which restored votes from 388 polling units, excluded by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has remained a landmark judgment and has continued to raise emotions.
Now he is meant to show cause that he did not only win the 2019 election but that the apex court was right in its judgment that he secured the highest number of votes in the election.
Aside from the choice of Ekomaru into the contest to assuage the female plank, Uzodimma has continued to improve his support base and acceptability. Recently, he had moved and secured the endorsement of Imo Elders Council led by Eze Cletus Ilomuanya.
The Elders, who used the occasion to present a copy of Imo Charter of Equity, detailing the zonal structure and rotation of power to ensure fair representation in governorship – Imo East, Imo West and Imo North, had given their support to enable him to complete his tenure, noting, however, that from 2027, Owerri zone should be given the chance to mount the saddle.
Last week, when he unveiled his deputy governorship candidate, he told his audience that he could rightly and proudly claim that he kept the social contract he entered with the Imo people when he assumed office in January 2020.
Responding to his critics, he stated that there was every reason for the people of the state to be happy with his administration, stressing that the security situation in the state had improved as the wanton and unprovoked killing of citizens by mercenary criminals had abated while the indiscriminate attacks on security agencies have been checked.
The governor further said that the state had regained its pride of place as the hub of hospitality, citing the hosting of high-profile events and conferences, including those by the Nigerian Army and Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) in the state to buttress his point.
He also said that his administration had put in place a fully automated system in the civil service, eliminated corruption and abolished the menace of ghost workers.
Other achievements in the state civil service, he said, included the renovation of the entire secretariat blocks, provision of relevant equipment, and regular payment of salaries, payment of 13th month salary and other welfare packages.
“Our roads, which were mere death traps when I assumed office, are now motorable. At the last count, this administration has done more than 100 good-quality roads across the entire state.