Sunday, April 14, 2024

Political tension heightens as candidates turn Imo governorship election to warfare, accuse one another of bloodletting

BENEDICT NWACHUKWU reports that the various governorship candidates in Imo State have turned the forthcoming election to warfare.

The November 11, 2023 governorship election in Imo State has massively turned to a battle field with barely 33 days to go as everyday produces one politically linked crime or another.

Politicians across party lines are at each other’s throat, with accusations ranging from bloodletting to terrorism sponsorship coupled with threats of all kinds.

Last week, the incumbent governor, Hope Uzodimma, threatened to arrest and prosecute the Labour Party’s candidates, Athan Achonu.

Governor Uzodimma, while addressing a section of Imo people last Wednesday during his endorsement by the Imo State Social Contract Group held at the Landmark Event Centre, Owerri, accused the LP governorship candidate of fraudulently obtaining a court order certifying him to have built primary healthcare centers in the 27 LGAs of Imo state and embezzled millions of dollars allocated to the healthcare project by the Federal Government.

He lamented that Imo State federal allocation is currently being deducted at source in payment of the alleged embezzled primary healthcare funds, a situation he described as anti-developmental to the state.

“One of the governorship contestants who embezzled the primary healthcare funds of the 27 LGA health centers in the state went to court and obtained a fraudulent judgment. Now Imo State allocation from the Federal Government is being deducted at source for the payment of the huge debt.

“This is a criminal act and I must follow it up to the end. I will arrest and prosecute him before the November 11 governorship election.

“Imo is using the money which could be channeled to other developmental projects to offset huge debts incurred by one man in the name of primary healthcare project. Does this person want the best for Imo State?”

This threat came on the heels of the recent killings in Ehime Mbano LGA of the state which is the home of Achonu.

On September 19, 2023, eight members of a joint force involving the army, police and civil defence personnel were ambushed, murdered and burnt by some unknown gunmen in the LGA.

The politicians have since turned the act to a veritable campaign ground. Governor Hope Uzodimma and his team, without hesitation, promised to fish out the perpetrators of the evil and aptly accused the opposition parties of being behind it.

“A legal practitioner and chieftain of the Labour Party, Ihejirika Emeka believes his candidate is a man to beat in the election”

He went beyond frowning at it as he reassured the Imo people that his government was not going to leave any stone unturned in exposing and dealing with both the sponsors and executors of the heinous crime against the Nigerian state.

But 20 days after the mayhem, nothing has been heard of the perpetrators. This has created more fears in the state.

On September 17, 2023, some politicians from the Okigwe and Owerri zones gathered in Okigwe at the unity meeting tagged “Oganihu Okigwe” and reached an agreement to collaborate and support the Owerri zone in the forthcoming election by voting the PDP candidate, Samuel Anyanwu who is from Owerri zone as a consensus candidate.

Their idea was that after his eight years of two terms in office, if he wins, the two zones will support an Okigwe zone’s candidate as well. They reached this agreement to wrestle power from the Orlu zone which is Governor Uzodimma’s zone that has governed the state 20 out of the 24 years since the return of democracy in 1999.

The enlarged structure meeting witnessed a monumental gathering of grassroots men, women, youths and clergymen of Okigwe extraction.

The meeting was presided over by the Chairman of the social cultural organization Chidi Dike who in his remarks described the organization as Oganihu Okigwe (which means the development of Okigwe zone.)

Dike, while campaigning for Anyanwu, took his time and intimated the group on the need to partner with Owerri Zone in the November 11 governorship election in order to have a lasting solution to the current situation bedeviling the state.

He frowned at the level of marginalization done to Okigwe and Owerri zones by Orlu zone and said that if Owerri zone can be on the same page they can wrestle power from Orlu zone. He introduced the leadership of Destiny organization, Rescue Mission organization, former YPP chairman, and others.

To elaborate more on the need for the two zones to join forces to take over power from APC and Orlu zone, Emma Buka claimed that both Rochas Okorocha and Godwin Ararume have instructed their political structures, the Rescue Mission organization and Destiny organization to support the candidacy of Anyanwu and Jones Onyeriri in the coming Imo governorship election.

He urged members of the PDP to get prepared to reclaim Douglas House come November 11, 2023.

The delegation of Owerri zone leaders to the meeting, led by Mike Iheanaetu emphatically said, “We have three geopolitical zones in the state and since the return of steady democracy 24 years ago, one geopolitical zone alone has ruled for 20 years. This calls for serious collaboration between Okigwe and Owerri zones to return the zoning formula in the state.”

The meeting, on the surface seemed to meet the desires of the conveners when Damian Ogu appreciated the Owerri zone delegation as he told them that Okigwe zone has agreed to support Owerri zone but asked if Owerri zone was capable of reclaiming the mandate.

He demanded double assurances from the leaders of Owerri zone that they will support Okigwe zone after their tenure and promised to work very well and hard to deliver the mandate of Owerri zone.

The said meeting of Okigwe and Owerri zones rejected the candidate of Labour Party, Athan Achonu, who is from the Okigwe zone.

A legal practitioner and chieftain of the Labour Party, Ihejirika Emeka believes his candidate is a man to beat in the election.

Even when the campaign against him is that he is a placeholder to Uzodimma, Ihejirika discarded the claims as an alibi by the outgoing governor and his “blind followers” who, according to him, depend on manipulating the electoral umpire, security agencies and judiciary to be declared winner but warned that Achonu will resist it to the letter.

He discarded the Okigwe/Owerri zones purported endorsement saying it’s laughable.

“Senator Achonu is the choice of the Imo people. He has done so much for the people, especially his constituency which is Okigwe, so how can anyone just wake up from slumber and claim that Okigwe people endorsed another candidate. Who were those in the meeting?

“There are people with the power and they are the electorates. They have settled for Agu Otuaka. Have you been following our campaign rally and see how dear he is in the minds of Imo people, it is total acceptance everywhere we go?”

The LP candidate, who vehemently condemned the murder of the security operatives and all the other reprehensible killings in the state, boldly accused the state government of complicity in the murder saying that everything about it proves that it was politically motivated.

He said the plan was to scare his people from coming out to cast their votes for him in order to deplete his vote.

Reacting to the reprisal attack that has devastated the community, Achonu said, “This (killing) is political, they wanted to make Ehime Mbano ungovernable because I am from here. This is politics, nothing else, this is politics. These people are innocent, so they will say this is the headquarters of IPOB and descend on us.

“I have been supporting the police, Civil defense and military and DSS over the years by providing them with vehicles.

“I feel very sad because of what is happening. My position in all these issues is well known. Things like this should not be happening where there’s a government. There is no government here that’s why these things are happening. This is the absence of governance, that’s why things like these are happening.”

The LP standard bearer lamented that the spot where the evil men carried out the dastard act was the exact location he bought for the police and argued that the case would have been different if the government had built a police station there.

But the Director of Media and Publicity of Athan Achonu Campaign Organization, Chibuikem Diala, described the threat as a confirmation of what his principal earlier said that the killings in Ehime Mbano were targeted at demonizing him and his people before the election.

“This is nothing but a political witch hunt against our principal whose popularity is overwhelming the APC family. If not, why is it that it is only now when the Imo governorship election is around the corner and Senator Achonu is garnering massive followership, that this unverified issue suddenly appeared to be a public discourse?

Diala said the governor may be hallucinating when he made such a statement because, according to him, the Labour Party candidate has completed over 70% of the primary healthcare projects in the 774 LGAs in the country.

He said the project is an ALGON-funded project initiated by Achonu in 2006 and was approved by the Federal Government in 2007.

The projects, he disclosed, are visible and functional in so many communities in Imo State including Owerri municipal, Isu-Ekwe, and even Omuma, the Governor’s country home.

“The allegation that Mathan Nigeria Limited, owned by Senator Achonu, collected billions of Naira from the Federal Government for the construction of Primary Health Care Centre in each of the 774 Local Government Areas in the country and later abandoned the project, is completely false and a mere blackmail.

“The project, as we speak, is very visible and functional in several communities of the state, including Omuma which is the governor’s country home,” Diala said.

Imo residents who preferred anonymity said living in the state now is the highest risk any human being can take, especially with the election around the corner.

They said the candidates, especially the incumbent governor, have turned everything to warfare and lamented that it is the innocent people who will be at the receiving end.

They wondered how a man who purchased land for the Nigeria police, unfortunately the same spot those criminals killed and burnt the soldiers, will now be accused of embezzling funds meant for developing the state.

Another thing of note is that the embittered Achonu inspected buildings and shops allegedly damaged by angry soldiers that stormed the location to retrieve their slain colleagues.

He said after the inspection, “That’s the problem of our society; the rule of the jungle is what prevails now. That is what is increasing the spate of lawlessness in our society. When people witness these, they become lawless themselves. There’s no rule of law anymore in this society.

“Anyway, that is what you get when you have a governor who does not obey court orders, who does not obey the rule of law.

“Police should carry out their work of investigation and fish out the criminals. They have helicopters, they have drones, and they have information, let them activate it and get the culprits and leave innocent people alone.”

He assured the Imo people that in his government, this will never happen because he will have vigilantes in all LGAs, and equip police.

“It seems the candidates and their parties have nothing to tell us. Everyday what we hear from them is an attack on one another. Their supporters are ready to kill anyone who does not sing the praises of their candidate. Imo people are living in fear”

Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission had refused to send its staff and election materials to some areas in Imo it described as high risk zones during the recent general elections.

Much as Achonu made efforts to convince the electorates of Imo State that he is fully in the contest, former state Chairman of YPP, Victor Diala, claimed that apart from the PDP candidate other candidates, including his party, are working for Uzodimma.

He made this claim at the Oganihu Okigwe meeting where he lamented that every other zone has developed except Okigwe zone and said ‘Sam Daddy’ is the only credible candidate who can take over power with the current failed administration of APC.

He said that about eight political parties have collapsed into the PDP to make sure that they reclaim Douglas House come November 11, 2023.

In continuation of heating up the polity, the Imo State chapter of the PDP accused the incumbent governor of squandering the quantum of state funds to actualize his dead on arrival second term bid that skinned and subjected the state into serious economic quagmire by declaring a humongous gift package of 30 SUVs and cash of N5 million for the EOs and 20 SL-570 (2021) model Lexus jeeps for the senior electoral staff officers and the entire staff of the electoral body.

The party said after his plot was exposed, he reverted to trafficking of Imo youth in the name of securing them jobs overseas which confirms that he has failed woefully.

A political analyst and commentator on critical social issues, Silva Emeka, expressed fears over the form that campaigns have taken in the state.

He accused the political parties and their candidates of preparing grounds for a violent election in November.

Emeka, a lawyer, said the little seen so far of the parties’ campaign is proof that lives and property of Imo people will be in great danger during the election.

“It seems the candidates and their parties have nothing to tell us. Everyday what we hear from them is an attack on one another. Their supporters are ready to kill anyone who does not sing the praises of their candidate. Imo people are living in fear. There’s no doubt, if the security agencies are not up and doing, lives and property will be lost. There’s too much bitterness and hatred among the candidates. They have turned the forthcoming election to warfare. We are lamenting about insecurity and these people are heightening it. It has never been like this before in the history of Imo politics. There’s serious danger.

“Before it was Achonu was not an LP candidate but since the Supreme Court has confirmed him as the authentic LP candidate, they have come up with another accusation. All these are only hitting up the polity. It is very dangerous. We don’t want to lose more lives in this state. These politicians should let us be,” he said.

The Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to Governor Uzodimma, Oguwike Nwachuku, described the accusation of PDP as wild and barefaced lies from a devastated, sinking ship desperately leaning on a wedge of lies to remain afloat.

On the Okigwe/Owerri zones meeting and endorsement of the PDP candidate, a chieftain of the APC and member of Governor Uzodinma’s media team, Bundu Nwadike, said Imo people can’t be deceived again to vote a man who is serving two masters, who has a divided interest.

“Sam Daddy can’t serve two masters at the same time, even the Bible is very clear about that. He has been working in his PDP National Secretary office in Wadata House, Abuja from Monday to Thursday only to fly down to Owerri on Fridays to attend burials. Is that the way he will govern the state, is that what our people need? The answer is no. He hasn’t any known structures in Imo State and any palatable leadership antecedents and pedigree that may speak for him, so how can anyone be talking of endorsement except by political jobbers?”

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