AS the race for the governorship race in 2015 draws nearer in Imo State, the list of speculated contenders to the seat, currently held by Chief Rochas Okorocha, is lengthening by the day.
It includes the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha; Representative Bethel Amadi; Senator Chris Anyanwu; Capt. Emma Iheanacho; Chief Emma Ojinere, and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.
With the emergence of Prince Eze Madumere as the new deputy governor, political watchers in the state are of the view that Governor Okorocha is positioning his closest and trusted confidant to take over from him either in 2015 or 2019 (if he fails to make the presidency in 2015), and apparently give him protection when he is out of the Government House in Owerri.
There are three senatorial districts in Imo State (Imo East (or Owerri), Imo West (Orlu) and Imo North (Okigwe). The 50-year-old Okorocha hails from Ogboko, Ideato South, Imo West of the state. According the governor, he holds a Masters degree in Law, an astute politician and successful businessman, all combined to give him an edge over others.
• Rochas Okorocha came on board in 2011 after a spirited fight ousting Chief Ikedi Ohakim, who had served a single term (May 29, 2007-May 29, 2011). For the first time in the state, a supplementary governorship election was held for the titans to determine the actual winner. Okorocha won.
The Owelle, as Okorocha is fondly called by reason of his traditional title, used the instrumentality of his foundation, Rochas Foundation of 10 years of existence, assisting in training and/or on the verge of offering scholarships to about 6,000 indigent pupils and students, to win the hearts of the Imo electorate
Okorocha was refused ticket in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to run in 2011, before he took over the structure and governorship ticket of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), thus displacing Chief Martin Agbaso.
To pacify Agbaso, a truce of selecting his younger brother, Jude Agbaso, to serve as Okorocha’s running mate, paid off. The essence of the senior Agbaso relinquishing his ticket to Okorocha, sources said, was apparently to enable Okorocha give a big fight to Ohakim, then called “Ikiri”.
It has not been easy for Okorocha since assumption of duty. As a result, he embarked on massive infrastructural development, including building houses, and roads, among others.
His reasoning was that the issue, which led to the removal of Ohakim from office by ballot, could be justified only if he provided those things that his predecessors, majorly (Chief Achike Udenwa and Ohakim) could not provide for the citizenry from 1999 to 2011.
Currently, Okorocha has pitched tent, even at the forefront, in the merger issue with other political parties (Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, Congress of Progressive Change and All Progressives Grand Alliance) to form a mega party named All Progressives Congress (APC) to fight the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governor has since assumed the position of coordinating the APC in the Southeast, to win more members to the fledgling movement.
In a recent press briefing, Okorocha boasted that the people of the Southeast geopolitical zone (Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi) would be dragged away totally from the dominant PDP, adding that they were dissatisfied by the standard of performance of the ruling party in the country.
As it sands, the governor, though it has not been said clearly, is rooting to emerge as a vice presidential candidate, all things being equal, to run along a northerner in 2015.
But in the event of not achieving that desire, he would re-contest the governorship seat in Imo, a Government House source has told The Guardian.
However, Okorocha may not get that seat easily as he did during the last election, in the sense that most Imo indigenes, who gave him support, are complaining of cash squeeze in the state.
They say they hardly eat well due to certain economic policies put in place by Okorocha, even when there are structures and beautification works in the three zones of the state.
As one respondent queried in Owerri: “Do we live in the Government House renovated to taste or how do the building of massive Heroes Square or Ojukwu Research Centre, among others, translate into our stomachs?”
Yet, the issue with those angling to take over Okorocha’s seat is whether they can outwit what the governor is saying anywhere he goes: that the “bar of leadership in the state has been raised by him for anyone wishing to rule to be up to something upstairs.”
• Rep Emeka Ihedioha, in his 40s, represents Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency (Imo East). This is his third term on the House of Representatives.
He has been busy, flagging off some Federal Government projects in the area, such as roads and skills acquisition training programmes for the youths. This is going on in collaboration with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
He has consistently told his people that he is the one that attracted these projects by virtue of his position (as Number Six person) in Nigeria.
But some people believe him with a pinch of salt. And the ruling government of Okorocha is contesting why federal projects, which should be enjoyed by all irrespective of political party, are allegedly benefitting largely members of the PDP, Ihedioha’s party. This could determine Ihedioha’s chances of becoming the next governor.
His critics also argue that he is not showing “a hand of financial fellowship” to them, given the quantum of benefits he has received for three terms in office.
• Senator Chris Anyanwu, chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, in her 50s, was allegedly denied her victory at primary level by the PDP leadership because she was said to be at loggerheads with Ohakim in 2011.
Thus, Ambassador Kema Chikwe was given the Senate ticket seat for Imo East. Anyanwu rushed to the APGA, secured the ticket, and defeated Chikwe at the poll.
Now enjoying her second term in the Senate, Anyanwu recently had a brush with Okorocha’s convoy at Ozaraegbelu, Owerri North, on the Owerri-Umuahia road.
Her driver was beaten silly by the security agents attached to Okorocha, but Anyanwu, a trained broadcast journalist, muscled her professional strength and shouted to the world and got its sympathy while Okorocha cried foul.
Feelers are that Anyanwu is seeking secretly to take over from Okorocha in 2015. But the problem is likely to have, as sources told The Guardian, is that she takes no damn.
She is allegedly easily annoyed, an attribute that gives worry to the electorate when election to such an exhausted seat comes up.
She is, however, considered to speak well, connected and consummate, having suffered in the hands of the military by incarceration.
• Captain Emma Iheanacho (from Imo East), a former Minister of Interior, is a maritime expert into oil business. He was suspended from office, later recalled and at last could not survive a cabinet reshuffle by President Jonathan recently.
Though Iheanacho is yet to make his ambition known by declaration, his recent formation of political structures and gifts distribution to various organisations, persons and bodies indicate the same way those who had made their ambition known did.
Many people like him, by reason of his ascent in public speech, charismatic looks and experience in life, among others. His followership is an advantage.
He was at a time accused of having support for the APGA whereas he is a PDP card-carrying member. He had dismissed the allegation as untrue.
• Bethel Amadi, a lawyer, represents Ikeduru/Mbaitoli Federal Constituency in his third term. He is said to be nursing the ambition to rule Imo State. He has started touching bases and reaching out.
A member of the PDP, Amadi is likely to have problems of acceptance, as many people believe that he needs to show comradeship and philanthropy more in the state. He is again, yet to let the public know about his ambition.
• Chief Emma Ojinere (a member of the PDP from Imo East) hails from Mbaise and is rooted in oil and gas business, among others.
He had made unsuccessful governorship trials in 2007 and 2011 He is said to be making in roads to come back, but his impact requires adequate spread.
The likes of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and Chief Achike Udenwa are yet to disclose their political minds. Indeed, Araraume is still contesting the 2011 governorship polls in the state in the courts. So, in all, many aspirants are still in the shadows, giving the impression that they are afraid of coming out to make their stands clear in the 2015 governorship contest.