Less than 48 hours after burial of the senator representing Imo North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Ben Uwajumogu, a bitter political battle seems to have erupted at the zonal chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over his replacement, Steve Uzoechi reports
Late Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, who represented Imo North in the Senate, had barely settled in in his grave, when a proxy war broke out in Imo North Senatorial District over his replacement for the plum job at the National Assembly.
After Uwajumogu’s burial last Friday, all pretences were dropped as all the mooted discussions and ambitions spilled over to the open as the All Progressives Congress (APC) stakeholders, power brokers, political stalwarts and gladiators hastened to reposition their political structures ahead of the Imo North Senatorial by-election.
The late senator was bade farewell on Friday, but on Sunday, a broad spectrum meeting of Imo North stakeholders (Okigwe zone) was convened at the palatial home of billionaire business mogul, Chief Tony Chukwu, to discuss the forthcoming Imo North senatorial by-election.
Only a political greenhorn would believe that other meetings had not been held before the APC stakeholders’ parley that eventually ended a fiasco.
The parley drew a massive turn-out with most of the attendees apparently prepared for what became the eventual outcome.
The meeting opened with several comments from leaders and stakeholders present.
Some perceived the meeting as being all about Okigwe Zone uniting and closing ranks politically; others tried to guide the meeting to be mindful of the place of political parties in producing senatorial candidates as the race for Okigwe senate was not just an APC affair.
Yet, another school of thought, which barely voiced their position, was skeptical of the real intent of the stakeholders’ parley less than 48 hours after the remains of the last occupant of the now contentious seat was laid to rest.
It was an unhidden fact that the convening thought or perhaps suspicion was that the parley was to pave the way for stakeholders to endorse a particular candidate and back him for the Okigwe North senatorial seat.
The parley got tense and headed towards troubled waters, when speakers started hinting on the problem of Okigwe Zone and rather than the overriding issues, and were suggesting persons and communities that may have undermined the political fortunes of the zone over the years.
When eventually the host, Chief Chukwu took the floor to make his submission, he pointedly called out Isiala Mbano as the problem of Okigwe Zone. He had noted that the feud between Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and Dr. Ikedi Ohakim had continued to undermine the political fortunes of the zone.
“Araraume, Ohakim’s battle and personal interest have cost Okigwe Zone so much. I personally decided not to support them or any election. Okigwe Zone lost so much because of their personal war. Now Okigwe zone must move forward. It should not be Ohakim, Araraume or even me. We need the young crop of Okigwe to represent us at the Senate,” Chief Tony Chukwu.
Chukwu also proposed a new set up where himself, Araraume, Ohakim and other political heavyweights would be removed from handpicking and producing the senator of Okigwe Zone.
He wanted a situation where the forum of stakeholders instead of a few leaders would handpick the senatorial candidate. “Time has come for promising youths and young Okigwe sons and daughters to be given a chance and be supported to move the zone forward. The choice of who will replace late Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu would be a collective decision of Ndi-Okigwe that no one individual will decide.”
“Time has gone when one individual will dictate for Okigwe Zone on who will represent them at the National Assembly. This time, not even me, Tony Chukwu, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim or any other person will decide on who will go, rather a unanimous and collective decision of Ndi-Okigwe zone. A credible young man or woman must be encouraged and supported to go to the Senate, not the old faces always jostling for the position everytime,” he said.
Chukwu was not allowed to establish his case and conclude his submission, when the hall erupted in loud dissention shouting him down in the process. In the melee that followed, Chukwu left the hall and drove out of his home.
As a matter of fact, mutual suspicions got the better of the parley as those who suspected a clandestine script playing out shouted the business mogul down, when he suggested that Araraume who bears enormous political influence in the zone was part of the problem of Okigwe Zone.
As tempers flew and words came out unhindered; some angry attendees concluded that the said stakeholders’ meeting was all about stopping Senator Araraume ahead of the Okigwe Senate by-election and nothing more.
Not a few persons believe that the convener of the stakeholders’ parley was playing “the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.” While some are fixated on the Imo North by-election to get replacement for Uwajumogu, the brains behind the stakeholders’ meeting were looking at the bigger picture beyond 2023.
Pundits are not swayed by the statesman posturing of the conveners, who come across as serving public interest for collective good. They maintained that the incumbent governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, was already playing his trump card ahead of 2023.
A public commentator, Obi Azubuike, said: “How do you expect Governor Hope Uzodinma to stand aside and watch, while Senator Ifeanyi Araraume emerges and joins Senator Rochas Okorocha at the Red Chamber?
Araraume and Okorocha are not the type of politicians, who will sit by and allow the governor superintend over party congresses without making input or at worse, getting some concessions from the governor that would give them negotiating grips on APC party politics.”
Azubuike said it should be taken for granted that Araraume is already in APC regardless of his going through the motions in APGA.
His words: “If Uzodinma allows the duo to get such a grip in the party’s structure, they will definitely have some influence in determining who flies the party’s flag for elective political offices in 2023 and that would be most inconvenient for a sitting governor, who would want to return for a second term in 2023. By implication, he would have to fight potent contenders to get the party’s governorship ticket.
“So it is not all about the Imo North senatorial seat. Look at the bigger picture and you will appreciate that they are all playing for high stakes.”
Chukwu may be a figure head in the political plot with a massive war chest, but his capacity for political strategy cannot be ignored. Araraume, on his part, has been actively consistent in the politics of Imo and dominant in the politics of Imo North.
Araraume knows the turf more than most politicians in Okigwe Zone and is no stranger to adversity. He understands Imo North politics from the realm of a kingmaker down to the scheming in the field.
Nobody can say for certain how deep the plot runs or how wide consultations have been made. It is not also easy to say which power broker has been conscripted into the plot, considering the fact that Chukwu has a massive war chest and is possibly backed by a sitting governor.
Nevertheless, it is believed that the days ahead will be marked by high powered intrigues, horse-trading, political alignments and realignments as the botched stakeholders’ meeting had revealed that a high-wired political plot is already unfolding.
The other contending APC forces in Imo North politics could do is to re-position for the inevitable political showdown. The Imo North senatorial by-election is just one battle front.