Ahead of the forthcoming Okigwe senatorial bye-election, there are feelers that the pattern of voting may be at variance from what had hitherto obtained in the zone. From the advent of the present democracy in 1999, the dominant party in the state has always had the upper hand in deciding the party to clinch the senatorial seat, the only exemptions were in 2007 and 2011 when there were somewhat “electoral accidents” which torpedoed the tag-along arrangements.
In 1999, Chief Achike Udenwa of PDP was the state governor while Chief Ifeanyi Araraume also of PDP held sway as the senator of Okigwe zone. In the following election year, 2003, Governor Achike Udenwa and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume both of PDP were returned as the governor of Imo state and senator of Okigwe zone respectively. In 2015, Chief Rochas Okorocha was re-elected governor of the state while the now late Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu also of APC tagged along as the senator of Okigwe zone. In a similar fashion, Senator Hope Uzodinma of APC emerged the governor of Imo state in 2019 with late Senator Uwajumogu also of APC being re-elected the senator of Okigwe zone.
From the statistical summation above, it is altruistic to say that from 1999 to date, the senate seat of the zone has been two-way traffic for the two dominant parties in Imo state, PDP and APC. The smaller parties have not had an opportunity to produce a senator of the zone. Despite the bold attempt put up by Mazi Clement Owunna who contested for the seat in 2015 under the platform of APGA, he still was unable to secure the seat. In a similar effort by Chief Cosmos Iwu who sought to become the senator of the zone in 2011 under the platform of the now-defunct ACN, his unyielding efforts still failed to yield the desired results.
However, for the first time in the history of elections in the zone, there seem to be discordant tunes playing in the air against the style and manner of political configurations in the zone. While some people are raising dust against the process of emergence of some of the past senators, others said their elections did not reflect the free will of the people, yet some other people said they were hand-picked by one or two moneybags. In truth, every indigene of the zone seems to have something against the past leaders of the zone as most of the people in the zone believed, rightly or wrongly, that the results of most elections there were manipulated by moneybags who arrogate to themselves the right and liberty to choose who occupies elective positions in the zone. Some of the critics spoke condescendingly against the practice of electing representatives based on partisan considerations instead of the ability, capacity, and personality of the individual.
Against the foregoing background, it is believed that about seventy percent of the voting population of the zone is disenchanted, disillusioned and disparaged over the state of political affairs in the zone and may have charted opposing course with the rest of the population of about thirty percent who may want to stick with the old order.
It is not for nothing that the recent months have witnessed a spate of endorsements of the APGA senatorial aspirant, Dr. Charles Onyirimba for the vacant seat of the zone by different groups and individuals in the zone………the endorsements draw anchorage from the preceding background.
By implication, the endorsements of Onyirimba translate to the public endorsement of APGA and the total loss of public confidence on PDP and APC. The hitherto silent voters have been awakened by pains of misrepresentations and abandonment to see the need to clamor, agitate and negotiate for the betterment of the zone. There is no gainsaying that the people are groaning under the pain of bad representation hence they want someone under whom their rights and privileges can be better guaranteed and protected. They are eager to try a new crop of people, a new political platform, and a new political adventure. *As Albert Einstein stated:” Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”* To prove that they have no mental challenges, the body movement of the people is already showing a different drumbeat, different rhythm, and different dance steps in the hope that the ultimate result will also be different.
Before the time the political parties will congregate for their primary elections, the people of the zone have already selected their own candidate. Interestingly, the candidate of the people is also the candidate of one of the political parties, APGA. By some kind of positive twist, both the people and APGA have decided on who they want, and that is, Dr. Charles Onyirimba.
Dr. Onyirimba is believed to have a captivating background as a lawyer, a moral counselor, a social crusader, and a philanthropist. He was a former National President of the Imo community in the USA, a founding member of the World Igbo Congress, and currently the National President of Nigerian and American Bar Association(NABA). As a reputed philanthropist, he has assisted many indigent youths to yank off their clothes of poverty. It is heart-warming to observe that about one hundred and forty-seven(147) youths have on his account left the shores of this country for the USA between 1990 and 2019 for greener pastures. In addition, about 800 youths in Igboland have at different times between 1990 and 2020 enjoyed his scholarship at different levels of education. He is a practical service-giver who is always passionate to serve in humility, honesty, and sincerity.
While the people are saying “no” to leaders who carry themselves with the aloofness of demi-gods, they are stretching out their arms in an embrace to those who are friendly and accessible. While the people voted in order to gain political salvation, it is agonizing to see the same people they voted for masterminding their stagnation, starvation, and malnutrition.
The strength of Onyirimba’s aspiration is hinged on the insensitivity of the past leaders who were more inclined to build themselves and their business concerns than build their people. The zone has been a tale of woes ranging from thwarting the express will of the people, enthroning of mediocrity, and coming up with a style that does not recognize the vote of the people.
Today, the people seem to have realized their folly in the past in aiding and abetting abuses against electoral rules, hence they are now girding their loins to defend the rules. This time, the people must reclaim their inalienable right to choose who will represent them, and, of course, their votes must count.
*Dr. Nnamdi Nnabuihe is the President-General of Okigwe Zone Grassroot Connect.*