By Everest Ezihe, Owerri
History is predicated on the rise and fall of countries, empires, personalities, and organizations. It is one of the natural phenomena that mankind is yet to address as a reality. Evidently, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is one of the political parties nurtured in 1998 under the umbrella of G-34 and under the then military administration of General Abdusalami Abubakar (RTD) as the Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces.
As General Abubakar (RTD) lifted the ban on political activities, G-34 constituted by most Nigerian political oracles and business icons metamorphosed into a political party named People’s Democratic Party (PDP), as was registered by National Electoral Commission (NEC), as the electoral body was then called.
It is important to note that during the 1999 political dispensation, many Nigerian politicians were apprehensive of the sincerity of the military handing over power to the civilians as the military juntas have for over a decade deceptively dribbled the politicians in handing power over to them.
It then took politicians of indomitable courage to take a chance on the turbulent political environment, thus in Imo State three political parties were on the front burner of the masses acceptance. These were the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Party (APP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD).
It is pertinent to note that while APP in Imo state was said to parade arrays of political juggernauts and money bags like Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe, Late Senator Evan(s) Enwerem, Dr. Josiah Odunnah, Chief Ezekiel Izuogu, Hon. EJK Onyewuchi, Hon. C. N. C. Osuala and Hon. Uche Diogu while Chief Godwin Ifeanyi Ararume was their pioneer State Chairman.
PDP then was said to have been hijacked by star-studded political tacticians with pitiable financial muscles in the persons like Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, Late Senator Mike Echeruo, Ambassador Kema Chikwe, Late Chief I. O. Umunna, Ambassador Greg Mbadiwe, Dr. Nnanna Ukaegbu, Ajaelus from Ihitte Uboma, late Hon. Ambrose Mezu, Chief Humprey Anumudu, Hon. Oliver Enwerem, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and Chief Onyema from Nkwerre who later became the Majority leader of the House Late Chief I. D. Nwoga was the pioneer State Chairman of the party.
PDP in the State then had the posture of mass-oriented as against the “stigmatization” of APP as political party of big men. This mass oriented posture boosted the image, credibility and acceptance of PDP in the State more than APP that paraded well-known names in Nigeria political and business circles.
Imo PDP got its first political baptism of fire during its 1999 gubernatorial Primaries in which Ambassador Greg Mbadiwe, Chief Achike Udenwa, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and Barr. Humphrey Anumudu were all aspirants as against APP that brought Engr. Ezekiel Izuogu under leadership harmonization and made him with ease their governorship candidate.
PDP gubernatorial primary then was tough with lots of wranglings and bickering considering the personalities involved even as Barr. Humphrey Anumudu was declared the winner of the primary while Okorocha, Mbadiwe and Udenwa came second, third and fourth respectively.
Unfortunately, Okorocha and Mbadiwe vehemently rejected the result of the primary and wrote series of petitions and litigations to an extent that barely two months to the general elections; Imo PDP was still in dilemma of sorting herself who is the party’s authentic gubernatorial candidate. To give peace a chance, Chief I.D.Nwogu who was the pioneer state chairman of the party invoked Imo Charter of Equity, pointing out that even though Chief Anumudu won the gubernatorial ticket but for the mere fact that he is from Owerri Senatorial zone that equity demands that it was the turn of Orlu Senatorial zone to produce the governor of the state.
In view of the above scenario, the party leaders met and decided that since Chief Okorocha and Ambassador Mbadiwe have been on running political battle over the gubernatorial ticket, it will be unfair to offer any of them the party ticket, thus Chief Udenwa who came fourth by virtue of divine arrangement was offered the party ticket against Chief Anumudu as he hails from Amaifeke Orlu.
This is again how Imo PDP sowed the seed of injustice and imposition as they gained peace of the graveyard. However, during the general elections, against every odds and permutations of political pundits, PDP won the Governorship election and majority sits both in the state and national assemblies. This became a window of an Eldorado for the party.
Following successes recorded by Chief Achike Udenwa in his first tenure and above all the party was equally in control of the central government, many creditable politicians in the state like Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe, Chief Hope Uzodinma, and Senator Godwin Ararume among others abandoned their political parties and carpet crossed to PDP. The political party gained stem, relevance, and acceptance. These instead of being an advantage rather breed arrogance and corruption among the party leaders especially Dr. Alex Obi who took over from Chief Nwoga.
The issue of money politics in Imo State was historically elevated by Dr. Obi as aspirants were made to believe that once you have PDP ticket in Imo State it is a “carry go” thus, extortion among the party leaders and chieftains became part of the game, warranting aspirants then to see PDP tickets as do or die affair.
Truly, between 1999-2003was a golden era for PDP as the party virtually dominated all the elective positions in the state. Ironically, this again prompted most of the party leaders and chieftains to be wearing the toga of arrogance and pomposity. Even as some of them became emergency millionaires overnight. They became power intoxicated and started acting like demi-gods. Similarly, what was being experienced in the state was not different from the national as the party was equally in firm control of the Federal government. The party leadership lacked discipline and unity of purpose as the allowed selfishness to becloud their sense of patriotism.
It was unfortunate that the party bluntly refused to re-examined herself as witnessed in 2003 primaries, as impunity and imposition became their norms. Expectedly, Chief Achike Udenwa won the party primaries for his second tenure and the party again had a landslide victory in all the elective positions in the state. The opposition political parties accused PDP of rigging and vote-buying and the party was not deterred. The party continued to live on the euphoria of her victory without strategic plans for consolidation and positive changes.
The party in 2003 witnessed a lot of intrigues wrangling and bickering which would have affected Chief Achike Udenwa’s ambition for second tenure.
The party for the first time became factionalized with two state Chairmen, Dr. Alex Obi representing the Redemption camp popularly known as Onongaono with chief Udenwa and members of his cabinet as the arrowheads while Chief Marcellinus Nlemigbo anchored the Abuja faction of Imo born politicians of PDP with Senator Ararume, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Ambassador Kema Chikwe, Chief Festus Odimegwu Chief Jude Ezenna (Orange Drugs), etc were the architects and financiers.
It is pertinent to recall that while Dr. Obi was manning the party Secretariat at Okigwe Road, Owerri, Chief Nlemigbo was piloting the party affairs form Egbu Road Secretariat. Ironically, both men were claiming to be authentic State Chairman of the party and the National leadership of the party seemed unperturbed as they were exploiting the crisis to their selfish advantage.
This era brought a lot of confusion and retrogression within the party in the state, but unfortunately the Chieftains and Leaders were again bedeviled with selfish interest prompting them to behave like an Ostrich while the image and credibility of the party continued to nose-dive.
Efforts by national leadership of the party to reconcile both factions always ended in deadlock as none was ready to shift ground.
The battle was between Governor Udenwa’s men and the state born Abuja based politicians who accused Dr. Alex Obi of selfishness, corruption, and highhandedness and demanded his sack while Chief Udenwa and his supporters gave the clean bill to Dr. Obi noting that his mission to sanitize the party was his only albatross.They described Chief Nlemigbo’s faction as distractors and rebels without a course.
This was the position of the party until 2007 and culminated to Governor Udenwa being unable to produce his successor. Despite all efforts to stop Senator Godwin Ararume from contesting the 2007 gubernatorial primaries that fielded over 15 strong aspirants, the Distinguished Senator surprisingly won the primary but party leaders which included the then President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo bluntly refused to accept his candidature alleging that he was too powerful to be controlled.
This is again how the party in the state deep-rooted the seed of injustice as they went ahead then to form alliance in support of Chief Martin Agbaso, the gubernatorial candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) at the detriment of their own, Senator Ararume.
During the Governorship election, based on the massive support PDP members gave to Chief Agbaso as justified by the directives from Chief Achike Udenwa and Dr. Alex Obi, the APGA gubernatorial candidate won the election but based on political conspiracy in which Prof Maurice Iwu, as the INEC Chairman then perfected, the Imo governorship election was for the first time in Nigerian political history declared inconclusive and ordered for supplementary election.
It is important to recall that to smoothen the conspiracy against Senator Ararume’s governorship interest President Obasanjo flew in from Abuja with litany of the national leadership of the party barely 72 hours to the general election and announced to the whole world in Dan Anyanwu Stadium, Owerri that PDP has no gubernatorial candidate in Imo State and advised the populace to vote other candidates of their choice. This was the sucker punch that nailed Senator Ararume’s governorship hopeful and projected the party as a bundle of injustice.
Barely one week to the supplementary election, as declared by INEC and probably based on directives from the presidency and national leadership of the party Governor Udenwa made a political U-turn and dumped Chief Agbaso of APGA and embraced Chief Ikedi Ohakim who earlier due to financial constraints abandoned PDP and embraced People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) as their endorsed governorship candidate.
Chief Udenwa and Chief Obi, as the then political Field Marshals of the State coupled with the State resources and overwhelming support from the Presidency, they delivered Chief Ohakim of PPA as the governor-elect of the State.
This is again how PDP in Imo State sold its political relevance to PPA just to show supremacy of power and justified their acrimony against Senator Godwin Ararume. Though after one year Chief Ohakim rejoined PDP but already the damage has been done, some people obviously felt seriously wounded and things started to fall apart just as the center refused to hold for Imo PDP.
The political party between 2007 – 2011 was wobbling and fumbling as Governor Ikedi Ohakim held sway, thus that most of the masses became disenchanted with the party. People like Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and his impressive followers in Destiny Organization dumped the party to ACN, Chief Festus Odimegwu and Chief Jude Ezenna went into sabbatical, many people were frustrated out from the party. This is how the fortunes of the party continued to dwindle.
More so, considering the way and manner Chief Ikedi Ohakim clinched the governorship of the State; he was a victim of political godfatherism that boxed him to the wall.
Despite his efforts to unify the party, the Redemption Group founded and funded by Chief Achike Udenwa still saw him as an outsider that just came and usurped power. The Redemption camp even though of the PDP family never believed in Governor Ohakim and they detested every of his legacy programs and projects.
To counter the critics of the Redemption camp and to consolidate his grip on the party structure, especially as he had serious ambition for the second tenure, governor Ohakim floated New Face Campaign Organization. It was then that the real political war began. The battle line was drawn. The expected unity of purpose and comradeship among political faithful became an illusion. The party for the second time in history became factionalized into Redemption and New Face camp. Chief Achike Udenwa and his loyalists like Dr. Vin Udokwu, Hon. Chukwudi Eze Mayor and late Chief Ignatius Umunna were on political trench firing armories to discredit his New face Organization while Governor Ohakim’s field soldiers like Barr. Kezie Ogaziechi, Mr. Henry Ekpe, Dr. Ethelbert Okere and Chief Pini Jason were diffusing every bullet.
It was a case of when two elephants fight, the party and the state bore the brunt. The wrangling was so much that PDP primaries in 2011 again ended in crisis and the party leadership under the control of Governor Ohakim brought a template that led to the harmonization of every elective positions. Those unfavoured were aggrieved and they vowed to work against the party interest in that year’s general elections. Some of the strong aspirants of PDP like Senator Chris Anyanwu dumped the party and carpet crossed to APGA and was offered Owerri Zone senatorial ticket and she overwhelmingly won Ambassador Kema Chikwe, the PDP candidate for the senatorial election.
Expectedly too, Chief Rochas Okorocha of APGA with his Rescue Mission Campaign Organization won the state governorship election against the incumbent Governor Ikedi Ohakim of PDP. It was a demonstration that people hated PDP then with passion as APGA equally won majority seats in the State Assembly election.
This is how a party that has been determining the shots in the state but out of indiscipline, selfishness, imposition, greet, impunity, lawlessness and injustice became an opposition within a twinkle of an eye. Governor Okorocha as an over-ambitious politician finally rendered the party useless between 2011 and 2015 and many of its key players were either retired politically or sent into political exile.
Governor Okorocha who was power-drunk later dumped APGA and participated in the formation of All Progressive Congress (APC) and launched an aggressive campaign of calumny and blackmail against PDP both at the State and National levels. Considering a typical Nigerian politician who believed in bread and butter political philosophy, PDP totally lost grip of her structure to APC and this attested why the party performed below expectation in 2015 general elections as they fielded His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as the governorship candidate of the party. Governor Okorocha did not find it difficult in defeating him with landslide victory at the polls.
Power they say corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Governor Rochas Okorocha ambition to have his son-in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu opened his political camp to a lot of infighting. His doggedness to enthrone his anointed successor was vehemently resisted by most of his loyalists and this polarized his political empire.
As governor Okorocha enmeshed in political crisis from all angels, his political profile and followership continued to diminish but he still saw himself as a General that will either win the battle or die in losing the battle, while this was ongoing, PDP was catching on the APC crisis to re-launch herself to power. Besides, since PDP lost the Federal Government in 2015 and APC under Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari occupied the Presidency, Nigerians are said to be suffering from economic woes.
In view of all these, PDP was having the peoples sympathy as better alternative, thus it was a bit easy for the party in 2019 to regain power again in the state as Okorocha’s dictatorship ambition ignited serious infighting and lack of unity of purpose among his party members. Thus, by instinct of hard work, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha again won the party gubernatorial primary he contested with Senator Samuel Anyanwu. Though the outcome of the PDP governorship primary in Imo State instigated some political rift but cannot be compared with APC experiences in the State.
Following the above scenario, APC lost the governorship election of Imo State in 2019 and Hon. Ihedioha won and was sworn in on May 29th 2019 as the 6th substantive governor of the state.
PDP winning the governorship election and majority seats in the State Assembly again reinvigorated the party in the state. The party secretariat along Okigwe Road became agog and the governor was preparing for local government elections so as to deep-root the party again among the rural dwellers. So many political big wigs left their parties and joined PDP.
However, the plans and happiness of PDP in Imo State was short-lived as the Supreme Court on January 14th, 2020 declared Chief Hope Uzodimma of APC as the rightful winner of the election in the State. This is how the cookie crumbled again.
Truly, the historical progress of PDP in Imo State is likened to a pendulum. Obviously, her woes are self-inflicted. Yes, the political party is loved by the people but greed, indiscipline, imposition, lawlessness, greed impunity and arrogance are the sins that engulfed its chieftains and leaders.
It is not yet over neither is it Uhuruas political pundits are of the views that if the party gladiators can sincerely allow internal democracy to thrive and jettison selfishness, the party will certainly bounce back again in the Eastern Heartland State.
Best Regards. Everest Ezihe 08033751078