Izuchukwu Opara-Ndudu, – Owerri North
The 2023 primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo state have come and gone but not devoid of very intriguing power player amongst the major stakeholders, who fiercely battled to outwit each other in the keenly contest for the tickets of the party, in the three senatorial districts of Imo State.
In Okigwe Zone, in the build up to this exercise, there were spirited calls for the consideration of an automatic ticket for Chief Emma Okewulonu (Ikeoha) the believed winner of the 2020 controversial senate rerun elections, which was albeit decided by several intriguing court judgements that gave the seat to the APC that legally had no valid candidate for the said election.
This call was for Okewulonu to be given a preferential right of first refusal, in compensation for his doggedness and the enormous financial toll of the 2020 race and prolonged court cases was well received by most leaders, officials and party faithfuls of the PDP in the zone.
In fact, critical meetings were initiated to effect this noble initiative until an unexpected twist reared its ugly head in this race.
Suddenly, the son of one of the main rivals of Chief Okewulonu in the ill-fated 2020 race Senator Godwin Araraume, Barr. Ifeanyi Araraume who is adjudged to be a close associate of the self acclaimed leader of the party in Imo, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, threw his hat into the contest for this coveted seat.
The late entrance of the lagal luminary and young entrepreneur into this race sent shock waves across the party in Okigwe zone.
We have it on good authority that spirited efforts, consultations and entreaties were launched by the Okewulonu political family led by Chief Chris Okewulonu (Ebekuo Dike) on behalf of his brother to Hon Ihedioha, the state party hierarchy and zonal leaders to prevail on the enterprising Barr Araraume to backoff from his belated quest from the race.
Incidentally, most of these pleas yielded no positive fruits as the young man remained adamant in his pursuit and during an interaction with the media in a briefing at Oxygen Hotels Resort, Owerri, Ifeanyi categorically informed the audience that he has the backing of the self acclaimed leader of the party in the state, Chief Ihedioha and other critical leaders of the party to join the race.
Further inquiries by our crew at the PDP Headquarters, Abuja revealed that Barr. Araraume’s nomination and expression of interest forms were personally paid for and collected by one, Ike Uche, Hon Ihedioha’s Personal Assistant on behalf of Ifeanyi Araraume.
This discovery rattled our team as the Okewulonu’s are perceived to be very close confidants and political associates of Chief Ihedioha but politics and politicians being what they are, betrayals and realignments won’t come as a surprise to many.
The contest was fierce but Chief Okewulonu came out tops in the heavily expensive delegate primaries.
As we all thought the sordid stories of betrayals and sleaze would fadeout with the conclusion of the exercise, stories broke out of the dissatisfaction of the National Chairman of the party with the outcome of the Okigwe Zone Senatorial primaries after all the assurances and recommendations in favor of Barr Araraume by Ihedioha before the primaries.
Confirmed stories have it that, on a particular occasion, Hon Ihedioha in a meeting between him, Ifeanyi and the National Chairman in the chairman’s house, assured the National Chairman that Ifeanyi was a better choice than Chief Okewulonu, insisting that Ikeoha has ran for House of Representative twice and Senate once and failed all elections so wasn’t a very marketable aspirant.
Ihedioha, as gathered also told the Chairman that the senate seat has been occupied by a particular section in okigwe zone (the south) for 16 years and that there’s a justified strong clamor for the northern part of the zone where Barr Ifeanyi Araraume comes from to occupy that seat in 2023.
It was on the strength of the above presentations by Ihedioha to Senator Ayu that led to the party to jettison the idea of a consensus candidature in favor of Okewulonu.
Today, the Araraumes who seemed to have a strong commitment with Ihedioha for his support are shocked at the turn of events, the Okewulonu’s we here spent through their nose to clinch this ticket, an avoidable expensive venture that can hamper their readiness for the main election financially against the ruling party APC and the emerging Labour/Obi movement, if only Ihedioha and his leadership had done the needful.
The report of the fiercely fought battles for the Owerri and Orlu Senatorial tickets will be brought your way in the subsequent editions of this series.
Our poser is, how will Imo PDP and Ihedioha surmount these attendant challanges as a result of their role in the fractured primaries exercise in Imo State? Only time will tell!