Daily Champion (Lagos)

21 March 2011

Nigeria: Factors That'll Decide Orlu Senatorial Contest

opinion

Before now, the race for senate in Orlu Zone had not been keenly contested. But the recent handing over of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag to Chief Hope Uzodinma after a chain of legal bouts in Abuja has raised the tempo of the contest.

Chief Uzinma recently outsmarted the incumbent senator, Chief Osita Izunaso at the Supreme Court in Abuja .

Though the PDP flag bearer is a relatively new entrant to national politics, the puzzle is he needs to solve now is whether he can match the former Governor of the State and former minister of the Federal Republic, Chief Achike Udenwa of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the race considering the growing cracks in the state PDP.

Besides, another new comer and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) flag bearer, Mrs. Okpara from same Orlu Local Government Area as Udenwa is also very much new in national politics but may spring surprises while riding on the waves currently created by her party's gubernatorial candidate, Chief Rochas Okorocha in the zone.

However, the contest would have been as usual but for some strategic factors including candidates' political claws, popularity by way of contributions to the zone before now, prevailing situation in the ruling party candidature, and the Orlu State advocacy.

Other issues according to political watchers in the zone that will shape voting cut across growing push for change in the senate seat axis, party influence, Rochas Okorocha's factor and looming shift from party to personality politics in the zone. Political claws

Looking at candidates political claws, analysts argue worldwide that senate seat is apparently meant for men and women who have seen it all in the political and economic life of a nation and particularly the zone or state of representation.

Experience in politics is always highly related to political claws and if this is put on the table, though the coast is not yet clear for the PDP as to which of the two that will fly the flag, observers say the eight years of former governor of Imo State where majority of the citizens even those far away from his zone attest to the fact that he did well is a pointer.

Again, it would be hard to place Chief Uzodinma of the ruling PDP or Mrs. Okpara of APGA in the scale of political experience and claws as the duo according to experts are new in the game at the national level after all.

Besides, analysts argue that being a governor for two uninterrupted terms places more on the beholder, strong political claws good enough to earn a seat at the highest law and policy making body of a nation than a former lawmaker.

Apart from the policy and leadership experience that may come to play as a former governor of a state, Chief Udenwa has been a former minister of Commerce and Industry. Commerce and Industry analysts say his headship of the ministry, pruned cement prices to the lowest ebb, thus pushing up housing supply to a level that has not been equaled in the life of the nation.

Besides, all former governors that have been in the senate have distinguished themselves in lawmaking.

However, Udenwa will have to weather the pool of claws the state PDP may muster in the build up to sale Chief Uzodinma in the zone.

Popularity by way of contributions to the zone before now

Political representation of an area is usually weighed along the lines of what the people can see and attest during the time of stock taking like this.

Investigations into the eight years of former governor Udenwa in terms of spread of his services in Imo State generally show that virtually every zone was evenly blessed by his administration.

Pundits however, believe that Udenwa seem to have beamed his development searchlight in Orlu zone during second term of the entire eight years.

In a recent interview, a trader at the new Orlu Regional Market, Chief Ike Oguaju said "comparing Udenwa with any of the candidates may not be balanced because all of them do not share same level of exposure to politics"."Comparing Udenwa with any politician from Orlu zone today is a misplacement of priority," Oguaju stated, maintaining that "weighing what Udenwa did as a governor vis-à-vis the state of Orlu zone prior to his election as governor in 1999 can best be seen as a light after periods of darkness".Also former Sole Administrator of Orlu Local Government Area, Chief Felix Ifezuo, said "Udenwa raised the quality of life and infrastructure throughout the zone".

"This translates to facilities including world class market, teaching Hospital, Housing estates, new high court buildings, asphalting of rural feeder roads which sparked off the opening up of several rural communities in the state.

Chief Ken Obiakor, a community leader in Oguta Local Government Area said "since the creation of Imo State many years ago, no government has embarked on rural roads development and empowerment of dwellers more than Udenwa in his eight years of administration".

Udenwa also favoured the entire 12 local governments in terms of political appointments and a point of note is the sweet run of Nze Ignatius Umunna as the Secretary to the State Government within the period under review.

Prevailing situation in the ruling party candidature

Thought the dusts generated during the conduct of the PDP senatorial primaries may well start to settle following the recent confirmation and handing over of the party's flag to Chief Uzodinma, political pundits fear growth in in-house opposition against the legal fallout as the elections draw nearer.

Besides, the state PDP had been apparently torn apart due to schemes that did not end well with some big shots in the party.

Even at the state level, indications are rife that cracks developed during the primaries may as well get even wider following the decision of the Supreme Court.

Contending the crack at a time elections are very close remains a big task and to the extent of any containment move, experts say Udenwa may run away with victory if acts of the PDP are not swiftly put in place.

Besides, putting the acts together may not play well due to time constraint.

Analysts argue that now justice has been given by the court, looking for peace within the party in Orlu zone may yet present another uphill task when elections is within days.

With the ill feelings widening the gaps, the scenario in the ruling party may present opportunity for split votes which may swing the way of Udenwa or be shared between him and Mrs. Okpara of APGA.

Observers in Imo political antecedents are of the candid view that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Chief Achike Udenwa, has a history of shinning away with victory whenever circumstantial crisis like the prevailing scenario plays out.

A typical example was the way he emerged as the PDP governorship candidate in 1999 and governor during the first term of office.It could be recalled that when the fight for governor's seat in Imo by the 'big boys' became unbearable, Udenwa was anointed to serve as antidote to the open war plaguing the PDP in 1999.

Orlu/Njaba State Dream

Before now, efforts to create the sixth state in the South-East have been fraught with the inconsistency of the National Assembly and frivolous demand from areas that felt the state should come from their areas.

Former Governor Udenwa, it would be recalled has lead a delegation which has prominent personalities form Anambra State like Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, former governor of the state and others to several federal authorities including the National Assembly drumming support for Orlu State expected to come from the existing 12 councils in the zone with about two neighbouring councils from Anambra along the Orashi River axis.

Followers of the deal are upbeat that an Udenwa senate seat will be a brighter chance and short cut to the aspiration of the Orlu People.

Commenting on the Orlu State movement, member representing Orlu/Oru/Orsu Federal Constituency, and former two-time Council Chairman of Orlu Local government, Chief Chukwudi Eze Mayor told our correspondent in a telephone interview that "Orlu Zone has more than what all it takes to stand as a state considering the volume of councils which is 12, the highest in the whole zones south of Nigeria as a country".

"Orlu zone currently as it is now is bigger by number of councils than some states including Bayelsa, Gombe and Nasarawa.

Feelers from the zone show that the people cannot toil with any movement, person and or agenda that can achieve the deal at a time it is very clear that creating states is in the hands of the federal lawmakers and a proponent of the mission is vying.

Change in axis of Senate seat in the zone

Since the early 1980s, senate seat had apparently been in the West-West axis of the zone broaching with the ageless political agemegini (what can we do), Chief Francis Arthur Nzeribe to the current Senator, Chief Osita Izunaso who apparently was the first to gain from Udenwa's early destruction and dismantling of Nzeribe's political monopoly under his governorship.

That Udenwa cut short Nzeribe's political claws is no more an issue in Orlu zonal politics but what matters now according to political pundits is the need for the destroyer of the almost 30 years political hegemony to enjoy the feat he broached as a governor after all.

Besides, current permutations are rife that Udenwa is set to give the zone what politicians from the West-West axis were not able to deliver to the generality of Orlu zone.

Orlu West-West councils include Ohaji, Egbema, Oguta, Oru East and West, while Orlu East-East can be taken as Orsu, Orlu, Nwangele, Nkwere, Ideato North and South, Njaba and Isu.

However, both Udenwa and Uzodinma come from the Orlu East-East axis that had been in the desire to wrestle away the senate seat for too long.

But if the rule that 'the winner of my enemy is my friend' may play out between Udenwa and Uzodinma, then the former minister is as good as having swept the votes from all the Orlu West-West councils as Senator Isunaso who lost to Uzodinma has his stronghold in the axis.

Party line Influence

As it is now, and considering the scenario in Imo State , voting may not follow party lines considering the fact that Imo indigenes seem to have moved from party politics to personality politics based on what contestants had done previously.

But even if voting follows party lines, the widening gap in the ruling party may as well present a leeway for serious opposition parties in the state.

Experts say even though former governor recently stepped out of the party which was a result of the PDP's internal crisis in the state to join the ACN lately, he still control a sizable camp in the party considering the influence of Redemption '98 structures which he refused to collapse into Governor Ohakim's New face organisation.

Observers say stepping aside from the PDP to the ACN would not be able to blindfold Orlu electorate during voting and the influence those he made in the PDP as a governor will come to the fore in sweeping vote.

Still on the influence of party, the activities of the ACN in true governance in the South West of the country if translated to reality may clear the airways for Udenwa and to a greater extent, Chief Ararume for an easy ride to electoral victories come April this year.

Again, the flag off of ACN guber campaign at Orlu Central Stadium few weeks ago may have shut up Udenwa's rating in the zone and an extension that Udenwa factor may further determine the Imo guber race come next month.

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