The 2019 general elections in Nigeria, was originally scheduled to take place last February. This was however, rescheduled a few hours to the beginning of the electoral contest, by the Chairman of the Independent National Bank Electoral Commissione, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu.
“Logistics problem” was largely blamed for the rescheduling of the initial date for the general elections. This was how the gubernatorial election was moved to March 9, 2019.
The sudden shift attracted divergent opinions and comments, but the one that readily comes to mind here, is the one made by a lady that simply identified herself as Sheeba. “Chai! INEC has moved gubernatorial election to March. With the level of anti-Okorocha sentiments in the state, I can only advice him to beware of the Ides of March”, Sheeba said.
Today, this can be said to be prophetic. So, apart from March 9, two other dates have taken prominent places in Imo history. March 11, 2019, and March 27, 2019, will no doubt remain evergreen in the history of Imo State, and it’s citizens. The former date represents the day, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, thwarted Governor Rochas Okorocha’s planned elongation of his tenure, via the foisting of his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, on Imo people.
The latter is the day INEC reconfirmed the people’s wish for a new beginning. With the eventual handover of his Certificate of Return by the Commission, it became very clear to Chief Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the citizenry that power has truly charged hands in Imo.
The anti-Okorocha sentiments started building slowly but steadily, ahead of the gubernatorial election. Apart from the palpable economic crunch, the level of intimidation, high handedness, loss of means of livelihood and properties, as well as the growing menace of all manner of touts, fines, fees, hunger and death, were the order of the day! People kept on enduring the predicaments slammed on them by their government.
They sustained their individual and collective redemptive prayers. At the appointed time, the almost famished people spoke with their Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVC, and Chief Ihedioha was announced winner of the poll. The jubilation that followed the announcement of the result of the gubernatorial election, was simply deafening! The celebration continued throughout the night.
Virtually all the beer parlours kept their doors open. People declared free booze in all the joints and it it kept flowing. Fireworks were fired into the skies till dawn. People thanked God for liberating them. Somehow, the security agencies did not go to sleep.
On Saturday, we spotted armed policemen close to the properties believed to be owned by Okorocha, his son in-law, members of his family and friends. A police patrol van was seen in the morning, parked beside a new hotel in New Owerri (names withheld). On inquiry, one of them confirmed that “our boss asked us to guard this property” (pointing towards the hotel). One thing is clear here.
There’s an end to everything. Another issue that became clear in INEC Office, where the Certificate of Return was issued to Ihedioha, his Deputy, Engr.Gerald Alphonsus Irona, and the elected members of the State House of Assembly, was that even those, who were elected on other party platforms, eagerly wanted to take photograph with the Governor-elect! An INEC staff (names withheld), called it “a case of permanent interest”.
Prior to this day, some loyalists of Okorocha, approached the Federal High Court, Owerri, urging it to restrain INEC from issuing the Certificate of Return to Chief Ihedioha. Not minding the pendency of the matter in court, and as if they wanted to create undue tension in the state, the social media became awash with the fake news that “Ihedioha had been denied the Certificate of Return”.
This was even when the matter had not been heard and a decision taken on it, either way. However, the Court looked into the suit, it was thrown out! Another issue emanating from the Okorocha/Uche Nwosu enclave is that Ihedioha did not make the required mathematical spread. Again, they appear not to know that the man who announced the result and doubles as the Vice Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Professor Otunta, is a Professor of Mathematics!
Like the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe would say, “history will vindicate the just”. Chief Azubuike Nwoke puts his feelings for the day succinctly. Please, hear him: “In life there is always a beginning of every event and activity and there is compulsorily, an end. That is life for all of us. The struggle, pursuit cum battle of who becomes the Governor of our great State Imo, has come and gone.
“Today’s history worthy of mention. Today it’s been written in gold. Imolites know it wasn’t a child’s play. It was a battle of the Titans. It was a battle of the great minds and people of strength. To God be all the glory that as of this morning, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha was issued his Certificate of Return in grand style amidst fanfare and jubilation. It can’t be any better. Lord Almighty who made this possible, we return all the honour and glory to your Majestic, Wonderful and Mighty name.” For a United States of America based attorney, Mr. Stanley Ozuzu, the Imo people’s dream has become a reality.
“Our people should unite now with a view to achieving our collective, enviable and solid success. Honestly, today marks a new dawn. Those in court at any level against Chief Ihedioha, should please, have a rethink and drop such cases”, Ozuzu pleaded. Addressing the victorious candidates, the Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Professor Francis Ezeonu, urged them to be magnanimous in victory. “You must learn to have a large heart to accommodate all. If the Lord has blessed you and given you the opportunity to serve the people, you must aim at serving selflessly and with distinction.
This is the only thing that will make the people happy”, Ezeonu said. Responding, Chief Ihedioha explained that his target is to get Imo State working again. “I want to assure you that our government will give every Imolite reasons to smile again. What we want to achieve is to institute a procedure, a due process by which activities will run smoothly, where we can practice democracy in the true sense of it”, Ihedioha said. While expressing regret that so much damage has been done to the State, even as he maintained that expectations were very high.
“I am very committed to liberating our State. I will strive to correct the ills in our State and make things work for better. “In the course of it, we will step on some toes. I want to appeal to those that may be hurt not to take it to heart but rather bear with us and accept it as a sacrifice in the rebuilding process”, Ihedioha said. In the true spirit of Ihedioha’s style, the Governor-elect moved members of his entourage to Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri, where he presented his Certificate of Return to the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, who also prayed for him.