By PETER CLAVER OPARAH
Like in 2011, Imo, State is once again, thrown into a period of suspended anxiety and heightened anticipation. Like it happened four years ago, the victory of Governor Rochas Okorocha, is put on hold again until INEC concludes a make-up poll in 23 local councils in the state. For Imo people, it is a replay of the tense and tacky moments four years ago when a mixture of brash political calculations and desperate maneuvering arrested the cruising victory of Okorocha and nearly set the state on fire as anxious citizens felt it was a clear case of trying to swing the state to the losing party in power in the state at that time. Like it was then, the people of Imo State are reading similar scenarios to the sudden halt of the overwhelming victory Rochas is enjoying in this year’s governorship election.
Although the scenarios look similar but they are different. In 2011, Rochas was running against an incumbent that threw everything in the mill to remain in power but this year, Rochas is an incumbent with proven record of stellar performance while his main opponent is resting his political permutation on the canons of a crumbling political empire that boasts of holding power without appropriate responsibility for the past sixteen years. Unlike in 2011 when Rochas aspired as a private citizen challenging an incumbent, today he is a popular sitting governor that has worked real hard to earn the support and confidence of the masses. Unlike in 2011 when Rochas was enjoying a slight electoral advantage over the incumbent before his victory was arrested, today he is enjoying a wide advantage, with a whopping vote count and winning twenty out if the twenty seven local councils.
Even as these two scenarios are different, Imo people still don’t understand why elections in the state will always be run to a diktat thereby subjecting the people to pangs of anxiety and feeding a huge conspiracy theory complex that serves no one any good. By the time INEC declared Imo elections inconclusive, many media organisations and election monitors had already called the election for Rochas based on figures obtained from the field. Most people feel INEC was wrong to halt the victory dance of Rochas and his APC because there is a feeling writ large that the arithmetic that produced the diktat were flawed. One reason for this is the supposition that polls that were marred with irregularities deserve to be out rightly cancelled and not for a re-run. Again, there is a position that INEC calculated its figures on how many people that would vote on the make-up poll on the number of registered voters in the said polling units and not on the actual figures that collected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) as these remain the only voters that can vote in the supplementary election.
But that said, and as revealed by the results of the Imo election, Rochas and the APC only had their victory arrested and not truncated. They had their victory dance temporarily suspended. In fact, Rochas aptly captured it when he told Channels Television that the postponement of a burial does not mean that the burial will not hold. This feeling of certainty and confidence in the eventual victory of Okorocha is the reason why Imo people have not risen with the same violent revolt that marked the 2011 arrest of an Okorocha victory. Imo people know every facts of the present election and even as they have deep reservations about the kind of permutation that led to the present impasse, they are sure the end process will not truncate their well-expressed support for Rochas and the APC so they are ready to patiently wait out and see the logical conclusion of the process.
It is not difficult however, to know why Governor Okorocha recorded the comprehensive victory he got in the 2015 governorship election. Imo people know that Rochas has done well. The Governor’s impactful touch resounds on every facet of governance for the four glorious years he had been in charge of the affairs of the state. He has planted a revolutionary free education policy that is galvanizing the state to an enviable consolidation of its position as the most educationally advanced state in Nigeria. He has equally complimented this with massive rehabilitation of the decadent school structures in the state with the building of 305 modern schools in the state, provision of free books, desks, uniforms, sandals and other accoutrements to school pupils in the state. His rehabilitation of secondary schools in the state has just started with the total reconstruction of such schools as GTC Owerri, Ikenegbu Secondary School, Akwakuma Secondary School, Emmanuel College among other secondary schools in the state. What is on ground in these aforementioned schools can compete with what obtains in any state tertiary institution in Nigeria today. Rochas has laid the foundation stone and indeed kick-started the construction of Imo State University permanent campus in Uvuru Mbaise and has increased the subventions to the university.
Okorocha’s government has turned the dreary state of infrastructure in Imo State to the better through massive construction of roads in most parts of the state, massive construction of public buildings and erecting new institutions as never seen before in the history of the state. Rochas has turned the two cities of Orlu and Okigwe into modern cities with all necessary urban facilities and furniture intact. Owerri has been expanded beyond its limited realms with massive construction of roads, bridges and buildings that accentuate the important status of Owerri as a modern state capital. Government has been taken down to the grassroots with the formation and indeed the consolidation of a fourth-tier government known as Community Governance Council governments in the over 600 autonomous communities in the stateAlso, his government has taken a very bold move towards revamping the moribund industrial sector of the state with the reviving of the Standard Shoe Industry in Owerri, Adapalm and the Avutu Poultry. The revival of the a Resin and Paints Industry in Aboh Mbaise is well on the cards.
All said, Imo people being educated and politically aware, disregarded the antics of a PDP that laid the state prostrate for twelve years. They saw through the intrigues the PDP made the cornerstone of their campaign and on Election Day, the votes poured in for Rochas and his APC. As the counts were taken, he nicked victory in 20 local councils out of 27 and a vote advantage of 79,000 which was enough to give him his deserved victory before INEC came with its arithmetic. But Imo people are waiting patiently. Their victory guns have been loaded.
•Oparah writes from Ikeja, Lagos firstname.lastname@example.org