Month of February 2011. In a widely circulated article titled: Imo and the Tripod of Zoning System , Elvis Agukwe, Imo state Commissioner for Information and Strategy wrote: “with the solid winning machine of PDP, those dreaming to take over from Ohakim in 2015 may have to slip into eternal political coma.”
One would think that popular votes win political parties elections and not solid winning machines.
What does Agukwe's solid winning machine of PDP imply? Does the PDP truly have any solid winning machine that wins it elections?
The transformation of Nigeria into a citizen's dream country as expected from the ruling party, the PDP, in the last twelve years has so far not materialised. But notwithstanding this, Yours Truly is of the view that in this election period, merit - not necessarily political party affiliation - be the yardstick to evaluate any candidate before a voter casts his/her ballot. Truth must be told, Nigerians never hate President Goodluck Jonathan as president, rather PDP's abysmal records and the calibre of some people who seek refuge in the party subtract a lot from the president's resumè.
Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, by all standards, is a senior statesman. Yes, he loves his political party and would want the party's candidates win in elections, but are there no political machinations an ex-President like Obasanjo may deem too belittling to be associated with?
March 31, 2011. Obasanjo made the long haul from Ota in Ogun state to Imo state’s capital city, Owerri, to tell the people here that Ikedi Ohakim is one leader he believes “has the leadership vision to take the state to the promised land.” Listen again to OBJ: “Ohakim is a man of character and integrity, a performer and one who keeps his words;” and again to OBJ scolding/preaching Ohakim's opponents in the guber contest: “Also to disturb the zoning arrangement in the state is to call for chaos, injustice and instability.” After OBJ's sermon, Yours Truly had just one phrase in his mind: May God have mercy on you, Olusegun Obasanjo!
There is a saying in Igbo that unless a strong breeze comes blowing, you wouldn't know that a Reverend Father also wears trousers. Take OBJ for a priest, the wind threw up his priest's cassocks in Owerri. And most of the youth out there who were yet to be acquainted with OBJ's buccaneerish brand of politics got to see that he also wears trousers. But one thing: OBJ's trousers really stink! This priestly talk brings one to add here that in the ark of 48 hours before OBJ's linkage of Ikedi Ohakim with integrity, performer, promised land; a Reverend Father and a medical doctor were differently kidnapped in the state, perhaps for ransom. The act of kidnapping for ransom, more or less a daily ritual in Imo state during the last three and half years has ravaged the soul and fabric of the state. OBJ couldn't have feigned ignorance of this fact.
On this same day, (31st March), a rival political party had earlier booked for its grand finale rally in Dan Anyiam stadium, Owerri, and paid for the venue. Shortly before the rally, the party was denied right of entry to the venue by the Imo state government. The PDP which had earlier fixed its grand finale rally for the previous day (30th march), had to reschedule its rally this same day and same venue the rival party had earlier booked. In a swift reaction, angry mobs “bused” themselves from many parts of Imo state, and numbering in hundreds of thousands practically blocked most of the major streets in Owerri, thus denying Governor Ohakim and his convoy every land route to the rally venue. But the governor could not resist an OBJ-attraction/endorsement to his re-election rally. He had to come out. But the governor's convoy could hardly journey for a few minutes before an unruly crowd damaged a lot of its vehicles; but the governor, once again, escaped the mob from manhandling him. After a very long delay, the governor with his entourage found his way into the rally venue. At the end of the rally, all exits from the stadium were blocked by a huge hostile crowd. Gun-totting policemen had to do their jobs, the VIPs had to be escorted into their vehicles away from the rally venue. That done, but none VIP's putting on PDP/Ohakim vests/wears had a problem to contend with: How would they go out? Solution: Men had to remove PDP/Ohakim-politics clothing in order to escape the hostile crowd. Women? They had to phone relatives who had to bring them dresses into the stadium to change PDP/Ohakim garbs before they could scamper and melt into the milling hostile crowd.
The nitty gritty in all this: does a man of OBJ's stature have no political barometer to assess the pressure of the opposition to the PDP today? Must OBJ continue to pick bad fights? Must OBJ still remain with the mind-set that so long as a candidate is in the PDP, even if the candidate is deemed unelectable by the electorate, the candidate must be “machined” to win in any election contest?
The past aside, this is the third time since 2007 Chief Obasanjo gallantly marched on Imo state in a bid to determine the political future of the state and its people. In 2007, despite a supreme court ruling that the PDP governorship aspirant who scored the highest number of votes in the state's guber primaries be made to stand for the party's candidate in that year's governorship election, two days to election date, OBJ stormed Owerri to announce that the PDP had no candidate for the governorship election in the state. An “arrangee” candidate (Ikedi Ohakim), a million miles away from the guber race finish line was hurriedly imposed on Imo state by the quartet of OBJ, Achike Udenwa, Orji Uzor Kalu and Maurice Iwu. It's worthy to note that of the four men, only OBJ is now on speaking terms with Governor Ohakim.
About two years ago, OBJ returned to Imo state and told Governor Ikedi Ohakim before the public that if people could talk bad about Olusegun Obasanjo, why then must Ohakim listen to what people talked - good or bad - about Ikedi Ohakim.
Accusations have been rife that Gov.Ohakim and his party cohorts had since constructed a robust election rigging machine to ensure the governor's victory on election day. The accusations range from paying voters from Imo's neighbouring states to register in the state, primarily to vote PDP/Ohakim on election day; to discovery of huge of arms/ammunition and police uniforms, as well as election rigging materials in some PDP kingpins' compounds in the state. Must we therefore continue to take talk of “PDP winning machine” from Ohakim's camp as mere unintended connotations to plans to rig elections, or an indication to a PDP rigging system/machine already contrived and waiting for deployment on the appointed date(s)?
INEC needs to take note: Nigerians are not complaining much about its arrangements so far to police the general elections this season. But what must in future count most is on-the-ground work of INEC and the law enforcement agents between the election days proper and the days election results are announced. Late or non-arrival of election materials, falsification of election results - beginning from the polling stations up to the highest collation points - use of hoodlums and men/women in uniform to intimidate voters from going to cast their votes; these are the most fancied choice points for election riggers. Nigerians must be made to see during the forthcoming elections that the country's election umpire and security apparatus have set the malaise of election rigging at those points behind them.