By Bar. Kissinger Ikeokwu
Like Governor Rochas Okorocha whose foray in the quest for Imo Douglas House commenced in pre-1999 but only materialized in 2011, one name that has become attached with Imo guber analysis for the past decade is Distinguished Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.
Hate him or love him he is one politician who has paid his dues in Imo politics. He is strong and formidable. He belongs to the few Imolites living today who can boast of a political structure across the 3 geopolitical zones of the state. While fate may not have been very fair to him, this man has established himself as a factor in determination of who emerges Imo governor for over a decade now. Ignore him at your own peril. Senator Araraume cannot be wished away by a wave of the hand.
Though he left power as a two-time Senator in 2007, his popularity, wealth and political influence has not waned or been whittled down. He can assemble a solid structure from all the 27 LGAs of Imo State within one hour. No politician who left corridors of power can hold his base solid after 10 years of leaving power like Senator Araraume.
This great man from Ishiebu in Isiala Mbano battled principalities to stamp himself as the authentic PDP guber candidate for Imo guber 2007. He lost out to a horse-trading that saw the then PDP President Obasanjo and Governor Udenwa swinging the party’s goodwill, machinery, structure and resources to the Progressive People's Assembly PPA. The rest they say is history.
While he failed to win in 2007 Imo guber race, where he ran under the banners of the PDP, he became a factor by helping the incumbent whittle down the vote margin Governor Ikedi Ohakim needed to defeat his closest rival of APGA, Governor Rochas Okorocha in 2011. In 2015, he ran and lost out at party primaries to Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha, yet again he proved decisive at the guber election by adding momentum to the incumbent Governor's almost dwindling hopes of retaining a second term ticket. The rest is history.
In the running for 2019, Distinguished Senator Ifeanyi Ararume has emerged a dominant name and factor yet again. But not without the usual battles he has been known for. His archiless has been sailing easy at party level towards gaining a formidable ticket to launch a strong bid at the governorship election. Today Senator Araraume faces another difficult hurdle. Granted he is not new to adversity, but he is much more in a duel with yet another formidable and rugged politician in the person of the incumbent Imo Governor. Can he surmount the dissent of Governor Rochas Okorocha to emerge APC guber candidate and further run to emerge his successor? That is the crux of this article.
Three things are highly probable here. First is that we may be heading to a repeat of pre-2007 where Senator Araraume declared his intention to succeed his political ally and inlaw, Chief Achike Udenwa. Upon Chief Udenwa's refusal, Senator Araraume mounted a strong battle for the Imo Guber ticket. He prevailed at the Primaries but lost to opposition from the Governor and the then President. Mr Charles Ugwu the Obowo born industrialist was drafted in as a substitution. Senator Araraume mounted an assault from the Courts and ultimately prevailed using the reason that the PDP failed to provide "Cogent and Verifiable reason" before substituting his name. He prevailed, but by the time he was done with the political war, his party through the Governor and President declared their own party's candidate as having "K-Leg". They urged voters to vote APGA rather. When the APGA victory for Ochiudo Martin Agbaso was truncated, they swung it to PPA where Chief Ikedi Ohakim became the ultimate beneficiary of the entire battle.
The question now is: Are we in the process of re-enacting the pre-2007 Araraume battled against his own ruling PDP party to emerge the guber candidate only to loose the Governorship election to the incumbent Governor's stout refusal to see him succeed him? Only time would tell.
The second political scenario is the pre-2011 political struggle. Senator Araraume had teamed up with the Udenwa group in an onslaught against then Governor Ohakim, in a marriage between Destiny Group and the Redemption Group under the newly formed Alliance for Good Governance. They were so determined to resist Ohakim's attempt to arrest the PDP structure as a returnee from PPA. The Turai-Yaradua episode made them seem to gain an upper hand as President Jonathan was at the time inclined to the group which had Eze Festus Odimegwu, Rochas Okorocha etc in their fold. They looked sure to lock out the Governor from the party, but dying minute calculation for the 2011 presidential bid made Jonathan re-think.
In a hard choice between the sitting Governor and the Alliance allies of then President Jonathan, the President settled for the incumbent Governor and Chief Udenwa and Senator Ararume defected to ACN. The duel showed that it is difficult for a ruling party to wish away its own sitting governor whose resources and structure is badly needed to deliver the party through and through in the state. The question here therefore is, can APC at the National level deny Rochas to nominate his successor at least at the APC State Party level by imposing Senator Araraume on him? Would that not mean an express banishment of the only APC southeaster governor at their own peril? Remember we are only analysing and projecting here.
The final projection is Senator Ararume fighting his way against the Governor's interest and ultimately prevailing to become the APC guber candidate for Imo State. But how would that go down with a determined incumbent like Rochas who has not minced words about his desire to be the first Imo man to complete an eight years tenure and anointing a successor?
Neither the Governor nor his supporters has hidden their body language regarding the one man they would never like to see succeed him as Governor. This has been confirmed by feelers from all corners including the Governor's 50 years age limit to whomever would succeed him. While many have attacked the 50 years age limit pegged by the Governor, analysts and political watchers see it as an express declaration that the Governor will not be favourable to an Araraume ticket as his successor.
However you look at it, my analysis does not favour an APC guber challenge for Senator Ararume should he desire to win where he has failed in the last three guber elections. My reason is that unless Senator Ararume finds a way to convince the incumbent Governor to endorse and put all machineries to make him succeed as Governor in 2019, his APC guber ticket challenge may end up like the pre-2007 or pre-2011 situation. I have listened to debates regarding who will prevail against the other between Governor Okorocha and Senator Araraume in the battle for APC 2019 guber structure. The result of my analysis does not favour the Senator. I used to nurse that enthusiasm that Senator Ararume can make it this time by daring all adversity to emerge APC guber candidate and win ultimately. But my little knowledge of Nigerian politics shows that at the late minute, parties would play to their sitting governors. Imo is too precious a trophy for APC to wish away.
If I was an adviser, I would clearly advice that he seek a different political platform and start on time. In 2011, his late minute switch to Action Congress of Nigeria ACN brought him a distant third to PDP and APGA candidates. That was because he dissipated and exhausted the fight in him against the then incumbent Governor. But win or loose, Distinguished Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is not a push over. You cannot wave him off by mere hands. He is capable of causing a big political upset against anyone. But can he do so against the master of political wizardry as far as Imo politics is concerned at the moment? My doubts. I believe a new political movement created on time, would pay better than a challenge against a resistant and determined foe in an incumbent Governor like Governor Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha.