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Meet The Front-line Aspirants For Okigwe Senatorial Byelection

Written by Tamunotonye Inioribo @Tonyebarcanista

The senatorial position of Imo north senatorial district, otherwise known as Okigwe zone, has been vacant for a while. The vacancy occured as a result of the demise of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, who until his death was the senator representing the zone. Senator Uwajumogu, who died on 18th of December 2019, has been representing the zone in the National Assembly since 2016 after he defeated Senator Athan Achonu at a senatorial rerun election. At the 2019 general election that was held on 23rd of February 2019, he recontested for the position as the candidate of All Progressive Congress, APC, and once again defeated Senator Athan Achonu, who ran under the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, to secure a fresh term which was to terminate in 2023. But unfortunately, he demised before completion of the tenure of the office.

Following his demise, several Okigwe politicians and non politicians have shown interest in contesting for the vacant seat that he left behind. Although the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is yet to announce schedule for the senatorial by-election, the aspirants and their supporters have already began the process of consolidating on their political structures in order to have an edge during party primaries and at the main election. The battle for the seat has already torn the family of the late senator Uwajumogu apart due to the ambitions of his widow, Aileen Uwajumogwu and his elder sister, Chidinma Uwajumogu to succeed him as the senator for the zone.

Aside Senator Uwajumogwu’s wife and elder sister, other aspirants that are interested in the Okigwe senatorial race include a former governor of Imo state, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, a former senator who represented the zone between 1999 and 2007, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, a former secretary to Imo state government, Chief Mark Uchendu, the honorable minister of state for education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, the immediate past speaker of Imo state House of Assembly, Chief Acho Ihim, and a former senator who represented the zone between 2015 and 2016, Senator Athan Achonu.

Although more aspirants are expected to join the race, it is expected to be a hotly contested one among two former senators of the zone, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and Senator Athan Achonu, the minister of state education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba and a former governor of the state, Ikedi Ohakim.

Senator Ifeanyi Ararume
Senator Ararume pulled a last minute stunt in 1999 when he resigned his membership of All Peoples Party, APP to move to the Peoples Democratic Party to contest and win the 1999 PDP primary election of Okigwe zone senatorial district. Ararume, who before his resignation from the APP was the Imo state chairman of the party, proceeded to win the main contest at the general election. He won a second term as the zone’s senator in 2003 and successfully concluded his two tenures in 2007. He has always set his sight on the state’s gubernatorial seat since he left office in 2007, and has ran for the state’s number one seat on four occasions.
Senator Ararume unsuccessfully ran for the 2007 gubernatorial election as the nominee of the PDP after winning the party’s gubernatorial primary in 2007 but was sabotaged by his own party leadership who had preferred Chief Charles Ugwu whom Senator Ararume had defeated at the party primary by landslide. He also contested at the 2011 gubernatorial election as the candidate of now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria but lost to Chief Rochas Okorocha of All Progressive Grand Alliance. He was further unsuccessful in his third and fourth attempts, as he lost to Chief Emeka Ihedioha at the 2015 gubernatorial primary of PDP and Senator Hope Uzodinma at the 2019 gubernatorial election respectively.

Political observers are of the opinion that his latest interest in the Okigwe senatorial by-election is to keep him politically relevant ahead of the 2023 gubernatorial election in the state.

Senator Ararume’s interest in the race is unsettling the camp of Governor Hope Uzodinma. The Governor, who sees him as a potential rival in his 2023 gubernatorial reelection bid, knows that having Senator Ararume in the Senate may haunt him.

Senator Athan Achonu
Popularly called One Hand General, the former senator was elected into the Senate at the 2015 general election under the platform of PDP. His joy was cut short less than 10 months in office as the Court of Appeal agreed with the argument of the APC candidate, Benjamin Uwajumogu, nullified his victory and ordered a rerun election for the zone. Unfortunately, Senator Achonu lost the rerun election to Uwajumogu. Senator Achonu ran for the office again at the 2019 general election but was again defeated by Senator Uwajumogu.

At the behest of Senator Hope Uzodinma, the governor of Imo state, Senator Achonu resigned his membership of the PDP and moved to the APC in order to contest for the race. His candidacy for the 2020 Okigwe zone senatorial return is backed by the Governor of the state, Senator Hope Uzodinma.

Chief Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba
The honorable minister of state for education is a known grassroot politician in Okigwe zone and Imo state in general. He was elected member of the Federal House of Representatives in 1999 to represent Okigwe north federal constituency. After serving out his term at the National Assembly, he unsuccessfully ran for the Imo state gubernatorial seat at the 2003, 2007 and 2011 election as candidate of All Peoples Party, but lost to Chief Achike Udenwa of PDP, Chief Ikedi Ohakim of Progressive Peoples Alliance, and Chief Rochas Okorocha of All Progressive Grand Alliance respectively. At the 2019 general election, Chief Nwajiuba contested as the candidate of Accord Party for Okigwe north federal constituency in the Federal House of Representatives and won the election. Few months into office, he was nominated and subsequently appointed as the minister of state for education by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It is believed that Chief Nwajiuba still has his gubernatorial dream alive and may want to use the senatorial by-election as a stepping stone for the 2023 governorship election.

Chief Ikedi Ohakim
The former governor of Imo state has been desperate to regain political relevance since he lost his bid to be reelected as governor of Imo state to Chief Rochas Okorocha in 2011. Ohakim, who governed Imo state from 2007 to 2011, has always had his eyes on returning to the state’s gubernatorial seat and twice unsuccessfully contested for the office after losing previously to Chief Okorocha. He was defeated at the gubernatorial primary of PDP by Chief Emeka Ihedioha in 2015, and lost the 2019 gubernatorial election to Senator Hope Uzodinma.

Although he is not as formidable as the aforementioned three above, observers believe that the former governor may pull a shocker when the time comes.

Written by Tamunotonye Inioribo|| I can be reached at tonyebarcanista@gmail.com

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