Imo State voters file out today, 11 November 2023, to choose a governor in a contentious and complicated off-season election.
On paper, voters are to choose between the incumbent, Hope Uzodinma, and 17 other hard-fighting candidates.
However, of the 17 that their parties called, only three stand a chance of being chosen, going by popular pre-election projections.
The frontrunners are Gov Uzodimma, Labour Party’s Athan Achonu, and Samuel Anyanwu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Uzodimma is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Who will win?
It is difficult to predict a winner in today’s election. Based on popularity, the votes could go to Achonu.
However, if numbers determine the winner, Owerri zone with more registered voters may give Anyanwu an advantage. He is also the candidate of the 2019 winner, Emeke Ihedioha, and the PDP that has shown strong resilience in the State.
Gov Uzodimma carries a four-year baggage, hoisted on him when the Supreme Court upturned what was believed to be a PDP popular victory in 2019.
He also governed with serious security challenges. With hundreds of people killed by security men and unknown gunmen, Imo is the only Southeast state where entire villages were sacked as military men clashed with the unknown gunmen.
In the midst of the campaign, his case became complicated when the Number One labour leader was brutalized while protesting mistreatment of workers in Imo State. Nigeria Labour Congress President, Joe Ajaero has accused both the governor and the police of grievous bodily assault.
Despite all of this, Uzodimma enters today’s battle as incumbent, with federal security answerable to his party bigwigs at the federal level.
Death of Zoning in Imo State
Imo State is the only Southeast State that has effectively killed and buried zoning arrangement by sheer political brinksmanship.
The 2023 lineup of top contenders consolidates the death of zoning as all three come from different senatorial districts.
While PDP’s Anyanwu is from Owerri Zone, Uzodimma is from Orlu, and Achonu is from Okigwe zones respectively.
At the dawn of the Republic in 1999, the zoning arrangement kicked off with Orlu Senatorial zone, which delivered Achike Udenwa of the PDP.
However, eight years later, the Okigwe Zone served a term through Ikedi Ohakim but lost the reelection bid to Rochas Okorocha who comes from Orlu, same zone as Udenwa.
Since then, Orlu Zone had managed to cling on to the governorship, from Okorocha to the incumbent who was awarded victory by the Supreme Court.
Chief Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP (and from Owerri Zone) won the 2019 governorship election which was truncated by the Supreme Court.
Consequently, in both the 2015 and 2019 governorship election, Orlu zone managed to upstage the other two zones to cling on to the governorship.
In this election, the presence of the three frontrunners meant that the State has effectively given up on zoning.
It will be interesting to find out how Imo voters will finally choose the best candidate for the job.