ON the strength of his conviction and the uncommon courage of an Army officer, he dismissed threats by opponents and entreaties by associates not to waste his resources challenging a sitting governor. He was unmoved and went the whole hog.
What could have become the most embarrassing electoral upset was, however, averted when President Obasanjo overruled the party’s hierarchy and handed automatic tickets, with the entire party machinery, to PDP governors, as a survival strategy in his face with Vice President Atiku Abubakar. He did not become governor but Abians were glad to embrace a new breed, high-minded leader who did things differently, one who had a brand name to protect.
Ihedioha enjoys a rock star status in Imo State where he is de facto party leader. He is also PDP’s most effective battle general in the post-2011 era, with a string of victories under his belt. If a politician is as successful as his last electoral victory, then Ihedioha is Imo PDP’s prized asset.
The entire Owerri zone is an impregnable PDP stronghold mainly because Ihedioha drew a line on sand and has made light of APGA’s control of Douglas House, Imo’s seat of power.
The prominence and full participation of South East PDP leaders at Mbutu Mbaise blends perfectly into the narrative of Imo’s rebuilding process. Politics is an art best painted in muted signs and unspoken language. Like bees to a honeycomb, politicians flock to a leader with a strong back.
During a solidarity visit to Imo PDP leaders by the South East zonal exco led by Akobundu, the path to reconciling and rehabilitating aggrieved party members became clearer.
That solidarity visit, the first by a National Vice Chairman, became the rallying point for erstwhile dispirited party men and women seeking leadership and direction. Many members had left the party in the build-up to the 2011 elections and had sought refuge in APGA and other parties.
Some had secured tickets in those parties and ran against PDP candidates. Some harboured grudges, others said unprintable things against those running the party at the time. Although Imo is a solid PDP state, the experience of 2011 shows that the party can no longer take internal democracy and conflict resolution for granted.
Time has come to re-engineer the party along dynamic ways. The party needed men of vision and integrity to steer its course on the right path of democratic realism.
The coming of Akobundu began that rebuilding process and ultimately changed the public’s perception of PDP leadership in the South East. A man of few words who chooses his battles, Akobundu has relied and reinforced existing party structures to restore members’ confidence.
Committees have swung into action and meetings are being held regularly in Owerri, Enugu and Abuja on how to reconcile and rehabilitate members. Many decampees are trooping back in response to the resolution processes he and his team put in place. One high ranking official of the Okorocha administration told anyone who cared to listen that he and his colleagues were waiting for the right moment to rejoin PDP “because APGA is sinking fast”.
The good news is spreading in Imo that PDP is undergoing transformation and you can feel the buzz among the political class, especially those disappointed by the irredeemable incompetence of the APGA government.
At Mbutu Mbaise, they converged to make a statement of emboldening common front and of an unfolding agenda that can deliver real change in contrast to Rochas Okorocha’s rabble-rousing, amorphous and vacuously populist blusters.
2015 may still be far and variables can alter but politics in Imo State is transforming on a new transcendent leadership axial highly visible at a corner of the high table in Mbutu Mbaise on Ihedioha’s special day.