Sunday, September 9, 2018 11:03 pm
By Cliff Njoku
It is true that most Nigerians applauded the defection of some stalwarts of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to other parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but one defection that is bound to attract jeers is that of one of its chieftains in Imo state, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume. Although the former senator has not formally announced his defection, there are strong indications that the APC governorship aspirant in the state has secretly obtained a membership card from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in his Osuachara ward in the Isiala Mbano local government area of the state.
When the rumor first began to make its rounds, it was greeted with unbelief, even shock. Although recent and current events within the Imo state chapter of the APC were clearly indicative of the fact that the senator’s governorship bid has suffered a big setback, the least many had expected was that he would leave the party. This was hinged on the thinking that the senator would not simply park his bags and baggage in the APC and head for another party. The belief was that Senator Araraume’s handlers and associates would dissuade him from making such a move because they would tell him that it will be one move too many. Many observers would have reasoned that Araraume, who represented Imo North senatorial district at the red chambers between 1999 and 2007, would think twice before jumping ship this time around so as to avoid being characterized as a serial defector, one who buckles under the slightest push and who has not got the resilience to withstand political tempest.
So, by apparently putting caution to the winds, the refrain in the state is that Senator Araraume has finally confirmed his desperation to be governor. Initially, many thought that he had a good chance to clinch the governorship ticket of APC despite the vehement opposition to his ambition by his friend and associate, the state governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha.
But events in the Imo APC since early last May when the party held its congresses tend to have altered his calculations. It is not a hidden matter that the new national leadership of the party, headed by Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, prefers to work with the governor. The story of the Imo APC since the emergence of Mr. Oshiomhole as the national chairman is perhaps too well known to warrant any details here but what no analyst can be tired of stating is that as things stand today, the chances of Governor Okorocha’s son-in-law, Mr. Uche Nwosu, emerging as the party’s governorship candidate for the 2019 general election is very high even if he may not go ahead to win the election proper.
In the circumstances, many observers have been wondering what happened to the senator’s claim of having “capacity” and being “close” to President Muhammadu Buahari. In the opinion of many observers, the fact that the presidency simply sat back and watched as Araraume was being “rubbished” by Okorocha not only put a lie to that claim but also shows that the party itself does not believe that he has the type and level of capacity he claims to have in the state.
But if leaving the APC was a big surprise to many, Senator Araraume’s decision to go to APGA was even of a bigger surprise. Even the least discerning watcher of Imo politics would have found it extremely hard to mentally locate the slightest image of Senator Araraume against the backdrop of APGA. The possibility of an ultra conservative politician like Araraume birthing on the only “progressive” party in Nigeria was, to many, too remote to contemplate. But apart from that, politics in this part of the world is devoid of ideological colorations, there is always the convenient rationalization of every or any political misstep under the cover of freedom of association. Still, for many observers, the Araraume-in-APGA saga defies any rationalization. It is incongruous and is the strongest evidence that desperation is fast becoming the hallmark of politics in Nigeria. It brings to the fore the charge against the entire political class that it is merely out to grab power – at all cost – not to provide leadership.
Since Senator Araraume’s main motive in moving to APGA is to grab the party’s governorship ticket, it is the clearest evidence that Nigeria’s politics is driven by the influence of materialism. Differently put, nothing else could have made Araraume jump from the APC to APGA less than one month to the primary elections, other than the belief that he has what it takes, materially, to buy both the conscience of the leaders of the party and the votes of the delegates at the party’s primary elections. Whether that is the image the leadership of APGA wants to create for it is for it to determine but what should worry its teeming members and supporters is the obvious implications of his eventual purchase of the party’s governorship ticket. Even as remote as that possibility is, the consequence of its eventuality is too craved to contemplate.
To be sure, Araraume would be of an asset to any other party right now but in the current circumstances, handing the APGA’s governorship ticket to him will undoubtedly cause a reversal of fortunes for the party in the forthcoming elections. First, the generality of the leaders of the party in the state, together with the numerous governorship aspirants in the party, will feel both insulted and short changed. Apart from that, many of them have never seen Araraume eye-to-eye in the politics of the state, they will resist a situation whereby the obvious interpretation would be that he came and purchased them with his money. More important, the teeming members and supporters of APGA will find it hard to compromise their radical views on politics of the state and country generally vis-a-vis Araraume’s ultra conservative disposition as earlier noted. Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is an establishment fellow whose antecedence is that of a fellow who, in the course of seeking for personal riches, did not mind conniving at the deliberate marginalization of his own people by successive federal administrations.
Yes, the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, did a similar thing in 2011 when he purchased the ticket of the party from the hands of mercantile politicians in the same category with Araraume, but the APGA of today is quite different from the APGA of then. Today, the people of the Southeast, especially the youths, have resolved to use APGA as both a vehicle for pursuing their collective emancipation and as a platform for engaging the rest of Nigeria. Unknown to many, the process of recruiting those who will drive this vision has been on for some time and for reasons that are not difficult to fathom, the likes of Araraume are not in the radar. It has nothing to do with wealth or political connections and as such, the belief by the senator and those propping him that he could purchase the party with money is both misplaced and ridiculous.
Even so, many fear that in the event that he fails to grab the APGA ticket, Senator Araraume may plunge the party into crisis, a thing he is known for. Observers believe that because of his orientation, the senator will feel very uncomfortable to remain in APGA once he fails in getting the governorship ticket and will certainly move. Before he went to APGA, he had approached the PDP but the leadership of the latter dismissed the conditions he had come with which included, most curiously, handing over the party’s structure to him including who will be his running mate and who will step down for him etc.
Worse for Ararume, he does not enjoy one big advantage which his kinsman, Ikedi Ohakim, has; which is that even though the latter is from Okigwe zone, the people of Owerri may not mind allowing him fly the party’s flag since he has only one term of four years to do. Senator Araraume, given his current desperation, may mouth that he will do only one term but the people will not believe him. The incumbent governor, Okorocha, made a similar promise, incidentally under the same APGA, but not only did he renege he also meted out the worst treatment for Owerri zone in the history of the state.
An inquiry into Senator Araraume’s political odyssey is necessary here. It is important to emphasize the fact that he is a serial defector. At the early stages of the current (forth) republic, Senator Araraume was the pioneer state chairman of the then All Peoples Party, APP. But a few weeks to the primary elections, he abandoned the party for the PDP and grabbed the latter’s ticket to contest for the Imo North Senatorial seat. In 2006, he ran for the governorship ticket of the party but a stalemate ensued. This led to litigations that ended up at the Supreme Court where he was awarded the ticket.
In the subsequent general election, he came a distant third despite the fact that the PDP was the then ruling party in the state. Two years later in 2009, he left the PDP for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on which platform he contested the governorship election in 2011 and lost woefully. In 2014, he returned to the PDP and contested for the party’s governorship ticket. He came second but feeling that he was rigged out, he decamped again. Following the stalemate that arose after the first balloting at the general election, he joined Governor Okorocha’s camp and work with the governor in scaling through the stalemated election. Senator Araraume then formally decamped to the APC and following the victory of the party at both the state and national levels. He was compensated with the position of a federal commissioner in the National Communications Commission (NCC) which he is still enjoying. Back home in Imo state, his son, Ifeanyi Araraume Junior, was appointed Commissioner in the Okorocha administration with the juicy port folio of Commerce and Industry.
Therefore, Senator Araraume, contrary to his posturing, is seen by the generality of the people of the state as part and parcel of the Okorocha administration which they are up in arms with, on account of its abysmal performance. Besides aiding the governor in getting re-elected even when the people were bent on throwing him out, Senator Araraume is a beneficiary of the governor’s perfidy and subterfuge against the people. But today, he is fighting the governor and by his antics has helped in destroying the APC after which he again abandoned it. He did the same thing to the PDP in 2006/2007 and which led to the party’s loss of the state in 2007; and after which he defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He fought again in 2011 when he led a gang-up against Governor Ohakim; the result of which is the current abysmal state of affairs in the state. Now, he has berthed in APGA. Is that the venue of the next fight?
Professor Njoku writes from Owerri, Imo State