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End game for Nzeribe as 24 years reign crashes

Posted by By Chidi Obineche on 2006/12/05 | Views: 1141 |

End game for Nzeribe as 24 years reign crashes


At midnight Sunday, December 3, 2007, the 24-year-old unbroken political hold of maverick politician, Senator Arthur Nzeribe on Orlu Senatorial district of Imo State suffered a deadly blow that may eventually eclipse the political sun of the ageing politician.

At midnight Sunday, December 3, 2007, the 24-year-old unbroken political hold of maverick politician, Senator Arthur Nzeribe on Orlu Senatorial district of Imo State suffered a deadly blow that may eventually eclipse the political sun of the ageing politician.

He lost his bid for a record fifth representation of the zone at the Senate. Not even his nine months suspension in 2002 by the Senator Anyim Pius Anyim Senate elicited the kind of mixed excitement that greeted the fall that came with a bang.

The road to defeat
The first major assault on Nzeribe’s hubris began about seven months ago, when agitation for the creation of Orlu State, ahead the ill-fated constitution amendments by the National Assembly pitted him against prominent sons and daughters of Orlu, led by the Imo State governor, Chief Achike Udenwa. While the latter rooted for Orlu State, with the constituents from the district and neighbouring parts of Anambra State, Nzeribe opted for Orashi State, which excluded vital parts of Orlu.

The storm the conflict generated led to moves to recall Nzeribe from the Senate by some aggrieved members of his district. He, in turn, sponsored a motion on the floor of the Senate, urging the nation’s anti-corruption agencies to probe the finances of local government areas in Imo State. His petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision, (EFCC) led to the arrest and detention of several council bosses of the state in Lagos and Abuja. The battle line was thus drawn.

To stir the hornet’s nest, Nzeribe declared his intention to gun for the governorship seat of the state in 2007, allegedly voting a huge chunk of money as war chest. It was later discovered that the move was diversionary, as his eyes were still squarely set on the senatorial ticket.

Chieftains of the district met and threw up a young political turk, a former journalist and member of the House of Representatives, Osita Izunaso who, in the interceding 10 years, had worked closely with Nzeribe as his media and logistics assistant.

Daily Sun learnt in Owerri that initially, Nzeribe waved off the threat to his hegemony and proceeded to align with the party hierarchy in the state, led by Chief Marcellinus Nlemigbo (Marcon) and other leading Abuja based politicians from the state.
The alignment buoyed up his confidence in the race.

The dynamics
In core Orlu town and some other parts of the district, the challenge to have a new senator, grew gradually from a mere desire to level of schizophrenia. As the frenzy grew in proportion, the battle moved to Nzeribe’s Oguta constituency, where, after sustained siege, the structure of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was forcefully snatched from him and a new leadership and delegates list empanelled.

A rattled Nzeribe protested furiously before it was restored after the intervention of the governor, who suggested a harmonization of the offices and list. Eventually, the entire party structure was given back to him. The scenario played out in his neighbouring Nwangele Local Government Area.
Determined not to be humiliated and to maintain his records as the longest serving senator, dead or alive in Nigeria, Nzeribe gave the bid all that he has, in terms of money, strategies and experience. All that, however, came to nought at the nick of time.
He sought for and obtained a transfer of the Orlu primaries to Owerri, the state capital, citing security reasons.

As an old political warhorse, he raised an alarm of threat to his life by his opponents. In a petition to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, Nzeribe alleged that the plot to assassinate him would be accomplished on November 28 in Owerri. The petition kept busy his opponents, who temporarily abandoned politicking to clear themselves at the police headquarters in Abuja and Owerri almost on a daily basis.

Nzeribe also sought and secured a 24-hour postponement of the primaries from Saturday December 2, to Sunday, December 3, 206 “in order to avert crisis.”
Addressing reporters at dawn on the day of the rescheduled primaries, an upbeat Nzeribe boasted that victory was in sight.
In clear breach of the party electoral guidelines, he unleashed his supporters/delegates, clad in white T-shirts with his portrait at the venue of the event, who ran round, fuelling strong impressions of total victory.

The congress
Amid fears of crisis and likely postponement, the congress took off by 9.00 a.m. with accreditation of delegates at the Grasshoppers International Stadium, Owerri. This took the better part of the day.
Heavily armed fierce looking mobile policemen stood guard at all entry and exit points.
Members of the State Security Services (SSS) also provided security in what could easily pass as one of the freest, most transparent and fairest primaries ever organized by the ruling PDP.
The chairman of the electoral panel for the primaries in Imo State, Chief Olorunfunmi Bashorun, told Daily Sun, hours before voting: “I am all for a free and fair primaries. That is why I am here, and I will not compromise anything to achieve that.”

Signs that Nzeribe was in for his worst electoral disaster manifested when delegates from Oru East, Oru West (Izunaso’s constituency) and Orsu, who first cast their votes voted enbloc for Izunaso.
Nzeribe sat calmly with legs crossed at the VIP section of the stadium where the four aspirants and their retinue of police bodyguards sat. Twelve local governments in Orlu voted. After the 10th local government voted, Nzeribe quietly took his exit from the venue with his army of bodyguards and supporters. That was at exactly 5.15 p.m. Voting stopped at exactly 6.00 p.m.
There were 4,945 accredited voters, excluding automatic delegates, which brought the haul to 5952.
At the end of sorting/counting, which lasted six hours, the returning officer, Barrister Fidel Egoro declared as follows:

Chief Okey Ikoro, 321, Barrister Emeka Uzor, 91, Senator Arthur Nzeribe 1731, and Hon. Osita Izunaso, 3045. Void votes were 49.
Nzeribe won in Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema, Nwangele and Njaba Local Government areas. Ikoro won in Ideato North Local Government, while Izunaso won in the seven local governments of Oru East, Oru West, Orsu, Ideato South, Orlu, Njaba and Isu Njaba.

The myth
For the acclaimed Czar of Orlu politics, Nzeribe’s defeat by a man generally regarded as his protégé may have broken the myth of his invincibility. While there are rumours of his planned protest, tongues are wagging on his next plan to realise his political ambition in 2007.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.