The political developments in Imo State have led many to conclude that Governor RochasOkorocha has since mismanaged the goodwill he enjoyed from the people of the state when he became Governor in 2011. They lament that they did not envisage what Okorocha has done since he became governor, while some say they were not shocked considering what they described as the governor’s “unconscionable actions and brigandage even during the 2011 governorship election, ” writes COLLINS UGHALAA from Owerri.
Those who believe that the governor’s actions have been unconscionable insist that they knew it was a matter of time before the governor fell out with the people. According to them, it was no surprise therefore that the governor began to fall from within his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state before the 2019 general elections.
The argument has been sustained that the governor has demonstrated the worst form of leadership in the state since its creation, leading to the simmering crisis in his party in the state. It is said that this is the first time a sitting governor lost during congresses held in his state by his party.
Okorocha’s sharp tongue
Political analysts are worried that Okorocha’s comments about Imo people, his opponents and predecessors are often provocative and unexpected of a governor. They claim that the governor has defiled government as an institution and governor as an oracle whose words and actions should carry the highest level of human excellence.
In his bid to foist his son in-law and Chief of Staff, UcheNwosu, on his party as his successor, Governor Okorocha has derided both his predecessors and opponents within and outside his party, claiming that he has retired them. Apart from such retirement claims, he has described Imo people as myopic because they oppose his choice of his son in-law as his successor.
Speaking during a function at the State Government House, Governor Okorocha claimed to have retired his predecessors, Senator Arthur Nzeribe, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, IkediOhakim and that he would retire his main opponent within the APC in Imo State, Senator IfeanyiAraraume, in 2019. He claimed that it’s in order to pave way for the younger ones to come up politically.
Similarly, whiling receiving more than 3,000 people from Ideato North Local Government Area of the state, including their chiefs and leaders, who came to pay him solidarity visit at the Government House, Owerri, the governor said he would continue to work as governor, including inspection of projects till 11:30am on May 29, 2019, when his successor is expected to take over from him.
“I have a few months to go, yet; I have declared road revolution. The usual feeling is for out-going governors to pack money and leave at the end of their tenure. I will not pack money, rather, I will continue to work till 11:30a.m of May 29, 2019.”
He insisted he would contest the Imo West senatorial seat and reaffirmed his support for his Chief of Staff, UcheNwosu for Governor in 2019, adding that he had no doubt that he would win the governorship election.
He noted that his son in-law has learnt the ropes and is now better qualified than any other aspirant.
“Uche is the least of the political children I have trained. Madumere is there too, but none of them have I known like Nwosu. I took him up when he was just nobody and he grew to the height he is now, same with Madumere. Nwosu’s only sin is that he is my son-in-law. How about the Njemanzes, the bishops from Egbu? They occupy every position in Egbu without considering who and where they come from.
“Nwosu will win in 2019. Don’t be afraid. I am there. I have retired the Arthur Nzeribes, the Udenwas, now I will retire the rest of them finally. I know them and they know me. Their plan is to push me so they can get the Senate. It’s a lie. I will run for Senate,”the governor said.
He added: “Nwosu has the mandate of the people and broad-based support. So, he will win the governorship election. And I will win the Senate election, because the quality of candidates and their records are key to their electoral success.
“They should come out with the person who will challenge Nwosu instead of making noise or propaganda. If they have someone better than Nwosu, let them come up with the person. I am waiting for them to come out and challenge my own candidate with their own choice.”
In his response to the governor’s retirement threat, the leader of the Coalition in Imo APC, Senator IfeanyiAraraume said the governor does not have the capacity to retire anyone, stressing that God and the people of the state would determine who becomes governor of the state in 2019.
According to a statement by IkOgbonna, Principal Adviser on Media to the Senator, Araraume’s ambition, business life and future rest in the hands of God. He noted that as a Christian and knight of the Catholic Church, Araraumeis mindful of the role of God Almighty in who becomes the leader of His people.
“Let me further say that Senator Araraume started politics long before Chief Ethelbert AnayoOkorocha. As at 1988/89 when Okorocha was still struggling to make ends meet, Senator Araraume was the State Treasurer of Liberal Convention Party in the old Imo State comprising Imo,Abia and parts of Ebonyi State,” Ogbonna stated, adding:
“From 1990-1993, he was a member of NRC National Finance Committee and State chairman of APP in 1998. This shows a well grounded politician and party man. In 1999, he alongside Chief Enwerem, Okorocha were given senatorial tickets by the PDP, they all won except Chief Okorocha. He went on to get a second term and has been actively in involved in state and national politics.
“He is currently a Federal Commissioner representing the South East in the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC. Senator Araraume has won all elections he has participated in but was denied the fruits of his victory in some. As they say, God’s time is the best. And like President Buhari who won on his 4th attempt, 2019 will be his 4th attempt and he will emerge victorious by the grace of God, the votes and goodwill of Imo people.”
He added that “while Araraume is busy ensuring APC is on sound footing, assisting the party and its structures at all levels, the state governor is allegedly hobnobbing with the SDP and dishing out portfolio to himself as Senator for Orlu, his in-law as Governor, himself again as President in 2023, his Deputy as Senator for Owerri, etc. This recklessness has been condemned widely by bishops, ex governors and virtually everyone with good conscience.”
“Gov Okorocha was ‘declared’ winner of his last two elections after failing many times and only after supplementary or rerun elections were conducted. The election that gave him victory in 2015 was with the active support of Senator IfeanyiAraraume,”Ogbonna recalled.
Also responding, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim who is running for a second term as governor in next year’s election noted that he had “read in the print and social media Governor Okorocha’s show of disrespect to the office of the Governor of Imo State. Unfortunately he has been the occupant of that office since 2011.”
He observed that “Okorocha had on Monday, 16th April 2018 opened his basket mouth once more and made vitriolic remarks to the bewildered and suffering Imo people, that he has retired some politicians in the state, including His Excellency Dr IkediOhakim,” adding: “Okorocha’s senseless comments and actions in the state for years confirm that he has completely run amok and requires an urgent psychiatric attention before he goes totally naked in the market place.”
In a press statement, Ohakim further noted: “We had in one of our press releases in February this year told Okorocha that leadership demands decorum and that governance is not the same thing as wearing pampas. But instead of providing Imo people with the good governance they desperately need, Okorocha has been busy retiring everything.
“Governor Okorocha has since 2011 retired the 10,000 jobs, the 27 local governments, local government election, more than 50% civil servants and pensioners in the State. He has also retired the 46 development centres, the traditional institutions, 46 modern community health centres and the 1,395 water schemes built by the IkediOhakim administration across the state. Okorocha has retired keke operators, commercial bus drivers, traders, artisans and landlords in his dangerous bid to be the only cock that crows.
“The governor in his retirement programme has retired Adapalm, Imo Transport Company (ITC) and Imo Shoe Industry Ltd. He has retired Nwaorie River and Otamiri River, the only body of river that made Owerri a settlement town, by constricting them with culverts instead of bridges.
“He has retired the four stadia in Imo, including Dan Anyiam Stadium; Okigwe Stadium which the IkediOhakim administration succeeded in getting the NDDC to put it in their budget but Okorocha has refused to pursue it; the Orlu Township Stadium which has been left to be overgrown with weed; the Old Stadium at Tetlow Road which he has turned to Rochas Foundation Sports Academy. He also retired the Heartland Football Club from Division One to Division Two, whereas the Club played the finals in 2009 while Dr IkediOhakim was Governor.
“Governor Okorocha has shamelessly also retired the Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri, and built the best university for himself in his village. He has also retired the Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Orlu. He retired EkeukwuOwerri Market, New Market, Relief Market and countless other markets in the state, including Nkwo Orji, Eke Atta, Eke Mgbidi, Amaraku Market, etc. Sadly, Okorocha is transferring these markets to himself and cronies through some developers. He has retired the IBC Quarters, Orji, and turned it to Rochas Foundation College”.
According to Ohakim: “It is obvious that Okorocha wants to retire everything in Imo State so that he will be the only man alive. To achieve this impossible task he has also retired the economy of the state, the state assembly and the Judiciary.”
Ohakim noted that “while Governor Okorocha is busy retiring everything, death rate has been on a geometric increase, with infant mortality rate peaking at 101 out of every 1000 birth while under 5 years mortality rate stood at 167 out of every 1000 birth in 2014, according to figures released by budgit, the worst in the Southeast. The number of people with HIV has also risen to 93,822, the highest also in the entire Southeast. These are the things Okorocha should be retiring, including retiring hunger and anger.
“Okorocha should realise that there are more important tasks before him, such as completing the payment of judges in the state which he began in February after His Excellency Dr IkediOhakim raised the alarm that judges in Imo State were owed for 16 months by the Okorocha administration. He should also commence the payment of gratuities and pensions of retired Judges whom he has owed for more than 4 years”.
The 2019 succession game
The politics of who succeeds Governor RochasOkorocha has been the major source of rancour in the ruling APC in Imo State and also seems to be the uniting factor among diverse politicians in the state ahead of 2019.
Speaking when party leaders from Ehime MbanoLGA came on a solidarity visit o the government house to endorse his son in-law, UcheNwosu, for the 2019 governorship and also hand over to the Governor the document to that effect, on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, the Governor expressed delight, claiming that everybody even the opposition are all talking about UcheNwosu for governorship in 2019.
He said: “If the only sin UcheNwosu has committed is marrying my daughter then he has no sin. It will be painful to me if all I have labored to achieve will be destroyed after I have left in 2019. I am therefore keen in who succeeds me. Who won’t allow the state to go back to Egypt.
“We need someone who will not damage all the good works we have done, who will not stop free education, stop urban renewal, ensure political tolerance, maintain all the achievements of the government as if his life depends on it. That’s my interest.
“What will UcheNwosu do for me? Since he married my daughter he has only bought two shoes for me. One pair does not even enter my legs. My interest is good governance”.
The governor continued: “So the issue of UcheNwosu being my inlaw is neither here nor there. America where we copied our democracy from, such petty issue does not come up at all. We know about the Clintons and the Bush family in America. No American talked about Mrs. Hillary Clinton being the wife of former President or Bush Junior being the son of former President. When will our own democracy grow?
“What we desire is good governance and not the issue of in-law. UcheNwosu from all indications will do better than me. He has shown the signs. That is my interest. You don’t build a good house and allow it to be destroyed by someone who does not have the interest of the house at heart. UcheNwosu will do well as a Governor”.
He added: “I have come to change the old order that never allowed the young and godfatherless ones to grow. And by the grace of God we have succeeded. Our people should not be allowed to be deceived. I will give Ehime Mbano all the supports”.
Corroborating the position of the Governor on who succeeds him, UcheNwosu, Okorocha’s son in-law and Chief of Staff said that Okorocha wants him as his successor so as to take up from where he would stop because he (Okorocha) desires the best for Imo people.
Speaking with journalist, Nwosu said that whatever is happening about who replaces Okorocha is divine, saying: “It is about the person, UcheNwosu. It is about what the Governor thinks is the best for the state. It is about developmental leadership.
“It is about who will move Imo State forward after 2019. Remember that we are one family in the ‘rescue mission government’ of Imo State.
“The Deputy Governor, EzeMadumere, was the Chief of Staff when we were at the Rochas Group, while I was the Personal Assistant to the President of the Rochas Group, RochasOkorocha.
“It’s a story similar to that of the House of Jesse in the Bible. At the Rochas Group, I was the fourth person in ranking. Our then General Manager, RochasOkorocha, is now the Governor; the then Chief of Staff, EzeMadumere, is now the Deputy Governor; we have NonyeRajis, who was the Nigerian Ambassador to Singapore when Goodluck Jonathan was the President of Nigeria.
“Rajis was the third in rank at the Rochas Group and she became an Ambassador. When RochasOkorocha became Governor, his ex- Chief of Staff became his Deputy.
“Just like the house of Jesse in the Bible, David was not the first or even second child; he was the eighth, but out of the sons of Jesse, he who was the least, that is David, was chosen to be the king of Israel. What is happening in Imo State about who replaces Okorocha is divine. Even the Governor does not know how his choice of who would succeed him came about, but I believe that whatever decision the Governor took is divine and it is the grace of God that is working”.
Prior to his endorsement of his son in-law to succeed him, the Governor had made it public that Senator IfeanyiAraraume cannot be Governor in the state, vowing that he will not support the aspiration of the Senator as Governor of the state in 2019.
He insisted that his successor will be produced by the people of the state, and that he has already told the aspirants to start consulting with the people who will determine who they want, stressing that anybody who is going to succeed him as Governor must not proud, arrogant, vindictive, greedy and narrow minded or clannish.
“I want Imo people to name who they want as their Governor in 2019, because I will not name any body, and that is why I have asked the aspirants to consult with the people, but, definitely, the likes of Araraume will not succeed me.
“I want a good leader for my people, this question has constantly come up, I have not given my support to AchoIhim, UcheNwosu, ChikeOkafor or Madumere yet, but, before the end of this month, I shall name my successor, but it will never be Araraume”, he said.
But this endorsement of UcheNwosu by the Governor has murdered sleep both for the Governor and other members of the party who are now in daggers drawn for the soul of the party. This led to the formation of two factions in the party, with the Governor leading the group he calls “AgburuAnyi”, meaning “Our Lineage or Tribe”, while Senator IfeanyiAraraune, Okorocha’s Deputy, Prince EzeMadumere; Senator Hope Uzodimma; Okorocha’s former Commissioner for Information, Dr. T.O.E. Ekechi; Senator OsitaIzunaso, former National Organizing Secretary of the APC; Sir Jude Ejiogu, former Secretary of the State Government under Okorocha, etc, formed the Coalition.
The battle for the soul of the Imo APC led to the crisis that characterized the ward, LGA and state congresses of the party, where the Governor and his group lost out. The fight also led to the suspension and counter suspension of key party officials, and the formation of parallel executives at the ward, LGA and state levels.
The battle in the party also led to court action challenging the ward, LGA and state congresses. In his ruling on the party congresses, Justice Lewis Allogoa of the Federal High Court in Owerri declared that the APC congresses never held in the state and ordered for fresh congresses in the state in line with the constitution of the party.
Speaking on the development, the Chairman of Imo APC Stakeholders Forum, Chief OkeyIkoro, threatened that should the Nation Working Committee (NWC) of the party give any form of concession to Governor RochasOkorocha with regards to the concluded ward, local government and state congreses, for any concoted reason, the party stands every chance of loosing the state in the 2019 election.
He said that the jubilation witnessed in the state when the governor was defeated in the congresses shows exactly how badly he has managed the affairs of the party and the state in general, pointing out that it was only the results of the congresses that halted the mass exodus of members of the party to other parties.
Chief Ikoro noted that the governor has totally weakened the party base in the state through his actions and policies, such as personalising the party and usurpation of the powers of the state exco, arrogating to himself the power of sharing the elective positions in the party for 2019 election, subjecting the party to riddicle through forceful insistence on presenting his son in-law as the governorship candidate for the party, fractionalization of the party, by creating a parallel structure of the party in other to actualise the son in-law’s succession plan.
The APC chieftain maintained that “RochasOkorocha has become a liability to the party and to South East in general” adding that “he has lost any electoral influence, that was why he lost woefully in the congresses.
“It was the only opportunity for APC party faithful to express their disgust with Okorocha’s antics. It is therefore clear that should the NWC for any reason, even for a concocted court order, give any form of concession to Rochas Okorocha in the present impasse in the party, or fail to uphold the already approved Imo congress list by the previous NWC, due to the ranting of Rochas Okorocha, it will reverse all the gains so far made in the recovery of the party by the stake holders and will set the stage for loss of the state to the opposition party in the 2019 election,”Ikoro declared.
He noted that what is expected of the party at the national level is to immediately appeal the current court decision on this matter and get a stay of execution of the order for a new congress, having recognized and approved the Imo congress list alongside other successful state congresses, and having ratified it in a national convention, bearing in mind that party congresses is under the exclusive reserve of the party.