By Samuel Ibezim
SUNDAY, February 4, was supposed to be a very important date in the life of Imo State. On that day, the State was expected to roll out drums to celebrate its 42nd year anniversary. Unfortunately, the day was not given much attention like in the past probably because politicians who normally attend the grand event were distracted by their battle for the soul of the Imo State government house. Although the governorship election will hold in 2019, politicians mostly from the All Progressives Congress, APC, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, are already scheming to out manoeuvre their opponents to emerge the flag bearers in their respective parties in their bid to succeed Rochas Ethelbert Okorocha as Imo State governor whose tenure expires in May next year. Religious leaders are also weighing in to determine who among the politicians will clinch the ticket of political parties.
As at press time, there are about 23 governorship aspirants openly jockeying for the Douglas House (the seat of Imo government) recently renamed “Peoples House” by Okorocha. Interestingly, APGA has the highest number of aspirants totalling 13 (all from Owerri Zone); five are from APC, the ruling party in the state while PDP has five. Of the total number, only eight aspirants appear to have some structures to wage a successful campaign.
Of all the aspirants, only one person from APC, Uche Nwosu, chief of staff to governor Okorocha, is from Orlu zone, which has produced most of the governors in the State. With him in APC is Ifeanyi Ararume from Okigwe zone, which has also produced a governor, which ruled the State for four years since the current democratic dispensation began in 1999. Three other APC aspirants are from Owerri zone which is yet to produce a governor for the state.
They are Eze Madumere, the incumbent deputy governor, Jude Ejiogu, the immediate past secretary to government of Imo State and Chuks Ololo, an engineer, who is married to Okorocha’s sister. Also from Owerri Zone are Senator Samuel Anyanwu, Tony Nwulu, representing Oshodi/Isolo 11 federal constituency of Lagos State and Emeka Ihedioha, former deputy speaker, House of Representatives. These three are running on the platform of PDP along with Ikedi Ohakim, former governor of Imo State and Senator Athan Achonu, former Senator representing Imo North Senatorial zone. Both Ohakim and Achonu are from Okigwe zone. As it is, Frank Nneji, ABC Transport owner, is the front line APGA aspirant from Owerri zone.
It appears that all the aspirants have what it takes to successfully compete in the race in terms of education, money and requisite managerial acumen but some are better positioned to clinch the crown.
Starting from Nwosu from Nkwerre/Orlu zone, his major strength could also be his albatross. Married to Okorocha’s eldest daughter, Nwosu is the governor’s anointed candidate. But the public perception is that Nwosu’s father-in-law is foisting him on the State in a bid to entrench his family dynasty in Imo politics using the power of incumbency. He is largely seen as Okorocha’s smokescreen to govern the state for a third term.
Since the beginning of the year, the governor has used every public gathering to solicit for the continuation of his “rescue mission” agenda by urging Imo people to support Nwosu as his replacement in the government house. The governor used the ‘rescue mission’ slogan, successfully in 2011 to clinch power.
But Okorocha’s poor performance in office could negate his plans for his crown prince as he has been accused of running the state like a family business. Imo people’s resentment of Okorocha’s policies may affect the emergence of Nwosu as APC flagbearer.
He may also not get the party ticket because he is from Nkwere local government area in Orlu zone as Okorocha. This has created cold war within the governor’s cabinet as some of his cabinet members from Owerri zone are angling to produce the next governor. They have been competing to get Okorocha to choose one of them to succeed him.
One key cabinet member from Owerri zone interested in succeeding Okorocha is Madumere. But the governor’s open support for Nwosu to the detriment of his deputy has caused division among the government house staff as loyalists on both camps fight each other while their leaders pretend that nothing is happening.
Mindful of the clamour by Owerri zone to produce the governor, and the likelihood that they will not support his son in-law, Okorocha contracted a newly installed traditional ruler from Umuoyima Autonomous Community in Owerri municipal to adopt Nwosu as an Owerri son so as to justify his claim to vie for the post.
Although Ike Nwosu, an Owerri-based journalist described Okorocha’s “act of desperation as laughable,” the governor has tried to justify his plan. He has warned people of Imo that zoning no longer exist in the state as he had put a stop to it. Hence, he described politicians still agitating for zoning as educated illiterates, uninformed and clannish people who do not have the capacity to govern. He argued: “The point is that a zone cannot be a governor, it is only an individual who has the capacity to pilot the affairs of the state whether he is from Owerri, Orlu or Okigwe who should present himself.”
Okorocha’s tepid reasoning has not stopped the quest for zoning. Perhaps, this triggered the sudden emergence of Ololo, the governor’s brother-in-law from Owerri zone to join the contest just to ensure that the office remains within the family circle. Ololo is the husband to Ogechi, Okorocha’s younger sister, who is the pioneer commissioner for Happiness and Couple Fulfillment, an office that has generated a lot of negative publicity across the country.
In his unrelenting effort to foist a family member as his successor, Okorocha is to fulfil his threat to retire old politicians and trusted allies who had worked for him but have since parted ways. That is why recently he said that nobody above 50 years would rule Imo State again. This has been seen in the political circles as a step towards smoothening the road to government house for either of his in-laws.