Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State seems to be losing his political relevance, having lost all the congresses organised by his ruling All Progressive Congress in the state and now facing rising adversaries from his party, former associates and generality of the people in the state
By Olu Ojewale
THE political structure of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State is collapsing. Since the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, held its ward, local government and state congresses, Okorocha seemed to have lost the party machinery to his political opponents.
In reaction, the governor has tried to mask his defeat by claiming that no congress was held in his state, but all indications have shown that the APC structure in the state is no longer with him.
The party structure is now firmly in the grip of his opponents, whom the governor has tried to retired from politics. Hillary Eke, one of his former allies, was re-elected as Imo APC party chairman, contrary to the wish of the governor. Little wonder Okorocha described Eke’s election as illegal claiming that there was a court injunction restraining the party from conducting the election.
Invariably, the governor has been contending with a massive alliance of APC leaders across the 27 council areas of the state led by Ifeanyi Ararume; Hope Uzodinma; Ben Uwajumogu and Osita Izunaso, all senators; as well as Eze Madumere, the deputy governor, and Jude Ejiogu, his former chief of staff who was also secretary to the state government.
Others are Emeka Nwajiuba of Tetfund; Jasper Azuatalam, a BOT member of the party; Tony Chukwu, a business mogul, Theodore Ekechi and several other former aides of his.
Ironically, Okorocha had, not long ago, declared that he had retired his political adversaries, desperately trying to salvage what had been an eventful political ascent.
But last month, the governor was badly shaken when the new executive of the Imo State chapter of the APC in a memorandum to the national chapter of the party canvassed disciplinary action against him. In a resolution following a meeting of the State Working Committee, SWC, of the party, the state chapter of the party declared in a statement: “Pursuant to Article 21D (11) of the APC constitution, the State Working Committee, SWC, has made appropriate recommendations to the NWC of our great party to take adequate disciplinary measures against the governor of Imo State, Owelle Anayo Ethelbert Okorocha, for engaging in various anti-party activities, which could lead to breakdown of law and order in the State.” The communiqué was signed by Nwabueze Oguchienti, the publicity secretary of the state APC.
The move against Okorocha followed his loss of the party’s structure after his former associates rebelled against his plot to foist his Uche Nwosu, son-in-law and chief of staff, on the state as his successor.
The former associates led by Madumere and Ararume, with the tacit support of Osita Izunaso, the party’s national organising secretary, were behind all the congresses that wrestled the party structure from the control of the governor. Thus, Okorocha has become the second APC governor after Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State to have lost the structure of the party to contenders within the state they govern.
In any case, the governor, who has blamed the John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee, NWC, for his woes, is said to hold the belief that the emergence of Adams Oshiomhole, former governor of Edo State, as the new national chairman, would help to salvage the situation.
Nevertheless, Okorocha himself has not given up and has recently raised the stakes with the appointment of a rival state executive of the party with Chris Oguoma as chairman. The Oguoma-led executive is working in parallel with the Hilary Eke-led executive that emerged at the state congress that was boycotted by Okorocha and his supporters in the state.
The appointment of the Oguoma led executive has been viewed by political analysts as a desperate move by the governor, given the fact that after disagreeing with the outcome of the last congresses, he had gone to court to challenge the validity of the congress. Okorocha’s wisdom in appointing a rival party structure even before the case was concluded was shocking to observers as his allies also went ahead to take over the state secretariat office of the APC in Owerri.
Not only that, few days after, suspected hoodlums set fire at the party secretariat, thereby forcing Eke’s executive to vacate their official offices.
Consequently, some members of the party have described the governor’s behaviour in recent times as anti-party activities that should attract heavy sanction as he was perceived to be the sponsor. In trying to justify himself, Okorocha retorted that Eke had ceased from being the chairman of the state party executive. Buttressing his speech, he said: “Let me say this, if anybody wants to practice democracy let there be congress. Go to the ward, talk to your people and vote.
“Hillary Eke’s time is finished. He can’t be a chairman constitutionally, until he is elected. There is a court order stopping that congress and there is another court order stopping them from parading themselves as executives of APC.
“So they do not even exist so what Eke is doing does not exist. The only person we have recognized now is the acting chairman, Chris Oguoma. This is just a kind of conspiracy from those people I brought up politically.”
In response, Nwabueze Oguchienti, the publicity secretary of the APC, in the state, under Eke’s leadership, said: “The congress of the party is purely an internal affair. The NWC put the guidelines and if you fail to follow the rules then you want to leave the party. You must be dreaming when you think that you can be a party chairman by appointment.”
Nonetheless, on Tuesday, May 29, during a press briefing to mark the Democracy Day celebration, Okorocha maintained that as yet, there was nothing broken and nothing lost. “I am still in charge of the APC structure in Imo state,” he said.
That seems not to be entirely true given the kind of political realignment going on in the state. In recent times the governor seems to have had more than he can chew in the number of members of the opposition to his style of administration.
Leading the pack of the opposition is Ararume, a veteran in governorship race and former senator. Ararume, who has been contesting the governorship ticket since 2007, sees the governor as another obstacle to his ambition. In fact, the Mbano-born politician is hoping to be like President Muhammadu Buhari who contested election four times before he eventually won.
The former senator is a formidable politician in Imo State. Ararume had left the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to align with Okorocha after he was denied the party ticket, and helped the governor to win the 2015 election.
In the political circles, Ararume is known for donating heavily to support and sustain any party he is a member. But he was maligned by his opponents in the past, especially by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who campaigned against him in 2007, saying he was inadequate to be a governor. His fallout with Okorocha, it is believed, would have a negative impact on the governor’s political machinery.
With the state political structure now in the hand of the opposition, it is being envisaged that Okorocha will need to seek for political shelter in an alternative platform or watch his dreams of enthroning Nwosu as governor and his plan to go to the Senate himself, all crumble around him.
Although several loyalists to the governor believe that Okorocha may still rediscover himself and bounce back to relevance in the party, but the likelihood appears to be doubtful as the odds continue to stack up against him and his camp.
For instance, the governor is at loggerheads with a lot of people because he wants to enthrone his son-in-law as his successor. Indeed, 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. Hence, Nwosu is largely seen as Okorocha’s veil 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.
Nevertheless, Okorocha’s dwindling popularity could negate his plans for his crown prince as he has been accused of running the state like his family business. Imo people’s resentment of Okorocha’s style of government and the result of last congresses may eventually deny Nwosu as being elected as the APC flag bearer.
[caption id="attachment_90229" align="alignright" width="296"] Ararume[/caption]
Besides, the governor’s son-in-law 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 also interested in producing the next governor. They have been competing to get Okorocha to choose one of them to succeed him. But the governor appears not to be interested in endorsing any of them.
As if that is not bad enough, Madumere, his deputy, who had been hoping to succeed his principal, is also working against Okorocha. He fell out with the governor when Okorocha started to express open support for Nwosu to his detriment. Madumere is from Owerri. Mindful of the clamour by Owerri zone to produce the governor, and the likelihood that they might 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 persons like Ike Nwosu, an Owerri-based journalist, would want to regard Okorocha’s plan as an “act of desperation” and “laughable,” the governor has tried to justify his move warning that zoning no longer exists in Imo 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.”
Indeed, Owerri people who are claiming that it is their turn to produce who governs the state are not likely to support Nwosu especially when their son, Okorocha’s deputy is also interested in the job. The internal wrangling between the governor and his deputy is equally seen as dangerous for the party as both have been in the government house since 2011.
Until the question of a successor became a public debate, Madumere’s loyalty to the governor was unquestionable. He was recognised in 2011 when he spent five days in the prison because he was accused of leading supporters of Okorocha who pelted the convoy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo with sachet water when he came to campaign for Ikedi Ohakim, the then candidate of the PDP. The incident earned him promotion from chief of staff to Okorocha to his deputy. His loyalty to the governor also won him several awards and national recognition.
But that was when the going was sweet. In recent times, he was reported to have declined the offer of the governor to run for the Senate and allow Nwosu to take the governorship slot. Perhaps, having realised that Okorocha will not support his gubernatorial ambition, he threw away his “rescue mission” muffler and other regalia that define his loyalty to Okorocha. The Mbaitolu-born deputy governor is currently fighting to retain his position as he stands to step on the same banana peel that fell Jude Agbaso, whom he succeeded after he was removed from office as a deputy governor.
Okorocha does not have only his deputy to worry about. He is also in trouble with the church, which usually plays a significant role in the politics of state.
Although Okorocha is a Catholic and his deputy is an Anglican, but the governor is currently at war with Anthony Obinna, archbishop of Owerri Catholic archdiocese. The conflict is of concern to people of the state as it has brought division not only among politicians but also within the Catholic fold as the adherents either support or oppose the current government. The allegation by Okorocha’s supporters is that the Catholic archbishop is working for other parties because he wants an Owerri-man to succeed the governor and thereby making reconciliation hard for the people and the church.
Obinna claimed that Okorocha wants to go for a third term by foisting Nwosu on the state. On Wednesday, March 28, at Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri, the prelate told journalists that peace had eluded the state because of the high level of injustice and inequity of the state government. He accused the governor of using coercion and brute force to deny pressure groups their rights to protest against some of his policies thereby denying them their fundamental rights.
“Equity demands that the senatorial zones should take their turns on the governorship seat. I have no special hatred for Governor Rochas Okorocha. It was most uncharitable for the governor to attempt doing a third term through his son in-law, Uche Nwosu,” Obinna said.
[caption id="attachment_81898" align="alignright" width="300"] Archbishop Obinna[/caption]
Reacting, Okorocha, who spoke through Sam Onwuemeodo, his chief press secretary, said no matter the amount of propaganda and lies being peddled against him, the resolve of Imo people to make Nwosu their governor in 2019 remained strong.
The governor also denied the allegation that Nwosu supervised the assault on Obinna. “This time, it is Uche Nwosu because they have seen that he is the man for 2019 with God on our side. And no amount of blackmail or tricks would change the plan of God on the young man to govern the state. It takes someone alive in the things of the spirit to know that Uche Nwosu is a ‘child of destiny.’ He has the divine mark; and anyone fighting him is fighting his God. And no one can battle with God,” the governor said.
Apart from fighting his political opponents and the Catholic Church, the governor has not been enjoying public support for the way he demolished markets in different local governments and is yet to rebuild any as he had promised.
One of the major markets is called Eke-Ukwu market in Owerri Municipal which had been in existence for several centuries. It was demolished in August last year, and during the demolition, an only son (Somtochukwu) died as the security and thugs hired by Okorocha shot him and denied at first but later succumbed by renaming the area after him.
Interestingly, the governor had disobeyed court order that the market should not be demolished.
In a similar gesture, the governor is notorious for irregular payment of state pensioners. When he became governor in 2011, he promised to take care of pensioners. The previous government was not forthcoming and regular in paying pensioners and Okorocha campaigned with it. When he won, he invited pensioners and cooked meal for them and they ate, he paid them and promised not to fail them. In return, the senior citizens prayed for him and blessed him not knowing that it was a decoy to gain popularity. People were touched by this act and they thanked God for electing him.
However, few months later, he started owing them and had a tough quarrel with them over the threat to pay half of their monthly pensions. On several occasions, he would organise screening for them with the claim that some were ghost pensioners. At these screenings, he would lament that the numbers were much, thereby, questioning why they would not want to die. Indeed, some of them died or sustained injuries while queuing for the screening.
In the area of road construction, the governor is yet to receive any accolade. In fact, many of the roads constructed by the Okorocha administration are regarded as substandard.
In many cases, he has used companies with no names to work on roads. Early in the week, a bridge constructed by the Rochas Okorocha administration, in the Children’s Recreation Centre, near Concorde Hotel, Owerri, suddenly collapsed. Mercifully, no life was lost but the collapse was attributed to substandard works done by the Okorocha administration. The angry reactions to the collapse of the Children’s Recreation Centre Bridge had hardly died down when a more devastating storm came calling and destroyed property worth hundreds of millions of naira across the state.
In any case, unconfirmed reports accused the governor of giving contracts to most projects in the state to his daughters, wife, concubines and siblings including son-in-law and brother-in-law to handle.
In the area of education, it is alleged that his Greek gift of free education is the highest dishonour to a state that is one of the best educated and has the highest number of professors in the country. The governor allegedly built sub-standard school classrooms, desks while he also imported inferior school shirts and sandals from China to compliment.
In his time, the Imo State University is reputed to have lost many operational licenses for some departments after the visit of the National Universities Commission, NUC.
Geoffrey Okorafor, a reverend and bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Egbu, while assessing the Rochas Okorocha administration said the governor had not only failed God, but the people of the state.
Okorafor said the governor displayed this by his undemocratic mode of administration and his avowed determination to foist his son-in-law as his successor against the wish of the people of the state.
However, Nnamdi Obiaraeri, the state commissioner for Information, in an interview, said the governor had been doing a fantastic job in the state with the erection of statues of some African presidents.
On his plan to enthrone his son-in-law as governor of the state, Obiaraeri said: “What is wrong with the governor putting his son-in-law (up for election as governorship candidate) assuming that is what he wants to do. Does the governor have more than one vote? What you see going on is vocal minority. The vocal minority wants to make noise and overwhelm the system. If a governor says I want my son-in-law to take over from me, what is wrong about that? Has he committed murder or has he stolen anything? The young man will go through the processes and if the party allows him, he gets the ticket of the party and presents himself for governorship election and Imo people will vote for him and he will become the governor of Imo State.”
In any case, the issues confronting Okorocha in relating to Imo State is more than his plans to install his son-in-law as his successor. Posterity is there to judge him based on what he has done to elevate the standard of living of the people in the state. Besides, his legacy in the state will speak for him. At the moment, he looks like a drowning man having been abandoned by his former loyalists and party hierarchy. How he survives the onslaught depends on his political sagacity.
Jun. 15, 2018 @ 17:50 GMT |