NIGERIA: Okorocha: The Czar Learns The Hard Way

NOVEMBER 6, 2018
OWERRI (NEW TELEGRAPH)--It is evident that these are not the best of times for Governor Rochas Okorocha, over last weekend’s submission of list of governorship and House of Assembly candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

With the party’s submission of the list, Okorocha, who had insisted on his son-in-law and Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, as the party’s governorship candidate in Imo State, has his dream of anointing his successor crash like a pack of cards. Nwosu was knocked out by the senator representing Imo West in the National Assembly, Hope Uzodinma.

The governor and the senator had been locked in a fierce battle for the soul of APC in the state since the ward congress of the party. Okorocha, who is supposedly versed in the intricacies of party politics, was left guessing by an alliance of APC stakeholders in the state led by Uzodinma, who upstaged him, not only in the ward congress, but the local government and state congresses.

But, politics being a game of the possible, the table later turned in favour of the governor, when the court cancelled the congresses, following a suit by Okorocha’s camp.

The court also ordered fresh congresses at the various levels, an order which the party’s national leadership consented to. When Okorocha regained control of the APC in the state after the fresh congresses, it became clear to many that it was time for him to pay back his traducers in their own coin.

The first casualty was his deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, who was hurriedly impeached by the state House of Assembly over allegations of gross misconduct and dereliction of duty. In Madumere’s stead, Okorocha nominated the Head of Service, Mr. Callistus Ekenze, but an interim order by a High Court sitting Owerri, the Imo State Capital, stopped his swearing-in as the new deputy governor of the state.

The court issued an interim order following a suit by Madumere challenging his impeachment.

Having unsettled and frustrated Madumere and others who were determined to succeed him out of the APC, the coast at that time seemed clear for Okorocha to have his way.

To the governor, who rode on the goodwill of Imo people to power in 2011, there was nothing stopping the move to entrench the Okorocha political dynasty, which his critics say allows little opportunity for outsiders to hold offices of power and service. Comprised mainly of members of his immediate family, the character of the dynasty’s politics, is, that to its elements belong the spoils of war.

Besides Nwosu, who is the Chief of Staff, Okorocha’s younger sister, Mrs. Ogechi Ololo, is the commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment. Before her appointment as commissioner, Ololo served as Chief of Staff, Domestic Affairs apart from being in charge of the Christmas Decoration Project since the inception of the administration.

Also, another of Okorocha’s sons-in-inlaw, Uzoma Anwuka, is an important personality in his government. Uzoma is the son of the current Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, a former vice chancellor of the state owned university (Imo State University), who served as Secretary to the State Government (SSG) during Okorocha’s first tenure.

The governor, whose tenure elapses on May 29, next year, has picked his party’s ticket to contest for the Imo West senatorial seat. But, while he was basking in the euphoria of his triumph at the party’s congresses and primaries, especially that for the governorship, which was conducted twice before Nwosu emerged, it never occurred to him that unlike other chieftains of the party, who sought for refuge in other parties, Uzodinma was determined not to let go.

The senator and governor’s son-inlaw had emerged candidates of parallel primaries conducted by the two APC factions in the state.

But, wading into the matter, the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, at a time advised the governor to cede 45 per cent of the party’s structure to the Uzodinma group in a bid to cater for the interest of the contending forces.

Oshiomhole was also said to have asked Okorocha to choose between his senatorial ambition and his desire to have his son in-law as his successor, but the governor insisted that he and his anointed were the best candidates for the governorship and senatorial seats. He further maintained that no one can win election in the state without his backing.

The governor, who never hid his frustration over the way Oshiomhole handled the impasse, seized every opportunity to blast the party’s national chairman. He also made moves to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the matter, but was not successful. Perhaps, having done all he could to turn the tide; he resorted to a subtle threat against the party.

Speaking last Thursday, after a meeting with President Buhari at the presidential villa, Okorocha, who is the Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, claimed that that the party under Oshiomhole has lost five million voters given the way he (Oshiomhole) has fuelled anger among party faithful and protests across the country.

But, Oshiomhole, a labour leader turned politician, who is not new to battles of such magnitude, was not ready to yield ground. He maintained that APC has no room for emperors like Okorocha.

His words: “There are no emperors in APC; if anybody tries to make himself as one, it will be an exercise in futility. What I have not been able to do for Governor Okorocha is to assist him with the instrument of APC, even as that will border on abuse of power on my side. And I do not have such powers to help him to create Rochas Okorocha political dynasty in Imo State in which he will be the APC Senatorial candidate and his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, the governorship candidate.

“I am convinced that this is where many of my friend governors tend not to understand me. If there is conflict between the known interest of the great people of Imo, who have reposed confidence in us by voting us to power as they did in 2015, I will resist. I will resist every unlawful pressure to undermine the wishes of the good people of Imo and at this stage, the wishes of APC members in Imo who do not want a political dynasty, by the way they have voted.”

While hope seems to have dimmed for Nwosu making it to the ballot for the March 2, 2019 governorship election, Okorocha insists that the aspiration of his son-in-law is not in the hands of Oshiomhole, but in the hands of God first, and Imo people.