The supremacy battle in the Imo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is at its peak now that the wards, Local Government Areas’ and state congresses are being held to determine the party’s Executives preparatory to the 2019 general elections.
With less than one year to 2019, from all indications, it seems Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State is set to fight the political battle of his life. It will even be more turbulent and ferocious than he fought in 2011 and 2015.
Now, it is clear that Okorocha’s fate hangs in the balance after he lost out in the just concluded congresses in the state, his ambition is seen as an affront and insult to the collective psyche of Imo citizenry.
The 2019 ambition of Okorocha runs contrary to the zoning principle of the state as well as defiles all human logic, and it has pitched the governor, not only against political foes, but against political friends, who have now turned to be his political enemies of immeasurable magnitude.
Findings by The Daily Times reveal that the endless political imbroglio was taking a toll on the chances of the APC in Imo State as citizens are not disposed to voting the party in the days ahead.
Efforts by the National secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to intervene in order to restore peace was fruitless, as the governor has sworn never to have anything to do with the structure he met on ground.
The Imo APC headed by Hon. Hilary Ekeh who worked for Okorochas’ victory in 2015 have been engrossed in long battle with the governor.
The long drawn fracas also saw the governor not working with any state or federal lawmaker under the platform of the party from the state.
Notwithstanding the fact that Governor Okorocha set up his faction of APC Executives in the state, thereby, created potential constitutional crisis, he insisted that the Ekeh led Executives must be disbanded, accusing them that they were working for his perceived political enemies.
As the Imo governorship race heats up, one of the stakeholders, Senator Godwin Ifeanyichukwu Araraume could be described as a serial contender for the position, having vied for the position in the past between 2007,2011 and 2015 but lost out in all the attempts.
In 2019, his body language tilts towards intention to contest once again, he would want to replicate President Muhammadu Buhari’s feat, who failed thrice, but clinched his target at the fourth attempt.
With his vast political structure that cut across the nooks and crannies of the state as well as his cult following ,one could deduce that Araraume is loved by the masses, but the elites seem to be afraid of him, as they see him as a big masquerade that cannot be reined in.
He has the prerequisite experience, having represented Imo North (Okigwe zone) at the red chamber from 1999 to 2007 as well as the contact and huge financial war chest to prosecute his governorship ambition.
In 2015, he was part of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership who compromised Emeka Ihedioha’s victory when the former President, Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to President Muhammadu Buhari and he was described by Governor Rochas Okorocha as the “Hero of Democracy”, but now, both men are like cat and dog.
On several occasions, Governor Okorocha had insisted that Araraume cannot succeed him, saying, “But I want to say this for the sake of emphasis, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume cannot win the ticket of APC for the 2019 gubernatorial in the state and can never govern the state. So people should not be deceived. In 2007, he won the ticket of PDP and failed the main election.
“In 2011, he also got the ticket of ACN and came fourth in the election. In 2015, he also failed the PDP primary. So, what magic would he perform in 2019.”
Responding to the statement of Governor Okorocha against his perceived governorship ambition, Senator Araraume said, “No one person can decide for Imo APC. Rochas Okorocha is a leader. I am a leader and there are several others within the party. Decisions will not be taken by one person,
“My personal interest is to strengthen the party as a leader of APC. All my activities are on how to build a stronger APC. No individual is God and Rochas Okorochas is not God and he is not in position to decide who becomes the governor of Imo State come 2019, only God can decide my fate.”
Another stakeholder of Imo politics who stood with others to stop Okorochas’s move in the state is the former Speaker of the Imo State House Of Assembly from 2011 to 2015, and now, Senator representing Imo North, Benjamin Uwajumogu.
He was Okorochas’s political ally and together, they ran the state without much adherence to rule of law and laid down principles of governance.
During the Imo North re-run election, Governor Okorocha fought hard to ensure that Uwajumogu emerged victorious and became the only elected APC Senator at the upper legislative chamber from the south-East zone of the country.
However, Okorocha and Uwajumogu are no longer political “salt and pepper” over what Okorocha described as “Uwajumogu ‘s ingratitude,” but the senator said, “I am at war paths with Okorocha because of his present government’s anti-people policies, example, the demolition of markets without proper procedure and the governor’s unpopular decision to install his son-in- law.”
To make matters worse and as if the governor is losing in all fronts, Uwajumogu emerged as the secretary of the APC congresses and convention committee which he later resigned recently.
The once beloved son of Okorocha, in whom he was well pleased, the deputy governor of the state, Prince Eze Madumere, is now seen as a mortal political enemy that should be crushed at all cost and by all means.
Madumere, whose loyalty to his boss is unquestionable and almost to the point of “imbecility” to some people, shocked political pundits when he rejected his boss‘s offer to contest for Owerri senatorial zone (Imo East) in the 2019 election.
Madumere, pointedly told his boss that he has made up his mind to contest for the office of the governor in 2019, because, Owerri zone, where he came from, has not produced the governor of the state since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, a stance that conflicts with Governor Okorocha’s plan in 2019 as he has appointed his son-in- law, Mr. Uche Nwosu as his successor.
In order to hit back at the deputy governor and possibly truncate his governorship ambition, reports had it that Madumere, the number two citizen of the state is being shut out of governance and his office under –funded, while his supporters have removed their mufflers, which is seen worn by Okorocha’s staunch loyalists, to extricate themselves from the stranglehold of the governor.
This is an indication that the final battle has been drawn between the governor and his deputy, and it is fight to “death’
Senator Hope Uzodinma, representing Orlu zone(Imo West) at the upper chamber recently led Ali Modu Sheriff’s former faction of the PDP to a mass declaration for APC at the party secretariat in Abuja.
Uzodinma, whose political direction in 2019 is still not clear, whichever way the direction finally points to, it may be at cross purpose with that of Governor Okorocha.
If the governorship of the state is Uzodinma’s ambition, then it runs contrary to Okorocha’s, who thinks that the governorship seat of the state in 2019 is the exclusive reserve of his son-in- law, Mr Nwosu.
If the Senator wants to return to the Senate, it still conflicts with Okorocha’s 2019 plan, as he sees Orlu senatorial seat as a compensation for him, and a waiting process ahead of 2023 for the Presidency of the country.
So, the coming of Uzodinma to the ruling APC, is not, from all indications favourable to Governor Okorocha and his ambition, hence, the ruling APC in the state denied not being aware of the entry of Uzodinma and his loyalists into APC.
According to Okorocha, “It is insulting on the party in the state for someone to be talking about joining APC from Abuja. The procedure is that you start from your ward, to your local government and then the state and the state will inform the party at the national level that you are now a member.”
He said that unless Uzodinma joins APC from the right source, “we will not welcome him into the party in Imo State.”
Recently, a pressure group led by a former commissioner for Information in the state, Dr. Theodore Ekechi, emerged in Imo State, named APC Restoration Coalition, to confront the impunity and excesses of Governor Okorocha within the party, with membership that spread across the three senatorial zones of the state.
They pointed out that if urgent steps are not quickly taking in calling Okorocha to order, the APC is headed for shameful, abysmal and colossal failure in the state in the 2019 general elections.
The Imo APC Restoration Coalition took a swipe on the state government over the proposed local government election, stressing that it was not to deepen democracy at the grassroots,
but allegedly a decoy to have greater number of statutory delegates at the primaries at the beck and call of the governor as the government intends to conduct the election using autonomous communities, instead of state or national electoral wards.
Apart from the stiff opposition that Governor Okorocha has to contend with within APC to install his son-in- law as his successor, the opposition parties in the state are bent on wrestling power from him and his party.
The PDP and its arrow head in the state, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha is not resting on their oars to take over Imo Government House, which they lost through Chief Ikedi Ohakim in 2011.
According to Ihedioha in a recent interview, ”It is one thing to be youthful yet another to be experienced. Working with a godfather as your principal may not guarantee you all the needed experience to take up a job as Imo governor, especially as it is a known fact that you will only continue from where you stopped as a stooge.
Imo State needs an independent minded person, a man with loads of experience, contacts and respect that can open doors among major political players at national level to move the state forward.
“It is not enough to ride on the crest of a godfather who will be deciding from his bedroom. Imo can no longer remain in the bondage of family ties.
Imo is not a personal property which will be run or determined by a family or just one man. That is why I maintained that government and power must return to the people. Imolites are no slaves.”
Equally confronting Okorocha’s 2019 ambition is issue-based, such as the near fracas situation between the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Province, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna and a group suspected to be Ugwumba movement, apologists of ‘Uche Nwosu must be Governor in 2019’ at the burial of Alex Mbata’s mother at Ngwoma, Owerri North Local Government,
in which the highly revered cleric was verbally abused for stating his displeasure at the pitiable state of affairs in the state as well as telling Uche Nwosu that he can never be governor of the state come 2019.
The present administration in Imo State in the bid to remodel the capital city through its urban renewal programme has embarked on demolition exercise of both properties and markets which have gravely affected the people, as most of them have had their means of livelihood destroyed.
The banning of tricycle in the capital city will be another nightmare that will also haunt Okorocha in his 2019 chances, as that policy removed food from the table of most citizens of the state. Considering the fact that then, tricycle operation was the highest employer of labour in the state.
With its ban, the life of the operators and their dependents further deteriorated. Painting of commercial vehicles at throat- cutting cost, uncompleted projects scattered across the state as well as 30 percent deduction of workers’ salaries are nagging issues that pose threats to Okorocha’s ambition in 2019.
Come 2019, it will also be pay-back time from the people of Owerri Federal Constituency for the humiliation they suffered in the hands of the governor over the impeachment of Chief Jude Agbaso. Just as men and issues are striving to thwart Okorocha’s 2019 ambition, he is also fighting desperately hard to prove to Imo citizens that he came, saw and conquered.
If the Senator wants to return to the Senate, it still conflicts with Okorocha’s 2019 plan, as he sees Orlu senatorial seat as a compensation for him, and a waiting process ahead of 2023 for the Presidency of the country. So, the coming of Uzodinma to the ruling APC, is not, from all indications favourable to Governor Okorocha and his ambition, hence, the ruling APC in the state denied not being aware of the entry of Uzodinma and his loyalists into APC.