Published On: Sun, Mar 11th, 2018

Okorocha’s revolution in crisis: Opposition to succession swells

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Imo State under Owelle Rochas Okorocha is now hardly out of the headlines, and often for the wrong reasons. Last week, it was about the harassment of the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Diocese, Most Rev. Anthony Valentine Obinna who was allegedly assaulted by thugs loyal to the governor’s son-in-law and governorship hopeful, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu.

Rochas (i) and Son-in-law                                              gistlover.com

The Archbishop was reportedly attacked during a burial service of Late Mrs. Juliana Mbata, mother of the Pro-Chancellor of Imo State University, Owerri, Chief Alex Mbata at the St. Micheal’s Catholic Church, Ngwoma, Owerri North LGA of the state. He had, during his sermon, admonished people to go out and get their permanent voters cards and vote wisely in the 2019 general election, while pointing out some of the failures of the Okorocha government.

Angered by his preaching, the ruling party’s loyalist were said to have charged towards him. And it only took the intervention of Catholic Priests, Knights and Christian fathers, who shielded him to save him from being beaten up. Imo, from many accounts, is a state descending into a dictatorship. And for residents, it is a case of a promised rescue mission gone to the winds.

“Okorocha is a disaster, an irreversible disaster. Electing him was a mistake that Imo people regret with every fibre of their being,” fumed APGA chieftain, Barr. Okey Okoroji.

On the back of popular support, Okorocha rode to power in 2011 with a promise to rescue the state from poor governance. The masses had become sufficiently disoriented after the below par performance of Achike Udenwa who was at the helm for eight years, and his successor, Ikedi Ohakim who had done an unimpressive first term and was seeking a mandate revalidation.

Okorocha flying the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) flag, a party that was on ascendancy and was popular with the people, attracted massive grassroots support- he later abandoned the the party for the All Progressives Congress (APC). He was, as many believed, a philanthropist who had the interest of the people at heart. Thus, his promise of rescue mission easily resonated. The masses rallied behind him, and against all odds he came out with a victory over the incumbent Ohakim of the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

It has been seven years since then; seven years of Okorocha’s unraveling. Today, that promise of a “rescue” exists mainly on billboards. It is a rescue mission gone awry, one characterised by policy somersaults, execution of substandard projects and owing salaries of workers and pensioners. The poor and the downtrodden who constitutes the bulk of his support base have been on the receiving end.

“Against all expectations, Chief Rochas Okorocha won seven years ago,” noted Chief Goddy Uwazurike, president emeritus of Aka Ikenga. “The then governor did not challenge him in court. He said he will not challenge him.

“Now towards the end of his regime, we are having all kinds of precarious situations. In simple language, Imo state is just waiting so that this regime will pass over.”

But his loss of goodwill was not immediate. His populist programmes such as the introduction of free education up to university level, as well as his ability to show semblance of performance helped to sustain a section of his support base, even till 2015.

To be fair however, the governor did some impressive works within the Owerri metropolis. Expanded roads and beautiful roundabouts have given the capital city a huge facelift. Beyond Owerri, he tarred numerous other roads, built hospitals and of course, erected statues.

He continues to claim to have done better than any governor in the state’s history. He is probably right, he has done more roads than any, at least since 1999. He has built more hospitals than any, although most have been overgrown by weeds and almost all are inhabited by lizards. Apparently, he pays more attention to quantify than quality. Many of the roads built early in his administration are already riddled with pot holes. He continues to build more nonetheless, indeed many more.

Okorocha is generally accused of executing poor quality projects, but that’s not the only case against him. His penchant for owing workers or paying incomplete salaries have ensured that workers complain unending, and the economy is largely comatose, just as his idea of occupying government positions with his family has earned him criticisms.

In terms of rescuing people from poverty, the governor, it would seem, has mainly managed to rescue his immediate and extended family who are presently occupying plumb positions in government, much to the chagrin of others.

And as he plans to exit the stage next year, he is also strategically planning to firmly establish his family as the rulers of the state. Imo, many say, has become an empire state with Okorocha as the emperor and his people the ruling clan. It is such an aberration in a land never ruled by kings in its entire history. But even within the family, crisis is rearing its head as the scramble for positions take a toll.

Two weeks ago, Okorocha at the inauguration of members of Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC) at Government House Owerri, officially shared key positions of governorship and senate to himself and his cronies.

The former, he reaffirmed, will go to his son-in-law, Mr. Nwosu who currently serves as his chief of staff and has a convoy as long as his. The Imo East senatorial seat currently occupied by Senator Sam Anyanwu, he said, will go to the deputy governor, Eze Madumere, while himself will take the Imo West senatorial seat currently held by Hope Uzodinma, to, according to him, “prevent bad people from occupying it,” and ultimately bid his time until 2023 when he will run for office of president.

“If Uche Nwosu will be home for governor, I will tell the deputy governor to go to Senate,” he said.

“I told you earlier that my interest is the Presidency but since President Buhari will be running in 2019 I decided to put my ambition on hold until he completes his tenure. But I have decided to run for the Imo West Senatorial zones because if I don’t, bad people will take the position.

“If my name appears on the ballot paper as contesting for Senate, it will boost APC chances in the State. And many from my Senatorial zone have come to me and said they will not contest if I am interested.”

He left out the Imo North position occupied by an APC senator, Ben Uwajimogu, his close ally. But even so, he is rumoured to have penned down one Prof. Obiageli for the position, one that has not gone down well with Senator Uwajimogu.

In an interview with a national daily recently, he noted that the governor would fail if he attempts to impose his son-in-law on Imo people, and will equally face resistance if he decides to “foist Prof. Obiageli on the people of Imo North.”

“I’m also surprised just like many over the statement credited to Governor Rochas Okorocha,” Uwajimogu reportedly said. “Prof Obiageli who is running as a proxy of Okorocha is going round Okigwe zone claiming to be the next Senator that will represent them in the 9th Senate.

“My reaction is that it is a tragedy because the governor appears not to realise that in a democracy he doesn’t have the capacity to determine who will represent Imo North at the National Assembly in 2019.”

Yet, within the governing family, Mr. Nwosu is not the only one eyeing the state’s top job. Mr. Chucks Ololo, his brother-in-law and husband of the state’s Commissioner of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment, Ogechi, is also said to be interested, while the deputy governor, Madumere has vowed to fight on.

Last week, Wednesday, he (Madumere) was endorsed by youths of oil communities in the state under the auspices of Niger Delta Youths Forum.

Resentment towards the governor has continued to build. Guber candidate of the Labour Party in the state in 2015, Barrister Ngozi Olehi, described his government as a “curse,” and his claim of massive infrastructural development as “a scam.”

Within the APC, his party, his decision to back Nwosu is being intensely resisted. The party, last week, officially said no to it.

In a predominantly Catholic state, the recent spat with Archbishop Obinna is sure to turn even the neutrals against him. The administration had denied the reported attack as untrue, but the Archbishop himself confirmed in a statement by Director of Media and Communications of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, Rev Fr. George Nwachukwu, that he was “insulted and assaulted by the APC members.”

Despite the resentment however, he is poised to have his way, and continued to lay claim to stellar accomplishments, which is comparatively true because the two governors before him performed poorly, even as he denied owing workers in the state.

“The man is developing Imo, it is not everybody that will be happy, but we are focused on developing Imo,” his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo told BusinessHallmark.

“We do not owe any worker, you can find out. We don’t tell lies; we are up to date with salary payment. It is only pensioners that we owe few months and we are working to clear it.”

Chief Goddy Uwazurike

But Uwazurike insists the governor’s days are numbered.

“Power corrupts and absolute power consumes the holder,” he noted. “What do I mean by that? When you think that you have it all; when you are satisfied that you are the alpha and the omega; when you are satisfied that your word is law, that whatever you say must happen, then you are walking on the precipice.

“If you listen to people, you will step back from the precipice. If you don’t listen to people, you will believe in your own immortality and that is when the person jumps off the precipice. That’s the only way I can describe what is happening in Imo State.”

Okorocha was once his people’s “my governor, my governor.” But there is no longer any love lost. He is the most ridiculed governor in the South East. However, this cannot be on account of lack of performance in terms of infrastructure. For indeed, a trip around the state would easily show he has worked by the prevailing standards.

In 2013, Okorocha abandoned APGA for the APC. He has continued to hug the party and President Muhammadu Buhari. This seems to be the people’s major grouse with him. Added to it is his penchant for nepotism and taking actions before thinking them through.

 

 

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