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Equity and an in-law’s gubernatorial ambition

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Rochas Okorocha

The endorsement of Uche Nwosu by his father-in-law and governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, as the next occupant of Douglas House, is raising questions about equity and justice in a state where one senatorial zone is being gradually edged out of political reckoning.

Speculations about the preferred choice of Imo State governor, Rochas Anayo Okorocha, among the long list of those aspiring to take over from him within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), ended last Tuesday as he announced his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as the anointed one.
     
At a meeting with members of the APC from Owerri Municipal Council Area, Okorocha whose second term tenure ends next year said his decision to support Nwosu, who also doubles as his Chief of Staff (COS), was because the latter has “the qualities of an ideal leader.”

     
The governor told the gathering of party faithful at the meeting, “The monumental achievements of my administration will not be left in the hand of anyhow person. The Chief of Staff has not told me he wants to run for the governorship but if he does signify, I will support him.
     
“Uche Nwosu is hardworking and never gets tired. He is a very humble young man, not proud and not arrogant. So, power won’t enter his head. Despite the position he occupies, you can’t see him quarrelling or maltreating anybody. He does not segregate against anybody. I have checked him in and out and I have not found him wanting.”

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If the Nwosu proposal scales through, Okorocha would have succeeded as one who produced his in-law as his successor and would have redefined the politics of Imo such that the governor is the sole determinant of the people’s electoral choice.
     
On several occasions, Okorocha had stated that he should be considered a political failure if he did not install a candidate of his choice as a successor. He also said that he did not want to repeat the political mistakes of his predecessors who, “out of political naivety,” were unable to anoint and groom their successors thereby creating “political ghosts” that haunt them after leaving office.
     
He has also vowed that he would not hand over to anyone above 50 years old and that his successor must have been a member of the Rescue Mission, another name he gave to his administration. Indeed, Okorocha has been grooming Nwosu, who fits into his description of a successor all along. From a political nobody, Nwosu has become a strong pillar in the politics of Imo and the administration of his father-in-law.
       
The Guardian gathered that Nwosu, who is a graduate of Computer Science from Imo State University (IMSU), was unemployed at a time but got engaged towards the end of the administration of former Governor Ikedi Ohakim in 2011.
     
That appointment was short-lived as Okorocha allegedly reversed it on assumption of office and Nwosu returned to the unemployment market. Fortunes however smiled on him when he ran into Okorocha’s first daughter, Ulomma and they got married amid stiff opposition from certain members of the first family who felt he was not somebody of note.
       
Soon, Okorocha made him the Deputy Chief of Staff in his office and in 2015, put his name forward as the Imo governorship aspirant of the APC to enable him (Okorocha) embark on the quest for the party’s presidential ticket. Nwosu won the governorship ticket but relinquished it to Okorocha after the botched presidential effort.
       
In appreciation of his loyalty, Okorocha promoted him to Commissioner of Lands and Urban Development and after a few months, made him the COS at the Government House. This rapid transformation and closeness to the governor earned Nwosu the support of various youths he has assisted with his growing influence.

How far can Okorocha go?

Those who have followed the politics of Okorocha since he became governor would affirm that his government revolves around his person. He carries his office anywhere he goes. It cannot be recalled whether his Deputy, Eze Madumere, who of course has been very loyal and supportive, ever acted as governor in Okorocha’s absence.
     
A source told The Guardian that personalizing the office is part of a strategy to ensure the actualization of anointing a successor and in the long run, cover some tracks.
   
The source stated that politicians in the state got wind of Okorocha’s plot to impose a successor early enough “when he started promoting his in-law rapidly and behaving like an emperor in office, especially after he won his reelection in 2015”
     
The source however said it would be difficult convincing the electorate to vote for Nwosu because of the state’s political peculiarities adding that Imo is not a core APC state and that the fact would be demonstrated during the elections next year.
       
He stated that the fact that Nwosu is an indigene of Eziama Obiere in Nkwere local council of Orlu senatorial zone, same zone as Okorocha, has dimmed his chances in the first place.

   
According to him, “A good number of Imo people will oppose anybody from Orlu zone coming out now to become governor. Okorocha hails from Orlu zone. He became governor in 2011 and by 2019; he would have done eight years.
     
“Former Governor Achike Udenwa from the same Orlu zone became governor in 1999 and left in 2007 after eight years. It goes to show that Orlu indigenes together governed Imo State for 16 years within the current political dispensation. Should Nwosu be entrusted with power, that will be another eight years and what it means is that a zone has dominated the politics of Imo.”
     
He however added that other senatorial zones such as Okigwe produced Ohakim (2007- 2011) and late Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe (1979-1983), an indication that Okigwe zone all together governed about 9 years, adding that should the state be talking about equity, it should look the way of Owerri senatorial district which has governed the state for only 15 months when the late Senator Evans Enwerem, (1991-1993) served as governor.
     
“That is why some of us felt that Madumere who hails from Owerri zone and has served as Deputy to Okorocha and has shown signs that he could lead, should naturally get his principal’s support. Madumere whether you like it or not, is loved by his people. He knows what it takes to be governor, he has known the mistakes of Okorocha and having been there since 2011, he has acquired enough experience.
     
“If Madumere has retained his position after Okorocha dumped Jude Agboso, despite all that his elder brother Martin did for him to win election, it means that Madumere can be trusted with power. Let him be used to compensate his people and with that, there will be less friction and the charter of equity would have been restored.”
   
But Okorocha denied that any such political charter of equity exists in the state. He in fact told the people several times that he never believed in it because it does not engender healthy competition and development.
     
He said, “As a politician, I can authoritatively tell you that any politician that gets into any political office based on zoning will be a clannish leader because he or she will channel all his energy in doing things that would satisfy his people. But when a politician is elected on popular demand, devoid of zoning, he or she will see the entire state as his own and treat every zone equally in the scheme of things.”
     
However stakeholders who are opposed to Okorocha’s position have begun to create awareness about some historical facts that are hinged on equity and demands for justice as reportedly contained in the Imo State Political Charter of Equity.
     
Former National Chairman of Justice Party, Chief Ralph Obioha, who is also an indigene of Orlu, in his reaction, said that Okorocha was sowing a dangerous seed in the politics of the state, adding, “Imo state is not a family business.
     
“We are all Orlu zone indigenes but we are not in an enterprise. The mere pronouncement evokes the feeling of hate and the fact that nobody matters any longer. That is not the way to play politics. Some years ago, no governor can think of such, particularly when a zone is complaining of not tasting the number one position. It is only in Nigeria and Imo that such can happen. What credential does Nwosu have that he will present to the public, where has he served before now and what are his track records?
     
“The governor is not saying the truth by denying the existence of charter of equity and I think that Imo people will resist him despite the level of hunger and poverty he has put the state into. Let the other zones go out and get somebody that will challenge and defeat his candidate, despite the huge state resources available to him.”
     
Also, a former Vice Chancellor, Prof Ukachukwu Awuzie has stated that it will be immoral and unacceptable for any Orlu son to aspire to be governor of Imo State in 2019. He said the people of the zone would not support the aspiration of any of its sons that wants to take over from Okorocha.

Political tension grips the state

Despite the endorsement, the battle of succession has reached a feverish pitch as the political landscape is witnessing heated debates on where the pendulum should swing and who is best to replace the governor.
     
While there are little political activities in other states of the Southeast in preparation for 2019 despite the release of election timetable, a visit to Imo showed that politicians there have gone almost full throttle into what they want to make out of next year.
       
Apart from talks and discussions across constituencies and movements into different political parties by politicians, there are open declarations to contest the governorship. Several billboards of politicians are beginning to adorn the nooks and crannies to announce aspirations or indicate availability by way of commending the governor and his administration.
     
There are those whose campaign billboards criticized the incumbent administration and showed why anybody in it should not be allowed to mount the state’s highest political saddle. They alleged maladministration and high handedness of the regime among others.
       
There are also billboards that specifically asked people of the state to support the aspiration of persons from a particular senatorial zone to enhance political equilibrium, adding that it was the only way to guarantee sense of belonging in the state.
         
Among the known aspirants are those regarded as “professional politicians” who have contested various elections since 1999 and some new entrants who have not run before. It was gathered that since Okorocha and former Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha have reportedly hijacked their political parties – the APC and PDP respectively, aspirants are defecting into other political parties like the APGA and UPP. The likes of Humphrey Anumude, Frank Nneji are said to have left for APGA with their entrance raising the ante.
       
From every indication, Madumere would likely join the race despite Okorocha’s refusal to endorse him. It is however not certain in which party he would fly the flag even as many political observers said he is most qualified to replace Okorocha.


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