Despite peace meeting, Southeast APC remains fractured
• Uzodimma vs Okorocha rift deepens
Last week, bigwigs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Southeast geopolitical zone met in Owerri, capital of Imo State, essentially to identify the grey areas inhibiting the growth of the party.
Though some elected and appointed political office holders failed to attend, those present were the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; member of the House of Representatives, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; the Managing Director, Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu; former deputy governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere. Others were Senators Andy Uba, Tony Nwoye, and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, who was represented by Senator Anthony Agbo, among others.
Those who were visibly absent were a former two-term governor of Imo State (now Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District and Senate Committee Chairman, Culture and Tourism), Rochas Okorocha; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; Senate Chief Whip, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu; Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume, who contested the December 5, 2020, Imo North Senatorial District bye-election and others.
No doubt, Okorocha’s absence was expected in view of the rift between him and Uzodimma, leading to the legion of verbal attacks between them.
On his part, Ararume was not expected to sit in the same arena with Uzodimma, considering the accusations and counter-accusations between them. This is against the background of the governor’s support for Frank Ibezim, Ararume’s opponent in the bye-election. Uzodimma has continued to insist that the party recognises only Ibezim as an APC candidate for that election.
Nwajiuba, who also comes from the same zone as Ararume, also supported Ibezim against the two-term senator, who is angling to return to the Senate for the third time.
At the end of the brain-storming session, key stakeholders such as Uzodimma, Onu, Nnamani, and Umahi (represented) made known their positions. They centred their comments on genuine reconciliation among aggrieved members, how to ensure that the APC wins the Anambra governorship election coming up later in the year, and registration of members at unit levels to ascertain the numerical strength of the party in the five states of the zone.
Uzodimma stated that the party has what it takes to dominate the zone and asked for all to work towards the upcoming Anambra governorship poll. He advocated for “genuine reconciliation, unity and brotherly love.”
According to the Imo governor: “I believe that winning Anambra governorship will make the party stronger in the zone. And we can only succeed in doing this through genuine reconciliation and unity among members of the party.
“The problem confronting APC in Southeast is a grievance, and we must begin today to address it. This will help our party. We need to reconcile all aggrieved members. Our party would be stronger and we urge all of you to help secure victory in Anambra.”
Onu also spoke passionately about the unity of purpose: “Southeast people are yearning for APC; this is the reason that APC would win the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election.
“People of the Southeast want APC. This is why we must be united and be at peace with one another. We must be united to achieve our aims. We will make sure Southeast APC controls Anambra.”
Nnamani, on his part, noted the need to fortify the party politically from the unit level, where voting takes place. He appealed to stakeholders to take membership registration seriously.
Umahi, represented by Agbo, said he was glad to be associated with APC key stakeholders from the zone after recently joining, describing them as “progressive members.”
The Ebonyi governor used the forum to disabuse the minds of those who believe that he was not on good terms with Uzodimma, assuring to work with the Imo governor to uplift the party.
After all the talks, the stakeholders departed Owerri, but without addressing the rift between Okorocha and Uzodimma on one hand and that of Ararume and the Imo governor on the other. In fact, ill-feelings have since deepened among the three bigwigs.
For instance, Okorocha, noted for not mincing words, accused Uzodimma of reducing the value of the party, describing it as being rootless and not standing firmly in the state since the governor assumed office.
Okorocha’s reaction is an offshoot of the numerous political quarrels between him and Uzodimma, including the recent decision by the national leadership of the APC to sack states’ executives.
Other issues include the state government’s determination to implement the various panels’ reports to recover both alleged funds and properties (lands inclusive) misappropriated and illegally acquired during the eight years of Okorocha (from 2011-2019).
Another area Okorocha will not forgive Uzodimma is the demolition of the former governor’s legacy projects, such as the massive Somto Hospital building (not fully completed), situated in the premises of Ekeukwu Owere Market on Douglas Road, Owerri. At twilights of his administration, Okorocha had hurriedly constructed the massive structure in remembrance of a 10-year old boy, Somto, who was shot dead by yet-to-be-identified security personnel during the demolition of the market. The statue was unveiled by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo just before Okorocha left office.
But Uzodimma’s government, which has since returned the market to its former location, faulted the statue for its structural defects, saying that hoodlums had turned the place into their hideout where they perpetrated heinous crimes. Apart from that, the seven roundabouts constructed during the Okorocha administration were demolished last December. The uzodimma-led government said the roundabouts were not modern and befitting enough for Owerri metropolis.
Also, a tunnel on Port Harcourt Road, Owerri, constructed at about N300 million by the Okorocha administration was demolished by the present administration. Structural defects were also cited as the reason.
Okorocha, in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media), Sam Onwuemeodo, cried foul, appealing to Uzodimma to stop the siege on his legacy projects, saying the administration was wasting state resources in demolishing monuments designed to beautify the state capital.
Okorocha, Uzodimma’s factions
CONSEQUENCTLY, the two factions of the party, one chaired by, Dan Nwafor, with loyalty to Okorocha, and the other chaired by Marcellinus Nlemigbo, with the backing of Uzodimma, are still at loggerheads over who controls the party structure in the state. The national leadership, not minding the interpretation of the courts’ pronouncements on the side of Nwafor, after dissolving states’ executives, appointed Nlemigbo to head the party in the state. This action has caused another political minus as Okorocha’s arch supporters and followers are not ready to yield.
Okorocha’s statement condemning the demolition of his legacy projects said: “It has become diametrically necessary to appeal to the governor of lmo State, Chief Hope Uzodinma, to stop demolishing Senator Rochas Okorocha’s projects, which he built for lmo people and indeed for the development and progress of the state, especially when the governor is not building any and is not likely to build any.
“On Tuesday, December 22, 2020, the governor again deployed caterpillars to demolish the befitting Orlu Road/Assumpta Roundabout, which Okorocha had constructed to ease traffic congestion that had been the situation there, before his coming as governor. He not only constructed the roundabout but also made Bank Road 8-lane.
“Governor Uzodinma had chosen to demolish the roundabout this Christmas season when the state is expected to witness an influx of vehicles. And he demolished the roundabout without telling lmo people why he did that and what he intends to do with the place.
“Before the demolition of the roundabout in question, Governor Uzodinma had demolished another gigantic project of Okorocha called the Akanu lbiam Tunnel, built at the House of Assembly/Port Harcourt Road junction. Okorocha had equally built the tunnel to ostensibly save lives, because, before the erection of the tunnel, people had lost their lives at that spot.”
Okorocha came down hard on Uzodimma’s government, describing it as a ‘government of demolition’ that is not ready to do anything for Imo people, adding that “demolishing existing projects or structures without building any is alien or strange to good governance. It is not a healthy development.”
The statement concluded: “May the good Lord continue to bless the Ogboko-born former governor for working for lmo people with a high sense of responsibility and dedication. It is not easy. If it is easy, let them construct one fresh or virgin road. And not ‘patch-patch’”.
Uzodimma swiftly replied Okorocha, stressing that he would not be intimidated by any threat, stressing that he came to serve Imo people and not any individual. In fact, in his recent reaction, Uzodimma’s Senior Special Assistant (Print media), Modestus Nwankpa, reminded Okorocha that he was no longer the governor of the state, saying his cry was that of “a drowning man.”
He also reminded the former governor that Uzodimma never interfered in his administration when he was in power for eight years, wondering why he was doing so now.
Being at loggerheads with the incumbent has become Okorocha’s forte. When Emeka Ihedioha took office for only seven months before being sacked by the Supreme Court, there was also a cat and mouse relationship between him and Okorocha on governance issues. With Uzodimma succeeding Ihedioha, Okorocha has found himself a new enemy.
Surprisingly, Okorocha and Uzodimma were close soon after the latter took office. Immediately the Supreme Court, on January 14, 2020, declared Uzodimma winner of the 2019 governorship election in Imo State, Okorocha was excited and was at the swearing-in ceremony of Uzodimma on January 15, 2020, at the Heroes’ Square, Owerri.
Everybody thought the duo would work together, not minding that they had exchanged heated arguments during the campaigns, when Okorocha supported his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to succeed him.
But trouble started as soon as Uzodimma settled for work and did not appoint Okorocha’s men into positions as commissioners, special advisers, and special assistants, not even as part of the interim management committee chairmen and members of the 27 local government councils.
In fact, from feelers available to The Guardian, Okorocha had expected that Uzodimma would reverse the sacking of the elected 27 council chairmen and councilors Okorocha appointed, which Ihedioha dissolved immediately he took over the office in 2019. But that didn’t happen.
For now, Imolites are spectators watching the unfolding drama between the two APC chieftains. However, what they wish for is that Okorocha would face his legislative duties in Abuja for Imo West Senatorial District and allow Uzodimma to govern without distractions. They also expect Uzodimma to face governance and ignore the former governor and his antics, so they could enjoy the dividends of democracy.
With that position, APC, their party, bears the brunt and refuses to know peace.