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Uzodinma takes all, shuns Okorocha, son-in-law, others in appointments

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Face-off gradually leading to the political cold war

From all indications, there appears to be no love lost between Imo State Governor Hope Odidika Uzodinma, a former governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, guber candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2019 governorship election, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, and Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu. While Okorocha replaces Uzodinma in the senate (Imo West – Orlu), Ararume had also represented Imo North (Okigwe) Senatorial District from 1999 through 2007.

But, after the initial disaffection in the political marriage of the two camps with the above protagonists, which played out in the fight for prominence in who occupies the governorship office, they all wanted to install their preferred candidate/s. They seemed to have come together in Uzodinma’s ousting of Emeka Ihedioha via the Supreme Court. But something different is currently playing out.

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It manifested when the trio of Okorocha, Ararume and Nwosu, whom his father-in-law Okorocha, fought hard to install, attended the swearing-in of Uzodinma at Heroes’ Square, Owerri, on January 15. Historically, during last year’s political campaigns, Okorocha had cast aspersion on Uzodinma, despite that, both were in the same political party. It got so bad that two different officials were dispatched from Abuja to organise guber primaries in the state. The one led by Ahmed Gulak returned Uzodinma, as the standard-bearer while the other declared Nwosu as a candidate.

The division led to two major camps (Camp Hope and Rescue Mission of Okorocha). After seemingly futile political efforts, Nwosu pitched tent with Action Alliance (AA) and became its standard-bearer. Thereafter, two APC factions emerged (one led by Marcellinus Nlemigbo, formed by Camp Hope, and the other chaired by Daniel Nwafor, for Okorocha’s Rescue Mission).

It got to such sour point that the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, who had strongly supported Uzodinma, visited the state to campaign and hand the flag to the former, but Okorocha, who was at the twilight of his administration, allegedly denied Uzodinma, Oshiomhole and other supporters opportunity to use the Dan Anyiam Stadium facility for the campaign. This made Uzodinma, Oshiomhole, and others hold the event along Okigwe Road, a development that caused vehicular and human traffic.

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However, Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) governorship candidate, Ihedioha, was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This put both Okorocha and his son-in-law in political abeyance. On assumption of office, Ihedioha constituted a recovery of the assets task force, headed by Jasper Ndubuaku, to recover over 60 vehicles among others allegedly in possession of his predecessor. It was hard to achieve as Okorocha never allowed them to enter his private premises.

Therefore, when the issue of Uzodinma versus Ihedioha in the Supreme Court came up, Okorocha and his son-in-law, Nwosu, supported Uzodinma in the hope that if he became governor, he would appoint their preferred candidates/loyalists into political positions of trust and also protect him.

But with the recent scenarios, it is evident that the governor only appointed his core loyalists and supporters as 24 commissioners and 89 Special Advisers, and Senior Special Assistants indicate. Also, sources from Okorocha confided in The Guardian that all the 27 chairmen of the 27 LGAs and about 645 councillors who were elected during Okorocha’s administration in 2018 but sacked by Ihedioha, in June 2019, were going to be reinstated by Uzodinma. All expectations of Okorocha and his men were dashed by Uzodinma when these appointments were made, though lots of special assistants are yet to be assigned portfolios as at the time of filing this report.

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Both Ararume and Nwosu have returned to the fold of APC. But their marriage seems to have been politically divorced as no one sees Okorocha, Ararume and Uzodinma together in public places these days. Something is said to be causing the division, with Nwafor said to have renewed factionalization, claiming to be the authentic chairman of the party’s state chapter.

It is instructive to note that when the Primate of Anglican Communion in Nigeria, Archbishop Henry Ndukuba, an indigene of Imo State, visited Uzodinma a few weeks ago, he said: “Imo State is endowed with abundant capital and human resources, but has suffered due to bad leadership.

“The task is enormous and you cannot do it alone. Open your heart to receive everybody, even those that do not belong to your party. We will continue to pray for you and hope that Imo will be better under your watch.”

Uzodinma assured him that he would partner with all, saying: “Imo is in a total state of disrepair. The morale and confidence of our people are low. As a government, we will restore our institutions that are almost comatose. Imo will bounce back to life under my watch.

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“We shall partner with you to improve our education system. Arrangements will be made to engage some of our priests on a part-time basis to teach in our schools. This will help to instil morality and bring back discipline to our schools.”

At the swearing-in, Uzodinma had warned: “It is important that you don’t take the oath of office as a mere ritual; you must take every word there seriously. You owe it a duty to Imo people and God to ensure that you don’t fail in your assignment. You are now a magnifying glass with which the public will see our government.

“Your actions and inactions going forward from today matter a lot. All those things you have done in the past that did not matter before matter now. You must watch what you say or do as a government representative. Any action that is capable of bringing the government to ridicule will be unacceptable to us. They must have been equipped with new and modern innovations that will help drive the economy of the state.

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“You must constantly bear in mind that the only way you can instil discipline in your place of work, be it ministry or agency is to be an epitome of discipline yourselves.”

An exhibition of annoyance of the Rescue Mission Camp was the vehement opposition to the appointment of the 27 chairmen of LGA Interim Management Committees, neglecting the elected council chiefs sacked by Ihedioha. The embattled men issued a statement signed by Emeka Osuorji, claiming to be Imo State Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), rejecting Uzodinma’s action.

It read partly: “ALGON Imo State chapter has received with dismay, shock and consternation the announcement of Transition Committee Chairmen in the 27 Local Government Councils of Imo State by His Excellency Senator Hope Uzodinma. Our surprise only stems from the fact that we had thought that the governor His Excellency Hope Uzodinma would have attempted to do things differently being a product of law and justice. 

“However, ALGON Imo State chapter wishes to inform the good people of Imo State as follows: that we condemn the illegal appointment of Transition Committee Chairmen in Imo State in its entirety as it is a legal aberration and judicial blunder to any known law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

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“That the governor, His Excellency Hope Uzodinma lacks moral and administrative jurisdiction to ignore the position of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Mohamadu Buhari as conveyed to the governor of Imo State through the chief law officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice same day the Supreme Court declared him the governor of Imo State wherein the governor was informed that neither the state government nor the state House of Assembly has the power to sack elected officials of the local governments and was consequently expressly instructed to reinstate the hitherto suspended council chairmen of Imo State. 

“That being members of the same political party – the All Progressives Congress (APC) – it is very harsh for the governor to have disengaged his party men for no known offences committed. 

“That the governor, has declared a total lockdown in Imo State and going ahead with the announcement and swearing-in of the Transition Committee Chairmen is not in line with leadership best practices. 

“That the governor, has made it clear in his maiden broadcast to the people of Imo State and in a meeting with all the executive chairmen of Imo State on Friday, 17 January 2020 that he would not consider the use of Transition Committee hence it is illegal and turn around to constitute the same structure really leaves much to be pondered upon. 

“That while pledging our unalloyed loyalty to our great party (APC), ALGON Imo State is determined more than ever before to use every legal means to reclaim the mandate given to them through a validly conducted local government election on 25 August 2018.”

It is yet to be seen how the political equation and pendulum will swing as time goes on.

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