Okorocha: End of an empire

Posted by News Express | 13 March 2019 | 2,131 times

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•Governor Okorocha

Steve Uzoechi writes on the crumbling of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s political dynasty, following the defeat of his anointed candidate and son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, in last weekend’s governorship election in Imo State. 

In 2011 when Rochas Okorocha, like a hurricane, swept into office as governor of Imo state, expectations were high and many believed the long-awaited watershed for Imo has finally come.
Okorocha rode on the wing of massive public goodwill and people’s power to office and many hoped he understood the gesture.

As governor-elect, he started by freezing the account of the state while there was still a sitting governor whose tenure was yet to elapse.

With a terse note signed by him and addressed to bankers of the state government, using the letterhead: ‘Office of the Governor-Elect’, Okorocha ordered the freezing of the accounts of Imo state government.

In spite of such early signs, the people still gave him the benefit of doubt and cheered every action in those early days, as bizarre as some seemed.
He ran government by impulse jettisoning protocols and processes; he called himself an ‘unusual politician’ but Imo still didn’t get his drift.
From a first term that left so much on the pipeline, Imo still gave Okorocha a second berth.

Efforts were made, projects were on ground, and money was deployed but the end results always left so much to be desired.
Imo could not easily put a finger to the problem of their darling governor. But not long after, poor quality projects, administrative incompetence, disregard for critical institutions, insensitivity to the people’s priorities began to dominate Okorocha’s government.
That was when he began to lose it; the beginning of the end, it was.

The people complained, shouted themselves hoarse, and then left the governor to his devices.
Yet Okorocha could not see it because he loved only the sound of his voice; he was his own best adviser. He threw his executive weight about without regard to who may get burnt. He drowned out the voice of Imo people and gave his ears to conscripted lackeys. It was obvious a storm was coming.

By the beginning of his second term, Okorocha’s family members became a serious talking point for being a part of every profitable government business, peddling influence and allegedly dominating contracts in government circles.
While Imo people were still grumbling over the exploitative activities of his siblings and immediate family, Okorocha further overreached himself by slamming his son in-law on the face of Imo people as his ‘successor in waiting’.

National leadership of his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) , stakeholders in the state, National Assembly members of his party and other segments of Imo society urged Okorocha to jettison the idea of enthroning his son in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor against the state’s Charter of Equity, but Okorocha would not hear any of it.

Several leaders of his party in the state were maligned by government for questioning the rationale behind an Uche Nwosu governorship by the APC in Imo state.
At some point, even his hitherto loyal and tame Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere spoke up against the governor’s descent to ‘family-centred’ governance and that nearly earned him an impeachment. At that point Madumere parted ways with his political associate (Okorocha) of 25 years.

Leaders and pressure groups from different zones of the state in the party began to play up the issues of marginalization of Owerri and Okigwe zone and Okorocha’s plot to perpetuate himself in office using Uche Nwosu, as a dependable proxy.

Okorocha’s emergence as governor ran against the Imo Charter of Equity that encourages fair and equitable sharing of power across the three political zones that make up the state – Orlu, Owerri and Okigwe.

Thus Okorocha’s resolve to return his son in-law, Uche Nwosu who is also from Orlu zone as his successor, was a slight on the people of Okigwe and Owerri zone particularly.
Since 1999, Orlu zone has governed Imo for 16 years; Okigwe zone governed for four years with Owerri zone yet to have a taste of power since Nigeria’s return to democracy 20 years ago.

So Okorocha’s insistence on enthroning his son in-law as his successor, against sound judgment, stoked fiery political sentiments against his government and drew countless adversaries against his political empire.

Stakeholders and power brokers in some of the strategic power blocs in the state unapologetically dumped the Okorocha political family (Rescue Mission team) and waged a relentless war on Okorocha under a new platform, the Imo Restoration Coalition.
No fewer than 40 political leaders of the APC walked away from Okorocha and his government repudiating the Uche Nwosu governorship project as insensitive and high-handed.

Beside Okorocha’s Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere, such leaders as Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and Senator Hope Uzodinma both of who ran for the governorship of the state, dumped Okorocha and his political family to join the coalition that eventually led to the upstaging of Okorocha during the party’s governorship primaries which saw Senator Hope Uzodinma outwitting Okorocha to bag the APC governorship ticket in Imo.
The new coalition was most instrumental to the dismantling of Okorocha’s political empire. The coalition was almost always a step ahead of Okorocha in the intrigues, media visibility, lobbying and feeding and convincing the National Chairman of their party, Adams Oshiomhole with their own version of the truth.

Okorocha, who often appears steeped in self-adulation, did not know when the noose went round his neck.
And by the time he roused to the realities on ground, the coalition had eaten deep into his political structure across the state and when eventually the controversial governorship primary of the APC came, the party ticket swung in favour of the coalition and Senator Hope Uzodinma emerged the governorship candidate of APC in Imo state.

It was a massive hit on Okorocha and his followers. Rather than cut his losses and take it in good fate, crude desperation got the better of the governor and he went shopping for another governorship ticket for  his son in-law, from another party.
He got the ticket in Action Alliance but it was yet too early to foresee the intrigues and shenanigans he would have to contend with down the line.

Within the period Senator Ifeanyi Araraume bagged the governorship ticket of the All Progressive Grand Alliance and the frontiers of the impending political war expanded further.
While Araraume gave Okorocha a good run for his money in robust media engagements, Senator Hope Uzodinma inflicted the deepest cut by snatching the coveted party ticket from Uche Nwosu.

Whatever be the case, Araraume would have been a huge political asset to Okorocha if he had remained in the Okorocha political family.

In spite of all the efforts of government at the time to dismiss Araraume’s exit from Okorocha’s political family as inconsequential, it easily comes to mind that it took Araraume for Okorocha to win his 2015 re-election in Okigwe zone of the state.

A review of last Saturday’s governorship election results indicate that the impact of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume of APGA and Senator Hope Uzodinma of APC in the election was substantial.
While Chief Emeka Ihedioha, the winner of the Imo governorship election beat his closest rival Uche Nwosu of AA with a margin of 83,050 votes, Senator Araraume and Senator Uzodinma’s vote haul of 114,676 and 96,458 respectively are more than sufficient to cancel out Ihedioha’s victory if Okorocha had been more politically tolerant and respectful of key stakeholders in the APC before the split.

Okorocha was certain he had the state under his thumb but on a fair appraisal, all he apparently had was the mighty war chest, the state coffers represents.

Before the election, Okorocha was fighting on all fronts. He was at war with everyone that could ask question and add value within his political space – a sharp disconnect with key players in the election process.

The governor was not in good terms with his party’s national leadership; his party in the state was already splintered; he did not have the confidences of the security agencies; he did not wield any control with the INEC leadership in the state and he was alienated from the people of Imo state.

The only thing he had was money. And it is possible; he did not understand the limitations of money. So much fund was deployed by the governor through trusted aides yet so little was achieved in comparism to the size of fund deployed for the election.
When the dust of last Saturday’s election settled and results came in, Okorocha’s crash was loud and heavy.
Imo people had made a huge statement, indicating that Okorocha learnt nothing from the experiences of former governor Ikedi Ohakim.
The humiliation stung and would stick to him like a second skin for a long time to come.

Okorocha’s twin project in 2019 was to produce a successor from his family and and to go to the Senate for Imo West. These would have given him good leverage to jumpstart his 2023 presidential bid.
Owing to poor counsel and leadership deficit, Nwosu’s governorship project is lost for good with Okorocha’s Senate bid standing precariously alone like a candle in the wind.

And in the words of one of Okorocha’s top aides who craves anonymity: “Last Saturday’s defeat, as bad as it is, is the price Okorocha has to pay for his yawning disconnect from the people that gave him so much. It is my prayer that the incoming governor, unlike Okorocha, will learn from the errors of his immediate predecessor else, same fate would await him at the end of the road.”

Sourced from a New Telegraph report

Source: News Express

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