Imo 2019: Can Okorocha’s In-law Succeed Him?
EMMANUEL MGBEAHURUIKE in this report writes on the raging opposition to the plot of Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, to install his in-law and current Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, as his successor next year The politically enlightened Imo State electorate appear to have one major issue agitating their minds as regards the 2019 general elections. While politicians angling for elective positions have commenced clandestine moves to realise their dreams, the centre of attraction across the 27 local government areas and 637 autonomous communities in the state is on the occupation of the number one seat in the state at the Douglas House (Government House), Owerri. Therefore, the poser is this: who succeeds incumbent governor Rochas Okorochas next year and from which particular Senatorial District-Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu? Okorocha, acclaimed as the political warlord of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East is from Ogboko, Ideato south council area which is Imo West. Expectedly, the countdown to the 2019 political battle has opened the floodgate for a deluge of gubernatorial contenders from the various registered political parties who have all thrown their hats in the ring for the plum job. However, the unfolding political drama within the APC political family seems to send an untoward signal that the ‘broom’ party might be heading to a state of atrophy and thus become a rudderless society. To be sure, the political firmament of the state, invariably known as Eastern Heartland, is getting messier by the day, following a strange novelty that has come to shape her politics. In all ideal contemporary democratic settings, primary elections by political parties usually precede the main elections organised in a level playing field to give all aspirants equal opportunities to prove their mettle. Regrettably, what is happening in Imo State is the opposite as Governor Okorocha has taken the bull by the horns to anoint his son- in-law-Uche Nwosu as his preferred successor. Nwosu, fondly called Ugwumba is the Chief of Staff to the governor and also the husband of the governor’s first daughter –Uloma. Nwosu had previously served as the commissioner for lands, survey and urban development in the Okoroch-led administration. As a maverick politician and a cat with nine lives who is both erratic and unpredictable, the governor has craftly floated a number of youth movements, women organisations and Vanguard groups that now navigate all nooks and crannies of the state, trumpeting the gospel of the Uche Nwosu’s governorship project. With buses, painted, embellished and decorated with imposing posters of the Ugwumba movement- the political campaign outfit of Uche Nwosu, Okorocha has gone the extra mile to secure the support and cooperation of the APC big wigs who have queued behind Nwosu with deluge and torrents of endorsement. Already, not a few indigenes of the state have seen this as an affront, sheer greed and primitive accumulation of power to ensure that power revolves within a particular dynasty. This is even as ripples generated within the APC enclave as a result of this has continued to vibrate with anger, bitterness and acrimony taking the centre stage. To be sure, the APC parades the largest number of governorship aspirants in the state including the State Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere. Madumere, who hails from Mbieri, in the Mbaitoli council area of the state which is Imo East is currently at daggers drawn with his boss for not supporting him to take over power in 2019. The youthful Madumere has since revived and fortified his political structure and oiled his machinery so as to secure the party’s ticket. Curiously, Okorocha amidst rabid opposition for the proposed governorship bid of his son in-law who incidentally is of the same Imo West with him is hell bent to foist him on the people. He has consistently argued that he (Ugwumba) is the only reliable party member with the potentials and capacity to sustain the legacies of his rescue mission administration after its exit from the pinnacle of power in 2019. LEADERSHIP had it on good authority that governor Okorocha secured the backing of the APC major stakeholders in the state to queue behind his son in-law with a promise to place them in sensitive positions and contract rewards should the project become a reality in 2019. The controversial Uche Nwosu governorship project has polarized the APC into two contradictory antagonistic camps with mutual recriminations, vacuum, rancor, bitterness and ill-will assuming a dangerous dimension. Thursday, 15th of March, this year opened another chapter in the endorsement business when 20, out of the 27 members of the State House of Assembly equally threw their weight behind Nwosu. The member for Oguta State constituency who is the Director General of the Ugwumba Movement Worldwide, Henry Uzoma Nwadiaro, told newsmen that the measure becomes inevitable for the sustenance of the enviable records of the APC-controlled government in the state. Amidst heated controversies associated with Okorocha’s endorsement of his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor next year, 20 out of the 27 members of the Imo state House of Assembly have thrown their weight behind the governor’s palpitation. The member for Oguta state constituency – Henry Uzoma Ezeediaro who is also the Director General of the Uche Nwosu campaign organization, ‘Ugwumba movement worldwide’ told newsmen in Owerri that the lawmakers resolved to endorse Nwosu because of their belief in his capacity to sustain the legacies of the APC-led administration in the state. Ezediaro listed the legislators who endorsed Nwosu to include: the deputy speaker of the House, Ugonna Ozuruigbo (Nwangele constituency); the former majority leader of the house, Luguard Osuji (Owerri Municipal); those of Owerri North, Oru East, Ideato North, Ngor Okpala, Isu and Njaba. Others were the members for Ihitte/Uboma, Owerri West, Orsu, Ohaji/Egbema, Ideato South, Ehime Mbano, Orlu, Onuimo, Nkwerre and Obowo as well as himself. “We have resolved to endorse Ugwumba Uche Nwosu because we believe that he is the only person that has the capacity to sustain the legacies of the Rochas Okorocha-led administration and since we, as members of the State House of Assembly, have the constitutional right to impeach the governor, we also have the right to back him”. According to Ezediaro, the resolution to endorse Nwosu was arrived at after one day crucial meeting presided over by the Speaker of the House – Rt. Hon. Acho Ihim. Ezediaro explained that the endorsement of Nwosu by the lawmakers was an outcome of wide consultation by the legislators with their constituents. “Since we were duly and constitutionally elected by our people to represent them for four years, we have the mandate to speak and to act for them and whatever we say/do represents their position. In politics, you cannot have 100% support, but when you succeed, you are expected to carry everybody along and as human beings, we are not infallible”. On the issue of gender disparity, Ezediaro contended that the state government had been gender sensitive, citing the numerous positions being occupied by women in the Rochas Okorocha-led administration as a case in point. “We should pay integrity and have a good reward for integrity, people who want to hijack power are afraid because they know that Uche Nwosu has all it takes to become the governor of this state”. On the position of the remaining 7 members of the House who are not part of the endorsement, Ezediaro said for now. “We cannot conclude that they are not with us, so let them speak for themselves. To demonstrate his seriousness over the choice of his son-in-law to take over power from him next year, Okorocha denied the recent media report especially on the social media credited to him that he has not endorsed him his successor, but is rather considering three people including Uche Nwosu, Prince Eze Madumere and Chike Okafor. Insisting that there is no truth whatsoever in the report, the Governor argued that If there was any atom of truth in that claim, it would not have been a side-talk thing. In a statement in Owerri Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo the chief press secretary to the governor explained that the governor endorsed Chief Nwosu and gave more than twenty solid reasons for doing so. According to him, also following the man’s endorsement students, women and youth groups and 24, out of the 27 Local Governments in the State have equally endorsed him. The statement reads in part “in the past 24 hours, Imo people in particular have been calling over the false Statement credited to the governor on the endorsement issue. We have been telling those who called to disregard that Statement and Continue to work and pray for Uche Nwosu. Like we had said in one of our media outings to that effect, the opposition in Imo is desperate and extremely worried because they are yet to see any of the aspirants who can beat Uche Nwosu either in the Primary or in the main election. They are stranded. Also, endorsements have been going on across the States, but in Imo, Uche Nwosu’s own endorsement is the one being celebrated and being talked about. In no distant time, we are going to respond to those talking about nepotism to prove to them that such issue is neither here nor there”. Onwuemeodo insisted that the issue of endorsement has been part of the nation’s Politics hence there is nothing strange about it. “It does not replace Party Primary or the INEC organized election. And Uche Nwosu will win the APC guber Primary and also win the election proper because human beings are involved in the two activities and not blackmail. Finally, the governor’s endorsement of Uche Nwosu was an open thing and if there is any counter development it should also be an open venture and not “corner-corner” thing. Imo people are desirous of who would sustain Governor Okorocha’s monumental achievements or even do more than him. And the person is Uche Nwosu. God bless Nigeria. God bless Imo State. God bless APC” he concluded. Interestingly, Nwosu has recently broken his silence on his rumoured governorship ambition, adding that his father in-law would not dictate his actions as a governor. Nwosu dismissed the insinuation doing the rounds in the state that he would be manipulated as a governor to do the biddings of his father in-law and governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha as another tool of blackmail employed by mischievous politicians who have been dislodged in the state. He argued that his governorship ambition was propelled by the conviction that he has the capacity to sustain and drive the new Imo hallmarked by massive infrastructure development, free education, wealth creation, security of lives and property and accountability, as well as the support of the people. The Chief of Staff whose ambition has been boosted by flurry of endorsements from across the state, as earlier stated said that being an in-law to the governor is just an added advantage to his ambition, stressing that he has garnered the leadership and administrative skills needed to govern a state like Imo. According to him, “but people will be saying that we do not want Uche Nwosu to be governor because he is Okorocha’s son in-law and if he becomes the governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha will manipulate him and tell him what to do. I tell you that if tomorrow they say Uche Nwosu is the governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha will not say let me give you list like other people do”. Nwosu added that, “of course being a son in-law to the governor does not stop me from doing what I am supposed to do as a Chief of Staff and a Staff of the state government”. He therefore challenged governorship aspirants in the state to discuss their plans and programmes for the people of the state instead of blackmailing him for being an in-law to the governor. The youthful Chief of Staff who has been endorsed by executives of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 22 Local Government Areas of the state, vowed that he cannot be intimidated by any form of blackmail, noting that he is in the governorship race on the strength of what his capacities and not just as a son in-law to the governor. He said, “yes I am a son in-law to Owelle Rochas Okorocha and I am very much proud to be his son in-law. Today in most of the countries of the world, let me just start with President Donald Trump, his son in-law is an adviser, he is a member of his cabinet, America never went up in flame. President Bush senior was the President and after his tenure, his son became President and America never went haywire. So being a son in-law to the governor does not stop Imo State from getting what they want to get, it does not stop the poorest of the poor in the state from having food on their table. What you should rather ask is what do you have for the people of Imo, forget about the issue of being a son in-law. “Being a son in-law to the governor is an added advantage because I have acquired knowledge. The Owelle I know (referring to Gov. Okorocha) cannot impose somebody on people. Naturally time will come when the people will choose who they want to govern them. When you talk about Uche Nwosu, most people leave the issue of Uche Nwosu, the name they attach to it is son in-law to the governor. Being a son in-law to the governor, does that stop me from being who I am as Uche Nwosu? Does being the son in-law to the governor stop me from doing what I want to do as Uche Nwosu? When has it become a sin to be an in-law to the governor? These are the questions we will ask ourselves. “People will forget that what the masses need and what the society need is somebody who can effect change, somebody who can put food on the table of the masses and somebody who can bring a new innovation and not somebody who will be making noise and shouting son In-law! Son in-law, that does not work, you are not telling the people what you have to give to them, so the issue of son in-law and my own personality as Uche Nwosu are two different things”. He stated further that, “of course people should have asked, as a son in-law or Uche Nwosu as a Commissioner what was I able to do in the Ministry of Lands?” “They should go back and check my records and legacy in that Ministry. As a Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations, they should ask themselves, what has this young man done? They should also ask themselves, as a Chief of Staff what was he able to give to the society.” Governor Okorocha is not a man that will bring you to his cabinet because he wants to favour you, you must have something upstairs for you to work with him”. Now with the galaxy of Nwosu endorsement, Imo electorate seem to have been thrown into trepidation and anxiety as they are worried that the system which has already been heated might bring some unanticipated political scenario.