Call him whatever you like: Rochas Okorocha, the L’Enfant terrible, the maverick, the governor of Imo State and many more. But those close to see always see him as an enigma. In Imo, his word is law. For a man who rose from rags to riches, he surely does bestride the narrow confines of Imo politics like a colossus.
He is one who likes to cut trouble from every front and few months ago it appeared that he has almost cowed everybody. Before he could wriggle himself out of one controversy, he is enmeshed in another but like the proverbial cat with nine lives, he always navigates himself to safety.
But recent events have begun to prove the contrary as all these powers are about to fizzle out like a candle in the wind if the outcome of the recent congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is anything to go.
Okorocha equates himself to a demigod, his critics always say. According to them, he seem to care less about what his people feel or say about him as far as his ego will carry. For him, money and what it can buy is everything but as the saying goes, there is always a day of reckoning.
For seven years, Okorocha has reigned supreme in Imo, brandishing his sword of Damocles on any obstacle on his way. Indeed he started losing the grove the moment he won the election in 2011. Even before being inaugurated, Okorocha ordered the freezing of all accounts belonging to the state government and in his maiden speech after swearing-in dissolved all the 21 elected local government areas.
Till date, that tier of government has been without elected representatives.
To Okorocha, the day of reckoning came gradually. The day Okorocha got the most shocking aspect in his life was when his most trusted aide and ally for many years, his deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, threw away the ‘muffler,’ he always hung around his neck. The muffler had become an insignia of loyalty to Okorocha. Madumere, who now dresses without the muffler around his neck, has also insisted that with or without Okorocha’s endorsement, he remained the next alternative to succeed him.
Okorocha himself had told journalists at one of his outings with them that he never knew that his deputy could raise a finger, not to talk of walking out on him. Those close to the duo said that Madumere had had to endure a lot of insulting moments from Okorocha’s loyalists, especially when he (Madumere) began to make his gubernatorial aspirations known. However, the last straw in their strained relationship was when Okorocha decided to dish out elective posts to his cronies. He announced his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor.
To Madumere, he gave the senatorial seat of Imo West and to himself, he arrogated the seat for Orlu senatorial zone.
But what appeared to be the beginning of an apparent end for the ‘Okorocha Dynasty’ began on April 24, 2018, when a group of APC members got disenchanted and decided to change the narrative in Imo. This group that metamorphosed into APC Restoration Coalition was led by his former Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr. Theodore Ekechi. They include notable APC stalwarts like National Organising Secretary, Osita Izunaso; Senators Ben Uwajumogu and Ifeanyi Araraume, Senator Hope Uzodinma, Chief Tony Chukwu, Chief Uzoma Obiyor, TETFUND Chairman, Hon Emeka Nwajiuba, Hon Jasper Azuatalam, Imo Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, Sir Jude Ejiogu, Hon Longers Anyanwu, and many others.
In their famous Imerienwe declaration, the coalition rose in stout opposition to Okorocha’s stranglehold on the party and to wrestle it from him. In a 21-day ultimatum, the group asked Okorocha to end his alleged “tyranny, intimidation and harassment” of coalition members. Above all, the group asked Okorocha to drop his ambition of making his son-in-law his successor.
The move by the coalition members followed a chain of events in which hard-line supporters of Okorocha began some form of tactical withdrawal. Those who hitherto appeared to be in limbo, perhaps waiting if they could still be accommodated in the scheme of things, suddenly woke up from their hallucination.
Four days later, another group of stakeholders converged on the country home of Dr. Uzoma Obiyor at Ikeduru and unanimously passed a no confidence vote on the Okorocha and his government.
The stakeholders also dissociated themselves and the state chapter of the party from what they described as “the ignoble policies and programmes of Okorocha’s administration,” which they viewed as “”anti-people, unpopular, and retrogressive,” and agreed to take the party from him and give it back to the people.
The final onslaught however was the party congresses. In a well mapped-out and orchestrated manoeuvre, the stakeholders, now metamorphosed as the ‘Allied Forces’ formed a formidable force to ensure that they use the congress to get hold on the party structure in Imo.
Their test-run was the ward congress of May 5. After the drama that attended that congress and the eventual acceptance of the exercise by the party’s electoral appeal panel and by extension the National Working Committee, NWC of the party, Okorocha knew that the game was up.
Buoyed by the success of that congress, the ‘Allied Forces’ gathered more strength to ensure that the subsequent local government and state congresses went their ways.
Though Okorocha has gone to court to challenge the outcome of the congress, the game appeared to have changed. Apart from recourse to court of law, Okorocha has been running from Daura to Abuja to complain to whoever cared to know about his dilemma.
But he appeared to have been told in no clear terms that his desire to foist his son-in-law on the state may not be a popular decision. More worrisome to him is the taciturnity of the party’s bigwigs, including President Muhammadu Buhari, his Vice Yemi Osinbajo and the party’s National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. In fact, Okorocha had laid his present predicament on the doorstep of the national chairman, who he accused of extracting his own pound of flesh because of the fall-out of the plan to usher in new NWC members of the party.
Since the trouble began, Okorocha has been linked with many stories about his desire to dump APC if only to realise his ambition of installing his son-in-law as his successor. He has been rumoured to have approached the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, a party he was alleged to have promised a grandiose sum if only they could hand the governorship ticket to him. Recent reports are also linking him to Olusegun Obasanjo’s new movement or to the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
But Okorocha has said that he has no plans to go to any other plan. Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, the governor said that stories linking him to APGA or any other party for that matter were part of the plot of the ‘aggrieved’ stakeholders to further their nest.
Political analysts, however, posit that it may not be the end yet for Okorocha as he may have many aces up his sleeves. To get back his stronghold on the party, even without waiting for the outcome of the court process, the governor was said to have appointed an acting Chairman to replace his prodigy, Hillary Eke, who joined the ‘Allied Forces.’ Chris Oguoma, who was said to have lost the state congress election was reported to have been appointed the acting chairman of the party.
As the dramatis personae slug it, administration in the state has been in limbo. Abuja has now become the new abode of the combatants. Efforts are now being concentrated on getting the ward congress invalidated and new congresses conducted than actual governance. However, in the weeks to come, it will be interesting to know how the governor will resolve this apparent imbroglio.
However, the convener of the coalition, TOE Ekechi, has this message to APC leadership on the Imo logjam: “If the president allows himself or the machinery of the party to be manipulated to the extent that Uche Nwosu becomes the party’s flag bearer in 2019, APC should very well say bye bye to Imo state.”