By Lawrence Njoku
If the House of Assembly succeeds in impeaching his deputy, Eze Madumere, the Imo State helmsman, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, would make history as the only governor that impeached his two deputies in his eight years governorship.
Conversely, Madumere would also go down as the fourth deputy governor to be impeached in the Southeast zone since 1999 when the present democratic dispensation began. Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, former Enugu State deputy governor under the Sullivan Chime administration, was kicked out less than seven months to the end of their eight years tenure.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe became the first deputy governor to lose his seat by impeachment when his principal, Orji Uzor Kalu, found faults with his erudition. In his first term as governor, Okorocha instigated the impeachment of his deputy, Jude Agbaso, after using his elder brother Ochudo Martin Agbaso’s, structure to win the governorship in 2011.
In the case of Onyebuchi, whose impeachment was later to be upturned by the court, his “sin” had to do with alleged interest in the Enugu east senatorial seat, which was against the designs of his boss and then Chief of Staff, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwobodo. Based on alleged ownership and running of a poultry farm in his official residence, Onyebuchi was impeached.
Jude Agbaso, who was Okorocha’s deputy, was in less than two years impeached on trumped up charges of fraud, thus paving the way for the embattled Madumere. Currently, The Guardian learnt that the state House of Assembly has asked the Chief Judge to set up an impeachment panel after a six-man committee confirmed that the deputy governor has questions to answer on his alleged “gross misconduct.”
Although Madumere denied the allegations as “embarrassing and spurious” and obtained a court injunction against the move, the lawmakers, allegedly propelled by the governor, seem unmoved by the court order. Consequently, protests have commenced in Owerri, the state capital by the deputy governor’s supporters, who see the impeachment move as not only unfair, but also targeted at rubbishing his character.
Madumere has been a long time ally of Okorocha, as both men enjoyed a chubby relationship that predated the latter’s governorship. But, in the quest to remove Madumere, six of the twenty-seven lawmakers in the state Assembly, who opposed the move, were suspended.
Fourteen others, led by the deputy speaker, Ugonna Ozuruigbo, representing Nwangele state constituency, who also submitted the petition against Madumere, are said to be the arrowheads of the impeachment plot.Observers see the scheme to impeach the deputy governor as the culmination of the power play in the ensuing battle for Douglas House in 2019. Okorocha had at different fora vowed to produce his successor as a measure of his popularity. He taunted his predecessors for their inability to choose their successor’s.
The governor has been peeved by recent attempts to challenge his hold on the political structure of the state, especially on the issue of who succeeds him. Sources disclosed that Okorocha’s former deputy, Agbaso, was shown the door early to prevent him from aspiring to the number one office as allegedly agreed between his elder brother, Martin and Okorocha, during electioneering.
Incidentally, both Jude and Madumere hail from the same Owerri zone that many in the state say is its or their turn to produce the next governor. But, unlike Agbaso, who came by way of nomination and political negotiation, Madumere was close to Okorocha before he became governor.
However, no sooner than Okorocha secured his second term mandate than things started falling apart for both “friends”, especially after the governor started toying with the idea of planting his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his possible successor.
Madumere was said to have expressed disgust that his boss should negate justice, fair play, and equity and disregard the rotational arrangement in the state to make the outlandish choice. Okorocha and the favoured Nwosu hail from same Orlu senatorial zone. As such, should the plan succeed it would not only mean elongating himself in office, but also making Orlu zone to be in governorship seat for more than sixteen years, because Chief Achike Udenwa, who ruled the state between 1999 and 2007, is also from there.
The development was said to have prompted a meeting between Okorocha and Madumere. It was reported that Madumere had sought to know from Okorocha how Imo people would accept the choice of his son in-law as his successor, given that other zones in the state, especially Owerri, where he (deputy governor) hails from deserve to taste the number one slot
Convinced that Okorocha was not prepared to change his mind, Madumere was said to have teamed up with a coalition of some notable politicians in the state to challenge the decision of his boss, styled as third term ambition.The coalition was said to have waited for the recently concluded congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. While Okorocha was busy campaigning to convince the Imo electorate on why they should accept his son in-law as his successor, the coalition was busy plotting to wrest the party structure from him.
That opportunity presented itself proper at the state congresses as Okorocha lost out completely in the highwire politics. His lineup was completely routed. The development unsettled Okorocha, who saw it as an affront to his political empire. And coming from a familiar circle of stakeholders, some of whom he had assisted, the entire scheme bruised his political ego.
Battle to reclaim party structure
Okorocha had always seen himself as the face of the APC in the Southeast. It was also his belief that should he be relegated in the scheme of things, it should not happen while he still occupies the seat of power, especially in Imo State.He, therefore, took an appeal against the outcome of the congresses of the state to the highest echelons of governance and party, seeking its cancellation over alleged breaches and sanctioning of those behind it.
He soon realized that such was not in the contemplation of the immediate past national executive of Chief John Odigie Oyegun, whose tenure elongation he had opposed alongside a handful of APC stakeholders.The governor had, therefore, drawn the battle line with all those who tried to take the rug off his feet in the state. Convinced that the stakeholders of the party in the southeast had aligned to retain the zonal arrangement that allowed his state, Imo to produce the national organizing Secretary; Enugu, national vice chairman and Anambra, national auditor and to return all those already on the saddle, he
decided to move against it.
His first victim was Senator Osita Izunaso, who was the popular choice from the zone from his state for the national organizing secretary. Izunaso’s “sin” was conspiring with the coalition to work against his interest at the state congresses. He put up his Commissioner for Local Government Affairs and Chieftaincy Matters, Emma Ibediro against Izunaso.
Justifying the choice of Ibediro to replace Izunaso shortly before the national convention of the party, the governor had said: “Nothing is so perfect that it cannot be improved upon. That is why the immensely popular and widely accepted Barr Emma Ibediro is in the race to make the visible difference. Emma Ibediro is tried, tested and untainted.”
On Izunaso, he said: “It is folly to contend that experience in corruption and mastery of intra-party electoral fraud, and stealing of sensitive materials and congress result sheets are the only criteria to hold party offices in Nigeria. This is unacceptable and we reject the odious past.”In the end, every available apparatus of government was brought to bear at the convention of the party and Izunaso was stopped. Izunaso has now resorted to petitioning the outcome of the convention.
With Izunaso out of the way, Okorocha moved to test to legality of the state congresses in court. On July 6, Justice Lewis Allagoa of the Federal High Court, Owerri, granted his prayers and nullified the ward and local government congresses in the state.Allegoa had ordered that: “APC should go back and conduct fresh congresses in accordance with the constitution of the party. They should be responsible and save our democracy”. He added that his decision arose also from the fact that the “the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which is the body mandated by the Electoral Act to supervise primaries and congresses of political parties in their report attached as exhibit by the plaintiffs, affirmed that APC congresses were not held in the state.”
Reacting to the judgment, Okorocha said that it was an indication that the issue of the congresses has only authenticated his sustained claim and that of patriotic leaders of APC in Imo that the congresses did not hold in the state with a lot of proofs to that effect.
He alleged that the former national officers of the party, for one reason or the other, decided to mess up the congresses that would have taken place in the state and had also ignored his genuine concern and repeated appeal that the exercise should be conducted to enable party members fully participate and elect officials of their choice.
On Tuesday, Okorocha organized his men to hold a repeat congress in line with the order of court. The development had produced a 46-man state executive of the party.
But, the coalition, which produced the “annulled” congresses, insists that nothing had happened to change the structure of the party in the state led by Chief Hilary Eke.
Eke told The Guardian on phone that his group had appealed the decision of the Federal High Court and that the processes were served on the governor and national leadership of the party.
“Whatever happened in Owerri on Tuesday is not binding on us. The party is intact under my leadership. It was the national leadership that published names of the state executives where my name appeared as the state chairman. We have always known the governor to be lawless and we are not surprised what they are doing at the moment. They can conduct as many congresses as they like. It is not our business”, he said.The conduct of the “fresh” congress, despite the appeal against it in court, is raising concerns that the impeachment proceedings might not be halted despite the injunction against it.
Those who reacted to the development said it was already raising the ante by the series of protests by residents of the state, who believe that the Chief Judge might be hoodwinked into constituting the panel. They insist that the right rules must be followed.
A chieftain of the APC in the state, Chief Daniel Oyiribe, told The Guardian: “These many political battles are signs of desperation to cover failures. Imo electorate have become wiser and will not be deceived any longer. This is what they have realized and are now attempting to fuel disorder in the state. In the past, we were talked into making wrong choices but the political disharmony and disorder in the state are being raised by the fact that they know they have lost control and support of the masses. They want to do this as their last battle but we will go into the elections and the right choice will be made.”