THE ROCHAS CHALLENGE
By Anthony Opara
The election of the next Governor of Imo State, South East of Nigeria has been reduced to a battle between the outgoing Governor Ethelbert Rochas Okorocha, other political heavy weights and some not too heavy weights in the tiny oil producing state. Governor Okorocha in what has been described as an ill advised political move wants to be succeeded by no other person than his current Chief of Staff and son-in-law, Uuche Nwosu against the permutations of his APC members and accolytes. This move has pitched the Governor against the majority of his party men while his opponents from other political parties are watching the dog fight and waiting in the wings for what appears to be an easy way for them to take the diadem which is Douglas House, Owerri, the seat of power.
The political armada unleashed against Rochas led to a state congress of the ruling APC in which his opponents took away the party machinery from him. He cried foul and ran to the President first to request for the removal of the Commissioner of Police in the state whom he accused of being partisan and not doing enough to protect his interests. He was obliged and a new Commissioner of Police sent to replace the one accused of partisanship. He then appointed a new Chairman of the party against the one elected by the state congress. Its on record that at the National Convention of the party, the state presented two executives and at the end of the day ended up fighting and creating a violent scene in front of the President. Now a High Court in the state has cancelled the congress and ordered a repeat but majority of the people in the state believe that even if Rochas elects all the party executives at the moment, even this will not help him at the 2019 election as the prospects of his son in law winning the election as the next Imo state Governor will be like that of the elephant passing through the proverbial eye of the needle.
The APC in Imo state is in disarray and no community goes into battle divided. As such, indications are pointing to the fact that the APC and indeed, Uche Nwosu, the son-in-law to Okorocha may as well kiss his ambition bye. Heavy weights in the APC including Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, Hope Uzodimma – another Senator who crossed to the APC from the PDP – Osita Izunaso, and Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu – the only APC Senator in the Senate from Imo State at the moment – former National Organizing Secretary who is in court with the Rochas group over the office of the APC National Organizing Secretary position, Eze Madumere, Deputy Governor – who has told Rochas that he intends to succeed him but who is now facing threats of impeachment by the State House of Assembly controlled by the Governor – and others are arrayed against the Governor and his son in law.
Further, many Imolites say that Uche Nwosu, who is also known as Ugwumba is too inexperienced to run the state noting that he had not done anything of note except serve in his father-in-law’s political machine, first as Commissioner of Lands and now Chief of Staff; but Rochas contend that the man being an Imo indigene is as qualified as any other to be Governor and that his being his son-in-law should not detract from what he says are his sterling qualities as a focused young man who can continue from where he will stop on May 29 2019.
Waiting in the wings and seriously contending for the state house are candidates in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, The All Progrssive Grand Alliance APGA, and the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party ANRP to mention just a few. A major contestant in the PDP is Sam Daddy Anyanwu who is the Senator representing Owerri Senatorial District. Anyanwu, a two term Local Government Chairman and two term State legislator is running a tight but flamboyant campaign and is making great inroads into most parts of the state. He has the blessings of PDP heavy weights like Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu as well as several notable politicians operating from Abuja and is said to be well connected to the party hierarchy in the nation’s capital. Anyanwu is from Owerri zone and the thinking in the state is that its time to allow a leader from Owerri zone to be Governor as Orlu where the current Governor hails from and Okigwe zone have had their turns at the state house. Some opponents of the Senator who is always dressed in white traditional attire with a red cap to match say he is a very slippery man who cannot be trusted and cannot be relied upon to stand for his friends when the going gets tough; in other words, he is a fair weather friend.
Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha is another heavy weight from the PDP who is also running a very solid campaign. Ihedioha is not new to the game as he was the PDP flag bearer in the last election but was beaten by Rochas. He is therefore trying his hands again at the race. He is also said to have friends in high places in the party but whether this friends who are principally not from Imo State will help him at the crucial hour of the party primaries is left to be seen.
Former Governor of the State, Mr Ikedi Ohakim is another contender for the office he was forced out from some eight years ago by Rochas who used the vehicle of APGA to win the race but later decamped to the APC. Ohakim, a strong PDP member says he needs another four years to complete some of the projects he started but which were later abandoned by Rochas who he accused of serious malfeasance and corruption as well as running a ‘familiocracy,’ with members of his family controlling the state as if it were a family fiefdom. Whether Ohakim’s challenge will amount to anything is left to be seen by PDP members when they gather to pick a flag bearer for the party and when of course the role of the MOU already signed by the party and other parties will be tested.
Charles Chukwuemaka, an Owerri-based businessman and political commentator told The Difference Newspaper that the former governor would not make hay as the battle in the PDP is between Emeka Ihedioha and Senator Samuel Anyanwu adding that in the APC, most of the big wigs have not declared their intention except for the Deputy Governor, Madumere but that somebody like Ararume has the political machinery to snatch the ticket of the APC but that may still not translate to winning the main election as Imolites are set on throwihg out the APC.
Professor Alphonsus Ekwerike, Harvard trained Scientist and American based businesman of many parts is also making inroads in the rural areas to contest for the seat under his Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party ANRP. His party is a member of the coalition put together by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a vehicle to remove President Mohammadu Buhari come 2019. His campaign slogan is that Imo State deserves better. A Spokesman for the Scientist turned politician who attended the prestigious Emmanuel College Owerri Ralph Ahanonu said Imo state should look in the direction of the man for redemption as he has wealth of experience to transform the state adding that the only challenge hhis candidadte would face is that Nigerians vote parties rather than individuals.
Another wave making contestant is Mr Frank Nneji of the ABC fame who started his business selling educational materials under the trade name of Rapido but later divested into transportation and built an enviable transport company that changed the face of long distant transportation and the cargo business in Nigeria. A member of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, he is seen by political watchers in the state as the man to beat in the election. The only challenge is that he comes from the same part of the state as Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP. Thus the calculation is that if both of them run they will share the votes of the very large voting block of their Mbaise kith and kin and therefore leave room for any other of the leading opponents to win. The Difference checks however revealed that efforts are underway to get the two Mbaise brothers to collaborate rather than run against each other. Others feel that the discussion on who would step down for the other will only come after the party primaries phase.
Also in the race under the banner of APGA is Dr Sam Amadi, a law teacher at the Baze University in Abuja. Amadi, Harvard-trained was the immediate past Chairman of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as well as former Aide to Chief Ken Nnamani, during his stint as Senate President, is also running on his academic pedigree and may not have the deep pockets required for a race for the government house. He is talking chiefly to the youths in the state to see the need for a man of ideas to be given the reins of power.
Another top contender to the seat of power in Imo state is Barrister Uche Onyeagucha, a former member of the House of Representatives and one of the politicians who helped Okorocha become Governor of Imo State. Barrister Onyeagucha, a notable human rights fighter has already apologised to Imolites for what he calls his inglorious role in making Okorocha Governor and has vowed to unseat him come 2019. Both Onyeagucha and Amadi attended the University of Calabar although Onyeagucha was senior to Amadi in school. He is also his senior in the law profession although Amadi who practiced under late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and OLisah Agbakoba now teaches law at a private University while Onyeagucha is a businessman and politician.
There is therefore an array of qualified politicians ready to throw their hats into the ring and deal with the Rochas challenge. Rochas, the man at the center of the bourhaha appears to be moving on to greater things as he has been appointed the Director General of the Buhari election to replace Rotimi Amaechi who did the job the last time. Many political analysts see the appointment as a wrong move as Rochas lacks the finesse of an Amaechi nor the clout given that there is a huge conflagration in his backyard.
APGA aspirant, Dr. Sam Amadi