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Okorocha’s succession gambit

Rochas Okorocha



Rochas Okorocha

By Anthony Opara

The ongoing succession gambit in Imo State in which Governor Rochas Okorocha is steadily scheming to have his son-in-law, Mr. Uche Nwosu succeed him in office as governor is not the first time in Nigeria’s history.

Flashback, former Governor Obong Victor Attah was as cerebral as they come.  He was an Architect and a well known one at that and became the PDP  Governor of Akwa Ibom State under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration when Nigeria returned to Democratic rule after the botched June 12 Debacle. Obong Attah was an outspoken man and did not spare any effort in fighting for the people of the south whose region produced the oil that drives Nigeria’s economy. It didn’t take long before he fell out with the then President though they were in the same party as the President was a known opponent of the 13 percent derivation which the Akwa Ibom Governor fought for. In his time, Governor Attah was known for his principled fight for 13 percent which he believed to all the NDDC south south states which according to him would drive their development.

Obong Attah was also known for another thing.  He attempted to have his son in law, Dr Udoma Bob Ekarika take over from him as Governor.  His son in law was a medical doctor who ran a private clinic in Uyo but the Governor made him a Commissioner to perhaps give him some political education.  Apparently Dr Udoma was a Commissioner but the Governor did not care and was willing to brush aside all opposition to foist  his son in law upon the state.   The plan did not succeed as the majority of members of the PDP in the state voted massively for a lawyer, Godswill Akpabio to take over from Obong Attah.  Akpabio was also a Commissioner in his government and ‘one of his boys’ so to speak.

In nearby Imo state a similar situation is at play presently.  Governor of the state, Rochas Ethelbert Anayo Okorocha has announced his intention to support his Chief of Staff and son in law Uche Nwosu as the next Governor of the state. He has told all members of the All Progressive Congress in the state to forget their ambitions for the state house and line up behind his son in law.  As would be expected, this has thrown the party in the state into disarray. The Deputy Governor Madumere has told the Governor to be ready to face him in a political battle as he would run for the Governorship of the state come 2019. Madumere known to many as a virtual lackey of Rochas given the circumstances in which he had emerged as Deputy Governor, surprised everyone when he chose to leave his boss’ ruling on the subject and elect to go  head to head with him.

Uche Nwosu is from the same political enclave as the Governor but late last year one of the newly created autonomous traditional rulers in Owerri Municipal adopted him as a son of the town thus paving the way for him to run the Gubernatorial primaries as a candidate from Owerri rather than from Orlu where he hails biologically.

Rochas had in 2016 broken Owerri Municipal into five autonomous communities as a weapon to bring the ranks of the Owerri people with whom he had several land disputes including an area of the Capital Develpoment area called Area K where youths from one of the villages fought him to a standstill and prevented him from taking the lands in the area for private business.  The Governor has been accused by stakeholders of taking over lands belonging to both individuals and communities and converting the lands to private entities.  Rochas is for example the first Governor of Imo State to live in his own private residence rather than Douglas House, the official residence of all state Governors.  Just before he lost the election to Rochas, Mr Ikkedi Ohakim rebuilt the Government house but rather than live there, Rochas acquired massive landed property from the Amakohia axis and built a massive structure that even President Buhari shuddered at his temerity when he visited on one of his campaign trips to Owerri.

Imo State according to political watchers is run as what has been described as a ‘familiocracy,’ which is government of the family by the family for the family. Within this structure, the most important government positions are occupied by the family members of the Governor and their cohorts.  Recently he awarded his younger sister, Mrs Nkechi Ololo a Commissionership, that of Happiness which is the first in the country and in the state, and making the state a laughing stock in the process.  Mrs Ololo was before her recent appointment the Special Assistant to the Governor.  Her first official action as Commissioner was to ask men in the state to marry more than one wife in order to curb the menace of unmarried women in the state.  Many had questioned where the Giovernor will get the money to run the Ministry of Happiness in the state where civil servants have not been paid for upwards of seven months including those working in Government House. In the course of putting together this story for example, this writer spoke  to a couple who both work at Government House and who are living on the charity of the man’s mother, a trader in the main market who had been feeding them!

Owerri-based political commentator Ikemefuna Anyamele says Rochas is the worst thing to happen to the state and blamed the advent of Rochas on the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Metropolitan See who literally ‘preached’ him into office on account of a tiff between the church and former Governor Ohakim who was accused of letting his security details flog a Catholic priest. Now the love between Rochas and the church has turned full circle as his agents nearly assaulted Archbishop AJV Obinna, a revered spiritual entity in the state.  Video clips which had gone viral indicate that thugs loyal to Uche Nwosu and his father in law took offence when the Archbishop advised the people to ensure they register to vote out the bad government that has become a thorn in the flesh of the people. He spoke at the commendation service at the burial of Chief Mbata, an official of the government.  The homily didn’t go down well with thugs loyal to the Chief of Staff who attempted to manhandle the man of God in a congregation full of Catholic faithful.  The wife of the Governor, Mrs Nkechi Okorocha and Uche Nwosu sat in the front row and did nothing to stop the mayhem in the House of God. This has elicited condemnation from all crannies of the state even as some stakeholders blamed the cleric for delving into politics and using the occasion of a burial of an old woman and mother of a high government official for this purpose. Some commentators say this incident is a big minus to the plans for Rochas to install his son in law as the next Governor of the state.

Serial contestant and former Senator, Ifeanyi Ararume  is equally eyeing the seat that Rochas will vacate in 2019 and he has told Rochas that the attempt to install his son in law is a fruitless action. He says that he alongside other Imo sons will oppose and that that the APC would be making a huge mistake in giving the flag of the party to an inexperienced nonentity whose only qualification was being the Governor’s son in law.

In ‘From Imo to Zamfara: Monarchy trumps democracy, Thisday Columnist Louis Odion had this to say. “Alas the latest in Okorocha’s career of political infamy is the ongoing attempt to finally degrade the egalitarian castle they toiled hard to build to a monarchy in which the Owelle seeks to pass the gubernatorial baton to his son in law while he hands himself the Senatorial staff of Orlu Zone.  It means that his daughter is being positioned to take over from her mother as the queen, the first lady.’

Odion continued, ‘A spoilt brat, the heir apparent has been a suckling in Okorochas diapers, shedding his milk teeth all the while-first as Lands and Housing Commissioner and later Chief of Staff to his doting father in law.  Hundred Million (600, 000,00) to build a Christmas tree in the state capital. The tree was built for Imo Citizens who celebrated Christmas without their salaries. In a bid to shirk his responsibility of paying workers the Governor had brought in a novel idea when he said Imo workers will work for only three days of a five day working week and use the remaining two days for farming.  This idea was quickly jettisoned when the Federal Government told him that he cannot dictate the working days of the work force as it was a matter under the exclusive federal list.   The Christmas tree was built by one of his sisters who had no expertise.  It was same with the several statutes he has built and commissioned in the state starting with the disgraced former President of South Africa Jacob Zuma whose statute he molded, invited him for the unveiling and named a road in the state capital after him and got traditional rulers in the state to bestow on him the title of Ochiagha ndi Igbo or war General of the Igbo. He said President Zuma was in the state on the invitation of the Rochas Foundation with whom the South African leader came to collaborate with.  He also invited former Liberian President Mrs Sirleaf whose statute was also unveiled and like Zuma she also got a chieftaincy title. With this unveilings Nigerians wandered whether it’s constitutional for a state Governor to invite foreign heads of state without due consultation with the Federal government as no federal government delegation was at the unveilings of the statutes.  The Governor who did not think about the constitutional implications of his actions said he was teaching Imo Citizens history of the Continent as his statute campaign was to make them appreciate their Africanness saying that contrary to public opinion he was not spending so much money in molding the statutes.

Governor Okorocha embarked on an urban renewal programme that has left the state capital in a state of disarray and destruction.  According to a political commentator, the incoming Government will spend a whole tenure to repair the damage that Okorocha had done to the landscape and this is besides the court cases that the administration will be defending in court.  Some of the cases will lie against the Governor in person. Some of the cases are just waiting for him to step down from office.  The case of Owerri people against him on the destruction of the Eke Ukwu Owerri market has been adjourned for a time in the future.  Some of these cases will be on long after his Governorship.  Every where you turn there is one judicial action against him either by individuals or communities.  For example the people of Owerri are in court with him over his creation of the five villages of the town into five autonomous communities an action many accuse him of trying to spite the people who are landlords to the state government and it can be imagined the position of the owerri people on what many consider as Okorocha’s shenanigans in installing his son in law as Governor after him.  Uyo based human rights activist Saviou Akpan described the move by Rochas  as a ‘manifestation of his nepotism as well as an open display of his level of insatiability despite acclaimed opulence’.  It may be in order to describe his so called wealth as acclaimed as there is no documentation showing the extent of his wealth.  Many argue that if he were truly wealthy he would not be so greedy in grabbing property for himself and his family members.  Most of the so called Rochas Foundation Schools in Imo state for instance are built in lands that are in legal disputes.  Imo people see the Governor as one with greed for real estate.  His recent attempt to take over the state University at is village  Ogboko is a case in point. The University called Eastern Palm University was acquired as the 43rd state University in the country but the Governor appointed a relation as the Pro Chancellor who is doing everything possible to turn over the University into a private enterprise of the Okorochas.   The University that attracted foremost Academic from the American University in Yola, Professor Linus Osuagwu has not taken off because the esteemed professor quietly walked away when he noticed the unprincipled manner in which the Pro Chancellor, Mrs Nonye Rajis Okpara was filling both academic and non academic positions with people from their Orlu zone without regard for qualification. The Pro Chancellor is perhaps the only one in Nigeria that is at work at the university everyday running the institution as one would run a local government and in spite of all the money spent the institution is yet to take off even with some level of go ahead by the National University Commission (NUC) for some courses to take off.  This is creating a problem as parents and students are worried.  The Eastern Palm University is a beautiful school with beautiful structures but the growing worry is over the alleged diluting of its academic and non-academic administrations as well as concern over the fact that Governor Rochas Okorocha is still set on personally taking over the school.

What one may call the misrule of a state one well governed by the likes of Dr Sam Onunaka Mbakwe as the greatest undoing of the APC government under Rochas Okorocha such that he has created a huge problem for his party and worse for his son in law who is seen as not qualified for the office  of the Governor of the state. Arrayed against the Governor are sundry opponents that now include even his lieutenants like the Deputy Governor who rejected the Governor’s offer to make him the Senator representing Owerri zone, with himself as Senator for Orlu Zone while his son in law takes over from him.  The Deputy Governor has told him to keep his senatorial offer to himself as he would lock horns with him come 2019. The battle in Imo State is one that needs watching as  it promises to be interesting.

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