THE BATTLE FOR DOUGLAS HOUSE OWERRI
By Anthony Opara
The Imo State Government House is called Douglas House, and is named after Mr Douglas, a Dustrict Commissioner in the old Eastern Region duringof the colonial era. It’s the same Douglas that a road, easily the busiest road in the state capital was named after. The last occupant of the house was Mr Ikedi Ohakim , a former PDP Governor of the state who won election on the platform of Chief orji Uzor kalu’s party. He was later to decamp to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which was his original party before the deal with Kalu, former Governor of Abia State which saw him winning the election into the Imo State Government House.
The current Governor of the state is Mr Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha who won the election carrying the flag of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) but later decamped to the All Progressive Alliance (APC). Rochas brokered a deal in which the arrow head of APGA in the state Chief Martin Agbaso made his younger brother, Jude Agbaso Deputy Governor in an election in which even the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Diocese, His Grace Dr Anthony VJ Obinna reportedly supported APGA following an incident in which it was alleged that security men attached to Ikedi Ohakin beat up a Catholic Priest. Not long after he won the election, Rochas parted ways with the Agbasos and APGA and decamped to the APC but not before removing the Deputy Governor in controversial circumstances using the state Assembly in a bizarre impeachment that is still the object of a legal altercation between the former Deputy Governor and the state Government and Rochas. The case may pend in court until Rochas bows out of office in 2019. NIgerias courts are notorious for delaying cases especially those of a political nature.
As soon as he became Governor, Rochas moved into a private residence from where he presides over the affairs of the state. He is the first Governor of the state to do so. His private residence according to some people who have been there makes the Imo State Government House a laughing stock, such that it is said that President Buhari reportedly expressed amazement that a Governor could live in such opulence and this is even as Ohakim had rebuilt the Douglas House Residence of the Governor which was engulfed by fire at some time in the Governorship of Ohakim, who continues to be called Ikiri by Imo citizens.
In an unprecedented move, Okorocha now wants one of his sons-in-law, Uche Nwosu, who serves as his Chief of State to take over from him as Governor in 2019. Many had thought that he would have chosen his loyal Deputy, Madumere for the position just as Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State is doing but instead he advised Madumere who he accused of having no political value to run for Senate in the Owerri Senatorial Zone.
At the same time, his choice man, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu, awho was also a former Commissioner of Lands in the state is considered by many in the state as being an unknown quantity who lacks the experience to preside over the state as Governor. Uche Nwosu had done nothing of note or held any position before his chance meeting with Rochas and the subsequent marriage to his daughter that has now catapulted him into a candidate for the Governorship of Imo state, a position held by revered personages like Chief Sam Mbakwe Phd and Former General Ike Nwachukwu to name but a few. Nwosu had applied for the ten thousand jobs that Ohakim created before leaving office which Rochas cancelled as soon as he became Governor so Uche and soo many other young people lost out in the fake government jobs that Ohakim provided when it was obvious that the state could not afford to pay the new appointees. In one stroke Rochas wants his second daughter to replace his wife as first lady while his son in law becomes Governor after him. His Deputy Madumere has told the former in clear terms that he has rejected his suggestion to run for Senate as his eyes is firmly set on the seat of Governor of Imo state and that nothing will stop him from running whoever Rochas backs for the job. As would be expected he has formed his own team and is canvassing votes from APC ahead of the primaries of the party to be held at an appropreiate time to chose the flag bearer of the APC in the 2019 elections. The APC in the state appear to be in shambles as some big wigs of the party including people like Senator Ifeanyi Ararume has told the Governor to perish the thought of having his son in law as his replacement come 2019. Former member of the House of Representatives Chief Uche Onyeagucha a lawyer has already decamped from the APC and pitched his camp with the APGA from where he will run for Governor. Its being speculated that more people will leave the APC if the Governor succeeds in imposing his son on the APC as candidate. Already the party is split into factions. There is also Professor Ekwerike from Owerri zone coming in from the United States with a wealth of academic experience to hat his hat in the ring. Diference Newspapers listened him address members of his Alma Mata Emmanuel College Old Boys association on the plans he has to turn Imo into the Japan of Africa,
Political Commentators told the Difference that several of the contestants happen to come from Owerri zone and unless there is an agreement to present only one of them whoever the former Governor supports from another zone will carry the day. A former Banker Nathaniel Nwosu said it will be foolhardiness on the part of Owerri zone to go into the election presenting several candidates as it appears to be the case now. He said it will be nice for the people of Owerri zone to support someone like Frank Nneji, of ABC Motors as he appears to be capable to salvage Imo state from the economic hole the state finds herself. He said a man who started a transport company that has now been copied in the manner of operations by others should be given the chance to turn Imo around. Others contend that Frannk has no political knowledge which is needed to pilot the affairs of a state and that his pocket is not deep enough for a race to government house. Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha is also another big fish in the race. Ihedioha is also from Owerri zone and from Mbaise easily the largest community in the zone but so is also Frank Nneji who will run on the ticket of APGA if he gets the parties nod. Ihedioha has political contact nationwide but the people that will determine his fate are people of Imo state and not Abubakar Atiku or Aminu Tambuwal, the Sokoto Governor who is rumoured to be his friend.
The race for the Imo government House will be an interesting one and the Difference Newspaper will keep a close eye on the contest.