In this report, EMMANUEL MGBEAHURUIKE writes on the tussle between Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, and a group of politicians in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state
The Imo State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) is undergoing an intense internal struggle of supremacy as the state governor, Rochas Okorocha, and a group known as “coalition” are in a fierce battle for the soul of the party and its structure ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The major cause of the disagreement was the governor’s insistence on foisting his chief of staff and in-law, Hon. Uche Nwosu, as his successor, come 2019.
The coalition had earlier cautioned the governor, to drop his succession. Okorocha who took the caution of the group for granted did not know that they had laid ambush for him through the congress of the party.
Okorocha thought he would have his way since he was in charge of APC in the state. But he was taught a bitter lesson by the coalition made up of stakeholders such as the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Dr, Theo Ekechi, Jasper Azuatalam, Ben Nwajimogu, Chairman Tedfund, Emeka Nwajiuba, Senator Hope Uzodinma, Jude Ejiogu and Chief Okey Ikoro.
Others are Chief Kingsley Onunuju, Chief Tony Chukwu, Ichie Best Mbanaso, Chief Felix Idiga, National Deputy Woman Leader APC, Tina Dike; Chief Marcon Nlemigbo, Chief Alan B Onyemachi; former Deputy Speaker, Imo House of Assembly, Chief Donatus Odoemena, among others.
The group of politicians had appealed to the governor several times to drop his dream of foisting Nwosu on the party as this would not go down well with the people. The governor, of course, was not ready to listen to this advice.
The first true test of might manifested during the APC Ward congresses in the state. It presented an interesting contest for power as the governor and Imo Coalition/Stakeholders battled for strength and political sagacity over control of the party. This was against the back drop that Okorocha had boasted that nobody in the state had the capacity to challenge him, declaring that he was fully in charge and had retired almost all the political bigwigs in the state.
The posture of the governor was said to have further infuriated the stakeholders who intensified their strategy to wrestle power out from Okorocha’s hand and show that they had the capacity to challenge and take Imo back to the people as against the stronghold of one man.
The plot to destabilize Okorocha ahead 2019 and prevent the enthronement of the son in-law Nwosu was not an easy task but to the feud between Okorocha and the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, who brought the formula that saw to the displacement of the governor during the congresses.
Madumere, having known the strength and weakness of his boss and having associated with him over time, was the one who provided the key that unlocked Okorocha’s game plan.
It was revealed that Madumere designed the strategy which was deployed to dislodge the governor.
According to a source close to LEADERSHIP Weekend, having known the potential danger in alliance attributable to individual interest, the deputy governor appealed to all contestants to drop their ambitions with a view to have a collective focus of retrieving the party structure from Okorocha.
Consequently, the coalition of APC stakeholders upheld Madumere’s suggestion which led to limiting every stakeholder to either their Local Government Area or Federal Constituency. This resulted in effective management of the congress without clash of interest.
Again, the deputy governor suggested that frantic efforts should be made to ensure that sensitive materials do not get into the hands of the governor.
It was based on this that the Imo APC stakeholders met with the National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, to alert him both on the activities of the governor against the party and intention to hijack the materials.
With the party structure retrieved from the governor he protested fiercely refusing to accept the result of the congress. While the coalition maintained that the congresses were held successfully in the state, the governor insisted that the exercise did not take place, and proceeded to court to challenge it.
As things stand in the party at the moment, the APC in the state seems to be running parallel executives as Okorocha had constituted a group led by Chris Oguoma as acting chairman.
To buttress their assertion that the congress held in the state, the stakeholders stressed that following the alarm raised by Okorocha, the materials especially the result sheets could not be found as of the Saturday night for the congress. The party’s national leadership reacted saying that the exercise went on successfully and peacefully across the state.
But Okorocha, in a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, alleged that the national organising secretary of the party, Osita Izunaso, and secretary of the convention committee, Sen. Ben Uwajumogu, had connived with the chairman of the state congress committee, Chief Ini Okorie, to hijack the congress materials, thus not allowing the congress to hold as expected.
However, in a counter press conference by the state chairman of APC, Chief Hilary Eke, and Sen Uwajimogu, the APC in the state stated that the Ward Congress of the party was conducted and concluded successfully and peacefully on Saturday, 5 May, 2018 in the 305 wards of the state.
He said, “The party salutes the commitment, passion, dedication and above all, the peaceful and diligent comportment of our party members during the congress. The party is also grateful to the maturity and candour of the Ward Congress Committee who remained unwearied and focused in spite of the desperate efforts of the state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, to hijack the committee through blackmail, intimidation and groundswell financial inducement.
“By the outcome of the congress and the spontaneous outpouring of family love and conviviality, the party and their numerous supporters who had for long longed for extrication from the stronghold of one man and his family have been vindicated.”
In another development Okorocha ordered the arraignment of members of the Congress Committee over the missing sensitive materials for Imo APC ward congress.
He also charged the Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, to ensure the arrest and prosecute Mr ini okori who was at the centre of the story of the missing materials.
“Following the missing of the Sensitive materials for the Saturday, May 5, 2018 Ward Congresses of All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, the governor and Chief Security Officer of the State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, has directed the Commissioner of Police in the State, Mr. Chris Ezike to charge members of the Congress Committee arrested in connection with the missing materials to Court without delay preferably on Monday, May 7, 2018.”
According to him, for the Organising Secretary of the Party Chief Izunaso to be arguing with Ini, originally sent for the conduct of the congresses, over who among themselves, was in custody of the congress sensitive materials in question was quite despicable. And it showed they never wanted the congress to be successful abinitio.
“It is also important to point out here that those who never believed that APC had prospect at the initial stage and who called Governor Rochas Okorocha all sorts of names including Alhaji in Government House and Okoro-Hausa must not be allowed to disturb the peace of APC in the state.
The governor reiterated his appeal to members of the party in the state to remain calm and ensure peace and assured that the anomalies would be corrected and the Ward Congress in the state, will hold accordingly”.
Meanwhile, his deputy, Madumere, also congratulated APC faithful for a successful ward congress. The deputy governor’s expression was contained in a press release issued by his special assistant on Media, Uche Onwuchekwa.
According to the release, Madumere praised the party faithful for coming out en mass to fulfil their civic responsibility of electing into office those who will effectively pilot the affairs of the party and uphold its strong belief in true democracy and loyalty to people’s freedom.
He, however, regretted the incidents of thuggery, which would have marred the exercise but for the quick response of the security agencies. He therefore called on parents and guidance of the youth of Imo State to rise up to the occasion and ensure their children do not become instrument of violence in the hands of desperate politicians.
Corroborating Madumere’s statement, the APC stakeholders, in a press conference, re-affirmed that that ward congresses held in Imo State.
Addressing the newsmen on behalf of the party stakeholders, Sen Uwajumogu said the congress at the wards were held successfully.
He wondered why it was only Okorocha who is contesting it against the backdrop that all party stakeholders’ confirmed that congresses were held at their various wards.
The stakeholders of the party also condemned in its entirety the use of thugs against the members of the party, citing a monstrous attack against the stakeholders at the APC secretariat where thugs allegedly led by Chike Okafor, Kingsley Uju, Kenneth Emelu among others. He revealed the situation was salvaged by the police and other security agencies.
Meanwhile, the group averred that they will stand for the fundamental principles of the party and ensure that its set out objectives as enshrined in its manifesto and constitution are observed to the letter.
Briefing newsmen in Owerri, the Imo State capital, Oguoma argued that “the outgoing National Chairman, John Oyegun, acted illegally and as far as we are concerned in Imo APC, that action is null and void and of no effect. The reason is that we have a subsisting Court Order and he was advised by the National Legal Adviser of the party against this lawlessness.”
Decrying continued attacks on the Imo governor by section of the party, the acting chairman, noted that “None of those maligning Governor Rochas Okorocha has the clout or will power to drive the party in the zone.”
The APC in the state seems to be at a crossroads for now as the two factions led by the governor’s men and the coalition, respectively, have fought each other to standstill. For one, Okorocha would never have believed that he would be having this intense tussle for the party structure at this point.
According to a co-convener of the coalition, Dr. Theo Ekechi, they have succeeded in diminishing Okorocha and proved to the whole world that the governor is just like any other person in the party.
The earlier the party closes ranks and speak with one voice, the better for the various factions as any house divided among itself, does not stand.
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