In this report, EMMANUEL MGBEAHURUIKE writes on the growing hostility between Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and a host of politicians in the South-east, even as the 2019 general elections draw closer
In the beginning, the relationship, cooperation and mutual understanding between them in the nation’s political firmament was cordial and knew no bounds.
Victor Umeh as the then national chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) was acclaimed as the second in command after the late Biafra warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, in the APGA politicalfamily.
Thus, with a robust enviable relationship between him and Ethelbert Anayo Rochas Okorocha now Imo State Governor, Umeh, who now representsAnambra central at the nation’s Red chamber did not make any pretence that the former was his anointed candidate for the Imo State 2011 gubernatorial battle.
Although, the choice of Okorocha by Umeh to flag the party’s flag precipitated uproar among the ranks and file of the cook symbol political party, Umeh was to deploy his entire arsenal to push his politically beloved son down the throat of his opponents.
The eventual victory of Okorocha after the controversial May 6th, 2011 supplementary governorship election in the state was to raise the bar of a strong political link between father and son.
Curiously, no sooner had he settled down for business at the Douglas House (Government House), Owerri, than the wall of the once formidable union began to crack.
To be sure, the Anambra born senator was miffed when the governor for inexplicable reasons unilaterally began to implement programmes and policies which he (Umeh) considered to be diametrically at variance with mutual agreement earlier reached, the party’s manifestoes as well as the interest of the generality of the Imo electorate who in their wisdom dislodged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from power with their votes.
To make matters worse, Okorocha, who rode to power on the platform of APGA largely revered by the Igbo as their identity dramatically deserted the party along with some of his supporters and joined the then nascent APC merger party. This was to the chagrin and consternation of Umeh who angrily felt betrayed.
Not done yet, the governor in March 2013 sacked his deputy, Jude Agbaso, younger brother of business mogul and heavy financer of the party (APGA) in the 2011 governorship election, Martin Agbaso through a Kangaroo impeachment.
Foot soldiers of the Rescue Mission governor had unleashed allegations of bribery against the younger Agbaso and before he could actually know where he erred, he was impeached and booted out of office for allegedly receiving N458 million bribe from a contracting firm J-pros.
Recalling the experience, Chief Martin Agbaso, the elder brother to the sacked Deputy Governor had in an interview with newsman maintained that his brother was as innocent as a dove.
According to him, the deposed Deputy Governor had absolutely nothing to do with the said contract or the purported N485m for which he was impeached.
Agbaso said: “It was Rochas Okorocha who approved the contract, awarded it, and paid the said contractor of N1.3 billion without due process and without even an award letter or any form of advance payment guarantee.
“We as a family would do everything humanly possible to get to the root of the matter; we would do everything to find out who took this money, where the money is domiciled and who the beneficiaries are”.
Agbaso explained that after a rigorous eight months of investigation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) cleared his brother, Jude, of any wrong doing, and of any involvement whatsoever in the alleged bribery scandal.
He added, “Again, this man who went to the Imo state House of Assembly and said to them: “I am a Lebanese journey man; criminal contractor. I have taken N458 million naira of Imo state money and given to the Deputy Governor.
“They kissed this man and told him to walk away. A man who said: I have committed a crime against this state, against this nation, they turned around and let him walk away and began hunting a Deputy Governor who knew nothing.”
Apparently one of the little dissimilarity between the Jude Agbaso impeachment plot and that of Prince Eze Madumere is the fact that while nearly every Imo resident knows the reason for the attack on Madumere which largely borders on his political ambition that conflicts with Okorocha’s succession plan, nobody was immediately clear on the actual offence of Jude Agbaso at the time until the deed was almost done.
Till date however, many still cannot tell where or how Jude Agbaso, who was perceived as loyal and diligent crossed Governor Okorocha’s path.
Licking his wounds over what he considered a greek offer from the Ogboko Ideato South born politician, a jolted Umeh was to count more betrayal when the media was once more awash with reports that the governor had again initiated an impeachment plot against his current deputy Eze Madumere.
An insider within the APC caucus told LEADERSHIP that Umeh had prior to the soured relationship with Okorocha complained bitterly of unwarranted hostility and aggression against Madumere by the governor, accusing him of biting the hand that fed him seven years ago.
He recalled that Madumere was at the twilight days of the 2011 election campaign arrested and detained by security operatives for campaigning for Okorocha. The complaint however yielded no result as the governor remained obstinate in his style of governance.
The plot by the governor to disgrace Madumere out of office through a concocted impeachment by the State House of Assembly appears to be the last straw that broke the cannel’s back in the league of Umeh’s anger, bitterness and acrimony against the APC warlord in Imo.
However, reacting to the allegations against him, the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Uche Onwuchekwa, said it was a poor rehash of an old lie to suggest that Madumere abdicated his responsibilities as Deputy Governor.
He noted that as a matter of law, the Deputy Governor is in the main constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of superintending Boundary Commission in the state.
“By our records, the Deputy Governor of Imo State has never abdicated from such responsibility. Considering the period under review, people of Umuoma of Ihitte-Uboma local government, Ihube of Okigwe local government among others can testify of the Deputy Governor’s diligent role in crises resolution with particular reference to April 11, April 16, 2018.
“His Excellency also participated in one-day retreat for Stakeholders in the management of Nigeria boundaries, which held in the Airforce
Conference Center, Abuja on May 7, 2018 in the company of the Surveyor General of the State and the Principal Secretary to the Deputy Governor”, he said.
On the alleged refusal of Madumere to attend Constitutionally mandated meetings of the Stale Executive Council, Onwuchekwa said it is an allegation that could not stand any administrative test.
According to him, “the alleged refusal of the Deputy Governor to attend, and to hold meetings with the Governor is most frivolous as the Deputy Governor cannot force himself on the Governor especially when he has been tagged a pariah in Government circle.
“We state here that Governor Okorocha has never created such opportunity to meet with the Deputy Governor to discuss the programmes and activities of the Government. We only hear about them from the roadside and sundry sources.”
Continuing, he said: “There are also laid down procedures through which a Deputy Governor or any member of the Executive Council can be invited for Executive Council meetings. We hereby state that the Deputy Governor has never been invited for such meetings either through a memo or any official notices.”
Apparently in a hurry to nail the Deputy Governor, the House Committee charged to investigate the allegations against Prince Eze Madumere headed by Hon. Kennedy Ibeh representing Obowo State Constituency, in record time, indicted him (the Deputy Governor) while submitting its report in less than 24 hours.
With five members of the Imo State House of Assembly already suspended indefinitely by the Speaker to silence dissenting voices and apparently pave the way for the smooth execution of the impeachment plot, the House thereafter mandated the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Paschal Nnadi to set up a seven-man panel to probe andMdetermine the allegations against Prince Eze Madumere.
The State Chief Judge, Justice Paschal Nnadi, set up a seven-man committee as mandated by the state legislature, despite an order by a High Court in Abuja that all parties in the impeachment proceedings should stay action until a substantive matter pending before the court is determined.
An Abuja-based lawyer, Johnmary Jideobi Esq. followed up the court order with a letter to the state Chief Judge, Justice Nnadi urging him to respect the pendency of suit and order of court.
Jideobi is the Counsel to the plaintiff in the matter between Mr. Stanley Okwara vs the Speaker of the State House of Assembly and six others in Suit No: FCT/HC/BW/CV/92/2018.
The letter recalled that the High Court of the FCT, Abuja presided over by Justice A.O Musa, on the 5th of July, 2018 duly heard the ex-part motion and among other reliefs, ordered ail the parties in the suit which include the Speaker, Chief Acho Ihim; the Chief Judge,
Justice Paschal Nnadi; the Attorney Genera! of the Federation and four others, to maintain status quo until the matter is determined.
According to the Court, ‘the parties shall be served with the processes in this suit and the orders of this court and the law remains that same ties their hands as if an order has been made in law, as this Court has the inherent powers to set aside any step or steps taken after the service of this processes on the defendants, to foist a situation of helplessness on this court’.”
Relief also granted included an order of court restraining the six defendants in the suit, “from initiating or exercising any of the powers and duties saddled on them under Section 188 sub-sections (l) to (11) of the amended 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to removing either the Governor or the Deputy Governor of Imo state without the four members of the !mo State Assembly (2nd to 5thdefendants) purportedly suspended by the Assembly being present and participating in the said.
Thus a benumbed Umeh having placed the unfolding political drama in the state on a tab inevitably became vociferous in his condemnation of the actions of the governor.
He had ceaselessly told all who cared to listen that the governor was not only apt to make a mockery of the nation’s democracy but also out to destroy the rising political generations in the Eastern Heartland.
Crying blue murder that the governor is the worst ingrate that he had ever come across on earth, having used and dumped the very vehicle (APGA) that successful brought him to the promised land of power, Umeh is all the more devastated that the governor amidst
obvious breach of mutual agreement still had the temerity and audacity to call the bluff out of him through what he considered unwarranted media diatribes against his personality.
Okorocha, who would not stomach the onslaught of Umeh has asked him to go to places.
For instance, in a recent statement, the governor, through his chief press secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, said “For the Second time in one week, Chief Victor Umeh, a dominant member of the Senate has attacked Governor Rochas Okorocha in the media, calling the governor all sorts of names and unprovoked too”.
“In the latest attack, he called Governor Okorocha a trickster and also threatened to expose him. Our quick response goes this way; If there is anybody whose life story is zigzag, it is Chief Victor Umeh. The life story of Governor Okorocha is a straight forward one right from Jos, Plateau State uptil now. He has never been associated with any shady deal. And his
business life and his Political life stories can be smoothly narrated without any gap and are also known by most Nigerians.
“But Chief Umeh cannot make a similar claim. Let him publish his profile and let Governor Okorocha publish his own profile and let’s see whose story will be disjointed, and who is nobody until APGA came on board. Governor Okorocha by all consideration, has succeeded as a governor following his monumental achievements in Imo”.
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