Supporters of All Progressives Congress in Imo State are expressing concern over the likely effects of the current battle between Governor Rochas Okorocha and the party’s governorship candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma, reports Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu
FOLLOWING current irreconcilable differences between Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and the All Progressives Congress Governorship Candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma, there are grave concerns that their bitter battles may endanger the fortunes of the ruling party in the 2019 elections.
There is also the fear that the current secret moves by some aggrieved stakeholders in the APC power game may be designed to mature at a time it would ultimately harm the party. This fear is informed by revelations that some APC stakeholders that lost out may have resolved on plan B arrangements which they want to hold as a secret until the last minute.
The SDP/ADC options
One of the issues that occasioned the recent tension in the state, according to Dr. Vincent Nwulu, an APC chieftain is the news that Okorocha’s supporters, who are bent on ensuring the emergence of Uche Nwosu as the next governor of the state, have allegedly renewed their talks with some political parties to field the out-going governor’s choice. A top politician and known supporter of Okorocha, who prayed not to be named, confided that supporters of Ugwumba, convinced that the national leadership of APC have not been fair on their preferred candidate, “will not fold their hands and watch the select elements from Abuja, deny us of the right successor of Owelle Rochas Okorocha. We are making the right efforts to ensure that Ugwumba contests the governorship, even if it has to be outside the APC platform.”
Nwulu alleged that “certain elements, through the connivance of selfish leaders in Abuja, have come to hijack the party we labored so hard to build in Imo; to reap where they did not sow. If they succeed in taking the party platform, our candidate will use another credible platform to win the election. That is all I can say for now.”
Although the likely platform Governor Okorocha’s supporters may choose has not been declared publicly as at Friday, insiders said the ongoing negotiations in the camp suggest that they may settle for either the Social Democratic Party (SDP) or African Democratic Congress (ADC). The two parties have, within the last three months garnered momentum within the state in preparation for the 2019 governorship election.
It would be recalled that the romance between some Imo APC chieftains and SDP for the purposes of winning 2019 elections dates back to August this year, when the power game in APC ahead the 2019 governorship election was still at the nursery stage. At that time, a group of aggrieved members of the party, under the aegis of Good Governance Forum (GGF), reportedly met with the state leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to discuss the possibility of defecting to the party.
The Publicity Secretary of SDP in the state, Godsent Chilos, who disclosed this preliminary move in a statement, added that the aggrieved leaders of GGF confided that given “the events unfolding in Imo APC, it will be very difficult for the party to win elections in Imo State come 2019.”
“Our attraction to SDP is as a result of the grassroots strength of SDP; SDP’s commitment to restructuring of Nigeria and operation of Open Government when elected to power, adherence to the principles of internal democracy, harmonious co-existence and respect to the democratic rights of members.
“We think that SDP is the only party in Imo State that has brighter chances of winning the governorship of Imo State, including majority in the State House of Assembly in 2019, because APC and PDP has failed imolites,” Chilos had quoted the leaders of GGF as saying then.
Since then, the party has been described as the plan ‘B’ for the APC governorship and other aspirants, eager to win the ticket.
That status was in a way confirmed further in October, when some aggrieved APC and APGA aspirants actually defected to SDP in the state.
Since the national leadership of APC finally submitted the name of Uzodinma, thus leaving Okorocha’s favourite aspirant, Nwosu, in the cold, there are hints that the governor may have given his nod for Nwosu’s henchemen to move over to SDP to prepare grounds even as the battle in APC continue to rage on. This calculation has been strengthened by Chilos’ recent revelation that one Okorocha’s disciple, a governorship aspirant has really commenced serious negotiations with SDP in the state.
Chilos raised the speculation that Nwosu, Okorocha’s Son-in-law, may go for SDP’s flag when he said of the APC’s governorship aspirant negotiating with SDP: “He is one of governor Okorocha’s ardent supporter; he is presently having talks with us.”
As would be expected, this development has elicited fear that the governorship candidate of the party in the state may be persuaded to drop the governorship ticket for the powerful APC aspirant. Although SDP chieftains in the state had consistently debunked the insinuations that their candidate is standing in for a particular APC aspirant, the speculation and the resultant permutations have refused to die down.
Even before speculation that SDP may be the fallback party, there was the allegation as far back as June this year that Okorocha had, at the beginning of the crisis in his political family, identified African Democratic Congress (ADC) as the likely ‘plan B platform.’ This allegation was followed with the rumour that the governor had secretly joined ADC.
The rumour became so wide spread that the Southeast Zonal Secretary of ADC, Mr. Nkem Ukandu, early in June came out and told newsmen that Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has not joined the party.
Even with that formal denial, some observers insist that ADC remains part of the likely cards that may be played in the intriguing power game in Imo APC.
Endless war of words
Perhaps to confirm their resolve to fight until the Election Day, Governor Okorocha and Senator Uzodinma have since November continued to exchange hot words against each other even as concerned party supporters plead for peace in order not to jeopardize the fortunes of APC in the forthcoming elections.
It all began when Uzodinma was quoted as saying the governor underestimated his (Uzodinma’s) popularity. Responding through a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, Okorocha alleged that Uzodinma was “burdened by at least two criminal cases, besides standing on a wealth of unknown means, including issuance of dud cheques.”
As he puts it, “Chief Uzodinma should face his two most recent criminal charges over the issuance of Dud Cheque and non-declaration of assets. We won’t talk about other similar cases. “Chief Hope Uzodinma is not a member of APC in Imo State. His purported membership of the party was announced in Abuja. He has never attended any APC meeting either in his ward or in his local government, Oru-East, or at the state level. “That is why no APC member in the state was excited when the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, announced him as his preferred governorship candidate of the party in the state. “Since Chief Uzodinma has begun to throw stone not considering the fact that he lives in a badly constructed glass house, we challenge him to publish his profile for the public to see and let Rochas also publish his own. Rochas Okorocha was born in Ogboko, and he grew up in Jos. He attended St. Joseph Primary School, Barkin Ladi Jos, and Juladaco High School Jos. He has LLB and LLM of the University of Jos, Post Graduate Diploma in Management, of the Benue State University,” the statement said.
In his defence, Uzodinma said Okorocha made reference to a non-existent cheque.
The Director of Media and Special Duties of Senator Hope Uzodimma Campaign Organisation, Mr. Declan Emelumba, said “Imo State government is referring to a non-existent dud cheque issue and phony assets declaration matter. Imo State Government has only confirmed an open secret which is that they are behind the two baseless issues. “We know that it was Imo State Government that sponsored the jankara Abuja magistrate judgement over a matter between two corporate citizens which a magistrate court has no jurisdiction just to smear the Senator’s intimidating image.
“They are also behind the baseless assets declaration issue to achieve the same goal. But on each they failed woefully “Is Imo State government now the state, LGA and ward secretariat of APC? This only goes to confirm that Okorocha and his cohorts believe that Imo State and APC are their personal estates. “They are still dreaming and I think they should continue to wallow in their dreams,” Uzodinma said.
The Uzodinma’s Campaign Organisation also challenged Okorocha, “to tell us the year Okorocha got the so-called LLB and LLM from the University of Jos so that we can expose their falsehood. “We don’t know what they are implying by talking about certificates but if its to imply that Okorocha is better educated than anybody then they must be told the bitter truth which is that he is not in a position to talk about certificate.”
Earlier, Okorocha was quoted as alleging that the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, Senator Hope Uzodinma, “will never win governorship election.”
Also speaking through Onwuemeodo, Okorocha stated that “there was jubilation within the opposition parties in the state when Senator Hope Uzodinma was named the candidate of the APC in the state because of how unpopular he (Uzodinma) was.”
Explaining why Uzodinma cannot win the governorship election, Onwuemeodo, quoted the governor as saying, “In 2011, he took the Senate seat for Orlu Zone from Chief Osita Izunaso, through the court. In 2015, Nigerians knew what transpired in Imo.
“The state was invaded with armed security personnel by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders like Uzodinma and the rest is history. So, Uzodinma can never win election in Imo, in a free and fair election.
“And that is why the PDP and APGA members are those celebrating his Kleg governorship candidature for Imo APC.
“If Uzodinma was to be a known member of the party, there would have been celebration in Imo.
“The chieftains of the party in Abuja, who are backing him, are elite politicians, who have no relationship with the grassroots,” he said.
If Okorocha is unsparing, Uzodinma has equally been so.
He had alleged that it was aggrieved members of the Peoples Democratic Party that “manipulated Governor Rochas Okorocha into power in 2011.”
He also alleged that Okorocha did never won an election, adding that the governor “has underestimated how unpopular he has become in the state.”
In a statement signed by his Director of Media and Special Duties, Declan Emelumba, Uzodinma said, “Okorocha has run for many elections, including the governorship of Imo State, before 2011, and even the presidency, and lost all. But, in 2011, in particular, Imo people voted more against former Governor Ikedi Ohakim than for Okorocha, so, he merely benefitted from the anger of the people against Ohakim.
“Even at that, the election went into a bi-election, where Ohakim was finally manipulated out of the race and Okorocha became governor. Also, in 2015, Okorocha, as incumbent governor, could not win outright on first ballot.
“The election was concluded on a second ballot, where some aggrieved PDP members helped, again, to manipulate him into the governorship.”
He also pointed out that he defeated Okorocha’s political party in Imo West Senatorial District in 2011 and 2015, even as governorship candidate and incumbent governor, respectively.
“I think this is more than enough evidence that in terms of popularity, Senator Uzodinma is far more popular than Okorocha in Imo West (the biggest senatorial district in Nigeria) where both come from.
“The truth of the matter is that all strata of Imo society are celebrating Uzodinma’s victory as the APC governorship candidate and this has brought them back on track to vote massively for APC in 2019.
“Uzodinma’s popularity in Imo State is infectious and it will not only guarantee victory for APC, but will rake in far more than five million votes for the APC from the Southeast in 2019. So, let no one be deceived by Okorocha’s boast because he is the problem of APC in Imo State and the Southeast.”
As the war of words continue and as there seems to be no solution in the peace moves, concerned stakeholders are watching closely to see the final effect on the fortunes of the party in 2019.