By Sufuyan Ojeifo
On Tuesday, January 29, I watched the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential rally in Owerri, the capital of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s Imo State. Though that will soon become history, as the quirky emperor has been mercilessly undercut and greatly diminished in the battle for the soul of the Southeastern enclave. Cut to the bone, the Owelle is operating from a position of political disadvantage.
While the rally was on, I saw the theatrics that characterised the event. They all pointed, overall, in the direction of Okorocha’s imminent final eclipse. The atmosphere was charged. The outgoing governor’s offence on this day was that he deliberately held back President Muhamamdu Buhari in the Government House for hours while APC faithful waited seemingly endlessly at the venue of the rally.
The Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, Rotimi Amaechi, did frowned at the development. The presidential campaign itinerary was unconscionably disrupted by Okorocha. The objective was to wear out the party faithful and force many of them to leave. The moment Okorocha feared most and wished would not happen was the presidential confirmation, endorsement and affirmation of the governorship candidate of the party.
Undoubtedly, Okorocha’s moves were the last acts of a once influential godfather who had become shattered and battered in the explosive contestation for control of the soul of APC in Imo as typified by the race for the party’s governorship ticket. In fact, on that occasion, when Okorocha had the opportunity of mounting the podium, it was to sing his Nunc Dimittis, laced with the narrative about how he founded the APC in Imo and how those who used the police and the army against him have now taken over the party.
Even before Okorocha openly expressed his exasperation, the writing on the wall had been quite evident. Like the words-“mene, mene, tekel, upharsin”- that appeared on the wall during Belshazzar’s feast (Daniel 5:25), meaning “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided” and interpreted by Daniel to mean that God had doomed the kingdom of Belshazzar, I saw exactly the same words on the backdrop of Okorocha’s last acts and fading political relevance.
Indeed, Okorocha’s days have been numbered. His government has been weighed and divided. He has lost the soul of the party that he helped to found in Imo; and, the control of the mechanics of governmental direction and influence has slipped through his fingers. Worse still, he has tragically become pitiable in the territory where his diktats once enjoyed a free reign. But not anymore!
The once deified lord of the manor, the alpha and the omega in the politics of Imo APC has lost his defining essence, gravitas and appeal. The party members decided to stand up to him – and through the leadership of a certain Senator Hope Uzodinma, who is APC’s hope – they deflated the ego of one of the modern day emperors in Nigeria.
Okorocha’s antics must have become so irritating to national leaders of the APC so much so that when Amaechi came on the podium, he gave a one-line address: “I want the national chairman to come on the podium to declare who the governorship candidate of the party is.” At that point, I knew there was a perfect grand conspiratorial alliance against Okorocha, bordering on derision for his peculiar politics that feeds his desperation to build a political dynasty in Imo.
The party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, came up and did just that with Senator Hope Uzodinma by his side. Both leaders envisioned a new Imo State and the next level to which President Buhari’s re-election would take Nigeria. Oshiomhole expressed confidence that Uzodinma would win the governorship election while Uzodinma, on his part, assured that Imo people would vote massively for Buhari on February 16.
APC has what it takes to win the governorship election, regardless of Okorocha’s anti-Uzodinma plans. The APC leadership is unperturbed about the ranting of the outgoing governor, who is contesting for the Orlu Senatorial seat on the APC platform while supporting his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, in the governorship election on the platform of Action Alliance (AA), a brazen anti-party act. This is essentially the point of divergence between the two gladiators.
Interestingly, both Okorocha and Uzodinma are from Orlu senatorial zone with the highest registered voter population, which it has historically deployed in winning the governorship elections over the years. The political sophistication of Orlu people is not in doubt. They know how strategic the position of governor is and they would be disposed to voting for Uzodinma on March 2.
Besides, Uzodinma is poised to benefit from his age-long personal relationship with the vast majority of the people of his Orlu zone. There is hardly any community, according to reports, that he has not positively touched with his eleemosynary acts of charity and philanthropy. These are expected to speak for him in the zone with twelve local government areas.
In Owerri zone with nine local government areas, credible information indicate the zone is in a hurry to ensure the exit of Okorocha and his family from the Government House. According to unconfirmed reports, Owerri people are angry with Okorocha because he allegedly acquired plots of land and property belonging to them (Owerri people) illegally, in addition to willful destruction of their ancestral markets and declaration of war on their sons and daughters, including, for instance, the incumbent deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere.
Uzodinma has picked an Owerri son, Professor Placid Njoku, as his running mate. With the community of Catholic Church, under the leadership of the fearless Bishop Chukwuma Obinna, in support, it is taken for granted that Owerri zone is a no-go area for Okorocha and his son-in-law (Nwosu) to seek votes. Although the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Emeka Ihedioha, is from Owerri zone, there are feelers that he may not be able to deploy the homeboy advantage in garnering the majority of votes.
Owerri zone will be largely decimated and Ihedioha would be deprived of bloc votes. Hope Uzodinma’s strategists are looking to pick a majority of the votes in Owerri. And, in Okigwe zone, where the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Ifeanyi Araraume, hails from, he is expected to be in charge given his popularity among and acceptability by the people. Nevertheless, he has Uzodinma and his men from the zone, including Tony Chukwu and Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, to contend with.
The national leadership of the APC is very much aware of the scenarios stated supra and is confident that Okorocha has lost his electoral value. That was the point made at the party’s presidential rally in Imo. But Okorocha must be grateful to Buhari who was, perhaps, touched by the way he (Okorocha) had been embarrassed and, therefore, decided, as a compassionate leader and father, to assuage the burden of shame.
It was instructive to note that Buhari, who had earlier endorsed and affirmed the candidature of Uzodinma, would in his speech thereafter admonish party faithful to vote for candidates of their choice across party lines. Understandably, Okorocha must have appropriated that as being a tacit endorsement of Nwosu. But he sincerely knows that Buhari’s statement was merely political – essentially aimed at giving him a seemingly dignified exit from the rally venue.
Although presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu had later explained the statement was meant for the entire Imo people who are not APC members but love the president, I discern Buhari was strategic in his speech. He was only trying to identify with a disconsolate Okorocha. That was how to be a caring leader and father to belligerent siblings. But, to be sure, Buhari sees Hope as the navigator in the political struggle to liberate Imo from the stranglehold of Okorocha’s “iberiberism”.
* Ojeifo sent in this piece via email@example.com