Igboeli Arinze, Michael Chibuzor and Haruna Tukur– FCT Abuja and Owerri
It had first begun as a rumour, however as the days came, what was adjudged a rumour started materialising into a full blown conflict, the die seemed to have been cast and in this battle royale there can be no fence sitting, alliances are been formed and reinforcements made as the impending battle will be fought using proxies and shadows for the diadem in the soul of Imo State APC.
The main gladiators are Governor Hope Uzodinma and his not too past predecessor in Senator Rochas Anayo Okorocha, the two men alongside a number of other forces are presently locked in the battle to edge out the other for the control of the party.
Many expected such a battle as both gladiators possess pedigrees in politics that would not allow for one of them to sit and watch while the other made inroads into what each of them saw as their territory, but not this soon , however since nothing is cast in stone, then Imolites and Nigerians will have to gear up for a battle royale in Imo State politics, one that will surely be vividly entertaining.
For Okorocha, there is no love lost between himself and the sitting governor. It is important to note that the duo had been engaged in previous faceoffs, the most recent of them occuring recently when Senator Okorocha wanted to impose Uche Nwosu who is his son in law as the APC flagbearer for the 2019 Guber elections. Uzodinma, then a late debutante into the party somewhat outsmarted Okorocha to pick the party’s ticket, this forced Nwosu to move to the Action Alliance , AA a move that was rather an ill-fated one as his emergence as it’s candidate was eventually nullified by the courts.
With Emeka Ihedioha emerging as the winner of the 2019 Guber elections and his seeming persecution of his immediate predecessor, Senator Okorocha somewhat sheathed his sword against Uzodinma and prosecuted a battle through the courts seeking to upturn the victory and have Nwosu declared the winner or at least get a rerun between Ihedioha and Nwosu, when this failed, it is alleged that he immediately made overtures to the Uzodinma camp.
For Okorocha, with the emergence of Uzodinma as the Supreme Court judgement of the 14th of January did decide, it is much believed that hatchets of the past and most especially the bad blood generated in the heat of the 2018 primaries would be forgotten and everyone would be given a “seat at the table” to make one’s input into governance. To his consternation, such was not done as sources in the former governor’s camp told realpoliticsnigeria.ng that the former governor had not received any invitation to attend any of the stakeholders meetings called by the governor either in the state or in the SouthEast, despite Okorocha’s status as a senator and a leader in the state and region.
Also, the failure of Uzodinma to stop the panels of inquiry set up by Emeka Ihedioha to probe the Okorocha’s right years administration was also seen as an act of bad faith by Okorocha and his supporters. An aide to Okorocha had told realpoliticsnigeria.ng that even though the former governor had not approached Uzodinma for a respite, it was poor body language politics for Uzodinma to have allowed the panels to continue their work when everybody knew that the panels were set up with a preconceived agenda, which was to get at Okorocha and weaken him politically.
Even in appointments, the Orlu born senator had been shortchanged as he had made no input into the appointments made in the Hope Uzodinma administration, despite the fact that he was a ranking member of the party at the state and national levels.
The last straw that perhaps broke the proverbial camel’s back was the indictment of Senator Okorocha by the Justice Benjamin Iheaka Panel. This is coming days after the commission submitted it’s report to Governor Hope Uzodinma, where the Justice Iheaka’s findings based on award of contracts between 2011 to 2019 said it discovered among other things that “There were monumental fraud that were orchestrated by the contractors in the period under review with strong collusion with some civil servants who helped in the fraud which was evidenced in over-pricing of the value of the contracts executed in the state.” The panel had asked that the sum of N106 BN be recovered from those it stated had connived to defraud the state. Responding, Okorocha had challenged the government to publish the full report rather than allow the media mislead the populace.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media, Sam Onwuemedo, Okorocha stated that in publishing the report the state government would enable people to know how they arrived at the N106 billion.
Disagreeing with the report, Okorocha stated the following : “The media had come up with stories, with the referenced caption, following the report of Justice Benjamin Iheaka’s panel of inquiry on contracts from 2011 to 2019. That was the period, Senator Rochas Okorocha had governed the state. And our initial reaction goes this way.
“We challenge the government in Imo State, led by Senator Hope Uzodinma to publish the Iheaka report verbatim, so that Imo people in particular and Nigerians in general, could read the report and see how the panel arrived at N106 billion which they said that Senator Okorocha should refund.
We have always claimed that Okorocha as governor had more than one thousand projects to his credit and nobody, including the government in Imo has said it is not true or has openly challenged us to publish the projects because they know that the projects exist. And if they exist, how would someone have made away with N106 Billion and still do such befitting projects.”
Okorocha added: “We are also demanding for the publication of the report because we do not believe that the chairman of the panel, a Judge, could go ahead to submit a report on a matter that is pending at a Federal High Court in which the Presiding Judge had ordered for the maintenance of the status quo.
However, realpoliticsnigeria.ng gathered from Governor Hope Uzodinma’s camp that the insinuations that the governor was relegating Okorocha was far from the truth as the Uzodinma had done no such thing. A source very close to the governor and is as well an appointee in the present administration who craved anonymity criticised Okorocha for wanting to call the shots in Imo APC.
” We all know that in party politics that the leader of the party at the state level is the governor and nobody else, however , Okorocha still beleives that he is the governor , a year and six months after his tenure expired.
” How can Okorocha seek to dictate to Hope Uzodinma who will become the state chairman of APC, when we all know that the said person in Dan Nwafor openly worked against Governor Uzodinma and the party’s interests in the 2019 elections? ”
“Okorocha must think that we have amnesia, otherwise he would not still be seeking to impose his will on the people of the state as the constitution of Nigeria does not recognize third term tenures”
The source also denied that Okorocha had supported Hope Uzodinma in his quest to get his mandate at the courts, pointing out that he Okorocha as usual was grandstanding.
With the brickbats, going back and forth it has been gathered that the gloves are now off and for both persons it will be a fight to the finish. Both are reported to have big ambitions, Okorocha is alleged to have his eyes fixed on the presidency come 2023 and will need to have his base in his kitty if he is to make a better impression than he did in 2014. For Governor Uzodinma, his eyes will be set on returning to Douglas House in 2024, he will definitely not want to leave any stone unturned one.of which will be the decimation of the Okorocha political structure in Imo state.
Asides the Iheaka report, the refusal of Governor Uzodinma to reinstate the 27 local government council chairmen who had been sacked by Uzodinma’s predecessor, Emeka Ihedioha is another pointer to how bad things are likely to get The sacked council chairmen , who are all loyalists of Okorocha had been elected in June 2018 and had thus challenged their sack in the law courts. With Uzodinma’s emergence it had been hoped that the sacked council leaders would be reinstated but with a rude shock the Uzodinma administration had gone on to appoint 27 interim transition chairmen.
Like we stated earlier, the die is cast, both Governor Uzodinma and Senator Okorocha it seems have crossed the rubicon, we can only as onlookers watch and help the public with an unbiased analysis as we seem fit.