Call it a cold war or battle of attrition, you would not be wrong but what is certain is that a yawning crack has emerged in the political structure of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.
When it started and how long it has lasted cannot be easily determined but the recent swirl of rumours around the health of Okorocha brought the distinct split among key personnel of the governor to the fore.
Efforts at cover up have proved to be more cosmetic than enduring. For the observant and indeed most personnel at the Imo Government House, it is no longer secret that top functionaries in the Okorocha administration are split between two power blocs led by the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere and the Chief of Staff to the governor, Uche Nwosu.
Those lining up behind the Deputy Governor are largely motivated by the sentiment that Owerri zone, where he comes from is favoured to produce the next governor after Okorocha and they reason that the deputy governor stands a better chance with his incumbent position.
Several appointees from the zone as well as functionaries drawn from Ohaji Egbema, Orlu, Okigwe zone and others, who believe that Madumere influenced their appointments, are loyally tagging along though a number of them are also playing double game. For Nwosu, the bulk of the appointees in the government lean towards him.
Not just because he is the Chief of Staff but largely because he is the governor’s sonin- law. Modestly put, Nwosu’s office is the clearing house as far as government businesses are concerned and he has the ear of the governor more than any other appointee.
Nwosu’s ambition in 2019 may not be very clear like the ambition of the deputy governor, but it cannot be ruled out that he is being primed for a table-turning shot at executive power especially with his bold political stance in recent times.
While political machinations between these two power blocs have been kept under wraps for a time, the seeming inability of the deputy governor, during Okorocha’s three-week foreign trip, to assert his position when the death rumour of his boss dominated small talks in the country, has thrown up angry expressions pitching him not against the Chief of Staff this time but deliberately against his principal whom he has dutifully served over the years.
A government house source, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity stated that the actions or perhaps inactions of Madumere during the three weeks the death and ghost rumour swirled amounted to the deputy governor shooting himself on the leg.
He said: “A deputy governor should be a deputy in all situations. If there is an issue concerning the governor and he is not in the country, his deputy should take initiative and fill the gap.
What would it take for the deputy governor to call an elaborate press conference and possibly put a call to the governor who he knows is alive, in a live press conference for the world to hear? He left the vacuum to remain open and unknowingly allowed the rumour to fester and gain ground.
Now some are wondering if it was just an innocent oversight or an act of convenience.”Another source who confided in our correspondent said Madumere is only being careful due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“Let us look at these issues fairly; in the power structure operated by Okorocha, how much power does the deputy wield in such cases as this? Put yourself in his place and you will realize he is working carefully not to be misunderstood or misconstrued.
You may not understand how these things work but ask yourself how many times has Okorocha left the country for a long stretch and handed over to his deputy as acting governor? It has not happened before, so you see the young man may have been constrained to doing only what he is instructed to do,” the source said.
The justifications for the deputy governor’s actions and inactions, notwithstanding, the secret sparring between his camp and that of the Chief of Staff, however, came to the fore on Sunday, August 21, when some persons, who felt strongly about the activities of the number two man in the state bared their minds on the social media.
The Chief of Staff (Nwosu) had on the said day, wrote on his Facebook wall that “enemies keep making my mentor and hero popular every day. The more they lie, the more popular the man becomes. Don’t stop please, keep popularising my governor. Most people that fought or said evil about Owelle Rochas Okorocha end up going down at the end of the day.
The history is there…be careful.” Knowing who would have become the beneficiary in the event of demise, the Director General of the Governor Rochas Okorocha’s governorship campaign, Barr. Iheukwumere Alaribe commented under Nwosu’s post: “Thank God that it is not true.
But assuming it were, just imagine what would have happened: Gate to Commissioners quarters, Owerri blocked to stop Jude Ejiogu, Campaign DG and one other person from crossing; Uche Nwosu sacked; Chidi Ibe sacked; SSG (Secretary to the State Government) sacked; Gertrude Oduka sacked; Exco dissolved; Eke made SSG.
I will join APGA. Then there will be a state wedding for a new Nneoma (First Lady). God forbid! Owelle is alive.” While the Chief of Staff did not fault the post, one Godstime Samuel, former Executive Assistant to the Governor on Student Affairs and a kinsman of the deputy governor was swift to condemn the post. Few days later, Nwosu made another post on the return of Okorocha. He posted: “My Governor is back…
Now back to sender. When I said they keep making him popular, I really meant it, the airport was agog as workers and travellers at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, besieged Owelle Ndigbo to welcome him.
Keep shining my Governor.” Again Alaribe commented: “That’s great. The enemies have been shamed including those hoping to become governor before 2019. We give God the glory.”
Samuel quickly attacked Alaribe, accusing him of making “comments of doom in the sys-tem.” This perhaps roused Nwosu to issue a half-hearted caution. “Alaribe my brother, this post is not good at all. Please stop,” he wrote.
Despite Nwosu’s attempt to douse tension, it is however a known fact that Chief Jude Ejiogu, the former Chief of Staff before Nwosu, was also enmeshed in a cold war with the deputy governor until he was redeployed to the SSG position before he was removed from office for reasons best known to Okorocha.
While Madmere’s kinsmen in Mbieri, Mbaitoli council area have even gone on air to beg Governor Okorocha to come to their rescue as there is no single motorable road to their community from the state capital, political pundits are musing on the theory that the cause of the infrastructural dilapidation in the area may be more of an issue of politics than an issue of capacity.
Today, Madumere, has become a byword for all that is bad in Mbaitoli council area as he has been unable to attract any substantial infrastructure to his community as deputy governor of Imo state.
The Achi Mbieri community of the deputy governor is something next to an abandoned enclave. Not even the Eke Ubomiri-Achi Mbieri- Renaissance road leading directly to the Deputy Governor’s country home is worth a second look.
On the other hand, Nwosu’s Eziama Obaire community which is almost a 45-minutes drive from the state capital has evidently been overhauled, infrastructurally.
While the cold war rages between the Madumere and Nwosu camps, Okorocha has since his return from abroad been trying to put his house in order.
On the same day he arrived Owerri, the Imo State capital, he scheduled a meeting with all his appointees, while a meeting with his commissioners was held the next day.
Though little has been said officially by the state government, there is no gainsaying the fact that Okorocha felt abandoned in his brief moment of crisis.
Not even his Commissioner for Information, Vitalis Ajumbe, thought it worthwhile to repudiate the rumour and tell the public the true position of things until it was late.
Though the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, issued a strongworded press statement, it came at a time the rumour has already gained ground far more than what a press statement by could redress.