By Comfort Obi
The rising sun has finally pushed the darkness back. Initially, nobody believed it for, the darkness was extremely thick. But as the reality sank, the drums rolled out. And the people rolled in an unadulterated excitement. Phones rang. Text messages stretched from Imo to all parts of the world where Imolites reside. The messages were the same. Victory, at last, they proclaimed.
Don’t blame them.
It seemed the victory would never come; That Imolites have been condemned to a very long haul of gnashing of teeth. The eight years, of the out-going governor, Rochas Okorocha, seemed like forever. Many were ticking out the days one by one, month by month. But some had given up. The unusual governance in Imo would never end, they thought. So, they resigned themselves to fate. Others took to prayers. In Churches, it was a prayer point. Then, when people thought that whatever, it would come to an end, the governor broke their hearts by doing the unimaginable. He endorsed his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor.
Nwosu, young and urbane, took the state by storm. Until 2011 when Okorocha appointed him his aide, not many people had heard of him. I cannot confirm, but the much known of him is that he was one of the youths who applied for the 10,000 jobs Okorocha’s predecessor in office, Ikedi Ohakim, had on offer. While some say he was successful, others say he failed. But whatever, Nwosu’s sun shone brighter than that of his contemporaries.
Lucky guy, once Okorocha was sworn in, one of his priorities was the disengagement of a number of the 10,000 youths already employed by Ohakim.
Not quite long after his first appointment as an aide, Nwosu was elevated to the position of a Commissioner. His lot? One of the lucrative ministries – Lands.
It was in that ministry that he hit the jackpot. He got married to Okorocha’s lovely daughter. And his bread couldn’t have been better buttered than that. His rise was astonishing. Nwosu became the Chief of Staff, and became unstoppable. He had power. And he knew how to use it. Within eight years, if the stories are anything to go by, the young man who, allegedly, applied for Ohakim’s 20,000 Naira a -month- job, became a billionaire.
When Okorocha endorsed him as his successor, Imolites were aghast. They saw it as the governor’s third term, and a possible fourth term.
To install Nwosu, Okorocha was clinical in his plans. He began, early enough, to remove from office, anybody he felt could pose a threat to his well – laid plans.
His first Deputy Governor, Sir Jude Agbaso, he humiliated out of office over a patently false bribery allegation. His first Chief of Staff, and later, SSG, Sir Jude Ejiogu, he humiliated out of office. He did the same to a former Commissioner, Nick Oparandudu. The limit, and nemesis was his wickedness to his second Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere, an extremely close ally. He engineered his impeachment, as he did Agbaso’s, just to pave way for Nwosu.
Of all his weird actions, it was the way he desperately went about his desire to install Nwosu governor that irked most. Nobody else was qualified to be Imo governor, except Nwosu; without Nwosu, the state would collapse, he preached.
Witty, and foul mouthed, the governor took on every institution in the state. The traditional institution. Our cultural heritage. The education sector. The health sector. The civil and public service. The Church. Statesmen and women. Founding fathers of the state. And, he did that with a brazenness and impunity that defy logic. It was to the point of insult. Traditional rulers would wait hours for him to come in for a meeting he summoned. Teachers suffered same fate.
I cannot confirm, but the allegation is very strong that Okorocha’s acquisition tendencies border on the primitive. Any parcel of land he fancied in the state, he allegedly acquired. Any position he felt like, he created and appointed his siblings and relations to. Nobody dared ask questions. It was like he had conquered the state.
But in man’s affairs, God usually intervenes in mysterious ways. While Okorocha was planning a third term by proxy, God used his, Okorocha’s, close allies to nail him.
It started gradually, just a movement, which face was Okorocha’s former Commissioner for Information, popular as, TOE Ekechi. Gradually, it began to spread like wildfire, across party lines. The ante was raised when Okorocha fell out with DG Madumere for daring to have an interest in the governorship seat reserved for Nwosu.
Angered by the governor’s condescending treatment of him, Madumere showed a side of him nobody knew – a fighting spirit. He called his Principal’s bluff, and declared interest in the office. Okorocha declared war on him. Livid, a number of Imo sons rallied round Madumere. To help cripple Okorocha, politically, and rescue Imo, Senator Hope Uzodinma defected to the APC from the PDP, and joined the good company of Senators Ben Uwajimogu, Ifeanyi Ararume, and Osita Izunaso. Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and now, Governor-elect, The Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, entered the fray, ignoring the fact that he is of a different political party, the PDP. For these distinguished Imo sons and many more, the chorus was: “For 2019, anybody but Okorocha and his son-in-law”
The battle was long and fierce. Out-smarted in his bid, beginning with the party congresses, to install Nwosu governor using the APC platform, he fell back on plan B – a new political party, the Action Alliance, AA, a party he, Okorocha, had been funding from day one. Nwosu became the candidate, while, Okorocha held the APC senatorial ticket.
Then the election date. And, Imolites took their pound of flesh. Even then, a rugged fighter, Okorocha, by hook or crook, almost pulled a surprise on the people. Every arsenal in his rough and brash political life was on display. Cash. Thugs. Fake police vehicles and personnel. Fake soldiers. Intimidation. Using those, he garnered as many as ten LGAs for Nwosu.
The battle raged, even as the final collation was going on. At the INEC headquarters, Imo, fights broke out intermittently. Tension stretched to high heavens. The suspense electrifying. Anxiety upped blood pressures. Everybody was restless. But, the Imo spirit was at work. At the end, the will of the people prevailed.
When Ihedioha was pronounced the winner, the scene, within and outside the venue was indescribable. And so was the celebration. Tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of the old and young. Cars honked their horns. Motor cyclists embarked on heart-stopping acrobatic rides. Fireworks re-designed Imo’s skyline. And screams of ‘Free, free, Imo is free’, rent the air. Imo sons and daughters across Nigeria and the diaspora spoke with one voice as they celebrated. The beginning of a new Imo, they chorused.
For Okorocha, it is also the beginning of a journey on an unfamiliar ground. It is the price he paid for his selfishness, and it is huge. He is on suspension from his party. He has lost, even if temporarily, the Chairmanship of the APC Governorship Forum, a position he cherishes no end. His senatorial ticket is endangered. If he finally gets expelled from his party, he may lose that seat, especially, as INEC has withheld his certificate of return. INEC says he, allegedly, was announced winner under duress. To get that certificate, he may need to approach the court, an institution which orders he continuously disobeyed with impunity.
Okorocha is on a lonely journey. Yet, the question remains: How did a man who was ushered in as a governor with drums, cymbals and dances descend this low before a once adoring people?
The answer is simple. Undiluted power drunkenness which, at times, bordered on dictatorship. Pride. Arrogance. Greediness. Selfishness.
For the records, Okorocha began well when he first came into office. Urged on by an adoring public, hungry for a down-to-earth leader, he made some populist decisions. He opened up the state capital, constructed roads, even if badly executed. And, he made the people laugh. They loved that. But midway, he changed dramatically, and became an emperor.
Now, rejected by his party and Imolites, he is on a long, lonely, journey. And the people are ecstatic. They can’t wait for May 29 to bid him a long good bye. They can’t wait to present the in-coming governor with a long shopping list – reversal of so many injustices, including those done to former Deputy Governor Jude Agbaso and DG Madumere who he has, for months, stripped of everything. Thre are, also, the corrupted traditional institution; the confused education system and the destabilized civil service. Most important, the in-coming governor needs to restore the confidence of the people in themselves and in their state. Their self esteem is unbelievably low. It’s a long list. But, he must start somewhere.
Finally, a word for those Imo sons, our heroes, who collectively brought back laughter to the people, especially, Madumere, Uzodinma, Uwajimogu, Izunaso, Ararume, Ihedioha, TOE and Uche Onyeagocha. You are the faces of our joy today. I salute you. You must stick together and finish the job you started which is: to rescue Imo from Okorocha & co. It doesn’t matter which political party you belong to. You have a single mission: give Imolites back their self worth. Excuses will not be acceptable. Bury your individual ambitions, and move Imo forward. If you don’t, Okorocha’s fate awaits you.
And, for Emperor Okorocha who has just lost his empire, it’s a long goodbye. Most Imolites are happy to see him off, his bag of Iberiberism strapped to his back, with a continuous wave of their hands. Their wish: Enjoy the next battle ground with your party and INEC. Imo has moved on. And, the people are clapping.