IMO State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who prides himself as a political colossus was taught “Politics 101” last Saturday.
It didn’t come as a surprise, though. To any discerning political observer, it was only a matter of time. While he was clowning and punching way above his political weight, his opponents were waiting for the auspicious time.
And when that time came, the man who claims to have conquered Imo State and dominated its hapless people himself was left high and dry. Sublime political intrigue at its best.
The Saturday, May 5, 2018 ward congress of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Imo presented Okorocha’s formidable political adversaries within his own party the opportunity to teach him the political lesson of his life.
Okorocha, convinced that the APC leadership in Imo will not support his political shenanigans in 2019 threw his weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s last minute decision to push the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee, NWC, under the bus by jettisoning the already agreed tenure extension.
Okorocha’s support for the conduct of fresh congresses was informed solely by his inordinate ambition to install cronies that will deliver the APC governorship ticket to his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu.
But blinded by ambition and hubris, he didn’t reckon with the determination of the opposition within the party to scuttle his plan.
So, while the congress was underway in other states, the sensitive materials to be used in Imo disappeared.
The party’s national organising secretary, Chief Osita Izunaso, an Imo indigene, a former senator and one of the political gladiators, claimed he handed the materials to Chief Ini Okorie, who was sent from the party headquarters to superintend the congress, a claim which Okorie repudiated.
When the police took him to Izunaso’s Owerri home in a bid to resolve the riddle, Okorie, just like the sensitive materials, also disappeared.
Okorocha was flummoxed, watching as it were, his well-hatched plans go up in flames. Not even a visit to Izunaso with the Imo State Police Commissioner, Chris Ezike, could lift the lid off the grand conspiracy. It was political sleight of the hand at its best.
Realising that he had been beaten to his own game and knowing that the Oyegun-led NWC will not have any sympathy, Okorocha turned to Buhari, making an emergency visit to the President’s country home in Daura, Katsina State, just a day after the congress.
I doubt if he slept that Saturday night, haunted, no doubt, by the spectre of electoral malfeasance he had helped to create and perpetuate.
Describing what happened in Imo as funny politics, Okorocha, who had unilaterally shared positions in the party for the 2019 elections, said: “We expect internal democracy and internal democracy is the way to go. This kind of funny politics that we are playing must stop … we do not want people to carry ballot boxes and steal results. This looks so primitive.
I intimated Mr. President and we will make sure that such things must stop.”
Asked what the President’s response was, Okorocha stuttered.
“I intimated Mr. President and we will make sure that such things must stop. He spoke like the President and he will take the necessary steps to correct this in our party, APC, not just in Imo State but across the whole nation, and to also make sure that there is respect for internal democracy in Imo State.”
Expectedly, Buhari did not speak. But the party apparatchik did. And their verdict was that the congresses were a huge success and whoever felt aggrieved should seek redress through the appropriate channel(s).
It is almost impossible for any well-meaning Imolite not to gloat over Okorocha’s humiliation.
A conquered fiefdom
As governor, Okorocha has carried on as an emperor, impervious to advice. He has ruled the state as a conquered fiefdom and treated the otherwise proud people as serfs.
The man boasts to whoever cares to listen that he will never make the mistake his predecessors, Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim, made.
And what was this grievous mistake? They allowed the electoral will of the people to prevail. To Okorocha, it does not matter that he was the primary beneficiary of the triumph of the will of the people when the Imo electorate in 2011 turned their back, for whatever reason, on an incumbent with huge war chest.
And in unilaterally deciding his successor, Okorocha was condescending and insulting.
Of course, in his hubris, he overreached himself and like the Nwa Nza bird in Igbo folklore that overfed and challenged its Chi (personal god) to a duel, Okorocha was bound to come to grief sooner than later because just like Chief M. A. Nanga, in Chinua Achebe’s 1966 epic political satire, A Man of the People, the governor has brazenly “taken away enough for the owner to notice.”
And Imolites have noticed. His choice of Uche Nwosu, his son-in-law and chief of staff, as successor and determination to ride roughshod against any opposition just added insult to the many injuries – political, social and economic – inflicted on the people, whose only crime was that they elected him governor seven years ago.
Let’s be clear, as a Nigerian, Okorocha has the right to support Nwosu’s political aspiration just as Nwosu’s fundamental right to vote or be voted for cannot be sacrificed on the altar of his filial relationships.
All that was required was due process and if at the end of the day, Imo APC delegates, decide he is their choice, so be it. In fact, if, having emerged as the APC candidate, Imo electorate agree next year during the general elections that in the young man, Uche Nwosu, they had found a transformational leader in whom they are well-pleased, all fine and good.
But Okorocha has no right deploying the people’s patrimony in promoting his son-in-law’s aspiration to the utter exclusion of every other Imolite, believing, to use a local lingo, that it is just a matter of cash.
When and how did Okorocha become the god of Imo politics? Such delusion explains a fundamental flaw in our democracy which seeks to deify leadership by making small gods of elected public officials.
But the end result of such illusion is always predictable. Where are the 1999 – 2017 set of governors? Who hears about them again?
What happened to Okorocha last Saturday is the beginning of his political demystification. As the Igbo say, if a man cooks for the public they will consume the meal but he will be hard put if the reverse is the case. For almost eight years, Okorocha has taken the people for granted, serving them duplicitous meals. Now, the people have decided to cook for him.
If he does not retrace his steps, he will come to political grief and there is nothing a President Buhari can do to save him from the wrath of a people he has humiliated for too long.
What happened last Saturday is only a tip of the iceberg. If Governor Okorocha does not repent of his political sins and ask for forgiveness, his humiliation in the 2019 general elections will be total.
Ikechukwu Amaechi is the MD/Editor-in-Chief, TheNiche on Sunday newspaper, Ikeja, Lagos.