BY RALPH EJIMKONYE
The absence of key leaders and stakeholders of the All Progressive Congress, APC in Imo State at the 55th Birthday celebration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha in Owerri has further confirmed worries that the APC in the State may be wobbling and fumbling towards 2019.
In Nigeria’s brand of politics, when politicians begin to avoid each other, it is a clear indication that all is not well and political pretence has taken centre stage amongst them. The end product of these anomalies is that there is fire on the mountain for the party.
The APC in Imo State is not immune to the usual and normal internal party bickering that is prevalent in almost all political parties in Nigeria but the introduction and elevation of politics of exclusionism orchestrated by Governor Rochas Okorocha in Imo APC is capable of truncating the huge political gains the party has recorded in the State in the last three years.
The Imo APC is now a house divided against itself where things are gradually falling apart. The absence of party stakeholders such as Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Hon Uche Onyeagocha, Senator Osita Izunaso, Senator Benjamin Uwajumuogu at Okorocha’s elaborate birthday celebration is a testimony that there is indeed a crack on the party’s wall. It further gives credence to the fact that the party is being gradually shredded by divergent interests which may rub off on its electoral chances in 2019. We have heard tales of a rupture- a division driven by inordinate ambitions which is the major cause of the slow but steady drift to monumental internal strife in the party.
Governor Rochas Okorocha is the leader of the party in the state. And there is no doubt about this fact. But he is the guiltiest for the ticking time bomb in the party, creating a path that would lead to an impending implosion that may even deny the party the governorship seat in 2019. He has run the party in Imo State in a manner that has scared away other serious and major stakeholders who joined the party with him to liberate the state from the grip of the PDP.
He has continuously exhibited an overbearing and domineering control of the party and elevated the concept of exclusionism in the Imo APC family. This has led to factions which now have strong political taproots in the party. Other stakeholders now run on different paths but united by a common factor which is to ensure Okorocha does not get his successor on the Imo APC governorship ticket in 2019.
The so called Abuja stakeholders and Okorocha now run on different lanes, scheming to undo the other in Imo APC. That he has the House of Assembly members and other APC federal lawmakers on his side in addition to pro APC groups does not necessarily translate to huge political gain and capital for the governor in the party. It does not indicate he has the party in his pocket already as such assumption could be counter- productive to his political scheming when the chips are down.
When a party leader fails to manage his over- bloated political ego and imaginary belief of possessing a political magic wand, party stakeholders and followers are bound to congregate and unite to challenge such leader’s shortcomings. The depth of the internal strife in Imo APC raises concern and because it has simmered so deep, it has become a source of worry for those who laboured to get the party on the victory lane in 2015. It is indeed worrisome that If Okorocha’s domineering control of the party is not curtailed it may lead to the electoral doom of the party in Imo State. I read Sam Onwuemedo’s piece on “What 2019 Guber Aspirants In APC, Not On Same Page With Rochas Should Do” published on his x ray column of Whitepaper Newspaper of Monday September 18- Tuesday September 19. I totally disagree with his postulations that Okorocha alone will be in pole position to decide who gets what in the party ahead of the 2019 polls. Much as I agree that the Governor has a large stake in the party, it is a false impression, a fake picture and a lie taken too far if anyone thinks that Okorocha alone will maintain 100% grip of the party in the state as he did in 2015.
The political situation in Imo APC in 2015 and now differs a lot. Every political dispensation has its political peculiarities and differences. In 2015, Okorocha sold a dummy to the APC originators that he is the only cock that will crow for the APC in Imo State and the South East. He was believed hook, line and sinker. But in the end, what was Buhari’s result at the 2015 presidential polls in Imo? Failure. The PDP and its presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan won the State. The PDP captured the three Senatorial seats and majority of the House of Reps seats.
The PDP still retains strong presence in Imo State. Can the APC soley entrust the fortunes of the party in Okorocha’s hands again in 2019 when he could not deliver in 2015?
The APC as a party is likely to take extra steps to win the South East or at least secure considerable presence in the region. And it will certainly be a difficult task because of the present disposition of Igbos towards the party and President Buhari over his not to good relationship with the South East. Therefore Okorocha’s politics of exclusionism which he has rooted in Imo APC will not be of help to the party. He alone cannot decide the shape and colouration of the APC in Imo State in 2019. His ” I am “bigger than party” posture in the State cannot do the magic for the APC in Imo. And it would be counter- productive if he goes ahead to bulldoze his way by trying to sideline other stakeholders in his blind and desperate measures to install his successor as the party governorship candidate.
He forgets that in 2015, Buhari and the APC leadership had little or no allies apart from himself in the party in the State and therefore relied so much on him to deliver Imo State and the South East to the APC. Now, there are other stakeholders who are also huge political assets to the national leadership of the party and to the Presidency who are key members of Imo APC.
Recent political developments in the APC in other states have further shown that it is not towing the same path of the PDP where governorship tickets are routed from Abuja. President Buhari seems to be showing some level of disinterestedness in who becomes what at the party level across the country and this makes the quest and race for APC governorship tickets in some states in 2019 very open and competitive no matter how tight any governor or leader holds on to the party apparatus in the states.
If Asiwaju Bola Tinubu with his political might, size and clout in the politics of the South West could fail to install his choice candidate as the APC governorship candidate in Ondo State, and eventually bowed to the choice of other forces in the party to elect Rotimi Akeredolu as the party candidate and eventual governor of the state, then it is not time for Okorocha to go to sleep and assume that the Imo APC is in his pocket and at his beck and call. And if the much fancied Senator Andy Uba with his much publicized contacts and network with the mighty in the country could succumb to the political chemistry of upcoming Tony Nwoye to pick the Anambra State APC governorship ticket, then nothing is certain that Okorocha will have a solo run in foisting his successor as the party’s governorship flag-bearer in Imo State APC.
He should also learn from the bitter experience in Imo PDP in 2006 when Achike Udenwa, the then governor of Imo State, had to concede the party structure in the party to other political forces such as Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Dr( Mrs) Kema Chikwe, Chief Tony Ezenna, Chief Festus Odimegweu and other heavyweights in the PDP. It was Udenwa’s politics of exclusionism that led to the congregation of these forces against him and he ended his reign as governor on a sorry note because he was unable to install a successor! Ikedi Ohakim was not Udenwa’s successor rather he was a product of a battle between Udenwa and his opposing forces. Udenwa was a victim of a powerful congregation of political forces whom he could not overwhelm when the chips were down!
Students of political science say that politics is about people who congregate for various political interests. But in Imo APC, where is the congregation? Okorocha has dispersed the congregation so early in the day. Like a Sunday School Class, the students have dispersed because the Sunday School teacher is not forthcoming.
Okorocha has not shown the desire for co- political leaders to congregate in Imo APC- those who followed him to the party when he needed their support and backing have all fled because his brand of politics centers so much on exclusionism anchored on no consultations, no meetings, rather what have been APC stakeholders meeting in the state are bunch of political layabouts who masquerade as his foot-soldiers and sing the praise of their master.
Where is Humphrey Anumudu whom he dragged into the party few days to the elections? Why has his relationship gone so sour with Senator Arararume? How about Jerry Chukwueke? Is he still in APC? Majority of those who started the APC with Rochas have all fled. Name them Martin Agbaso, who was part of the merger process at the committee level and Emeka Nwajiuba who was also a key factor in Buhari’s camp that contributed to shape the formation of the APC.
I wonder how the governor intends to have his way when he is not on the same page with other critical stakeholders in the party who also have the ears of the party leadership and the Presidency. His strongman approach to 2015 and the internal political dynamics in Imo APC raise fundamental questions how he intends to outdo majority of party leaders who have shown that they are not on the same page with him. Gone are the days of one man politics!
Abuja continues to remain a huge factor in the politics of the APC in Imo State and it is not enough for the Governor to assume that he should have the sole prerogative to say who gets what in the APC in Imo State when some key stakeholders have expressed total displeasure on how the party is run.
Hon. Uche Onyeagocha gave an insight recently when he lamented that the APC in Imo State is in trouble as rents of party offices are not paid, leaving party members disillusioned and disenchanted. The bitter truth is that the APC in Imo State has lost so much appeal from majority of Imolites who are seem not to understand why a political party that rode on the change mantra has rather inflicted hunger, pain and poverty on them.
How the party deals with this rising belief among Imolites in addition to the bickering and extensive politics of exclusionism by Governor Okorocha in the party makes the quest for the party to retain power in 2019 in Imo State a much more herculean task.