- INNONEWS.COM.NG Political Editor BEN UGWU writes on the political scenario in Imo APC before the Stakeholders Meeting Organized by the State Working Committee SEC and the Prospects for the Party Ahead of 2019 Guber Polls.
IN THE BEGINNING
In Imo State chapter of the All Progressive Congress, APC, it has been fireworks all the way. Such fireworks did not start now rather it fueled the battle for the soul of the party which intensified after the National Executive Committee extended the life span of party executives from the ward to the National levels at a NEC meeting held in Abuja last month.
That meeting signaled a turning point for the party already polarized by contending forces. For Governor Rochas Okorocha, he claims he has no reason to lose sleep over unfolding developments in the party, a claim most political analysts seriously disputed. He was on the verge of pocketing the party in the State ostensibly to actualize his ambition of having his son in law and Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu as the party’s governorship candidate when like a thunderbolt the APC NEC turned down his motion to sack the party executives at all levels. When the move crumbled like a pack of cards, Okorocha made a u- turn. He said he could not have moved against party executives he had installed.
Before now, some party leaders in the State had lamented on the Governor’s tight grip on the APC in Imo State, a measure which had shut them out from its affairs. And they had every reason to complain as stakeholders meetings were held at the Governor’s beck and call within the confines Government House which was usually attended by his “Agburu Anyi”followers – ( members of his political team seperated from other members of the APC in the State) and usually boycotted by other stakeholders. This continoulsy led to disenchantment and uneasiness in the party.
A journalist, Mr. Ralph Ejimkonye in his piece titled “ Imo APC And Politics of Exclusionism” published in the traditional and social media captured the depth of division between Okorocha and other stakeholders in the party when he celebrated his 55th birthday. He wrote “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 (now in APGA), 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, 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 him 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 labored 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”
The above narration painted a picture of a divided house, a crumbling edifice which had made the party in Imo State bereft of the usual rave and firepower associated with a ruling party.
At that time, the welfare of party members got so bad that their party offices in the local governments faced eviction from landlords over non payment of rent. The State Party headquarters was bereft of the status of a ruling party as members lamented over lack of political patronage from the government. Okorocha was accused of placing emphasis on quasi political structures such as the Ugwumba movement, the political structure oiling the governorship ambition of his son in law, Uche Nwosu and other groups such as Nneoma women run by his wife, Nneoma Rochas. It was observed that while these groups enjoyed all government patronage and attention, APC members wallowed in agony as lamentations became their lot.
WAVE OF ENDORSEMENTS.
The open endorsement of Chief Uche Nwosu by Governor Rochas Okorocha was the trigger that fueled the fire of rage in the party. Some analysts described it as the breaking point for those who have been nursing grievances on the manner the party was run. It was termed a step taken too far by the Governor who seem to be determined to match on with his political game- plans without caring a hoot about the feelings of other key players.
This newspaper learnt that somehow Nwosu’s endorsements by 24 of 27 LGA chapters of the party became a rallying point for those aggrieved with the Governor as the endorsements were not only challenged by the Restoration Group, a group of aggrieved party chieftains led by a former Commissioner in the State, Chief TOE Ekechi but also by other governorship aspirants in the party. Close observers argued that Nwosu’s endorsement set the stage for fresh hostilities in the party, stating that it became a “breaking point” for them which motivated the need for them to step up. This gave impetus to the once redundant State Working Committee, SWC led by Chief Hilary Eke to roar back to life. For the first time, the SWC convened a stakeholders meeting which was attended by all stakeholders except the Governor who was outside the State.
The SWC at the meeting focused on raising funds for a cash strapped party, the Local Government election and Party Primaries. The attendance was impressive as the meeting afforded a unique opportunity for political foes and friends to sit together for the first time and proffer the way forward for the party in Imo State. Among those who attended include the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, Chief of Staff, Government House, Owerri, Uche Nwosu, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Senator Benjamin Uwajumuogu, National Organizing Secretary, APC, Senator Osita Izunaso, Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Acho Ihim and members of the Imo State House of Assembly, former Secretary to Government of Imo State, Sir Jude Ejiogu and many party stalwarts.
As expected, the meeting was a platform for “political muscle flexing” among the governorship aspirants in the party who seem to be pursuing their ambitions individually but very conscious of the bid of Governor Okorocha to have his son in law as his successor, Uche Nwosu as his successor. The State Chairman, Hilary Eke assured of a level playing ground for aspirants to any elective position, just as he harped on the need for cohesion among members ahead of the local government election and the Party Primary.
CHANGING POLITICAL DYNAMICS
One of the noticeable development after the Stakeholders Meeting in Owerri is the seeming unity of purpose by most of the governorship aspirants. Though pursuing their governorship ambitions individually with the sole aim to succeed, it was observed that most of them are waiting for the party primary that will decide their fate. This has further given the impression that it is not yet uhuru in a party so fragmented by the fierce scramble for control and power. The polarization of Imo APC has become so clear that stakeholders and members are watching and observing unfolding political events with bated breadth as mutual suspicion and distrust has become so pronounced and endemic.
The political camps of some governorship aspirants mostly those on the front-line have marshaled out strategies and plans all aimed at outwitting the other when the chips are down thus making nonsense of any sincere effort by the State Working Committee to glue the party together before the much awaited Primary.
This newspaper noted that despite concerted efforts to glue party stakeholders together, there are still some level of noticeable political skirmishes. Just after the meeting convened by the SWC led by the State Chairman, Hilary Eke, Governor Rochas Okorocha donated some vehicles to the Local Government Chairmen of the party. 11 LGA Chairmen and 4 in acting capacity received the car gifts prompting fierce reactions from the G-16 Local Government Chairmen of the party. The G-16 LGA Chairmen had been accused by the Governor of switching their loyalty for an oath to Senator Ifeanyi Araraume. One of the Chairmen who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were told to recant their loyalty by Okorocha which they strongly opposed and rejected. The Okorocha camp never confirmed or refuted the allegations. The G-16 Chairmen constitute another bloc in the party who are said to be boiling with rage as they await to extract their pound of flesh when the chips are down.
BATTLE FOR PRIMARY.
The Party Primary is months away but the depth of political scheming by the major camps may just be a source of worry. The planned Local Government election is a first major test for the party. Though it aims to win, it can be termed a battleground for the aspirants to further have control of the party structure ahead of the Primary. How this plays out will surely depend which of them gets the upper hand in a party filled with so much internal bickering and power play. How the party will emerge from a torrid past to a hopeful future remain a pulsating puzzle. Only time will tell.