BY RALPH EJIMKONYE
Call them power brokers, influence peddlers you may not be far from the truth. Or simply put, those who have the ears of Governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha.
They are influential and can be adjudged to be decisive factors in the present government who wield enormous influence within government circles in the present administration.
They are men and women of steel, political heavyweights who contributed or made enormous contributions to the emergence of Ihedioha as Governor, Imo State. They are also key gainers, huge beneficiaries of the spoils of power.
They are not more than fifteen. Two of them are women and former Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There are also two former Governors whose input in the government cannot be ignored. Others are key allies, strategic partners and top level advisers.
Former Governor of the State, Achike Udenwa is one of them. Sources said he has been playing the role of a father figure to the Governor. His loyalists such as Dr. Vincent Udokwu who was Director General of the campaign Organization was appointed Commissioner of Health and Hon Mayor Chukwudi Eze, SA on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
Dr (Mrs) Kema Chikwe and Dr. (Mrs) Viola Onwuliri are two notable female influence peddlers in the present government. The latter was appointed a Commissioner.
Dr (Mrs) Viola Onwuliri, who was appointed Education Commissioner, says it is a call to serve her State plagued by ruins and inept leadership of past administrations.
Mrs. Onwuliri despite being a Commissioner has the confidence of the Governor and she remains a member of the Governor’s kitchen cabinet.
Dr (Mrs) Kema Chikwe, a former minister of Aviation and later Transport, has shown so much power and influence in the present government. She wields and exhibits it at will. She has been an ardent supporter of Ihedioha for years having played strategic roles during the battle for the soul of the PDP in the State.
Aside open campaigns she did for Ihedioha, she was a strong pillar of support during electioneering. In a government that places emphasis on reward and loyalty, she was said to have influenced the appointments of his son, Naeto Chikwe as Special Adviser to the Governor, Lagos Liaison and his younger brother, Mr. Chimdi Ejiogu as General Manager, Owerri Capital Development Authority, OCDA and other key appointments.
Senator Ezenwa Onyewuchi who represents Owerri zone in the Senate also wields considerable influence in the present government. He has been an unrepentant supporter of Ihedioha right from the days the latter vied to be Governor in 2015 but lost to Rochas Okorocha.
A strong alliance by the duo translated to the “bulldozer votes” that gave Ihedioha the needed bulk votes from the Owerri axis of Owerri zone comprising Owerri Municipal, Owerri West and Owerri North Local Governments while Ihedioha held forte from the Mbaise axis comprising Ahiazu, Ezinihitte and Aboh Mbaise local governments.
Analysts contend that their strategic alliance led to the bumper votes Ihedioha got from the zone to coast home to victory in the 2019 polls. The senator is said to have also influenced some appointments as well. He has been fingered to be part of the appointment of Chairmen and few members of Interim Management Councils in Owerri Municipal and Owerri North Local Government.
Hon Jones Onyeriri who was appointed political Adviser to the Governor is a known strong and unrepentant ally of the Governor. He has been supportive of Ihedioha’s governorship bid right from their days in the House of Representatives. His appointment as Political Adviser to the Governor is said to be a subtle move for Onyeriri to wait for the outcome for ongoing legal fireworks at the Election Petition Tribunal that has trailed the outcome of the Orlu senatorial seat election which he lost to former Governor Rochas Okorocha in controversial circumstances.
Former Governor Ikedi Ohakim has been a core component of the present administration. His son was rewarded with a juicy appointment and a month later, he was appointed Head of a Sanitation Committee to rid Owerri of filth. Ohakim is believed to be making useful contributions to the government of the day.
Hon Uche Onyegaocha is another key player in Ihedioha’s Government. He came from the flank of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA after losing out in the party primaries to Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.
His appointment as Secretary to the State Government could be attributed to his role during the elections wherein he opposed results from Ideato North Local Government area at INEC Collation Centre, Owerri which could have gone a long way to alter Ihedioha’s victory in the governorship election. He was said to have brought in a good number of aggrieved members and chieftains of APGA in the State who worked underground to deliver Ihedioha at the governorship election.
Enter Barr. Chris Okewulonu who maintained total support to Ihedioha during the latter’s quest to be Governor. He was Director General of Ihedioha’s campaign set up in 2015 which the latter lost but he maintained faith with his principal in the 2019 polls having served as Technical Adviser to the campaign organization. He has some influence in the present government having risen to the position of Chief of Staff and is described as the “engine room” of the government of the day.
The Deputy Governor, Gerald Irona, is a long time political soulmate of the Governor. An Arthur Nzeribe political loyalist, Irona is another key player in the present government.
He is said to be a core loyalist having played a decisive role in securing victory for the Governor and the party during the elections especially in swing areas such as Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Governments.
“They are men and women of steel, political heavyweights who contributed or made enormous contributions to the emergence of Ihedioha as Governor, Imo State. They are also key gainers, huge beneficiaries of the spoils of power”.