BY RALPH EJIMKONYE
When the Supreme Court sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as Governor of Imo State, and replaced him with Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressive Congress, APC, among those who joined the victory train of Uzodinma, was former Governor Rochas Okorocha, and his army of political associates and loyalists encapsulated in the Rescue Mission group.
Prior to the verdict of the Supreme Court which removed Ihedioha as Governor, former Governors Okorocha and Ihedioha were entangled in war of words as Ihedioha blamed the misfortune of the State on Okorocha’s eight years reign as Governor.
To demonstrate his seriousness of his conviction that indeed Okorocha ruined Imo when he was Governor, Ihedioha set up several Committees to probe Okorocha and his officials on award of Contracts, allegations of land grabbing, among others.
Analysts contend that Ihedioha’s administration indeed sustained the heat on Okorocha, to the point that former Secretary to the State Government, Hon.Uche Onyeagocha, led some youths to prevent Okorocha from entering the State through the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport. Officials of that administration had also stormed the Spilbat residence of the former Governor in search of government properties, it alleged, were taken away by Okorocha.
“Ihedioha as Governor of Imo State was a nightmare to Okorocha and had that administration not been removed by the Supreme Court, Okorocha would certainly have been in a mess by now, because Ihedioha never pretended about his determination to bring his predecessor to book and extinguish him politically” said Mr.Okechukwu Anele, a public policy analyst in Owerri.
The enthronement of Senator Hope Uzodinma of the APC as Imo State Governor by the Supreme Court, on January 14, 2020,indeed marked a sigh of relief and turning point for Okorocha, whose supporters openly rejoiced over Ihedioha’s sack as Governor even though they were not the direct beneficiaries of the judgement.
Okorocha was among top dignitaries such as APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomole, Minister of State, Education, Hon.Emeka Nwajiuba who graced Uzodinma’s swearing in as Governor of Imo State held at Heroes Square.
Though Okorocha and Uzodinma were bitter political foes which began when the duo were up against each other for the governorship ticket of the All Progressive Congress, APC, the fact that Uzodinma is of the same political party with Okorocha gave the ex Governor and his supporters great relief.
“It is a case of the devil you know, is better than the angel you do not know. The Ex Governor preferred Uzodinma, his party man to Ihedioha who is of the opposition, PDP. No matter the feud of the past, Uzodinma is a safe political option for Okorocha to Ihedioha who used his seven months in office to keep on fighting the former Governor” said Mr.Anele
There were insinuations that Uzodinma and Okorocha had even reached a deal after the Supreme Court installed Uzodinma as Governor. Till date, neither Uzodinma nor Okorocha have confirmed or dispelled such insinuations.
The alliance on the surface, is not paying off for the former Governor, as Uzodinma’s reluctance to appoint any of Okorocha’s loyalists into his administration is evident.
From Commissioners, to Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, SSAs, to Chairmen and members of Interim Management Committees, IMC of the 27 local governments, Uzodinma shut out Okorocha’s men as he rewarded his followers in CAMP HOPE, with such appointments.
Local Government Chairmen who were elected during Okorocha’s reign had even appealed to Uzodinma to restore them. He never did not bulge, despite a letter from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Council Chairmen claimed, demanded their reinstatement.
Sources told this newspaper that Okorocha had complained of Uzodinma’s attitude to the Presidency and APC Leaders in Abuja, over the Governor’s volte face.This newspaper could not verify these claims, but close associates of the former Governor confirmed that there is “love lost” between the duo.
Okorocha had recently gone to Court to challenge the ongoing Panel of Inquiry probing award of contracts during his reign. At the panel, shocking revelations how the former Governor awarded contracts without following Due Process were revealed.
The ongoing development is a clear indication that there is crack on the wall in whatever alliance, Uzodinma and the former Governor, had after the judgement of the Supreme Court
Mr.Jude Emeyonu, a political analyst said it is evident that cracks exist in the alliance between the Governor and his predecessor.
“What it will lead to, is uncertain but no matter how we analyse the situation, it is safe for the former Governor to have his party man to be on the saddle of governance of the State rather than have the opposition party be in charge.
“Whatever grievances they have, it will be resolved within the ambit of the APC political family irrespective of the depth of the bickering” he said.
The former Governor has not reacted officially to any love lost with Uzodinma, but sources said he may not be keen to engage Gov Uzodinma on “issues” since he (Okorocha) may have his sights on pursuing his rumoured 2023 presidential ambition.
UPDATED 1:14 PM, 12/4/2020