Posted By: Sam Egburonu
After months of diplomatic handling of their political face-off, Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, have finally parted ways. As the race for the governorship seat in 2019 gathers momentum, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, reports on the options left for Madumere
AlThough he is not the only aspirant in the forthcoming 2019 governorship election in Imo State, informed observers are particularly interested in the fortunes of the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere. A top chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and close associate of Governor Rochas Okorocha, outsiders and most members of the Okorocha’s political family had, for a long time, taken it for granted that Madumere would be Okorocha’s obvious choice to succeed him in 2019. This was because of the robust relationship between the two and Madumere’s acknowledged total loyalty to the governor, who he served for over 25 years.
But the intrigues that have trailed Imo State politics since the entrance into the race of Uche Nwosu, the governor’s son-in-law, have since changed the permutations. For long, both the governor and his deputy treaded the path of departure with utmost care, leaving observers confused. Even when the governor was quoted as endorsing Nwosu, some of his associates said it did not mean dumping of Madumere, as, according to them, it probably meant the governor may allow all his political sons to vie in free and fair primaries for the ticket of the party.
But when, earlier this month, Okorocha told newsmen that the Deputy Governor, Madumere, “has betrayed him”, it became clear that at last the battle line has been drawn. Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha has decried the attitude of his deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, saying he never imagined that he would betray him.
Speaking in Owerri, Okorocha, who described his deputy as his “most trusted lieutenant for the past 25 years,” said he had initially penciled down some people, including his deputy as his successor, but embarked on the process of selection and elimination based on some parameters and finally chose his Chief of Staff, Mazi Uche Nwosu, his son-in-law, as his successor.
The declaration came to many as a rude shock. The awkward situation was further confirmed when words had it that concrete moves were actually made at the Imo State House of Assembly to impeach the embattled deputy governor in order to weaken him and pave way for the governor’s choice. Observers who doubted the depth of the face-off because of the close relationship between Madumere and Okorocha were finally forced to swallow their words when the Deputy Governor had to park out of his official quarters recently.
Following the development, concerned observers are today eager to know the options left to Madumere. Will he leave the APC platform for Okorocha’s choice or will he remain in the party and fight for the ticket though the governor has made public his resolve to prop-up his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu? If he decides to fight on for the ticket of the party, what are his chances of defeating the incumbent governor? If he is forced out of the political party under the circumstances to fight against his boss and the APC platform, what are his likely destinations and who are likely going to be his willing alliances against Okorocha and Uche Nwosu? If he chose any of the other political parties, like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the United Progressive Party (UPP) or even the Social Democratic Party (SDP), what kind of impact is he likely to make?
Divided APC and Rescue Mission team
One of the options left for Madumere is to remain in APC and slug it out with the loyalist of Governor Okorocha. Insiders who pleaded not to be named confided that this seems to be the option so far chosen by the deputy governor. “From his utterances and actions so far, it seems Prince Madumere has decided to stay put and contest for the APC ticket. I do not have to tell you that this is a tough option because Owelle Rochas Okorocha, as we know, is in firm control of the political party in Imo State here. But of course, APC is beyond Imo. A lot of the electorates in Imo are angry over the alleged determination of the governor to dump his trusted loyalist and impose his son-in-law. Such electorates may not influence who would fly APC’s flag in the governorship election, but they may easily be persuaded to cast protest votes.”
The decision to remain in APC in spite of the governor’s decision to back Nwosu, may be as a result of the fact that the state APC is clearly factionalised today. Madumere obviously have supporters in APC and so he may be banking on the permutation that in the primaries, the people, not the governor would make the final choice. The Nation investigation shows that even before the final drawing of the battle lines, Imo APC, perhaps because of the long-drawn intrigues, had been fragmented into what is today described as “the Destiny and Rescue Mission camps. Within these fragments of what used to be a united political family, are the Eze Madumere camp, the Jude Ejiogu’s camp, the Tony Ololo’s camp and the Uche Nwosu’s camp, amongst others. Insiders confided that all efforts to mend the frictions have failed woefully and today, it will require a miracle for the original Okorocha’s political family to contest the 2019 elections as a united political front. Considering the towering image of Owelle in Imo APC, however, it still needs to be seen, if these splinter groups will actually vote against the governor on the D-day. But a source in Owerri explained on Friday that, “even within the governor’s in-laws, the division has become obvious and openly discussed.” According to the source, “recently, when Governor Okorocha observed the absence of Mrs. Ololo in a meeting on March 31st, he allegedly accused the lady of joining the husband, Chuks Ololo, to kick the governor.”
In an earlier report before the governor publicly named Nwosu as his choice, we have reported that family pressure was the primary factor responsible for the long succession intrigues in Imo. A source had confided then that within the immediate family of the governor, members have different candidates and may have been piling up pressure on the governor to consider their choices. “Many of you think the governor is only considering his son-in-law, Hon. Uche Nwosu, but I can assure you that there are many other family members on the line. As we speak, not all the members of the first family here are pushing for the governor to endorse Nwosu. I can reveal to you that Nwosu is not the only son-in-law to the governor that is currently being positioned for the job. In fact, about two other family members are also vying for the governorship seat and they have support within the family, not to talk of the interest of Aunty Jeraldine, who, you must know, is a strong influence on Owelle. So, the matter is more complicated than you can imagine,” the source said.
Given such complications, some supporters of Madumere said, during the week that he can stay in APC, make the right alliances and win the APC ticket against all odds.
Another option open for Madumere is to dump APC at this stage and contest the election on the ticket of any of the popular political parties in the state. According to Dr. Okechukwu Nwachukwu, a political analyst in Owerri, “Prince Madumere is today seen as one of the few aspirants that can match the Okorocha-backed Uche Nwosu in the next election. This is because he is a member of the political family, who many Imolites still see as the right person to be given APC ticket after Owelle. So, now that they are trying to push him out, other political parties can use him against APC. Popular political parties here like PDP, APGA or UPP will make great impact if they field Madumere. Of course, there are other political heavyweights interested in Imo State’s governorship seat. Knowing Owelle’s capacity, some of them may be wise and align with Madumere, if he is denied APC ticket,” he said.
But The Nation investigation shows that most of the leading political parties already have strong aspirants who may not easily trade their aspiration except they are convinced it is the only practical way to go. In PDP, for example, we have at least four major governorship aspirants. They include the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, former Imo State Governor, Ikedi Ohakim, Senator Athan Achonu and Hon.Tony Nwulu.
In APGA, the Deputy National Organising Secretary of the party, Mr. Steve Nwoga, the Chief Executive Officer, of A. B. C. Transport Company, Mr. Frank Nneji, Mr. Okey Ezeh, a former Commissioner of Information to Okorocha; Mr. Uche Onyeagucha, Mr. Ike Ibeh, David Mbamara and Mr. Obi Njoku, amongst others have been named as possible governorship aspirants.
UPP, which is yet to float many names as governorship aspirants, has Prince Eleazar Onyewuchi Ogbonna, a United Kingdom based business tycoon as one of the possible aspirants. Assessing the possibility of Madumere contesting on the platform of any of the opposition political parties, Chief Sunday Ogbonna from Mbano said: “One thing that is certain today is that Madumere will contest the election even if APC denies him ticket. The talk of a possible alliance is rife both in PDP and APGA although some of the top aspirants in those parties may not hear of it now. I do not know if Madumere himself is making such moves as he seems convinced he can fight his way through in APC. But you can quote me that if APC denies him ticket, Owerri zone and all the other lovers of fairness are poised to negotiate alliances that will make him a strong candidate in the election.”
The political atmosphere is electric today as observers contemplate what will be the political fortunes of the Deputy Governor in 2019.
Unlike before, when secrecy governed the campaigns and the moves, even Madumere is bold today to say no one can stop his ambition. On why he was determined to contest he told newsmen recently: “What drives my ambition to occupy the position of the governor of Imo State, come 2019, is my vision to raise the living standards of our people with well researched people oriented economic blueprint with a view to creating wealth adopting an approach that will make it trickle down to even the lowest cadre of our populace. I know that youths occupy about 66% of the Nigerian population, which deductively trickles down to our state. I believe in human capital development and I believe in empowerment that is sustainable through small, medium scale enterprise.
“The difference this time is that we must anchor it on areas of comparative advantage. Make no mistake to believe that I am in the race for personal vendetta. God forbid. I bear no grudges. At least you all know that I have served meritoriously and that by my training I am a seasoned administrator with exposure like no other. I have operated at the higher echelon in the private sector starting from Corporate America to Nigerian private sector and then to the public sector. And by the special grace of God, I have excelled in every responsibility I have ever been assigned to handle together with the ones I took up myself”; he said.
The race has started. Given the tone of the language and the actions of the principal actors, the manoeuvrings of the 2019 governorship election in Imo seem certain to thrill.