By COLLINS Ughalaa
There has been noise about the friendly advice Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, the serial contender for the Imo State governorship seat, got from the incumbent Governor Rochas Okorocha. If there is anything I can agree with the Governor, it is on this. He got his advice right. Araraume should go to Abuja with him, where both of them can render senior services and bring the bootie home. That is what we need. We need Okorocha and Araraume, senior members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to be at the national scene and play good political soccer. While they are doing that we need someone with the practical experience that has mass followership to hold the forte at the state as executive governor. We need someone to stabilize the system here. But while we continue the discourse on the governorship, we can be rest assured that we have got two players at the national level: Okorocha and Araraume, come 2019.
Before Okorocha gave the advice to Araraume, a fighter and political spoiler, sometimes, he knew that Araraume wouldn’t take that down his stomach without a fight. Of course, before Araraume went to the Governor to intimate him of his intentions to run for the governorship of the state in 2019, he knew the Governor would not anoint him. Both of them have their plans, and part of the plan is that the Governor would tell him no. Then, the next thing, expectedly, would be that Araraume would unleash his arsenal at the appropriate time, one of which is that his men who have access to the media would start the media war. I mean the war would start by proxy, until such a time the two leaders would take themselves to cleaners. But in the end, Araraume would lose again.
I really don’t know if anything is wrong with Araraume, that no matter how much he tries, no matter how much fight he puts in, something keeps pulling him back. I wonder what it is that is causing this. I am not a Pastor, so I would not say he should go for deliverance. But something must be wrong somewhere. Is it his face? I don’t think so. The truth is that Araraume’s face is better than what it used to be. His handlers have created a new gentle man out of him. He now looks like a handsome gentle man. But I think there is something bad about him, which his handlers still think is an asset: Araraume still behaves like a warrior. He exudes the air of intolerance; that is, if it is not me, it cannot be another person; or, if I don’t get it we destroy it. Methink it is this image of a mighty man in battle that has kept Araraume, despite his money and fame, chasing after governorship power, as if his life depends on it. Don’t take my word for it. Look back in time.
Before Udenwa’s term ended in 2007, Senator Araraume was featured as one of the top contenders for the governorship seat in Owerri. Araraume was just finishing from the Senate and wanted to rest at home with the governorship seat. But somehow, the party leadership said no to his ambition. Whatever was the reason, Araraume was not the man for the party. This did not go down well with Araraume, as he declared war, taking on anyone that came on, including the then President Olusegun Obasanjo and the entire party leadership of the PDP. Araraume would go on to win his case at the Supreme and became the PDP’s governorship candidate. But then the party had pulled the rug off his feet. Araraume was the Supreme Court’s governorship candidate but the party rejected him before he came to the general election. The record shows he lost the election to his brother, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, from the smaller Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). But did Araraume give up in the name of brotherhood? Again, the record says he did not. He took on the war again, this time against his brother. Many postulated he would win the court cases and kick Ohakim out. He did not. But did he lie low and give peace a chance? He did not.
He went to cause division in the party, creating the first ever pressure group in the Imo State PDP. The group, Alliance for Good Governance, led by Dr. Alex Obi, was the propaganda machine that churned out all deceptive lies against Ohakim, including the lies about the dredging of Nwaorie River, Imo State’s monthly allocation, Oguta Wonder Lake, Oak Refinery, and the greatest of all lies being that Ohakim slapped a Rev Father. The Dr. Alex Obi’s Alliance toured the 27 local government areas of the state, preaching hate against the Ikedi Ohakim government. The opposition even went as far as tarnishing Ohakim’s image at the presidency, including sending fake bishops to go do the dirty work. The result was that Ohakim went into the election with battered image. And aided by federal might which they had also deceived at the time, they were able to wrestle power from Ohakim in 2011. But did Araraume become Governor? Again, the record says no.
By the time Araraume came to the NUT House at Port Harcourt Road, Owerri, to talk to teachers during the 2011 campaigns, I was the Editor of Zest newspapers, which had office at the NUT House. After listening to Araraume, I remember discussing with my boss, Mr. Emma Agu, and we said that if Ohakim lost the election, Araraume would not win it, though we did not believe Ohakim would lose. What was our reason? We saw that Araraume entered into an unholy alliance with now Governor Okorocha. Araraume appeared to say that it did not matter who among him and Okorocha that won the election, provided Ohakim was out of the way. He seemed to be thinking that he had more money and clout and war chest than Rochas. But we saw he was deceiving himself. And he was.
Aided by a new radio station in Owerri, Araraume and Okorocha worked in synergy, monitoring the election. But it dawned on Araraume that the carpet had been pulled off his feet again, as it appeared Okorocha was leading in the governorship election. In fact, he had no chance of winning. It was after the first round of elections, before the supplementary election, that some forces prevailed on Araraume to calm down. And I heard he was settled with cash and cars, though no one has proved it true or false. Finally, Okorocha was declared winner. Araraume lost again. Having lost the election, pronto, he left the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), after the party had gone into a merger that produced the APC, and came back to the PDP to contest the PDP governorship ticket in 2015. He changed the game, really. But he lost the primary election. The third time of losing in his bid to become governor of Imo State. Did Araraume take that lying low? The record shows he did not.
After waging some war in the party and making a huge noise about reclaiming his mandate and failed, he decided it was best to destroy the PDP and scuttle the governorship bid of its governorship candidate. The calculation, methinks, was to form the second alliance with Okorocha and help him secure his second term, after which he would be handed over power. Or after which the coast would have been clearer for him to emerge the Imo State Governor. It seemed simple, but we knew it is much easier to say than to do. A drowning man would hold on to any straw in sight. So, Okorocha climbed on the back of Araraume and other PDP bigwigs and secured his second term. Now, Araraume has got the sternest warning that he cannot be governor of Imo State in 2019, and he is sharpening his knife for the deepest cut.
His cut might be very deep in 2019, but he will lose. I am not saying that Okorocha is God that decides a man’s destiny. I am only looking at realistic political developments. I am not saying that Okorocha’s candidate would win the 2019 governorship election. No. What I am saying is that Araraume will not be APC’s governorship candidate unless Okorocha says so. Back in time, in 2011 precisely, Ohakim was the Governor of the state under the PDP, having left the PPA. Did Araraume pick the PDP ticket for the governorship election? He did not.
In my mind, this is my forecast: provided President Buhari will run for second term, he needs Governor Rochas Okorocha and the South East. And, yet Okorocha is the APC Governors Forum Chairman. Okorocha is the only APC governor in the South East, and as such he is the biggest APC politician in the South East. That means he is Buhari’s biggest political asset in the South East. Would Buhari sacrifice Okorocha to make Araraume APC guber candidate? I think no. One could also say that Ohakim lost re-election as PDP governor in 2011 while President Jonathan was running for election. But the scenarios are different. Notwithstanding that, Jonathan lost the election in 2015, partly due to his miscalculations, especially during the 2011 governorship elections in the country.
From what the records say, it is better to ask Araraume to lie low and let this cup pass. Let him learn not to fight every war. Let him let some war pass, so that he can re-emerge fresh and stronger, with new look, no longer the look of a warrior. And of course, if the rumour that Araraume was adequately compensated by the Governor in 2015, both in cash and the appointment of his son as commissioner by Governor Okorocha, is true, then Araraume would seem to me to be the first man to eat his cake and ask to have it back.
You see, out of the eater came something to eat. Such is life. And Araraume should take it in his stride, swallow the bitter pill as a man and move ahead. But what does Araraume want to be Governor for? I need to know. What fresh touch is he bringing? This insistence on becoming the governor and in the process heating up the polity is quite uncalled for. And it is in the best political interest of the Ishiebu Isiala Mbano born maverick to tame this ambition. His ambition should not be taller than him. And Imo State should not collapse because he want to be Governor.
But then, I think that Araraume owes the Governor some gratitude. He should go with some cow and choice wine and prostrate and thank the Governor. I say this because many governors would have played politics, urging Araraume to get in the ring, or even promise him the slot, and betray him when it mattered most. By then Araraume would have spent his money. But by the advice he got on the governorship election in 2019, he should save his money and work towards the Abuja project, whatever that means.
If I were Araraume, what I would do is listen to the Governor and work hard to get a federal government appointment and retire there. May be it is not in his stars to be the governor of Imo State. Let us look at the Biblical Moses. Let us look at Araraume. Do they have anything in common? I think they have one: it is not in their stars to enter the Promised Land. No matter how much Moses loved to lead the people of Israel to the Promised Land, he did not enter the Promised Land, as God said he would not. It was someone else, Joshua, who led the Israelites to the Promised Land. No one would have thought that Joshua would be that remarkable and blessed leader that would come in the nick of time and lead the disobedient people of Israel to the Promised Land. But he did, Moses did not.
Therefore, let Araraume begin to correct the impression that he is a warrior and show some tolerance a bit more. May be, the political class would like him the more, once he weans himself of the idiosyncrasies of a warrior. May be the masses will like him more. But this should be break time for Araraume.