By Kelechi Mejuobi
There is no gainsaying in the fact that one of the desires of Rochas Okorocha for seeking election office is to establish his imprimatur in Imo State after eight years of reign as governor of the State.
Okorocha who came into power in 2011, in the process of changing the socio-economic and political landscape of the state, fondly called the Eastern Heartland, has instituted unconventional method of governance, which has given rise to unorthodox developments in the politics of the state.
It was not surprising that as the race for who becomes the governor of the state after his tenure in 2019, gathers momentum, a named group within the political family of the Governor, known as Rescue Mission, came up with a vacuous mantra of “Show us the Man and Go to Sleep” The motivating factor behind the call by the group, it was learnt is for the incumbent to chose whoever he wants as a successor, irrespective of the interest of the generality of the residents of the state and “go to sleep” The implication is that after making public the anointed one, his followers and sympathizers will “deliver” the candidate as the next governor of Imo State.
The architect of the insipid slogan is a well known crony of the governor he empowered to oversee one of the interventionist’s agencies, with a zero performance indices, after four years of operation.
Such gobbledygook postulations did not come as a surprise package to watchers of political developments in the state, especially those who have keenly observed the unorthodox system of governance since the governor assumed duties as the number one citizen of the state. Only those without traces of his style bereft of due process and rule of law will not have the records of how in one full swoop, he destroyed the properly constituted authorities and organs of government met on ground before he emerged governor. In his first broadcast to salute the people of the state for electing him, Okorocha dissolved elected LGA chairmen and councillors, Chairman of the Council of Ndi Eze Imo, and went further to send packing, the 10,000 job beneficiaries that were absorbed into the state civil service
As if the governor has a mandate to erase whatever was left over by his predecessors, the traditional Town Union government system of local communities existing before he was elected, got crushed via the introduction of a sham Community Government Council, CGC. Many other questionable reforms, like the arbitrary sack of Permanent Secretaries who are career civil servants with attendant age for retirement, before they were booted out, award of road and other contracts without meeting of the Tenders Board of the state, followed suit and has continued even as the hands of the clock signaling the time for his exit for his exit has started tickling.
Therefore, it was not surprising that a ridiculous mantra such as “Show Us the Man and Go To Sleep” from Okorocha’s acolytes rented the air as the race for who succeeds him commences in earnest.
From all indications, one stands to be contradicted to state that the protagonists of “Owelle Show Us the Man and Go To Sleep” are either showcasing part of the Rescue Mission government apostles habitual sycophantic gestures or uninformed about how governors emerge in a democratic set up as being practised in Imo today. They can also be said to be suffering from memory loss and associated mental kwashiorkor to be charged for failing to note that no one has appointed a governor for the State except during the military era where the Head of State has the fiat to do so.
Before Okorocha appoints his successor and goes to sleep, according to his followers, there is need to remind the Governor and his co-travellers that irrespective of quantum of power anyone wields and disposable cash to lure the members of the public, no one has the capacity to play God and shape events of tomorrow.
Already, the governor appears to be entangled by the gospel of the suspected traducers urging him to name a successor and relax. Indications that he may toe the line of the “Owelle Show us the Man and Go to Sleep” became manifest when he started dishing out the age bracket of a would be successor and other body signs showing preference to a particular office holder who shares family affinity with him.
Reports have it that without recourse to what the Constitution of Nigerian says and oblivious of the contents of the necessary Electoral Act bothering on age limit for anyone qualified to run for elective offices, the governor informed Imolites that no one above 50 years old shall be governor immediately after him. As if he is an Emperor in charge of the empire called Imo, he marshalled the age limit to tactically “eliminate” those he is not favourably disposed to as a successor, a policy in contrast to the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As a layman, both the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended give right to run anyone above 50 years to run for any elective post, as well as zero regard for the interest of the incumbent.
But before Okorocha succumbs to the wishes of his ” Show us the Man” crusaders, Imolites would want to know if there were conditions placed before him to become governor of the state.
For record purposes, while issue of age has not been a major force to determine who becomes a governor in Imo State, Okorocha and his co-travellers in the plot to select who becomes the next occupier of Government House, Owerri should not lose sight of how previous governors of the state emerged.
Because the first civilian governor of old Imo State, Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe came when what we know of present Imo, Abia State and some parts of Ebonyi were part of the area he governed during the Second Republic, highlighting about his ascendancy to power is unnecessary. But suffice it to note that had Mbakwe “gone to sleep” on the basis of his NPP stalwarts “carry go” assurances, his second term mandate in 1983 would have been a wishful thinking if he didn’t defy challenges to go on air using the state radio and announced the results declaring himself winner to merit a two terms before the military struck. “Show us the Man” followers should inquire from the key actors, then how the governor’s late kinsman, Collins Obi of the NPN would have emerged victorious if Mbakwe went to Avutu Obowo to sleep. Obi backed by Federal power was Mbakwe’s main challenger.
Those familiar to how Evan Enwerem came into power in 1999 can testify that no one has the monopoly of power to determine who becomes Imo state governor. Two major parties floated by the military government; the Social Democratic Party, SDP and National Republican Convention, NRC, paraded aspirants for the gubernatorial tickets of the two parties. While that of NRC was settled without rancour to allow Enwerem carry the banner for governorship, it was a ding dong affair between two top gunners of party for the SDP ticket; Fabian Osuji and Ezekiel Izuogu. It wasn’t rosy for Izuogu, a more popular candidate tipped by many to win not only the SDP ticket but the eventual election. Meanwhile, a political warlord and prominent figure in the politics of the state, Francis Arthur Nzeribe dictated the pace of events in SDP. His talisman of controlling events in SDP rubbed the shine off Izuogu, that reports had it was loved by many in the state. A surprise action by the military government swept off the ambitions of Nzeribe’s ally, Osuji , a professor, and former Minister of Education as well as Izuogu, a famous technologist and astute politician of good reckoning. Surprisingly, instead of Osuji and Izuogu, a joker in the pack, Alex Obi, a medical doctor from the camp of Nzeribe emerged the SDP candidate. At the end, the late Enwerem won the contest, courtesy of sympathy votes from Imo people who may have been uncomfortable with the drama in SDP which barred the supposed “man of the people” Izuogu from the final contest. It was even learnt that Izuogu had asked his supporters to look the other way than back the candidate of his SDP party.
The Achike Udenwa case at the advent of our nascent democracy cannot be ignored in this discussion. To show that no one plays God in Imo politics or has the sole right to determine who becomes the governor, the PDP race for the ticket was interesting with political juggernauts. Initially, odds favoured three other front runners for the ticket in 1998, namely Humphrey Anumudu, Greg Mbadiwe and Rochas Okorocha, before Udenwa emerged from the blues to become the chosen one. Against all odds, the conduct of the poll was in his favour, as no known one showed the Orlu born accountant turned politician to Imolites as the next governor of the state and thereafter “went to sleep”
As an incumbent, non of Udenwa’s praise singers did ask him to anoint himself for a second term in 2003 and recoil to Amaifeke Orlu country home to unwind because victory was assured. How he dusted the opposition posed by the likes of Hope Uzodinma, Martin Agbaso and Anumudu is a story for another day of defunct AD, UNPP and ANPP.
I also expect the Okorocha allies asking him to name a successor and “go to sleep” to make a research of the drama associated with 2007 governorship election. Despite that Udenwa didn’t open up early to his followers on choice of successor, he suffered serious challenges in the run out to the election. It was unclear even to his ardent supporters who to back as his successor until Ikedi Ohakim came up. It is not a hidden fact that during the screening of aspirants for governorship primaries in Enugu for Imo PDP before 2007 election, Ohakim was disqualified forcing him to join PPA and picked the governorship ticket. Grapevine sources had it that Udenwa had soft spot for Ike C. Ibe and wanted him as successor under PDP platform, while Ifeanyi Araraume was a lone ranger pulling the strings in PDP. The result placed Araraume on top but a tinge of actions orchestrated by the party’s leadership turned the tables with Charles Ugwu becoming the flag bearer. Ugwu was already addressed as His Excellency and a mini cabinet formed until PDP announced that the party had no candidate at the detriment of Araraume who battled the injustice meted to him and got judgment in his favour to stand as the PDP candidate. Ugwu may not have believed that he wouldn’t be the party’s candidate for the election had it been he was told that he won’t stand for the election.
I was among the few journalists who watched Ohakim vote at his Okohia Isiala Mbano polling Unit during the first election for 2007 governorship. Ohakim was downcast and wrote off the conduct that saw APGA candidate on a good pedestal to victory. At the palatial mansion of Agbaso, what reigned on the lips of many was “His Excellency, His Excellency “in expectation of victory. But the cancellation of the results changed earlier permutations in favour of Agbaso who was spitting distance to Government House. In the succeeding Bye election, fate played a fast one even as others from Okigwe zone, like Ziggy Azike, were considered for adoption by the “Onongono” camp of Udenwa’s version of PD. Ohakim’s mood changed when it became obvious that victory was tilting to his side. One lesson in the above scenario was that nobody including the incumbent dictated who became governor.
A signature tune of Hot FM radio in one Owerri, is enough evidence that no one determines who will govern Imo before election. Ohakim’s voice aired regularly six years after he left office which states ” I will win, And I will win with wide margin” is enough lesson to those requesting Okorocha to show them the “man and go to sleep” How Ohakim failed to get his second term chance as governor is also another story for fresh edition.
It will amount to wishful thinking and somehow a gratuitous insult on the sensibilities of the people of the state for some associates of governor Okorocha to ask him to “show the man and go to sleep”. Judging from indices, Imo is nobody’s colony to accept hook, lime and sinker any surrogate, politically misfit and incompetent associate to run as governor under the guise of “Show us the Man and Go to Sleep”.
Reactions are highly welcomed.
Kelechi Mejuobi, a regular columnist, social commentator is a Co-publisher and D/Editor in Chief of Trumpeta Newspapers