By way of paired comparison, Imo and Ogun states shared a lot of similarities in the just concluded governorship elections. But they also have their dissimilarities. They stand out as the two states incumbent governors fell out with the national leadership of their party in the choice of the governorship candidates.
During the primaries of the All Progressives Congress APC, both governors, Rochas Okorocha and Ibikunle Amosun had their preferred candidates for the governorship position. The national leadership of the party preferred otherwise and went ahead to offer its ticket to candidates of the party’s choice to the dissatisfaction of the governors. But they still left both governors with the senatorial tickets of the party.
Not satisfied with the development, the governors opted to still push their preferred candidates through the platforms of some other relatively unknown political parties basking on the political structures they had established in their respective states. So it was that while Okorocha opted for Action Alliance, AA with his son-in-law Uche Nwosu as the candidate, Amosun went for the Allied Peoples Movement where his preferred candidate Adekunle Akinlade flew the flag of the party.
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The governors pursued their senatorial ambitions through the platform of the APC while at the same time working against the candidates of their party at the governorship level. But whereas Amosun emerged successful in the senatorial election, Okorocha’s election was enmeshed in serious controversy. The returning officer had while declaring the result in favour of Okorocha, said he was doing so under duress and to save his life.
Apparently acting along this line, INEC said it would not offer Certificates of Return to any candidate where results were announced under duress. It made good this decision by excluding Okorocha from the list of successful senatorial candidates to receive that certificate. But Amosun’s was devoid of controversy. It is not certain the final position INEC will take in relation to Okorocha’s case. But one thing that appears certain is that there are still thorns strewn on his way to the National Assembly.
The governorship elections have come and gone. While Amosun’s candidate lost to the candidate of the APC, both the APC candidate and that of Okorocha lost to the Peoples Democratic Party PDP in Imo State. For keen watchers of political events in the state, the turn of events should not be surprising.
Okorocha came into the saddle after he defeated the incumbent regime of Ikedi Ohakim who had fallen out of favour with people of the state. He had a very popular mandate such that expectations were high that he would take the state to higher heights. This feeling was fuelled by some of the philanthropic ventures he was involved in before he became the governor. The expectation was that if he could touch many lives in his private capacity, he would definitely do more when he has the resources of the state at his disposal.
But this expectation was to turn out a pipe dream. He soon began to incrementally squander the goodwill that brought him to power through very unpopular policies and scant regard to due process. He was even quoted to have queried the efficacy of due process in the business of governance. He displayed an uncommon disdain for elite involvement in governance accusing leaders who came around him of a hidden desire to share government money.
Okorocha became so loud, boasting that he was going to retire all known political leaders in the state except himself and made good this promise by relegating the elite and people of substance to the back seat, always preferring to surround himself with yes-men for whom the lure of the stomach was the prime motivation. He began to create a new class of leadership with questionable credentials, always preferring those who will do his bidding without questioning.
With such a mindset, Imo State was brought down to its knees. His new class of leaders basking on the euphoria of their newly unmerited status displayed an uncanny disdain for those who cared to question the slide to the precipice into which the state was inevitably headed. Every sector of governance: the education system, the civil service, social infrastructure and the health care delivery system were so assaulted and desecrated that it will take years to bring them back to form. Even in the area of some of the projects he attributes to his credit, poor quality work and an abysmally poor standard of performance combine to erase whatever credit he might wish to ascribe to his regime.
His regime became a catalogue of woes as workers were owed salaries; pensions and gratuities running to several months stood in arrears. But he found comfort in praise singing and cronyism. His became a regime of what has now been aptly described as government of Okorocha for himself and members of his immediate family. He was so blinded by the trappings and arrogance of power that his became a verity of Lord Acton’s maxim that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Apparently because of the enormous resources at his disposal and his connection with the federal government, he thought he could bulldoze his way to become a maximum ruler in the state whose words must be obeyed at all costs. It was very common to hear him rehearsing how he single-handedly built the APC in the southeast, the insults he received in the process and how that should qualify him for special attention.
All this was designed to run down his people by creating the false impression that he is the only one that can be trusted and entrusted with higher offices by the powers that be. So it was that he could not find any other person suitable to hand over power except his son-in-law despite extant understanding that power should rotate among the three senatorial zones of the state. Curiously, Okorocha who has been positioning to run for the presidency on the grounds that power will shift to the southeast in 2023 scorned the same principles in his state. Despite protestations and tension created by the idea of having three governors from the same zone for 24 years, he was bent on bulldozing his way at all cost.
But respite came the way of the state when his party denied his anointed candidate the governorship ticket. He failed to see the handwriting on the wall. Not even the strident campaigns mounted against him by the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole was enough for him to do a rethink. Oshiomhole had during the flag-off of the campaign rally of the APC in Imo lambasted Okorocha accusing him of sundry misdeeds including running the government of the state as a family business. In saner climes, that was all that was needed to vote out Okorocha or any of his surrogates from any elective office.
He trudged on accusing Oshiomhole of being an ingrate for turning round to work against him after he had helped him to secure the office of the national chairman of the party. Before Oshiomhole, he also had issues with John Oyegun, the immediate past national chairman of the party. And when Oyegun left he boasted that all the wrongs he allegedly wrought against him especially in the conduct of the primaries of the party will be redressed by Oshiomhole.
It was a matter of time. Soon, he again fell out with his supposed rescuer. Curiously Okorocha was blinded by the lust for power to decipher the handwriting on the wall. He talked to himself, listened to himself and could not come to terms with the reality that he was in a deep mess. Imo people resented him, resented all that he represents even as he went around with the noxious obsession that he was the best thing that had happened to the state.
But the people of the state spoke very unequivocally in their choice of the PDP candidate, Emeka Ihedioha as their preferred governor despite Okorocha’s sundry strategies and devious subterfuge to procure victory by all means. The verdict of the Imo people is clear. It is a verdict against running government as a family business; a verdict against poor leadership and a verdict for credible alternative and power rotation. It is a verdict of the will power of the electorate and that verdict must be respected.
It is a bold statement that Okorocha, who defeated an incumbent in 2011with practically nothing, could not install his preferred candidate in 2019 with everything at his disposal. Such is the verdict of history and he should give peace a chance!
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